AUCTION WATCH: Ten Picks From Phillips’ Glamorous Day-Date Geneva Sale

Phillips will start off its watch auction season with "Glamorous Day-Date", a thematic sale dedicated to the Rolex "President", that features some of the rarest Day-Date variations ever made.

On 9 May the newly formed watch department at Phillips led by Aurel Bacs will start its auctions with the “Glamorous Day-Date”, dedicated to the Rolex Day-Date. Of all the major Rolex wristwatch models, the Day-Date is arguably the least appreciated and exploited on the auction market. Despite it being the priciest model line from Rolex, the Day-Date does not often reach the stratospheric prices Rolex sports watches do. Thematic sales are a tried and tested route to firing up demand for a brand or watch, as the Christie’s Daytona sale demonstrated.

Being the Rolex model with arguably the largest number of dial variations, the array of colours and finishes on show is dazzling. Each of the watches on offer has been given nicknames, ranging from “Bart Simpson” to “Brooklyn Bridge”, some of which will certainly stick on after the sale. Paul Boutros, International Strategy Advisor to Phillips’ watch department and also the photographer for the sale, has picked out ten of the most notable lots from the Day-Date sale just for us.

Lot 6: This Rolex Day-Date ref. 1803 is nicknamed “Bart Simpson” for the bright yellow “Stella” dial, the rarest colour amongst all the variants of the lacquered “Stella” dials. Made for a brief period in the seventies, the “Stella” dials were made by applying several layers of lacquer, giving them a distinctive bright, glossy finish. And like so much else in vintage Rolex, the “Stella” moniker is Italian, translating into “star”, a reference to the shine of the dial. “Bart Simpson” can be yours for an estimated CHF35,000-70,000.

Lot 10: A red “khanjar” logo sits at six o’clock on the dial, indicating this platinum Day-Date ref. 1802 was made for the Sultan of Oman to be gifted away, as were many of the other watches with similar logos. The case back of this watch is stamped with “Asprey”, the name of the Bond Street jeweller which sold many of the personalised Rolex watches to Middle Eastern (and also other petrol-dollar monarchies) clients at the time. This is estimated at CHF50,000-100,000.

Lot 21: Known as the “Brooklyn Bridge” for the rarely seen geometric motif engraved on the dial, this ref. 1804 is in platinum and dates from 1961. The estimate is CHF50,000-100,000.

Lot 24: The “Scheherazade” Day-Date ref. 1804 (meaning it has a diamond-set bezel) has a rare dial with applied Arabic numerals (instead of the more common baton indices), as well as the day in Arabic script. The day disc on the Day-Date is available in over two dozen languages, with English being the most common, making other variants more desirable. The case is platinum, and it dates from 1960. The estimate is CHF50,000-100,000.

Lot 33: Fitted with a lapis lazuli dial, this Day-Date ref. 18168 is one of the few watches with a sapphire crystal in the sale (earlier acrylic crystal watches are generally considered more desirable). Its rarity stems from both the semi-precious stone dial as well as the bezel set with 24 baguette-cut diamonds. These features made it expensive in its time – the watch dates from 1986 – so few were made and sold. Estimated at CHF25,000-50,000.

Lot 35: A 1967 Day-Date ref. 1804 in platinum with a diamond bezel and dial, this is not in itself an exceptionally rare model, but this specimen is complete with the box, tags, guarantee and chronometer certificate, as well as the extras of a period Day-Date brochure and service guarantee card. The estimate is CHF20,000-40,000.

Lot 40: Made in the last quarter of 1955, this Day-Date ref. 6511 is one of the earliest Day-Dates made, before the official launch of the model at Basel in 1956. This watch is distinctly different from later Day-Dates, with a thicker case and rounded, convex screw back. The “Day-Date” lettering is at six o’clock, instead of at noon, and in red, as is are date numerals. Another distinguishing feature is the “millerighe” bezel, which translates literally as “thousand lines” but refers to needlecord fabric like corduroy. This is estimated at CHF20,000-40,000.

Lot 47: What just might the only one ever made, this Day-Date ref. 18038 has a coral dial of a particular type known as “angel skin”. This was made in 1988, and still maintains its original case finish. The estimate is CHF35,000-70,000.

Lot 49: Described as “possibly unique”, this Day-Date ref. 1803 in white gold has a chocolate brown lacquered dial, and most importantly, the crown on the left-side of the case. Dating to 1969 and likely made as a special order, this is not a modified Day-Date with a case that’s been rotated 180 degrees. That’s because the serial number is engraved between the lugs at six o’clock, with the reference number at 12 o’clock, both the correct positions as found on all Rolex watches. A rotated case would invert the positions of the two. This is estimated at CHF50,000-100,000.

Lot 51: One of the top lots in the sale with an estimate of CHF120,000-240,000, this Rolex Day-Date ref. 1831 is nicknamed “Emperor”. Phillips notes that it’s likely only eight such Day-Dates were ever made, all destined for the Shah of Iran. The platinum case and bracelet together weight nearly 300 grammes, nearly double the average Day-Date. Nearly all of its external components differ from other Day-Date models, making this a truly special watch. The case is similar to that found on the OysterQuartz, with integrated lugs and angular lines, while the bracelet is stylistically akin to that used for the asymmetric King Midas designed by Gerald Genta.

While the dial is a burgundy “Stella”, it size and construction are different from typical dials, most notably with the diamond markers sitting at the edge of the dial, instead of closer to the hands. And unlike any other Day-Date, this is engraved with a serial number on the case back, “No 005”. As the catalogue notes, this is the “holy grail” of Day-Date collecting, and might just become the most expensive Day-Date ever sold.

“Glamorous Day-Date” will take place on 9 May 2015 in Geneva, with “The Geneva Watch Auction: One”, comprising a broad range of brands and watches, taking place the day after. More details on the Day-Date sale can be found on Phillips’ website.

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