Highlights: Phillips ‘Double Signed’ Geneva Auction Part II

From Gobbi to Trucchi - and an amazing 1463.

Here’s part II of highlights at Phillips’ Double Signed auction – you’ll find the first part here – including a lovely Audemars Piguet “Gobbi” chronograph with a green gold dial, as well as a gorgeous Patek Philippe Ref. 1463 “pink on pink” that’s more affordable than usual, for a reason.

Lot 35 – Patek Philippe ref. 2499 in pink gold “Trucchi”

The most valuable lot in the sale, with an estimate over 1.2m francs, is the Patek Philippe ref. 2499 third series in pink gold. It’s one of only six pink gold third series watches known; in fact, the total number of ref. 2499s in pink gold across all four series totals just 23. And this is the only one with the “Trucchi” signature on the dial, having been sold by the retailer in Naples that’s still in operation today.

According to Phillips, it was sold by Trucchi to an Italian-American doctor in 1972, who then sold it to the consignor who sold the watch at auction in 1999 at Antiquorum in Geneva. It sold for almost 700,000 francs then, making it one of the most expensive watches in the world at the time.

The watch is in exemplary condition, albeit with one quirk: the crystal is sapphire instead of PlexiGlas as is standard for the third series. Found only on fourth series ref. 2499s, the sapphire crystal and accompanying bezel was presumable installed by Patek Philippe in the 1980s according to Phillips, since the watch already had a sapphire crystal when it was sold in 1999.

Lot 50 – Patek Philippe ref. 565 “Le Palais Royal, Habana”

Though not amongst the most valuable watches in the sale, the Patek Philippe ref. 565 in pink gold is striking both for its appearance – “pink on pink” – and the uncommon retailer signature.

The ref. 565 is set apart from most Calatravas due to its unique case construction that has no bezel, instead the crystal sits on the case middle, which rises upwards and ends in a step before the crystal. It gives the watch a slightly sleeker and more modern look than other Calatravas from the period, although the ref. 565 is the usual, smallish 35mm that was standard for the time.

Le Palais Royal was once the leading jeweller in Havana, and it conjures up images of pre-revolutionary Cuba, reminiscent of Michael Corleone’s visit to the island in The Godfather Part II. Though the name has been apparently revived in recent years, the original jeweller closed in 1958.

The watch is also accompanied by a vintage pink gold Gay Freres bracelet, although it is probably not original to the watch.

This has an estimate of 40,000-80,000 francs.

Lot 55 – Audemars Piguet chronograph in pink gold with green gold dial “Gobbi”

Vintage Audemars Piguet chronograph wristwatches are exceedingly rare – in the three decades from 1930, only about 300 were produced. Chronograph wristwatches did not return to the AP catalogue until the late 1980s.

This is one of these rare vintage chronographs, but usual in several ways. The case is pink gold, with the dial being green gold, and the hands, blued steel. And the dial is signed by Milan retailer Gobbi.

According to Phillips, perhaps 19 of these watches exist – the style of watch corresponding to photo 513 in the AP archives – but only two were delivered to Gobbi.

The watch also has a detail frequently found in vintage AP chronographs – a 30-minute chronograph register with a red “45”. It came about because Jacques-Louis Audemars was a football (or soccer) fan, and wanted his chronographs to be able to indicate halftime.

The watch is in wonderful condition, with a sharply defined case and clean, original dial. The only downside is its size, which is a compact 33mm.

It has an estimate of 70,000-140,000 francs, though in recent years such watches have been selling closer to the high estimate, or even above it.

Lot 63 – Patek Philippe ref. 1463 in pink gold “Serpico y Laino”

One of the best looking watches in the catalogue is unquestionably the Patek Philippe Ref. 1463 “pink on pink”, in pink gold with a matching coloured dial bearing “Serpico y Laino” at six o’clock. Its colour, size and condition are exceptionally appealing, but with one caveat (more on that below).

The case is the typical, water-resistant case of the ref. 1463, relatively large for the time at 35mm in diameter. Because it has a screw-down back, the back sits relatively high, giving the ref. 1463 a distinctive side profile.

The case is also well preserved, with all the hallmarks strongly visible, including the all-important “S&L” stamp on the case back.

Inside is the 13-130 chronograph calibre widely used by Patek Philippe at the time, which was derived from the Valjoux 23. It looks good enough for a 1950s calibre, though could do with a bit of cleaning.

The caveat is this: after its last public sale at Christie’s in 2010, this watch had the protective, clear lacquer on the dial removed and reapplied, and the retailed signature re-inked. The champleve enamel markings on the dial, namely the scales, numerals and logo, were left as is and are original.

Both were executed perfectly, and it’s practically impossible to distinguish the new “Serpico y Laino, Caracas” signature from a vintage original. But it was done, which explains why the estimate is modest, as such watches go.

