The November auction marks Watches of Knightsbridge’s last auction of the year, though it doesn’t feel that long ago that we were thumbing through their first 2021 catalogue. It perhaps goes without saying that we would inevitably highlight some of our favourite lots. So, a few weeks ago we spent some time over at their South Kensington offices in the Michelin building, to get hands-on with some of the timepieces in the upcoming November auction. As per usual we decided to pick out some of our highlighted lots and share our thoughts on them.
BREITLING NAVITIMER COSMONAUTE
Lot 36: The Navitimer is arguably Breitlings most famous timepiece, but the story of the first examples tend to cause a bit of confusion and even a bit of controversy. The problem is, no-one knows for certain the full story of the first Navitimers and if someone does, they’ve yet to shed light on it. The records held by Breitling SA in Grenchen, Switzerland are incomplete. So, to tell the story of the most famous Breitling requires a serious amount of fact finding and to a certain extent, a bit of assumption; it is said that even the foremost world experts on vintage Breitling’s cannot agree on all the details.
That said, this is an AOPA Navitimer Cosmonaute that perhaps doesn’t get as much attention as the base Navitimer 806, yet it features the same layout and functions but with the bonus of a 24-hour time indicator. Arguably, the Cosmonaute’s finest hour was in 1962 when it accompanied Scott Carpenter on the Aurora 7 spaceflight mission, while it didn’t have the impact on the world in the same way as the Speedmaster, I think it suffice to say that the Cosmonaute is still loved by collectors and aficionados alike.
This 1960s AOPA Navitimer Cosmonaute 809 features a nicely aged dial with applied luminous 24-hour Arabic numerals & markers, applied AOPA logo and pencil-style hands. It also has contrasting white sub dial registers recording hour, minutes, and continuous seconds, with central chronograph seconds and of course an inner rotating slide rule. Inside is the 17 jewelled manual-wind movement Venus calibre 178, which is signed Breitling Watch Ltd. The beaded bezel is in great condition as is the case, which measures 42mm.
Estimate: £5,000 – £6,000
OMEGA SEAMASTER 300
Lot 105: A few years ago, Military Seamaster 300s were getting quite a lot of attention, however, things have kind of cooled since then – making them somewhat accessible again. This example is much like the previous piece we highlighted, which shows its military lineage. Military Omega Seamaster 300’s has come into their own and have been gained a lot of interest as mentioned, this may have something to do with one that was sold at Bonham’s back in 2015 but who knows? Whatever the reason these watches are cool, perhaps not as cool as the CK2913’s in my humble opinion, but these bombe lung variants still demand respect. The first Military Seamaster 300’s were introduced in 1967 with a standard dial and sword hands. Some featured Naiad crowns, which was Omega’s version of the triplock crown. All military SM300 wristwatches featured engraved numbers on the back, with some also featuring the letter ‘T’ in a circle on the dial, which is evident in this example. However, the extract from the archives doesn’t note it was delivered to British Royal Navy but does confirm it was delivered to the U.K.
This rare Military Seamaster 300 from 1967 sports a black matte dial, known as the “Big Triangle Dial” with Arabic numerals at 3, 6 and 9, and tritium hour markers. As customary with these Military SM300s it also features sword-style hands. Inside is the 24 jewelled, calibre 552 automatic movement. The 42mm Military case is fitted with fixed lugs and features a 60-minute rotating bezel – demarcated all the way through to 60, displaying a nice build-up of patina over the years as well as some discolouration which has given the bezel a blue hue. However, while this is a military issued Seamaster it does appear it markings have been unfortunately polished off from its case back. The lugs on this example are particularly well-preserved but what I think adds to the overall character is its warm patina.
Estimate: £15,000 – £20,000
ROLEX EXPLORER 1016
Lot 187: The Rolex Explorer 1016 is something of an icon in the watch world and while it has never garnered the attention as some of the brands big hitters, such as the Submariner, GMT, and Daytona – it has always remained a favourite amongst collectors. The no nonsense 3-6-9 dial layout perhaps lends to its simplistic nature and by virtue makes it a little more incognito. That said, it is likely the reason why it remained hardly unchanged for nearly 30 years. As you’ll likely know from my in-depth article on the 1016, I am a massive fan of the Explorer.
