There’s no theme to speak of this week, but it could be said that the roundup was influenced by a newfound interest in all things old and gold. With picks like a left field Rolex Ref. 8490 and an alarm-equipped watch retailed by Tiffany & Co., you’ll be sure to stand out from the pack. Care to make your presence known in a bolder fashion, well there’s a beyond top shelf example of Patek Philippe’s Ref. 1463, featuring a likely unique dial signed by Serpico y Laino. Just so you don’t think I’m only in it for the gold, I’ve also included a fetching chronograph from Lemania, that’s potentially trumped by a Longines Calatrava in near untouched condition. It’s a good one this week, so let’s give the preamble a rest and get down to it.
1957 Rolex Ref. 8940
There was a point in time when if it wasn’t an Oyster, it went all but unnoticed by the masses of the vintage Rolex collecting world. While this still is somewhat true, it could be argued that awareness of watches like the Ref. 8171 “Padellone” and the coveted Ref. 2508 chronographs have increased thanks to noteworthy auction results, and the promotion of said results on sites like the one you’re reading right now. Non-Oysters of all ages are a uniquely exciting facet of the Rolex story, which is why we’re kicking things off today with one of the best.
What you’re looking at is the Ref. 8940, which despite measuring 36mm across, could still be described as somewhat of a distant cousin of the 38 mm Ref. 8171, with its similarly angled smooth bezel, and dauphine hands. However, the similarities begin to dwindle once you pop open the caseback to reveal the hand wound Cal. 1210 movement, which tracks the just hours, minutes, and seconds.
Condition wise, there’s a lot to love here. The dial, which is fitted with some of the coolest indices I’ve ever seen on a Rolex, is quite clean. Although the watch has been polished in the past, it hasn’t been overdone. I’ve seen too many examples where the lugs have lost all definition, remaining as mere pointed sticks (read that last bit in Eric Idle’s voice). Another plus is that the engraved coronet on its caseback is still visible, which is without question my favorite detail found on non-Oysters of this era. Who doesn’t love a little extra coronet?
Some might not be ecstatic about the presence of a gold dial, but despite this, I still think it’s a pretty stealthy piece. Though the watch isn’t necessarily free of Rolex branding, it doesn’t scream Rolex in the same way a Datejust or Day-Date of the same generation would. If you’re into that sort of thing, you might want to check out this little number.
Veilinghuis de Ruiter is offering this watch with an estimate of €2,500-5,000. Find the online listing here.
1978 Tiffany & Co. Alarm Watch
At the beginning of the year, I came across an unusual alarm-equipped watch, branded with the name of the legendary American retailer of luxury goods, Tiffany & Co. It was a weird one to say the least, with unconventionally shaped hands, and a “driver” style dial orientation, similar to what you’d see on some Omega Chronostops. Thinking I’d try my hand at making lightning strike twice, I typed the words “Tiffany alarm watch” into the search bar on eBay, expecting nothing to come of it, but lo and behold, the second strike surprisingly did occur.
Unlike the previously featured Tiffany & Co. alarm watch, this piece features a standard dial orientation, with twelve and six o’clock falling between either set of lugs, and a perhaps more traditionally luxurious appearance overall. What this variant lacks in 24 hour tracks and squiggly shaped alarm hands, it makes up for with a 14K yellow gold case, and a more restrained dial, free of any unnecessary markings. This is more or less the alarm watch you’d put on to go to dinner after working on shaving that extra second off your lap time while wearing the other example.
Most interesting, is that we’ve now got a bit more info regarding who exactly was involved in the production of these watches, given that Tiffany is rarely credited with producing their own timepieces, if ever. Engraved on one of the movement’s bridges, you’ll find the words “Concord Watch Co.” indicating these were manufactured by the Movado subsidiary.
You really never know what you might come across when hunting on a whim. In this case, it yielded yet another example of a rarity, along with details that paint a more complete story regarding its origins. Gotta love eBay!
A seller based out of Poughkeepsie, New York, has this piece listed with a Buy It Now price of $1,299.99. You also have the option to make an offer. Click here for the full scoop.
1943 Longines Ref. 4179 Calatrava
I love a good Calatrava, especially when it can be traced back to the Saint-Imier manufacture of Longines. Their entire watchmaking history is more or less a case study in the beauty of subtleties, which is why I thought I’d share a piece with you that encapsulates this notion to a T.