The estimate is 200,000-400,000 Swiss francs. It might sound like a large sum of money, but in March 2019 Christie’s sold a ref. 1463 in pink gold, also signed “Serpico y Laino”, for US$711,000 (with a presale estimate of US$550,000-850,000).

Preview and Auction

The preview exhibition takes place from November 7-9 at La Reserve hotel in Geneva. And the auction takes place in the same location on November 9 at 6pm.

The full catalogue and bidding information is available here.

La Réserve Geneva Hotel and Spa
301 Route de Lausanne
1293 Geneva


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Highlights: Phillips ‘Double Signed’ Geneva Auction Part I

From 1990s Asprey to 1950s Serpico y Laino.

Phillips’ thematic auction this season is titled Double Signed: A Celebration of the Finest Partnerships Between Manufacturers and Retailers, with a catalogue composed of watches with retailer signatures mostly on the dial, but occasionally on the case back.

Though a retailer signature in itself does not make a great watch, many watches in the sale are already superb watches, but made even more special by the retailer’s mark, like the Rolex GMT-Master ref. 6542 below.

More broadly, Double Signed is more historically evocative than most other thematic auctions, because many of the retailers cited within represent a particular time and place that is long gone, even if the retailer remains in business. Examples include Serpico y Laino of Caracas, which no doubt prospered during Venezuela’s good times that are now long forgotten, or Le Palais Royal of Havana that was the island’s premiere retailer before the Communist revolution.

Here’s part one of the roundup of highlights from the sale. (And part II is here.)

Lot 11 – Vacheron Constantin tourbillon pocket watch ref. 92244 “Asprey”

One of the most proper examples of haute horlogerie in the sale is this Vacheron Constantin pocket watch that contains an observatory-certified tourbillon movement from the 1940s, though the watch was only finished and sold in 1992.

It’s believed that in the 1990s, Vacheron Constantin discovered a small number of tourbillon movements that had been tested and certified as chronometers by the Geneva observatory in the 1950s and 1960s, but never cased and sold. The movements were actually the Jaeger-LeCoultre cal. 170, produced in the 1940s to 1950s expressly for observatory time trials.

Interestingly, in the year before 2015 Vacheron Constantin discovered another trove of uncompleted tourbillon movements, this time dating to the 1930s, which were finished and sold as a set.

Despite being chronometric champions, the movements had sat quietly somewhere in the factory for decades. With the renewed interest in complicated watches – specifically pocket watches – in the 1980s and 1990s, the movements were decorated and finished, each as a unique watch with a different dial decoration, and most were sold via Asprey in London. Less than 10 were made according to Phillips.

Though the movements remain intrinsically original, right down to the split, bimetallic balance wheel, they were all finished elaborately with ornate engraving typical of the 1990s. That means the functional yet refined charm of the simpler, original decoration was lost, but the workmanship is nonetheless exceptional.

This example is platinum with an Art Deco “peacock feather” guilloche dial and platinum case. It is heavy, impressive and matched with the original chain in white gold, although missing the box and papers. It does have an archive extract though.

The estimate is 70,000-140,000 Swiss francs, modest given the amount of horological quality inside.

Lot 12 – Patek Philippe ref. 2526 in pink gold “Serpico y Laino”

The Patek Philippe Ref. 2526 is distinguished by two features: an enamel dial and the 12-600 AT, a robust yet refined automatic movement that was the brand’s first self-winding calibre. Together they make it a desirable watch.

Though rare the ref. 2526 pops up regularly at auction, most commonly in yellow gold, so discerning buyers gravitate towards examples that are special, such as this one.

The case is pink gold, the dial is signed “Serpico y Laino”, a watch retailer in Venezuela that’s still in operation (matched by the “S&L” hallmark on the case back), and it’s accompanied by the unusual, period gold bracelet (that’s not pictured here though). This watch is also in excellent condition, with a well preserved dial and case.

It was last sold in 2014 at Christie’s Patek Philippe 175th anniversary thematic auction, where it achieved 87,500 Swiss francs including fees.

The estimate is now 30,000-60,000 francs, though it’s likely the watch will top the high estimate, and exceed the 2014 price.

Lot 14 – Rolex GMT-Master ref. 6542 “Serpico y Laino”

Coincidentally, the next highlight is also a lavish gold watch signed “Serpico y Laino” dating from the same period as the Patek Philippe above. But it is not surprisingly, given Venezuela enjoyed a spell of strong economic growth, driven by its oil exports, that spanned the middle decades of the 20th century.

It’s a Rolex GMT-Master ref. 6542 in yellow gold, with a slightly faded dial and maroon Bakelite bezel – and the only gold example known to have the “Serpico y Laino” signature. Add to that the excellent condition, especially for a watch in soft yellow gold, and it’s an outstanding specimen. In fact, several experts I spoke to say this is one of the best and perhaps most desirable example of the ref. 6542.

