Highlights: Phillips x Blackbird Sports Watch Auction

The ultimate tool watches, and a couple of prize timepieces too.

Later this month, Phillips will hold its first ever thematic watch auction put together entirely in Asia by its Hong Kong office and a prominent local collector, TK Mak, who earns the distinction of being the first Asian to curate a watch auction.

A Hong Kong-based entrepreneur who founded a constellation of fashion and luxury goods businesses, Mr Mak is probably best known for starting Blackbird Concessionaires, the distributor for Ferrari automobiles in the city, and more recently as the connoisseur who commissioned the custom Ferrari P80/C.

While the sale is a trim 82 lots, it amply demonstrates not just length and breadth of classic “tool” watches, but also the historical depth of sports watches – diver watches included obviously. Naturally, the sale is rich with vintage Rolex and Patek Philippe, but it also includes important recent watches from the likes of Richard Mille and Tudor. Importantly, the catalogue encompasses vintage watches that satisfy more obscure tastes in collecting, such as a Breguet Type XX and an Eberhard “pre-Extra Fort” split seconds chronograph.

Here’s a roundup of the highlights from the sale, slated to go on the block on May 27, 2019, at the J.W. Marriott in Hong Kong. The full catalogue is also available here.

Lot 839 – Rolex ref. 3525 “Monoblocco”

While there are inevitably enough Paul Newman Daytonas in auction catalogues to bore auction veterans, the ref. 3525 “Monoblocco” in comparison is rarer, more affordable, and also of equal historical importance.

Produced for only six years, it was the first chronograph with an water-resistant Oyster case. As with many things in vintage Rolex collecting, the “Monoblocco” moniker is Italian and refers to the one-piece case that has the bezel and case middle as a single block, with a screw-down case back.

Rolex ref. 3525 Monoblocco

Rolex ref. 3525 Monoblocco 3

The case measures 35mm in diameter and contained the Valjoux 23 column-wheel movement.

Rolex ref. 3525 Monoblocco 1

This particular example has a glossy black dial with “gilt” print, an especially desirable look for vintage watches. It features both a telemeter and tachymeter, and is notable for another reason: the dial type is similar to that found on most ref. 3525 watches Rolex offered, via mail order, to British prisoners of war during the second world war. And so another nickname for the ref. 3525 is the “POW”.

Rolex ref. 3525 Monoblocco 2

This example is well preserved inside and out. It has an estimate of HK$400,000-620,000, or US$50,000-80,000.

Lot 843 – Eberhard “pre Extra-Fort” split-seconds chronograph

Commonly found as a plain chronograph, the Eberhard “pre Extra-Fort” is unusual amongst vintage chronographs of the period for being exceptionally large for its time, with a case of 39.5mm. The “pre Extra-Fort” gets its name from the fact that it was produced before the Extra-Fort chronograph launched in 1947 that was identically large in size. The other defining feature of the two was the unusual function of allowing the chronograph to be locked while running via the sliding button at four o’clock.

This particular watch is a “pre Extra-Fort” with something extra – a split-seconds hand, controlled via the button that’s co-axial with the crown. And the deceptively ordinary pusher at four is actually a slide that, when activated, stops the time and locks the chronograph, preventing accidental reactivation of the stopwatch.

Eberhard Split Seconds Chronograph

Eberhard Split Seconds Chronograph 2

While “pre Extra-Fort” watches are found in a vast variety of dial configurations, most share a quality that distinguishes them from later Extra Fort chronographs – pleasingly busy dials covered in multiple scales. This particular example features a glossy “gilt” dial with the “snail” tachymeter in the centre, with an outer track for the telemeter.

Considering its age, the watch has been preserved in excellent condition, with the 18k gold case retaining its original form, including the stepped bezel. And like all “pre Extra-Fort” chronographs, this has a double-hinged case, allowing both the bezel and back to be lifted, under which is a Valjoux 86.

Eberhard Split Seconds Chronograph 5

Eberhard pre Extra-Fort split-seconds 1

Eberhard Split Seconds Chronograph 6

Eberhard pre Extra-Fort split-seconds 2

This has an estimate of HK$350,000-520,000, or US$45,000-65,000.