However, there is more than meets the eye with this 1016. This circa 1968 Rolex Explorer ref. 1016 may just look like a run-of-the-mill example, however, the beauty of this piece only becomes apparent when you delve into its paperwork. You see, this example was purchased from the British Military suppliers NAAFI Geilenkirchen (an establishment created by the British Government back in 1921 to sell goods to servicemen and their families) – perhaps the reason it looks like it has seen some rather tough days but then again, this all adds to its patina and of course its story.
It sports a matte black dial with applied luminous markers, 3-6-9 Arabic numerals and Mercedes hands. Those with a sharp eye for detail will also note that it fitted with a MK1 dial that features a “Frog Foot” coronet – something that is often sough-after. The lume on the dial has patinated to a subtle warm cream hue. Inside this Explorer ref 1016 is the 26-jewelled automatic calibre 1570 movement, signed Montres Rolex S.A. The case excellently preserved and comes on its original bracelet, which can be quite hard to come by these days.
Estimate: £12,000 – £15,000
TUDOR CHRONOGRAPH 7031
Lot 188: I’m sure by now that most of our readers are familiar with the Rolex Daytona, however, their sister company, Tudor, also made chronographs that has today become very, very collectible. The Tudor Chronograph, of course came some years after the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona but what it gained was an Oyster case and screw-down pushers. In 1970 Montres Tudor SA, launched the Oysterdate Chronograph references 7031 and 7032. Though there was very little difference between the two references (one featured a black acrylic tachymeter and the other a stainless-steel tachymeter bezel) the biggest difference that these watches shared over their bigger brother: the Daytona, was the fact they featured 40mm cases
For their first ever chronograph, Montres Tudor decided to use a trio of colours on the dial on the ref. 7032/1, including a very bright and vibrant orange but these were perfectly balanced, alongside its most predominant feature, the trapezoid subsidiary dials, and pentagonal hour markers. These were all shaped like the home plate on a baseball field, which led to collectors dubbing it the Home plate. While the Tudor Chronograph 7032/1 doesn’t have the same racing pedigree link as the Daytona, it can at least boast of some at one time or another.
These very early 7031 and 7032 series Tudor Chronographs utilised the manual-wound Valjoux calibre 7734, with a 45-minute accumulator, at the 3 o’clock position. Like the Daytona 6263, the Tudor 7032 and 7031 also featured the screw-down pushers and square crown guards, like those seen on early Submariners. However, as a manual-wind chronograph with great water-resistance the Oyster created the small problem of having to unscrew the crown every time you needed to fully wind the watch again.
This example appears to be in great condition, with nice warm lume and a good dial (there is a small stain just below the Tudor logo) – something these early Tudor chronographs tend to suffer with quite badly. The case is in honest condition, with a few knocks and bumps here and there. Perhaps the one standout issue is that of the bezel, which is not in the best of conditions, but a replacement can easily be sourced. That said, the watch appears to be in good overall condition and more importantly has been consigned by the family of the original owner, so you could perhaps say this something of a barn-find.
Estimate: £20,000 – £25,000
TUDOR SUBMARINER REF. 76100
Lot 189: Over the past 5 years or so, Tudor have been on a bit of a role. Creating some of the most eye-catching reinterpretations of a handful of their iconic timepieces. Of course, this only leads to more interest in their past models and sparking somewhat of a price increase in older models. As you likely known, the Tudor Submariner perhaps possesses one of the most iconic designs around during the 70s. Collectors use the name “Snowflake” to refer to the Tudor Submariners with reference 7016/0, 7021/0, 9104/0 and 9411/0 produced from 1965 to 1975. These watches featured square hour markers and a unique hand style that distinguished them back then, and still distinguish them today, from other watches. These models are well-known also because they were issued to the French Marine Nationale and as with MilSubs have become grails in the collector world. Although a diver’s watch at its core, the Tudor Submariner “Snowflake” like the Rolex Submariner also became a fashionable everyday wear but of course these pieces are only rising in value and becoming harder to find in good condition.
However, fear not as Tudor continued making Submariners after this period including some blue dial variants too. This 1989 reference 76100 Tudor Submariner features Mercedes style hands with round markers and examples like these are also now in high demand. This example is a superb example, in overall good condition with strong case proportions. The dial appears clean with lume plots that don’t appear to have aged much, with matching “lollipop” hands. The bezel is also clean, with only the pearl showing signs of patination and what’s more, it comes with accompanied with its original box and papers.
Estimate: £4,000 – £6,000
The Watches of Knightsbridge auction will take place on the 13th November 2020, be sure you visit watchesofknightsbridge.com for this month’s full catalogue.