This evening, at approximately 6:30 PM EST, Christie’s New York will be holding its final watch auction of the year and it’s a doozy. There are 100 lots in total and they range from watches of provenance to one-off Heuers to historically significant Speedmasters and Autavias. We’ll be at the auction posting updates on Instagram, but here are a few highlights to tide you over.
Joltin’ Joe and Patek Philippe
The highlight of the auction is without-a-doubt a Patek Philippe Ref. 130 that was owned by New York Yankee legend Joe DiMaggio. If you made it up to New York City for the Patek Philippe Grand Exhibition in New York City this summer then you may recognize it from its spot in the U.S. Historic Room. It’s always a treat to see watches owned by celebrities of the past, but it’s even better when those watches are historically significant themselves. The Reference 130 is the first Patek Philippe chronograph to be given a reference number and this specific model dates back to 1947, although it was in production from 1936 to the 1960s. DiMaggio purchased this watch in 1948 and he owned it for a little over 50 years before his death in 1999. In 2006, the model sold at auction for $97,750. Almost 12 years later, it returns to the stage and is expected to land somewhere between $150,000-$300,000.
A travel watch once owned by famed female aviationist Amelia Earhart is also up for bidding. This watch, manufactured by the Cresarrow Watch Co. and sold and branded by Tiffany & Co., was gifted to Earhart in 1932 by her friend and fellow aviationist Amy Johnson. The caseback reads: “To Amelia, In Sincere Admiration, Amy.” This was the same year that Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, her greatest achievement. It’s a very petite timepiece that comes in a spring-loaded case that shoots the watch up from its resting position. On top of the case, you can see the sliding protection case has Earhart’s initials monogrammed on. It comes with the original presentation box that reads: LA SECTION FEMININE, DE L’AERO CLUB DE FRANCE, A MRS AMELIA EARHART, PARIS 1932. It’s expected to sell for between $60,000 and $120,000.
Heuer’s Motor Age
To many, vintage Heuer watches are the living embodiment of the golden age of racing. This specific Autavia was presented to Marvin Panch after his victory in the 1965 Atlanta 500 race, which was a part of the NASCAR Grand National Series. Panch, who won the race in a 1965 Ford Galaxie, is a Nascar legend who was named one of the 50 greatest drivers of all time in the 1990s. In place of the Swiss Made branding, the watch has a Motor Age logo above 6 o’clock. Motor Age is an auto magazine that has been in circulation since 1899 and continues to this day. This is the only known model that Motor Age produced with Heuer and it comes directly from the Autavia’s second execution run that can be identified by the large luminous circles outside the hours and dauphine hands. It’s expected to sell for between $35,000 and $55,000.
License to Bid
Rolex Reference 6538 — better known as the “James Bond” model after its appearance on Sean Connery’s wrist in the classic film Dr. No — is one of the most coveted timepieces for Rolex collectors. It was introduced in 1955 as an upgraded version of Ref. 6200, with a thinner case and movement (Cal. 1030). This specific model, from 1957, has already attracted quite a bit of attention from all the Rolex enthusiasts out there and is expected to sell for between $100,000 and $200,000.
A Speedmaster with a Story
Now this is a special Speedy. Most collectors know the importance of Reference 2915 — it’s the very first Speedmaster and was only in production from 1957 to 1959. It’s most recognizable for its ‘broad arrow’ hands and steel bezel. This specific model comes from the second series of 2915 production (making it 2915-2) that was manufactured in 1958 and retains its original bezel and hands. The most interesting aspect of this timepiece is its backstory. Going back to 1958, a man working for Goodyear Tires was in the Belgian Congo (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) when he happened upon this 2915. He purchased it and not much later was accused of being a spy and imprisoned in a Congo jail, while likely wearing this exact Speedmaster. How’s that for provenance? It’s expected to sell for between $50,000 and $100,000.
Paul Newman Mark 1
You may be tired of hearing about Paul Newman — but the auction market sure as hell isn’t. The top lot of the tonight’s auction is a Rolex “Paul Newman” Daytona that is drastically different from the one we saw back in October. Here, we have an extremely rare Rolex with a Paul Newman Mark One Oyster Sotto Daytona dial. The Oyster Sotto — also known as the Oyster Below or RCO — is called that because it features the words Rolex, Cosmograph, and Oyster aligned vertically on the dial. This is one of less than 20 timepieces known to feature the Oyster Sotto designation below the word “Cosmograph” instead of above it. The Oyster Sotto dials were only fitted to very few reference 6263 models. Add that to the rarity of the Paul Newman “exotic” dials that were discontinued quickly and, all-in-all, only a minuscule amount of watches were fitted with this style of dial presumably at the request of either clients or certain retailers. Additionally, a small amount of those have dials with a different font. These are called “Mark One” dials as they only appear on the watches with the lowest serial numbers. Of the less than 20 Paul Newman Oyster Sotto watches publically known, only a few — including the present watch — have “Mark One” dials. Those that do were all manufactured in 1969 and, as would be expected, have serial numbers in extremely close proximity to each other in the 2’0855** range. All are fitted with reference 6239 casebacks stamped C.R.S for the maker C.R. Spillmann S.A. and have caliber 727 movements. Add all of that info together and you have an extremely rare timepiece that has a good chance of hitting seven figures. For the distinguished collector trying to join in on the Paul Newman frenzy, there might not be a better time to jump in.
The Eternal Patek Philippe
The top Patek Philippe lot tonight is a classic. Back in 1956, Patek Philippe was the only manufacture producing and selling perpetual calendar chronographs. The Reference 2499 — which cost $1,800 USD at the time — is a horological icon from what is considered the most prestigious marque in the business. As one of only 38 first series models in the world, it features a drop-dead gorgeous patina, original everything (other than the caseback and crown), and the prestige of one of the most recognizable watches in the world. No joke, for watch enthusiasts around the globe, the most identifiable wristwatches from Patek Philippe’s enviable catalogue are the various perpetual calendar chronographs. This is basically the holy grail for many, many Patek collectors that have deep, deep pockets so you should expect to see some fireworks when this watch turns up at the end of the night. It’s estimated to land somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million.
A First Execution Heuer Autavia
The Autavia has had a big year. From the Autavia Cup and the relaunch of the collection to its record-breaking presence at auctions across the globe, there seems to be no stopping the vintage Heuer stampede. There are four vintage Autavias up for bid tonight and while the aforementioned Motor Age model is appealing in its singularity, the real showstopper is one with a First Execution dial. In the fall of 1961, Jack Heuer and his team started work on the very first Heuer chronograph with a rotating bezel. A year later, we had two new manual-wind variants available: the reference 2446 for a three-register version and the reference 3646 for a two-register version. Up for bid today is a reference 2446 from 1962 that has aged quite beautifully. The lume no longer shines, of course, but the small unsigned crowns and pushers are a definite sign of the era that this watch came in. It’s expected to sell for between $50,000 and $100,000.
Just for Fun….
As a fairly young watch writer, I missed out on some of the truly funky timepieces that the 1990s blessed us with. Here, we have a prime example of that with a limited edition Seamaster that Omega produced in 1998 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the line. This version is number three of 50 and features a skeletonized 18k gold dial with seahorse emblems covered in translucent blue enamel. The caliber 2400 is an Omega manufactured movement from 1973 and includes a 21k gold rotor that is visible from the sapphire crystal caseback. Would I wear this? It’s hard to say, but it’s definitely an example of the many things that the ’90’s should have left behind. It’s expected to sell for between $25,000 and $40,000.