The approaching of May means the approaching of the spring auction season in Geneva. Christie’s, Phillips, and Sotheby’s are all hosting equally exciting auctions between May 12-14. Today, I’m taking a look at the lots coming up at the Christie’s sale. Christie’s has a bunch of exciting watches on the high end: Daytonas and Pateks of course, but also a watch owned by Andy Warhol (more on that below), as well as an online-only auction with a bunch of accessibly-priced vintage timepieces. I’m going to highlight a few of my favorites from each auction. So let’s dig through all the “fine and rare” superlatives these auction houses love to shower upon their lots and see what’s actually worth a look.
Rolex Ref. 3525 Chronograph (owned by Andy Warhol)
First up is a watch that’s rare in its own right, made even more special by its provenance as having been owned by Andy Warhol. It’s a two-tone (and two-tone is super in right now!) Rolex chronograph in steel and pink gold. The Ref. 3525 was made for just 6 years, from 1939 to 1945, and this variant, with its pink gold bezel and stainless steel case, is the rarest.
The watch features a Valjoux 23 calibre inside, an extremely desirable hand-wound chronograph movement with a column wheel. The original VZ 23 was first produced in 1938, with flyback, calendar, and other variants quickly following in production. The popular Valjoux 72 (used in Daytonas, Carreras, Navitimers, among other popular chronographs) is a three-register variant of the Valjoux 23.
This watch also went up for sale in 1988 with a leather strap; since then, the owner has found a matching bracelet, making the watch even more desirable.
Rolex Ref. 6062 Triple Calendar
Next up is the watch with the highest estimate of the auction, a Rolex Ref. 6062 triple calendar with moon phase and star dial. This one is a real OG: the original family’s owner found it in 2015 and it looks to be in absolutely amazing condition. It’s thought to be one of less than ten “Stellines” (“little stars” as called by those creative Italian collectors) cased in pink gold. On top of that, it’s estimated that Rolex ordered less than 200 pink gold Ref. 6062 cases in total in the early 1950s, less than 20 of which have been rediscovered.
The Ref. 6062 was introduced by Rolex in 1950 and produced for about 10 years, and one of only two Rolex models to feature a triple calendar (the other being Ref. 8171, which doesn’t feature the Oyster case like this Ref. 6062 does). These two models were also the only produced in series to feature a moon phase until the introduction of the modern Cellini.
Estimate: $1 million - $2 million
Tudor Ref. 79180 Chronograph with Pink Subdials
Something a little different: a Tudor Ref. 79180 chronograph from 1990, powered by an automatic Valjoux 7750.
Throughout the 1990s, Tudor experimented with colorful dials, but the pink subdials on this one have to be the most fun. This prototype never entered actual production, so it’s a rare experiment worth a look. It’s also fitted with a Rolex Oyster bracelet, giving you just a taste of the Crown (but honestly, Rolex’s fingerprints are all over this one).
Check out the pink Tudor here.
Patek Phillipe Ref. 5102PR
Perhaps the most beautiful Patek of this auction, in my opinion (or this tourbillion). This platinum and pink gold Ref. 5102 is thought to be one of only 11 such models in existence, according to Christie’s. Patek first produced the Ref. 5102 “Celestial” in 2002, borrowing the celestial canopy concept from the most complicated wristwatch Patek has ever produced, the Ref. 5002.
Here’s a primer on how it works: The nocturnal sky of the northern hemisphere rotates to show the apparent angular motion of the stars and moon as well as the progression of the phases of the moon. An elliptical contour on the inside of the glass frames the portion of the sky visible from all cities sharing the latitude of Geneva. Three sapphire crystal discs are used to simulate the orbit of the moon and the passage of the stars, hence rendering it a remarkable sense of depth.
See the astronomical Patek Phillipe here.