Lot 844 – Patek Philippe ref. 1463 “Tasti Tondi” in pink gold

A sports watch sale wouldn’t be complete without Patek Philippe’s first sports, or at least sporty, chronograph. Conceived for the midcentury gentleman sportsman, the ref. 1463 was the first water-resistant chronograph by Patek Philippe, thanks to its screw-down case back and “pump” pushers; its nickname, “Tasti Tondi”, is Italian for “round buttons”.

Patek Philippe ref. 1463 pink gold

Patek Philippe ref. 1463 pink gold 2

Though enough were made (widely believed to be 720 pieces in total) that a ref. 1463 appears at every major auction, this example is in pink gold, a rare metal for any vintage Patek Philippe and especially so for this reference.

It has a clean, subtly two-tone dial with Arabic numerals and leaf-shaped hands.

Patek Philippe ref. 1463 pink gold 3

Patek Philippe ref. 1463 pink gold 1

The watch is in excellent condition, with the hallmarks strongly visible on the dial. On top of that, the watch is fresh to the market, with an archive extract from Patek Philippe confirming that the watch was produced in 1952 and sold in 1954. It has an estimate of HK$2.3-4.0m, or US$300,000-500,000.

Lot 859 – Rolex Oyster Chronograph ref. 6234 “pre-Daytona”

Prior to the introduction of the Daytona in 1963, Rolex honed their Oyster chronographs, beginning with the earliest ref. 3525 “Monoblocco” above, and culminating in the ref. 6238 “James Bond”, so named after George Lazenby wore one in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

In between, in 1955 to be exact, came the ref. 6234, the last model before the introduction of the baton hands and faceted hour markers found on the ref. 6238 and subsequently, the Cosmograph Daytona.

Rolex ref. 6234 Pre-Daytona

Rolex ref. 6234 Pre-Daytona 2

This example of the ref. 6234 has a rare, glossy black dial, with both a tachymeter and a telemeter scale. Additionally, it also has “T-SWISS-T” on the edge of the dial at six o’clock, indicating that tritium was used for the “lume” on the hands and hour markers. That, in turn, means this example was produced in the later years of its relatively short production run, after Rolex had stopped using radium, after it was found to be dangerously radioactive.

Rolex ref. 6234 Pre-Daytona 3

Rolex ref. 6234 Pre-Daytona 4

The “pre-Daytona” has an estimate of HK$2.0-4.0m, or US$250,000-500,000.

Lot 869 – Patek Philippe ref. 2499 “Fourth Series”

While not widely considered a sports watch per se, the ref. 2499 is included in the section of the sale dedicated to presentation or prize watches, which includes another Patek Philippe made for the centenary of A.C. Milan.

Unsurprisingly, the Patek Philippe ref. 2499/100 is the top lot in the sale (a distinction it shares with the Submariner “Big Crown” below). The successor of the landmark ref. 1518, the ref. 2499 is arguably the most sought-after perpetual calendar chronograph since anyone started collecting wristwatches.

Patek Philippe ref. 2499 4th series

Patek Philippe ref. 2499 4th series 4

The ref. 2499 was produced from 1951 to 1985, with approximately 349 examples made, divided into four distinct series. Very much a modern watch in its construction, the fourth series was distinguished by its sapphire crystal, and like the third series, baton hour markers. In contrast, the earlier series usually had Arabic numerals and a tachymetric scale.

While the fourth series ref. 2499 is the most affordable, and also most common in yellow gold, this specimen is an exceptionally fine example.

Patek Philippe ref. 2499 4th series 2

Patek Philippe ref. 2499 4th series 3

The dial is extremely clean, while the case is in superb condition, retaining incredible definition on its stepped lugs and hallmarks. A hallmark of note is the “18k” stamped on the case back, which is not found on all examples, and was likely due to local import regulations where it was original sold.

Patek Philippe ref. 2499 4th series 6

Patek Philippe ref. 2499 4th series 5

Produced and sold in 1980, this ref. 2499/100 is accompanied by a box, hang tag, and archive extract. It has an estimate of HK$3.2-6.2m, or US$400,000-800,000.

