If there ever was even an iota of doubt as to which two watch brands rule the vintage auction market, look no further than the results of the recent auctions in Geneva. Five watches breached the million dollar mark, two of these were from Patek Philippe and the remaining three from Rolex.
Patek Philippe Minute Repeater
This unique tonneau-shaped yellow gold minute repeater once belonged to Henry Graves Jr., one of the most prolific watch collectors of the 20th century and one of Patek’s biggest patrons. It is believed that Graves Jr. picked up this watch up from the brand’s headquarters in Geneva in 1928. The watch first appeared on the auction market in 2012 from the estate of Graves’s grandson, Reginald H. Fullerton, Jr.
This timepiece is among the earliest recorded Patek minute repeater wristwatches. Only 20 pieces are known to exist (some known only from archive photographs) and this belongs to a rarefied group known as “pre-referenced” minute repeaters. Only three of these 20 were tonneau-shaped, Graves Jr. had a tonneau-shaped example in platinum too. The watch has an engraving of the Graves family coat-of-arms on the caseback. Given the historical significance of the watch and its provenance, the watch fetched CHF4,575,000 ($4.6 million) at the Christie’s Important Watches in Geneva on November 11, 2019.
Patek Philippe Ref. 2499 double signed by Trucchi
The Ref. 2499 perpetual calendar chronograph is considered one of the greatest wristwatches of all time. Only 349 pieces were produced over a 35-year period between 1950 and 1985. Some exclusive Patek dealers were allowed to have their names printed on dials and these double-signed Pateks are even rarer than the rest.
This particular 2499 is signed by the Italian retailer Truchchi and was manufactured in 1971. It is from the third series of 2499 models and is cased in 18K pink gold. According to the auctioneers, only six examples of the Ref. 2499 third series were made in pink gold, so understandably, this is a super rare timepiece. Consequently, at the themed “Double Signed”Auction conducted by Phillips on November 9, this timepiece was sold for CHF 1,580,000 ($1.5 million).
Rolex Ref. 4113 split-seconds chronograph
This oversized Rolex was manufactured in 1942 and is the first and only split seconds chronograph wristwatch ever made by the brand. The case is 44 mm in diameter, which is imposing even by today’s standards. According to experts, only 12 Ref. 4113 wristwatches were made, they never appeared in Rolex catalogues. It is believed that these watches were presented to an exclusive set of racing teams and their drivers. Interestingly, this watch is set to have inspired the one-off F.P. Journe Monopusher Split-Seconds Chronograph that sold for CHF1.1 million at the Only Watch 2017 Charity Auction.
The present watch first appeared on the market in 1991 and was sold 20 years later by Christie’s for more than a million Swiss Francs. The watch is cased in stainless steel, the silver dial has an outer blue telemeter and black tachymeter scale and pink gold hands. The watch was sold for CHF1,940,000 ($1.9 million) at the Phillips Geneva Watch Auction X on November 9-10.
Rolex Ref. 6062
Introduced in 1950 and produced for approximately 10 years, Rolex’s Ref. 6062 is one of only two Rolex models to feature a triple calendar, the other being the Ref. 8171 “Padellone”. Fitted with an in-house automatic movement with a full calendar and moonphase indication, Ref. 6062 differed from the Padellone by virtue of being housed in the iconic Oyster case. Incidentally, these two references remained the only two Rolex moonphase watches made in series, until the arrival of the Cellini Ref. 50535 in 2017.
A rare Ref. 6062 once owned by Bao Dai, the last emperor of Vietnam, was sold for $ 5 million (CHF5,066, 000) at a Philips Auction at the Hôtel La Réserve in Geneva on the night of May 13. This watch remained the most expensive Rolex sold at an auction till it was surpassed by the $17 million historic Paul Newman Daytona. The Ref. 6062 that was sold earlier this week at the Phillips Geneva Watch Auction X was manufactured in 1952 and is believed to be in excellent condition. The auctioneers believe that the case has never even polished in its close to 70 year existence. It belonged to Gordon Bethune, an internationally renowned collector and former CEO of Continental Airlines. It was sold for CHF 1,940,000 ($1.9 million)
Rolex Ref. 8171
As mentioned earlier, Ref. 8171 and 6062 were the only two Rolex models to feature a triple calendar and moonphase. The Ref. 8171 was nicknamed "Padellone" which translates to "large frying pan" in Italian. Slightly larger than its Oyster sibling, both these vintage Rolex models have a huge following in the collecting circles.
Over the last 30 years, this particular timepiece has been in the collection of some esteemed watch collectors and is considered one of the best preserved examples of the Padellone. Only a few Padellone models in stainless steel have been fitted with a lacquer dial, making this watch all the more rare. It even appears in well-known collector John Goldberger’s book 100 Superlative Rolex Watches. In its fourth appearance at the auctions, this Padellone has fetched CHF1,028,000 ($1,030,673).