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Highlights from This Week’s Watch Auctions in New York

December 8, 2018

BY Paul Altieri

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This week, two of the season’s larger and more noteworthy auctions took place in New York City, and as expected, a number of truly remarkable watches found new homes in the collections of their highest bidders. Sotheby’s Important Watches auction (which took place on Wednesday, December 5th) bought in a total of $8,240,250, while Christie’s An Evening of Exceptional Watches (held on Thursday, December 6th) brought in a sale total of $10,488,250, including buyer’s premium. All the watches at these two auctions are highly desirable and collectible vintage watches with immense value.

Six and even seven-figure auction prices are becoming increasingly more common. It was not long ago that it was big news for a watch to sell for over a million dollars; however it is now almost expected for several timepieces to clear the seven-figure mark each auction season. With that in mind, here are a few highlights from this week’s watch auctions in New York. All of these lots sold for significantly more than six figures, and all of these timepieces make Franklin D. Roosevelt’s pocket watch (which Christie’s sold for $62,500) seem like a relative bargain.

Auction Highlights

Rolex has produced a handful of masterpieces which we get to see today. (Credit: Sotheby’s)

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Rolex Ref. 8171 “Padellone” Triple Calendar Wristwatch with Moonphase

(Sotheby’s Important Watches – LOT 78)

LOT SOLD: $387,000

The absolutely stunning condition of this particular reference 8171 Rolex “Padellone” triple calendar almost guaranteed that it would attain a highly respectable sale price. The Padellone is a rare watch and grows in demand, and with a pre-sale estimate of $100,000 to $200,000, we knew that it was one to keep an eye on during the auction. However, with a final sale price of roughly double its projected estimate, this stainless steel reference 8171 was one of the most expensive watches sold by Sotheby’s this week.

Auction Highlights

Patek Philippe is another brand that is internationally recognized for their masterful craftsmanship. (Credit: Sotheby’s)

Patek Philippe Ref. 5970R Perpetual Calendar Chronograph with Moonphase

(Sotheby’s Important Watches – LOT 113)

LOT SOLD: $118,750

Perpetual calendar chronographs manufactured by Patek Philippe almost always sell for significant sums, and certain watches such as the reference 1518 reliably fetch small fortunes whenever they manage to surface at auction. This particular watch, a reference 5970 in rose gold is a decedent of the legendary 1518 that Patek Philippe manufactured between 2004 and 2011, and this particular example has a production date of 2005. The reference 5970 takes a lot of the design language of vintage Patek Philippe perpetual calendars and gives it a more modern look and feel with rectangular chronograph pushers and a 40 mm case diameter.

Auction Highlights

The Rolex Ref. 6536/1 is a small crown with a big demand. (Credit: Sotheby’s)

Rolex Ref. 6536/1 “Small Crown” Submariner

(Sotheby’s Important Watches – LOT 252)

LOT SOLD: $225,000

The reference 6536/1 (not to be confused with the vintage Rolex Submariner 6536) is one of the early, “small crown” Submariner references from the late 1950s that pre-dates the arrival of crown guards. This particular reference 6536/1 has a production year of 1957, and is incredibly well preserved condition, with a case that appears to be entirely unpolished. Vintage Submariner references are among some of the most expensive watches available, and despite a relatively conservative pre-sale estimate of $20,000 to $35,000, this particular reference 6536/1 sold for $225,000.

Auction Highlights

The John Player Special is another watch recognized for its rarity. (Credit: Christie’s)

(Rolex Ref. 6241 “John Player Special Paul Newman” Daytona Chronograph

(Christie’s An Evening of Exceptional Watches – LOT 77)

LOT SOLD: $552,500

Almost every Rolex Daytona with a “Paul Newman” dial is guaranteed to sell for at least six figures. How much more than that is dependent on all of the other factors; however regardless of the reference or configuration, Paul Newman Daytonas are among the most expensive watches available today. When the watch in question is a solid gold, reference 6241 “John Player Special” Daytona, you can almost guarantee that the price will be significantly higher than the six-figure threshold, and indeed it was – the final sale price of this particular “John Player Special Paul Newman” was $552,500.

Auction Highlights

Last but not least there is the Rolex Ref. 6062 “The Dark Star” Triple Calendar Wristwatch with Moonphase reached the highest bid. (Credit: Christie’s)

Rolex Ref. 6062 “The Dark Star” Triple Calendar Wristwatch with Moonphase

(Christie’s An Evening of Exceptional Watches – LOT 160)

LOT SOLD: $1,572,500

This was the lot with the highest pre-sale estimate this week, and easily the most discussed timepiece of the auction. This exact same watch was sold by Christie’s New York in December 2011 for $542,500. This time around, almost exactly seven years later, it sold for nearly three times its last sale price, bringing in $1,572,500, which was right in-line with its projected pre-sale estimate of $1,000,000 to $2,000,000. Nearly all Rolex reference 6062 watches with star dials are going to be expensive; however the remarkable patina on this one elevated it to an entirely new level of value and collectability.

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