Lot 882 – Rolex Submariner ref. 6538 “Big Crown James Bond”

Though the ref. 6538 isn’t the first Submariner “Big Crown” Rolex produced – that distinction goes to the ref. 6200 – it is perhaps the most famous, having been worn by Sean Connery in several James Bond films, Dr. NoFrom Russia with Love, Goldfinger, and Thunderball, which is why it is often regarded as the original James Bond Submariner.

Rolex Submariner ref. 6538 Big Crown

Rolex Submariner ref. 6538 Big Crown 4

With the frenzy around vintage Daytona chronographs having tapered off, the market’s attention has now moved on to Submariners, explaining why this is as valuable as a fourth series ref. 2499.

This is a stunning example with – make no mistake – an original dial, bezel and oversized crown. The bezel in particular is exceptionally well preserved, with both the red triangle as well as luminous “pearl” intact. The black lacquered dial is clean, with puffy radium plots that have aged to a warm hue.

Rolex Submariner ref. 6538 Big Crown 2

Rolex Submariner ref. 6538 Big Crown 3

Apart from its condition, what makes it special is that it has four lines of text at six o’clock. While most dials of this reference feature two lines, namely the depth rating and “Submariner, this has an additional two lines for its chronometer certification.

The Submariner ref. 6538 has an estimate of HK$3.2-6.2m, or US$400,000-800,000.

Preview and auction

The preview exhibition takes place from May 23 to 27 at the J.W. Marriott hotel in Hong Kong. It is open daily to the public.

The auction will happen at the same location on May 27, starting at 6:30pm. The full catalogue and bidding information can be found here.

JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong
88 Queensway
Hong Kong


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Business News: Jaeger-LeCoultre Announces 8-Year Warranty for All Watches

The longest amongst big watchmakers.

The maker of the swivelling Reverso wristwatch now boasts the longest guarantee period amongst major watch brands, having just announced an eight year warranty for all its watches. With the industry norm being two years, and both Rolex and Omega offering five, Jaeger-LeCoultre is by far the lengthiest.

While the warranty period is an industry first, the basic concept is not new. The warranty extension is essentially part of a comprehensive customer-relationship management system being rolled out by the Le Sentier-based manufacture, which is the biggest maker of mechanical movements within Richemont, the luxury group that also owns brands like A. Lange & Söhne, Cartier, and IWC.

Starting in spring 2019, buyers of new Jaeger-LeCoultre watches can register online for the Jaeger-LeCoultre Care programme, which automatically extends the warranty period of a watch. Owners of previously purchased watches can also benefit from the warranty extension via the same online registration, which will be available in 12 languages including English and Chinese.

JaegerLeCoultre Reverso Tribute Flying Tourbillon 1

Two axes and now eight years

Besides the warranty extension, enrolment in the Jaeger-LeCoultre Care programme includes extras like functional inspections provided at boutiques, as well as online tools for timepiece personalisation and care. Though it has to be pointed out these services are already available to existing clients regardless of the new programme.

The eight year warranty is eminently useful – and will no doubt by copied by rivals in time to come.


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Introducing the Laurent Ferrier Tourbillon Grand Sport

A luxury sports tourbillon.

Laurent Ferrier watches are highly regarded homages to classical watchmaking of the mid 20th century. Its signature Galet Tourbillon is essentially a scaled down observatory pocket watch tourbillon.

The brand’s latest is an extension of that love for vintage watchmaking, but just shifted forward two decades and obviously inspired by the 1970s.

The Tourbillon Grand Sport is a nod to the shared racing history of the brand’s founders. Mr Ferrier was a racing driver in the 1970s and competed in several races, including seven stints in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, coming first in the two-litre prototype category in 1977.

It was there that he met his future business partner, François Sérvanin, a fellow racer who later made his fortune making armoured vehicles for the French army. The two raced together and in 1979, placed third in the overall ranking at Le Mans. And now Mr Ferrier provides the brand name and watchmaking know how, with Mr Sérvanin owning majority of the company.

