Highlights: Unorthodox Sports Watches at Sotheby’s Hong Kong

Unexpected picks in a hot category.

Following our round up of independent watchmaking highlights at the Sotheby’s upcoming Important Watches I auction in Hong Kong, we now turn to something more conventional and even fashionable: high-end sports watches.

But naturally we’re not going to run through the unorthodox examples that need no extra publicity (though one “hype” watch might have slipped in). Our selection of a half dozen includes an early Richard Mille and possibly a value buy, a IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Monopusher Edition that has an interesting and little known movement.

Important Watches I starts at 10:00 am (GMT +8) on October 5, 2022. Registration for bidding and the full catalogue can be accessed here.

The RM002-V2


Lot 2161: A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus

An entirely new collection that debuted just in time for the modern brand’s 25th anniversary, the Odysseus is an outlier for a watchmaker that historically focused on high-end, classical watches. Though the Odysseus sports a design that’s unsurprising for Lange, it is the brand’s first watch with an integrated bracelet.

More notably, the Odysseus was the first regular production Lange watch in steel. But we’re not here to talk about the heavily-hyped steel model, instead this is the model in white gold, which arguably offers more value than the steel version at market prices.

The integrated-bracelet sports watch arena has long been dominated by the Royal Oak and Nautilus, so what makes the Odysseus a contender?

The same character that sets other Lange watches apart from the completion, a tangible quality of build. Technically-minded collectors, as most Lange collectors are, will appreciate technical features unique to the movement that were specifically developed for a sports watch, such as the larger-than-usual balance wheel and a full balance bridge for better shock resistance.

The Odysseus has a day and date complication adjusted via the integrated pushers above and below the crown

To date, the Odysseus has only been available in steel, white gold, and most recently, titanium. The present example is in white gold and fitted to a rubber strap, which is a better look than the bracelet to some. The watch shows obvious signs of wear, but no major damage. It has an estimate of HK$400,000-700,000, or about US$50,600-89,200.

Full lot details here.


Lot 2172: Richard Mille RM 67-02 ‘Wayde Van Niekerk”

Perhaps the maker of exotic sports watches, Richard Mille (RM) specialises in outrageous styling matched by impressive wearability, thanks to an ergonomic tonneau case often made of lightweight composites.

The RM 67-02 is amongst the lightest watches ever – and the lightest automatic RM ever – at just 32 grams, equivalent to six sheets of A4 paper. Unusually for an RM, it is also extra-flat, measuring just 7.8 mm from front to back.

Being light and flat – and attached to a stretchable fabric strap – the RM 67-02 is a perfect sports watch since it feels like nothing on the wrist (though the price might be a consideration).

Indeed, the RM 67-02 was developed specifically for track and field athletes. This version with a green and yellow Quartz TPT case was conceived for South African Olympic champion Wayde Van Niekerk, holder of the world record for the 400 m sprint.

Notably, the RM 67-02 encapsulates the brand’s focus on innovative materials and unorthodox deisgn, exemplified by the Quartz TPT case. Developed with Swiss material specialist NTPT, Quartz TPT is a hard but light composite consisting of alternately-positioned layers of carbon fibre and silica that’s then dyed and baked in an oven.

The resulting block is then milled in a manner that reveals the strikingly organic grain of the material, which is also in the colours of the South African flag.

Accompanied by the original box and papers, the RM 67-02 has an estimate of HK$2.4-4.0 million, or about US$305,700-509,600, a big premium to the retail price but the reality of the market today.

Full lot details here.


Lot 2294: H. Moser & Cie. Streamliner Flyback Chronograph

Like the Odysseus above, the Streamliner is a recent design, one conceived to ride the tidal wave of demand for integrated-bracelet sports watches. But like the Odysseus, the Streamliner manages to stand from the pack thanks to its cushion-shaped case and articulated bracelet.

Though the face is deceptively simple, this watch is actually a flyback chronograph that has the elapsed minutes and seconds subtly integrated into the dial. Both elapsed time hands are co-axial with the hour and minute hands, while the elapsed time scales are on the periphery of the dial.

The unconventional design comes courtesy of the ingenious movement within, a self-winding calibre developed by Agenhor that’s perhaps the most innovative contemporary chronograph movement.

Notably, the Streamliner was made its debut as a chronograph instead of a time-only watch, which means this is the foundational model for the family. The chronograph was launched in 2020 as a limited edition with a grey dial, follow by the present example with a blue fume dial.

Complete with original box and papers, the Streamliner Flyback Chronograph has an estimate of HK$300,000-500,000, or about US$38,200-63,700. The low estimate is below the retail price, which means it might just be a value buy for a (very) lucky bidder.

Full lot details here.


Lot 2302: Hublot Big Bang Unico Sang Bleu II

Hublot is often made fun of for its over-the-top watches and countless limited editions, but it does do some interesting things in both movements and materials. One such example is the Sang Bleu, a series of watches that feature a complex, geometric dial and case designed by the eponymous Swiss tattoo studio led by Maxime Plescia-Büchi, a watch enthusiast himself.

The Sang Bleu II takes Plescia-Büchi’s to the next level by incorporating a chronograph into the design. The repeating, nested triangles are applied to all the hands, for the time as well as the chronograph. While that inevitably chips away at legibility, it does make for striking visuals.

In fact, it almost seems like the intention was to camouflage the hands, resulting in a textbook example of form overtaking function – but for good reason. The result is a watch that’s a kinetic sculpture first and time display second.