Though steel Rolex sports watches are more desirable with current tastes, this gold GMT-Master is especially impressive and lovely. The only downside being it is not as easily wearable as a steel example, given the delicacy of the case and bracelet material.

This last sold at Christie’s in 2012 for 207,000 Swiss francs, squarely in the middle of the current estimate of 150,000-300,000 francs.

Lot 30 – Patek Philippe ref. 2525/1 in white gold “Gubelin”

A rare Calatrava references that’s quite large for its period, the ref. 2525/1 has distinctive look, despite being quite classical.

The case band and lugs are fluted, while the dial has pointed hour markers and dauphine hands.

It’s not usually a valuable watch, but this example is in white gold, one of just two known in the metal, and the only one signed “Gubelin” on the dial. All things considered, it is relatively affordable, with an estimate of 25,000-50,000 Swiss francs.

Lot 33 – Patek Philippe oversized rectangular wristwatch “Tiffany & Co.”

This extra-large wristwatch from 1924 is typical of the period, and exactly the type of watch that inspired the Roger Dubuis Much More and Franck Muller Long Island watches that were incredibly fashionable in the early 2000s. It’s not particularly popular today, but remains extremely interesting, being big and flamboyant when the wristwatch was still new, and for the most part small and boring.

Though not unique to Patek Philippe, this watch is a Patek Philippe, making it more important than similar watches by other makers. And it has an unusual champagne dial signed “Tiffany & Co.”, complete with vintage, granular radium numerals and hands that are no doubt fatal if ever inhaled. Both the dial colour and style are confirmed by the archive extract.

The case is 30mm wide and 43mm long, big even by today’s standards. On the back is a lengthy, 1927 dedication to an American newspaper publisher that is surprisingly visible despite the thinness of the case.

It’s estimated at 70,000-140,000 francs.

Preview and Auction

The preview exhibition takes place from November 7-9 at La Reserve hotel in Geneva. And the auction takes place in the same location on November 9 at 6pm.

The full catalogue and bidding information is available here.

La Réserve Geneva Hotel and Spa
301 Route de Lausanne
1293 Geneva


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Breaking News: Seiko Exits Baselworld 2020

The Japanese giant bids farewell, for good.

Switzerland’s biggest watch and jewellery fair will see one of its biggest exhibitors, Seiko, depart next year reports Yasuhito Shibuya of Chronos Japan. A Baselworld exhibitor since 1986, the Japanese watchmaker joins the stream of brands that have been departing the event since industry giant Swatch Group’s shock exit last year.

According to Mr Shibuya, Seiko’s official reason for leaving is “because the opening time of Baselworld in 2020 is later than usual”, happening in May instead of the traditional March. Mr Shibuya also adds: “The fair happens a month later, coinciding with the Golden Week in Japan – a period with four consecutive national holidays within seven days. This is a particularly disappointing time for Japanese watchmakers.”

“From the location of the booth to the floor plan of the fair [with Seiko’s booth on the second level], I do not think that Seiko has received equal treatment [as compared to Swiss brands]” noted Mr Shibuya. Despite its importance, both commercially and culturally, Seiko, along with fellow Japanese brands Casio and Citizen, has been relegated to the upper floor of the main exhibition hall since the venue’s lavish redesign in 2013.

The loss of Seiko is no doubt a major blow to Baselworld, which has historically been a cash cow for exhibition organiser MCH Group, which also owns the Art Basel franchise.

Instead of Baselworld, Seiko will launch its new products earlier in the year. However, according to a Seiko official I spoke with, no decision has been made as to whether to return to Baselworld after 2020, leaving opening the possibility that the Japanese watchmaker might return.

Source: Chronos Japan

Correction November 7, 2019: The author of the article in Chronos Japan is Yasuhito Shibuya, and not Masayuki Hirota as stated previously.

Addition November 18, 2019: Included a statement from a Seiko official noting that Seiko has no yet decided whether to return to Baselworld after 2020, which remains a possibility.

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Hands-On: Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Tourbillon Openworked “Only Watch”

A hint of what's to come.

At Only Watch 2017, Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar in black ceramic – but with a one-off blue dial – sold for a whopping 800,000 Swiss francs, with two phone bidders driving it to nearly seven times the high estimate. It was the third most expensive watch in the sale.

This year’s contribution is no Royal Oak – far from it – but it’s surprisingly worthy of a second look. In fact, it’s probably the best-looking watch to emerge from the brand’s often criticised Code 11.59 line. Amidst the flak heaped upon it, the Code 11.59 range had a couple of standouts, including the Tourbillon Openworked. And that’s where AP started for Only Watch 2019.

The Tourbillon Openworked Only Watch retains the slim, beautifully finished skeleton movement, eschewing the contentious Code 11.59 dial altogether. And the movement has a two-tone finish that smartly highlights the most important mechanical components.

