Previewing Sotheby's September 2019 Online Auction

As a lead up to the fall auction season, Sotheby’s is holding an online watch auction through September 10. There are over 100 lots on offer, mostly in the mid-priced to downright affordable range, so it’s an opportunity to pick up a new fall watch. New season, new watch, I always say. Let’s take a look at some of the most exciting lots.

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I loved this watch when it was released in December of 2018 and all 500 pieces sold through pretty quickly at TAG Heuer boutiques. It’s a collaborative effort between Heuer and Hiroji Fushiwara’s Fragment Design, and originally retailed at $8,100. Fushiwara’s inspiration for this limited edition model was the Carrera Reference 2447NT, introduced in 1968. This reference, notable for its tachymeter printed on a bright white outer ring, is among the rarest of vintage Carreras, with the price tag to match. So, it was exciting to see such a faithful modern execution of it, with some of the street wear flair that only a guy like Fushiwara can bring.

Sotheby’s has perhaps the first example of this watch up for auction this month, placing the estimate at CHF 3,000 to 5,000. So, it looks like the market thinks these watches haven’t held their retail value. Listen, a “limited edition” of 500 pieces is a lot for a Heuer with this price tag, so that’s not terribly surprising. For reference, the extremely successful Hodinkee x TAG Heuer limited edition Skipper had a production run of just 125 pieces, priced at $5,900.

The Fragment Design Carrera wasn’t appealing to me at $8,100 (mainly because I didn’t think it’d hold that value), but becomes a much more interesting proposition under $5,000. We’ll see where it ends up. 

Lot 26 estimate: CHF 3,000 to 5,000

Rolex Daytona Reference 6239

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We know the superlatives of a Daytona Reference 6239 by now. It’s the first Daytona reference from Rolex, debuting in 1963. Valjoux 72 movement. It’s the case Paul Newman wore! Since it was the early years of the Daytona, Rolex was still experimenting with dial variations: this example features the “Daytona” at 12 o’clock. It wasn’t until a few years later that Rolex started printing the “Daytona” in the more familiar position above the 6 o’clock subdial.

The case of this example is in good overall condition and the Oyster bracelet is also matching and original. There’s an almost-gone lume plot at 3 o’clock, but otherwise the dial is in good overall condition.

The big problem with this watch is the hour and second hands. The condition report says nothing of the hands, except that the “subsidiary hands appear to be original.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the more important hands anchored to the central pinion. Without better photos, it’s hard to tell if these are replacement hands, or if the lume has simply been stripped away. Either way, it’s worth a pause.

That said, this lot has a lower estimate to match the replacement hands.

Lot 5 estimate: CHF 30,000 to 50,000

Heuer Autavia Reference 3646 ‘Mario Andretti’

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Being from Indianapolis, I love any watch with a connection to the city. And since we don’t have much going on in Naptown, that usually means a watch with a connection to the Indy 500. That’s exactly what this Heuer Autavia has, with a legit connection to legendary race car driver Mario Andretti.

This Heuer Autavia Reference 3646 has been nicknamed the ‘Mario Andretti’ by collectors because Andretti won two watches of this reference for being the fastest qualifier for the Indianapolis 500 in 1966 and 1967. He’s been seen wearing them since, notably on his Talking Watches episode.

This is a particularly notable example, as Sotheby’s says it was sourced directly from a veteran of the Argentinian Air Force. According to the consignor, the watch was worn during operations by an Argentinian fighter pilot in the late 60s, with the logo of the Fuerza Aérea Argentina engraved on the back still visible.

It’s an earlier Autavia, so it’s got a round case instead of the later tonneau cases, which I think makes it an easier and more subtle wear. The watch is by no means in pristine condition, but to me, that just lends credence to the fact that a legit Argentinian fighter pilot was putting this thing through its paces on a daily basis.

The dial looks to be mostly de-lumed, as Sotheby’s says the hands only react in small sections when subject to UV light. The top of the chronograph hand is also missing.

Lot 10 estimate: CHF 10,000 to 15,000

Patek Phillipe Nautilus Reference 5711/1

Let’s just bookmark this one to see how high it can fly.

Lot 7 estimate: CHF 60,000 to 80,000

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a lange 1815

The A. Lange & Sohne 1815 is a modern classic and pays homage to the Glashutte-based brand’s heritage. Referring to the birth year of the brand’s legendary founder, Ferdinand Adolph Lange, the 1815 pays homage to the classic pocket watches that made Lange famous. The 1815 was first released in 1995; the example here is an early model from 1997. It features Lange’s caliber L941.1 manual winding movement. The blue steel hands, Arabic numerals, and small subsidiary seconds at 6 o’clock are all classic hallmarks of German watchmaking, and perfectly executed on the Lange.

I always like to highlight Lange pieces at auction because they seem to be perpetually undervalued; yes, their watches are expensive at retail, but at auction they’re amazing values when compared to some of the other options at the price point. Take this 1815: a beautifully finished hand-wound movement in a precious metal from a historic brand for less than 10,000? Doesn’t seem like such a huge ask.

Lot 88 estimate: CHF 5,000 to 7,000