Urwerk Ref. UR-T8 with Wandering Hour Display
You don’t see an Urwerk up at every auction, but Christie’s has one here, the Ref. UR-T8 Transformer Turbine Automatic (circa 2017). Urwerk is known for experimental, unusual and advanced timepieces, and this one is no different. The case can be flipped over in “Reverso” fashion, allowing the watch to change between watch and “mystery” mode. It also features the wandering hours configuration for reading time that has become a signature style of the Urwerk brand. Look, it’s not the watch I’d buy if I had $50k lying around, but it’s fun and unique nonetheless.
Check out the titanium Urwerk
Rolex Ref. 6263 Daytonas
Now, the watch I would buy if I had $50k lying around. Of course this auction has some Paul Newmans estimated to fetch health six figure prices, but I prefer to look farther down the lot list at some non-Paul Newman Daytonas. They’re not necessarily a bargain either these days, but they’re just the ultimate vintage chronographs: Rolex calibre 727 (Valjoux 72 base), 37.5mm diameter, screw down pushers, and super clean panda or reverse-panda dial options.
Christie’s has both a Panda dial Ref. 6263 and reverse Panda “Big Red” Ref. 6263 on offer (so called because of the large red “Daytona” above 6 o’clock sub register. The first is estimated at $40,000-$60,000 while the Big Red is estimated at $50,000-$100,000
Rolex Chronograph Ref. 6238
Alongside a Rolex Explorer Ref. 1016, the Ref. 6238 is probably my grail Rolex, so I have to cover it whenever one makes an auction appearance. The Ref. 6238 was launched in 1960, and stayed in production throughout the early 1960s until Rolex introduced the Daytona. It’s the last polished bezel chronograph from Rolex and referred to as the “pre-Daytona” by many. It’s a chronograph that’s clear a child of the 50s, with just a wink towards what’s to come. It’s powered by the Valjoux 72B, the base movement for so many of our favorite chronographs from the era.
This particular one is a little special: it’s engraved “Fuerza Aérea del Perú,” on the back, It is thought that as of the early 1960s, the Peruvian Air Force commissioned Rolex with the supply of watches for their personnel, mainly different Cosmograph Daytona models but also Ref. 6238 and Ref 1680 (Submariner with date) which were issued to the superior Officers. It’s not dissimilar to the special COMEX or British Royal Navy commission Rolexes that are so sought after by collectors.
For even more of a throwback to the pre-Daytona days, check out the Rolex Ref. 6034, a 1950s chronograph.
Patek Phillipe Ref. 2526 in Pink Gold
First up in the online auction is this Ref. 2526, the first self-winding watch produced by Patek Phillipe. Produced between 1953 and 1960, about 3,000 Ref. 2526s were made by Patek, only 360 of which are thought to be in pink gold (most were in yellow gold). It uses the famed Patek Phillipe Calibre 12-600.
Additionally, this one was retailed by Uruguan retailer Freccero, and is so signed above the small seconds. I said that Celestial Patek above was the most beautiful watch on offer by Christie’s, but this one might actually take that moniker
If this one’s a little too rich for you, check out the Ref. 570 Calatrava, also available in the online auction. It’s the manual wind Calatrava that pre dates the automatic Ref. 2526.
Omega Single-Button Chronograph
Another watch with military provenance. This single-button Omega from 1960 was supplied to the Royal Canadian Navy. It’s got a military engraving on the case back, the dial and hands are filled with lume, and it measures a health 38mm in diameter. It’s powered by a Lemania calibre 2221, and does not come with box and papers.
It actually reminds me of this Birks Chronograph for the Royal Canadian Air Force from Wind Vintage I featured in my newsletter some time ago.
Rolex Turn-O-Graph Ref. 6202
The Rolex Turn-O-Graph is a fun little watch. The brand introduced it in 1953 as the first Rolex with a rotating bezel, coming just before the first Submariner and sharing many of the same style elements, but in a smaller, 36mm case.
This one doesn’t come with box or papers, but it’s still a great way to get a vintage Rolex for a moderate price that shares DNA with the vintage Submariners we all love (and can’t afford).