Laurent Ferrier Tourbillon Grand Sport 3

The Tourbillon Grand Sport seemingly takes reference from the obvious luxury sports wristwatches of the 1970s (yes, the Royal Oak and the Nautilus). So the look is slightly derivative but unashamedly so; in that vein, the Tourbillon Grand Sport would not look out of place if it travelled back in time.

The bezel of the watch is cushion-shaped, superimposed against the tonneau case middle. All the key case elements are rounded and pebble-like, keeping it in line with the rest of Laurent Ferrier’s collection; “Galet” is “pebble” in French.

Laurent Ferrier Tourbillon Grand Sport 4

The stainless steel case measures 44mm across and is satin finished on its side. The bezel, on the other hand, is polished.

The dial is taupe, a colour in between brown and grey, is complemented by a rubber strap in the same shade.

The hour and minute hands on the Tourbillon Grand Sport are another new element for the brand. While the shape of the Assegai hands (named after an African spear) remain similar, the new hands are wider and shorter, with a longer tip. The hands and applied indices are 18k white gold, and filled with orange Super-LumiNova.

Laurent Ferrier Tourbillon Grand Sport dial close up

Not only is 2019 the anniversary of the founders’ win at Le Mans, it also marks 10 years since Laurent Ferrier unveiled its first tourbillon. This marks that occasion, being equipped with the very same movement, featuring a tourbillon that can only be seen from the back.

The movement is the same LF619.01, a handwound calibre originally developed by complications specialist La Fabrique du Temps in collaboration with Laurent Ferrier.

Laurent Ferrier Tourbillon Grand Sport back

The case back commemorates the duo’s win at Le Man

It beats at 3Hz and fitted with the Straumann double hairspring produced by H. Moser & Cie’s sister company Precision Engineering. The double balance spring sees two hairsprings superimposed on each other, breathing in opposite directions and acting to average the other out.

Laurent Ferrier Tourbillon Grand Sport tourbillon close up

The finishing of the movement, however, has been simplified to make it more modern. All the bridges are finished with a horizontal satin brushing and plated in ruthenium, replacing the traditional and more labour-intensive Cotes de Geneve. Fortunately, the rest of the movement is still finished to the same degree as the original tourbillon, with the tourbillon bridge in particular retaining its lovely form.

However, it is worth pointing out that the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Tourbillon, a similar watch by all parameters, is priced at US$103,000, while the Laurent Ferrier costs almost double.

Key facts

Diameter: 44mm
Material: Stainless steel
Water resistance: 100m

Movement: LF 619.01
Power reserve: 80 hours

Strap: Rubber

Price and availability

The Laurent Ferrier Tourbillon Grand Sport (ref. LCF041) is limited to just 12 pieces. It is priced at US$205,000, or 280,000 Singapore dollars with taxes.


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Hands-on with the Casio G-Shock Gravitymaster Carbon Fibre

Welterweight and tough.

Given carbon fibre’s useful qualities like strength and lightness – and its widespread use in watches – it may come as a surprise that Casio has never used carbon fibre as the key structural material for the G-Shock. There have been G-Shocks featuring bezels and decorative strap inserts in carbon fibre, but 2019 marks the first time the watch case is made of carbon fibre, or more specifically, carbon fibre reinforced polymer.

Named “Carbon Core Guard Structure”, the one-piece carbon fibre cases made their debut this year at Baselworld 2019, rolled out across the G-Shock range, including the Mudmaster, G-Steel, and Gravitymaster, making them notably lighter than before.

While the Gravitymaster was conceived as a tool watch for pilots, the sheer size of the professionally oriented “Masters of G” watches, namely Gravitymaster, Mudmaster and Rangemaster, leave them too large to fit a cuff, or perhaps even under the sleeve of a flight suit. The new carbon fibre models, including the Gravitymaster, have been slimmed down, courtesy of a thinner electronic module introduced in the G-Steel last year, making them the thinnest professional models to date.

Casio G-Shock Gravity Master case back

Carbon fibre reinforced polymer

The Gravitymaster GWR-B1000-1A1 pictured here, and the two other variants (one in dark grey, and a limited edition with red accents), measures 46.4mm wide and 50.1mm long, and 16.9mm high. The numbers sound large but it’s actually compact for a G-Shock.