To match the movement, the Only Watch edition features a two-tone case that does justice to the Code 11.59 construction in a way the uniform colour of the standard models simply couldn’t.

Superbly constructed

In terms of size, the case is identical to the standard model – 41mm by 10.7mm. Beyond immediate impressions, the case is wonderfully constructed with a subtle and intriguing mix of shapes and finishing made obvious by the two-tone materials.

The octagonal case middle is pink gold, while the rest of the case, including the lugs, are white gold, emphasising its elaborate architecture. The high contrast of the parts also enhances the graphic style of the watch.

The case is predominantly satin-brushed, punctuated with distinct polished facets on the edges of the case middle that help break up its height, making it appear even thinner than it is.

Another distinctive feature is its sculptural lugs, where the upper segments of which are welded to the thin, round bezel, while the lower segments point towards the case back. Because of the shape of the lugs, the watch wears smaller and elegant on the wrist.

The sapphire crystal over the dial is also unusual, featuring a double curved profile wherein the internal surface is dome shaped, while the external surface is curved vertically from 12 to six o’clock. It creates a unique visual effect, though it also results in optical distortion of the dial when viewed from certain angles.

A new movement

The Tourbillon Openworked has no dial, save for a silvered white gold flange framing the new, in-house cal. 2948 that is much thinner than the case would imply.

While the case is 10.7mm high, the movement measures a mere 4.97mm. Thus, there is certainly a depth to the dial, with the movement seemingly sitting several levels below the rather high flange.

The cal. 2948 is similar in construction to the existing cal. 2924 SQ found in the Royal Oak Tourbillon Openworked. But while the 2924 SQ was a skeletonised version of the 2924 (hence the “SQ” suffix, short for squelette), the cal. 2948 was designed from the ground as a skeleton, allowing the constructors leeway to tweak the aesthetics of the movement.

It is thoughtfully designed, with more visual depth and symmetry than its cousins, along with careful attention to detail.

For instance, it has a separate cock for the barrel, instead of having a large barrel bridge as on the cal. 2924 SQ. And the keyless works are also completely exposed.

Thoughtfully finished

In the standard Code 11.59 Tourbillon Openworked, the movement is finished in a grey and black plating that hides most of the finer decorative finishing. Most of the movement in the Only Watch edition, in contrast, is rhodium-plated, giving it a bright, lively look.

And the two most important elements of the movement, mechanically speaking, the power source and regulator, are highlighted in pink gold. Both the bridges for the barrel and tourbillon are pink gold plated, and further refined with rhodium-plated bevels. This not only makes sense mechanically, but also ensures a strong aesthetic unity between the two-tone case and movement.

Like all of AP’s top of the line complications, the movement is beautifully decorated with straight graining on the top surfaces, along with characteristically wide, hand-polished bevels. Most appealingly, the numerous intersecting curved lines of the base plate allow for abundant inward angles on the anglage on both the front and back.

The hand-wound movement offers a power reserve of 80 hours, though it has no power reserve display. Instead, the state of wind can be visually approximated from the coil of the mainspring in the skeletonised barrel.

Concluding thoughts

The Code 11.59 Tourbillon Openworked Only Watch Edition is an extremely compelling watch that is thoughtfully designed and well-constructed both inside and out.

Though the changes between the Only Watch edition and standard model are purely cosmetic, they are meaningful and significant in effect. They enhance the design of the case and movement, and more crucially, distinguish the watch from the rest of the collection.

It is especially notable that AP chief executive, Francois Henri Bennahmias, recently stated during an interview with us in Singapore that the Only Watch edition points the way forward for the Code 11.59 line, in terms of styling and materials.

The Code 11.59 Tourbillon Openworked Only Watch Edition has a modest estimate of 190,000-240,000 Swiss francs. It’ll likely go far beyond its high estimate, though probably not quite as high as the Royal Oak made for the last instalment of Only Watch.

Key facts and price

Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Tourbillon Openworked Only Watch Edition
Ref. 26600CR.OO.D002CR.99

Diameter: 41mm
Height: 10.7mm
Material: Pink gold case, white gold bezel, lugs and case back
Water resistance: 30m

Movement: calibre 2948
Functions: Hours and minutes, tourbillon
Frequency: 21,600bph (3Hz)
Winding: Manual wind
Power reserve: 80 hours

Strap: Black alligator strap with 18K white gold folding clasp

Estimated at 190,000-240,000 Swiss francs, the Code 11.59 Tourbillon Openworked Only Watch Edition will be sold at Only Watch 2019 on November 9, 2019, at Christie’s in Geneva. For more, visit Onlywatch.com.

Update November 11, 2019: the Audemars Piguet Tourbillon Openworked sold for 1,000,000 Swiss francs, with no fees since it was a charity auction.

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