With absolute confidence, I can say that this is more than likely the cleanest Longines Calatrava you’ll see all week. Its case can be described as beyond thick, with perfectly defined, stainless steel lugs, which make the 35 mm watch feel slightly larger than it is. Its dial, with borderline Bauhaus numerals, is also spotless in the most honest sense of the word. Factor in blued steel hands and a Cal. 12.68Z movement below its caseback, and you’ve really got an outstanding piece.
This watch is also accompanied by a Longines Extract from the Archives, which is always nice to see included in the purchase of any vintage watch. In my experience, Longines has one of the best archival departments of any watch manufacturer still in existence today, that is operated by truly passionate scholars. Their extracts also happen to be provided free of charge, so should you have a special Longines of your own, it can’t hurt to acquire one.
Miami’s Menta Watches has this Longines listed for $10,500, which I’d say is appropriate given the condition of the watch. Check out the watch here.
1950 Patek Philippe Ref. 1463 Rose Retailed By Serpico Y Laino, Formerly Belonging To Mr. Eric Clapton
Just last summer, a coworker at Christie’s (where I was interning at the time) handed me what might be the absolute nicest watch I’ve ever seen in person – an unworn example of Patek Philippe’s famed ref. 1463 executed in rose gold. This watch absolutely blew me away. Everything about it was perfect. From the condition to the proportions to the insanely meticulous finishing, everything was flawless. It was without question one of the most beautiful objects I had ever come across, and ever since I’ve been dreaming of it. This is why when I heard of an example that outdid the aforementioned one, my interest was more than piqued.
The watch in question is also a rose gold ref. 1463, but unlike the one I had the pleasure of handling, this piece features a possibly unique dial bearing Roman numeral and dot indices in addition to a highly sought after retailer signature indicating that it was sold by Serpico y Laino in Venezuela. This is the only known example with this specific combination of dial traits, and the bezel remains sharply stepped, the case hallmarks are clearly visible, and there’s not a single significant scuff or marking on the entire dial. This is a watch that should be on the radar of anyone seriously interested in vintage Patek Philippe.
What’s more, this watch has star studded provenance, and a well documented one at that: The watch was once in the collection of Mr. Eric Clapton, who was essentially the original celebrity watch collector. The watch left Clapton’s collection in 2003 when it was sold by Christie’s in New York for $175,500, and it traded hands again in 2007 at Christie’s in Geneva, where it fetched CHF 409,000. Patek Philippe itself was also seemingly aware of just how aesthetically pleasing this dial is, as evidenced by the presence of Roman numeral and dot indices applied on a special order set of ref. 5970s manufactured more recently (which you can see here).
All in all, I’d say this is one of the more interesting and important vintage Patek Philippe watches we’ll see come up for sale this year (and if it isn’t … oh boy). Personally, while I won’t be bidding, I’ll still be watching to see what this piece achieves and where it ends up.
Christie’s will offer this example of the ref. 1463 in their Dubai sale taking place on March 22, with an estimate of $550,000-850,000. See the listing here.
Lemania 15TL Chronograph
While writing that last bit, another jaw-dropping chronograph from my past instantly came to mind. I’m not exactly sure who its owner was, but I can distinctly remember being floored by a Lemania chronograph at a collector’s get together I attended some five years or so back. What fascinated me most, was its dial that incorporated elements finished in both red and various shades of grey — a rare combination to say the least, which I haven’t seen on many other watches to date.
Since that encounter, I’ve actively kept my eyes out for similar watches, which has ultimately resulted in a deep appreciation for the often avant-garde dials of Lemania’s back catalogue. Though there are undoubtedly other examples of interesting dials over the years, the folks over at Lemania seemed to be on a slightly different wavelength when it came to dial design. When many were focused on gilt variants, and stark silver offerings, it seems as if Lemania looked towards other areas of the colour spectrum, because why not.
With this watch on the mind, I was delighted to come across another Cal. 15TL powered chronograph from Lemania that’s fitted with a similarly stunning dial, complete with multiple tones of grey portions, and all. These contrast brilliantly against the outer details in gloss black, drawing your attention inwards.
The watch does look to have been polished, and there is a small nick on the dial below the “I” in “LEMANIA,” though it’s one of those “find me another one” scenarios in which beggars can’t be choosers. I personally still find this to be a wildly compelling watch, and thought you might as well.
An individual on the Chronotrader forum has this chronograph listed with an asking price of €6,800. The full listing with contact information can be found here.