It is also the lightest G-Shock Gravitymasters ever, weighing in at just 72g – that’s about the weight of 15 sheets of A4 printer paper. It’s almost half of the weight of the comparable Gravitymaster GPW-2000-1A in resin and steel that weighs in at 120g. And that’s thanks to the extensive use of carbon fibre, or more specifically, carbon fibre reinforced polymer.

Casio G-Shock Gravity Master pushers

Carbon fibre reinforced polymer is basically a plastic containing carbon fibres, with the plastic giving it shape and the fibres providing incredible strength. The material is usually made in an autoclave, a type of oven that bakes the material at high temperature and pressure to set the polymer. The lightness and strength of carbon fibre reinforced polymer means it’s widely used in aircraft, automobiles, and also watches.

The limited edition GWR-B1000X sees the brand's red in its accents insteadThe limited edition GWR-B1000X sees its accents in the brand’s signature red instead

The Gravitymaster is actually made of two types of carbon fibre: the case is made of a carbon composite with a fine grained pattern, while the bezel and the dial are composed of a polymer with a woven carbon fibre. Fifty-two sheers of carbon fibre form the bezel, creating perhaps a slightly dated style of carbon fibre, since most watchmakers now rely on carbon composites with a marbled or woodgrain look.

That, however, was a conscious choice according to Hiroaki Kubo, the General Manager for Timepieces at Casio Singapore. The woven finish is the quintessential look for carbon fibre for most consumers, and was chosen to make it obvious that the material is carbon fibre. The case structure, on the other hand, is unseen and thus made of a carbon composite with the same properties but without the distinctive woven look.

All of the metal parts of the watch like the crown, pushers and screws, are made of titanium.

The pilot’s instrument

As with most analogue G-Shocks, the dial indicates a multitude of functions with sub-dials and sub-sub-dials. It’s a complex look but easy to read once you get used to it.

G-Shocks are hard to beat when it comes to multi-functionality, and it’s now made easier with the G-Shock Connected app that connects via Bluetooth to the watch, allowing time-setting and other adjustments from the smartphone. In a few countries, including the United States and China, the watch can also be synced with radio wave signals.

Casio G-Shock Gravitymaster 4

Though protected by a high bezel, the crystal is still scratch-resistant sapphire

When I set the alarm and even the time, I quickly learnt that the app was the easier way to set the watch, especially given the number of functions on the professional models like the Gravitymaster.

Casio G-Shock Gravity Master face

Casio G-Shock Gravity Master case

In addition to the time, the watch also indicates the day and date, power reserve, world time day and night indicator, and also features an alarm, chronograph plus countdown timers. Because this was designed for pilots, the chronograph is a flyback, meaning it can be stopped, reset and started again with a single button. It’s a lot to deal with on the dial but the new Gravitymaster keeps it relatively legible.

Like many other current G-Shocks, the Gravitymaster is solar-powered and will run five months on a full charge with normal use. In power-saving mode it’ll go 18 months.

Casio G-Shock Gravity Master light

“Triple G Resist” refers to shock, centrifugal force, and vibration resistance

Casio G-Shock Gravity Master band

The strap has a carbon fibre insert that enhances its strength and prevents breaking

While the watch is mostly the same in terms of function compared with other Gravitymasters, the latest version is distinctly different on the wrist. It packs an impressive amount of tech into a relatively small space.

With the reduced dimensions and weight, the watch is far easier to wear. That’s especially so for someone who mostly wears mechanical watches; the new Gravitymaster feels more like an ordinary watch instead of a gadget though it still retains enough gadgetry to keep the inner geek satisfied.

Key facts

Dimensions: 50.1 x 46.4 x 16.9mm
Material: Carbon fibre case and bezel

Water resistance: 200m

Strap: Carbon fibre insert resin band

Price and availability

The G-Shock Gravitymaster Carbon Core Guard (ref. GWR-B1000-1A1) is priced at 1,299 Singapore dollars, or US$950. The watch is already available at G-Shock boutiques and retailers.

Update May 8, 2019: Image of limited edition GWR-B1000X added

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