Sure, Watches of Knightsbridge has its monthly online auctions, which often have some nice watches in their own right. But a few times a year, they offer a larger platform, hosting a live auction in their native London. The next live auction is July 20’s Fine, Rare, and Collectible Timepieces, featuring 217 lots. There are three Rolex Submariners on the catalog cover, which might hint at the general theme of this auction. Let’s take a look at a few of the best watches up for auction.
Dating to 1974, this Omega Seamsaster Reference 145.023, nicknamed the “Anakin Skywalker” by no less than chronograph expert Chuck Maddox himself is not for the faint of heart. It measures in at 44mm by 14mm in thickness. It’s most closely associated with the black version of the 145.023, nicknamed the “Darth Vader” by Maddox. Both have those large, octagonal cases with a unique two-piece construction. The main portion houses the movement, while the outer shell, made of a polished tungsten, covers it.
Both versions house the Omega caliber 861, a Lemania-based chronograph movement that replaced Omega’s caliber 321 beginning in the late 1960s. Unlike the column-wheel mechanism of the caliber 321, the caliber 861 uses a cam / shuttle system for its chronograph operation.
Omega — and many other brands, for that matter — released a bunch of funky chronographs in the 1970s, typically looking like a disco threw up on a spaceship. The Anakin Skywalker is no exception, though it’s got a fun history as collectors have latched onto it. The Darth Vader is more rare and fetches higher prices, but the Anakin Skywalker is still a desirable version, especially for Omega chronograph fanatics. It also helps that this one’s got the original bracelet.
Lot 91 estimate: £4,000 to £5,000
I’ve been deep into vintage Tudor Rangers lately (article forthcoming), so was excited to see one in this auction. This one is a rare “Rose Ranger” Reference 7996. The Ranger is Tudor’s answer to the Rolex Explorer (specifically Reference 1016), though it’s extremely difficult to find correct examples, and eBay is a minefield of fakes, frankens, and of course, “Red Rangers” (just don’t).
The serial number dates this example to 1966, a couple years before Tudor started switching over to its modern shield logo. The Reference 7996 is the date version of the 7995, which Tudor used as the inspiration for the modern Heritage Ranger, released in 2014. Inside ticks an ETA caliber 2484, signed “Tudor Auto-Prince” on the rotor. Many fake Tudor Rangers will also have an hour hand with a shorter arrow than this example, which is longer and narrower.
I’ve not really seen vintage Tudor Rangers with the Rolex Jubilee bracelet that this example comes on, thought it is period correct. You’ll find this bracelet on Datejusts, Explorers, and GMT-Masters of the era.
Lot 136 estimate: £2,000 to £2,600
I’m not sure I’ll ever drop the necessary funds on a Rolex Submariner, but damn it if this example isn’t making me think about it. Production of Red Submariners dates to 1969, and this example can be dated to 1970. By 1973, Rolex phase out the red “Submariner” writing for white font. The Reference 1680 was the first Submariner to feature a date window, meaning the movement inside was a new Caliber 1575, which was essentially the same as the preceding Caliber 1570, but with the addition of a date function.
Collectors love the Reference 1680 because seven different dial variations can be found, denoted as Marks I to VIII (Marks II and III are classified together because of their similarities). Mark I Red Submariners are the most rare, and that’s what Watches of Knightsbridge has here.
A Mark I dial is defined by “Meters First” lettering at 6 o’clock (under the red “Submariner”), elongated and closed 6s, a long a and curvy “F” in “ft”, and a distinctive condensed font for the “SCOC”. IN Mark II and III dials, the 6s will be open, and by Mark IV dials, Rolex switched to “Feet First”.
This is one of the “cover watches” for the auction, and with good reason. It’s a gateway into vintage Rolex collecting. For slightly more affordable Submariners, there are a number of Reference 5513s up for auction as well (here and here, for example).
Lot 158 estimate £30,000 to £35,000
2 Omega Speedmasters ‘Ed White’ Reference 105.003
Lot 96 (estimate £10,000 to £14,000)
Lot 97 (estimate £9,000 to £12,000)
If you’re reading this, you probably already know the superlatives of the Speedmaster Reference 105.003, so I won’t belabor the point too much. Worn by Ed White during the first American space walk, this “Pre-Professional” Speedmaster is just known by the astronauts name now, one of the most famous watches this side of Paul Newman (sorry, Anakin Skywalker Omega, above). Manual wind column wheel Caliber 321, a dot over 90 you can just make out on the faded bezels of both of these, they’re icons of vintage Speedmaster collecting.
It’s increasingly difficult to find good examples of these Speedmasters, so it’ll be interesting to see how much these two Ed Whites end up hammering for.
With all the Nautilus and Royal Oak hype, the poor IWC Ingenieur Jumbo seems to have been left for dead. Like the former two, the Ingenieur is a Gerald Genta design, integrated bracelet, stainless steel sports watch. This 1832, dating to 1980, is one of only 543 pieces of the reference known to have been produced.
IWC, along with Rolex, Omega, and Patek, saw the need to produce anti-magnetic watches for engineers and scientists in the 1950s. Hence the original birth of the Ingenieur (alongside the Milgauss, Railmaster, and Patek Reference 3417). But the Ingenieur had become pretty staid (and pointless, with the dawn of quartz) by the 1970s, so IWC brought in Genta, the legendary designer, to breath new life into the model. He designed this Ingenieur “SL” (or “Steel Line”) for IWC (along with two other SL models which never made it to market). Like Genta’s other designs, the Ingenieur had a sandwich case, but this one screwed the bezel and the crystal into place with those screws around the bezel.
The thing measured in at 40mm by 14mm in thickness, apparently aiming to usher in an era of larger watches and inspiring Hublot in every way. The watch pretty much flopped once released, hence why they’re now so hard to find.
Lot 48 estimate: £10,000 to £12,000
I’ve made my love of Rolex Explorers not secret, and one of the best models (imho) is the Reference 14270 ‘Blackout’. The Reference 14270 replaced the legendary Reference 1016 in 1990.
The first Reference 14270s off the production line were noticeably more modern than the classic 1016: gloss dial, sapphire crystal, new movement. But, they also had 3-6-9 Arabic numberals that seemed to be filled with a glossy, black enamel-like material. These ‘Blackout’ Explorers all have serial numbers starting with “E” or “X”, corresponding to production years of 1990 and 1991. Soon after, the fill of the Arabic numerals was changed to white and remained the same through the rest of the Reference 14270’s production run.
At 30 years old, this example has some signs of wear and tear, mainly on the crystal and bracelet, but otherwise looks sharp and ready for another 30 years of good, honest wear.
Lot 139 estimate: £9,000 to £12,000