Bonhams is hosting a number of wristwatch auctions this summer, but the most lots are on offer in its two-part “Vintage Wristwatches from a Private Collection”. Part 1 ended on June 27, while Part 2 is open until July 3. There are no headliner grabbers here, just some decent, honest watches that will all likely sell for under $5,000 to $6,000. The auction is full of Movado, Omega, Universal Geneve, and Vacheron — the collector here seemed to know what he or she liked, and went in deep. There’s also a lot of gold watches, with some exceptions (which I’ll highlight below).
Bonhams also sold one of these for $3,500 back in 2014, but you don’t see these come up that often. This is a rare Movado Astronic HS360 in stainless steel, featuring a triple calendar, moonphase, and chronograph function. It’s powered by Zenith’s caliber 3019, a movement that was developed jointly by Zenith and Movado in the 1960s (Zenith and Movado were owned by the same holding company around this time). This particular watch dates to 1975, and the vibe is all out 70s. Even the name — “Astronic” sounds like a ride you need a FastPass for at Disney World’s Tomorrowland. Personally, I’m still struggling with fully appreciating these watches, but this one is helping me “get it”. While the movement isn’t running on this particular example, it’s nothing a quality servicing can’t fix.
Lot 357 estimate: $3,800 to $5,100
Vacheron Constantin Gold Dress Watches
The auction is billed as “vintage wristwatches from a private collection,” and whoever was collecting must have really had a penchant for yellow gold dress watches, specifically from Vacheron Constantin. I counted 21 such watches in Part 2 of the auction, in all manner of shape and size. Gold watches aren’t nearly as popular as their stainless steel counterparts right now, so it’s a great option to pick up if you’re looking for something classic but slightly cheaper. Here are a few of my favorites:
It’s hard to find dress watches from the 1940s or 50s that measure much more than 35mm, but that’s exactly what this oversize dress watch is. With a 37mm yellow gold case and a bit of a Calatrava-style dial, it’s one of the best lots on offer at this auction. The case has been polished a bit and the dial has some light marks throughout and may have been refinished, but for a fraction of the price of a Patek Calatrava, you can snag yourself a class gold dress watch from 1948. And you won’t find those shaped lugs on every other mid-century dress watch out there either.
Lot 344 Estimate: $3,800 to $5,100
This thing is absolutely beat up, but who cares? It’s a rectangular watch from 1932 and has serious Jaegre-Le-Coultre Reverso vibes. The hands are blued steel, the case is weathered, and the dial has aged substantially, with spots and stains throughout. The condition report mentions that the dial was also refinished at some point, though it must have been awhile ago because this thing has some serious patina. Look, it’s not something I’d pay a lot of money for, but it’s a cool watch reminiscent of the decade in which it was born.
Lot 314 estimate: $2,000 to $2,500
One more gold Vacheron, this one from 1942. It’s got a silvered two-tone dial with almost a sector dial feel: the 3-6-9 sit on the outside of a chapter ring, giving the watch a bit of a unique feel. This Vacheron has Vacheron’s caliber V453 inside, a nickel-finished lever movement, with 17 jewels, mono-metallic compensation balance, and micrometer regulator.
Lot 316 estimate: $3,800 to $5,100
Universal Geneve Stainless Steel Tri-Compax
Pretty much everything is right about this Reference 22297 Tri-Compax from Universal Geneve. And with the way collectors have flocked to UG, I have to think Bonhams’ estimate (around $3,000) is low here. It’s a classic stainless steel triple calendar chronograph with moonphase; I’ve seen watches pretty similar to this sell for twice that estimate, and it’s easy to see why. It’s got UG’s caliber 281 inside, which were supplier by an ebauche Martel and then customized by UG before being shipped off.
By the way, if you want a fixer upper instead, there’s also this stainless steel Tri-Compax. The dial’s been re-finished (well, can’t undo that), the movement isn’t running, and Bonham’s estimate is closer to $1,000.
Estimate: $2,600 to $3,800
P.S. read our brief history of UG here.