Ironically, the fact that its time-telling functionality is subtle is perhaps a plus, as it conceals the chronograph, making the complication apparent only to the owner. In the same vein, the chronograph pushers are subtly integrated into the angular case, resulting an almost symmetrical case.

While many Hublot chronographs rely on fuss-free Sellita movements, this is powered by the in-house Unico calibre. More specifically, it’s a Unico base movement with a chronograph module that’s been open-worked to reveal the chronograph mechanism, which is visible below the triangular hands.

The present example has a case of white ceramic and black titanium, a stark but striking palette. Numbered “02/200”, this has an estimate of HK$150,000-200,000, or about US$19,100-25,500, which is fair value for an unusual chronograph with an in-house movement.

Full lot details here.


Lot 2311: IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Monopusher Edition “Le Petit Prince”

One of the more interesting IWC chronographs, the Big Pilot Monopusher received surprisingly little recognition. It’s a variant of the brand’s iconic Big Pilot’s Watch, but with a twist. Retaining the 46 mm case and extra-large “onion” crown, the present example is actually a chronograph, though it might not be obvious at first glance.

That’s because the chronograph pushers have been condensed into one button integrated into the crown. That’s thanks to an in-house, hand-wind movement that boasts a power reserve of eight days. More importantly, the movement sports an integrated chronograph mechanism that has both a column wheel and lateral coupling.

This version is a limited edition from the Le Petit Prince collection that’s distinguished by a metallic blue dial along with applied markers that are unusual for an IWC Pilot’s Watch. The Gothic-style font of the hours numerals is also unique to Le Petit Prince editions. The applied luminous numerals also means the entire dial is “lumed”, unlike the standard Pilot’s Watch models that have only luminous quarters.

Numbered “046/500” and complete with the original box and papers, the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Monopusher Edition “Le Petit Prince” has an estimate of HK$100,000-150,000, or about US$12,700-19,100, a reasonable ask for a single-button, eight-day chronograph.

Full lot details here.


Lot 2324: Richard Mille RM002-V2 “All Grey”

Like the RM 67-02 above, the RM002-V2 is a thin and compact offering from RM, but it comes from an entirely different era. In fact, the RM002 was launched almost two decades before the RM 67. In contrast to the bright colours of most current RM models, the RM002-V2 has a muted, technical look that’s typical of the brand’s earlier watches. But still remains instantly recognisable as a RM.

The RM002 was an improved version of the RM001, the watch that set the template for the RM’s distinctive styling. Both were inspired by Formula 1 cars and feature a tourbillon regulator, an unusual feature for a sports watch when they made their debut the early 2000s. Compared to the RM001, the RM002 has the addition of features such as the crown-function selector and winding torque indicator.

While the initial run of the RM002 had a black-coated brass base plate, the subsequent version featured a carbon composite base plate, hence the “V2” suffix. The marbled surface of the composite is immediately obvious when you examine the movement.

The present example is a limited edition version of the RM002 with an “All Grey” facelift that includes a grey dial flange and grey carbon base plate (both are black on the standard model), as well as a matte, frosted titanium case.

Numbered “02/30”, the RM002-V2 “All Grey” shows minor signs of wear on the case, an inevitability with the frosted finish. It has an estimate of HKS2.4-3.2 million, or about US$305,700-407,700.

Full lot details here.


Preview and auction details

All lots will be on show during the preview in Hong Kong during the run-up to the auction, which will happen at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (New Wing).

Preview
October 2-4

Auction
October 5, 10:00 am

Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (New Wing)
1 Expo Drive
Wanchai
Hong Kong

For the full catalogue, as well as viewing appointments and online bidding, visit sotheby’s.com.


This was brought to you in collaboration with Sotheby’s.

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Up Close: Longines Master Collection 190th Anniversary

A lot of watch for not very much.

Longines hasn’t launched too many watches this year, but it certainly unveiled a hit with the Master Collection 190th Anniversary. Based on the standard (and somewhat mundane) Master automatic, the anniversary edition sticks to a resolutely classical design but executes the dial in a surprisingly elaborate manner.

The grained dial has deeply-engraved hour numerals that seem to be hand engraving at a glance, but are naturally done by machine given the affordability of the watch. Combined with the high-tech ETA calibre within, the Master anniversary offers a lot of watch for relatively little money – we explain why.

Initial thoughts

The Master anniversary struck me as a watch that is easily appealing when I first saw photos. Perhaps too easily appealing, because the design is a combination of familiar, likeable elements. But the dial seemed to be done unusually well, so I thought it was worth a second look.

I wasn’t disappointed with the watch in the metal. The design is indeed a mix of details that are widely used elsewhere, but the execution is interesting enough – and the price sufficiently low – to make the Master anniversary an unexpectedly compelling watch.

The fact that the Master anniversary is this compelling is testament to the importance of the dial. Everything else about it is identical to the standard 40 mm model.

Even at arm’s length the engraved hour numerals are obvious and instantly give the watch the appearance of something fancier (and more expensive). Granted, it becomes apparent that this is an entry-level  watch when you examine the details, but it remains an excellent value proposition.

The Master anniversary isn’t a small watch, but its proportions and thinness give it a notably elegant feel. It sits well on the wrist and has good visual presence thanks to the engraved dial, which is striking even at a distance.

The only aspect of the watch I would change is the case back. It’s a sapphire back that reveals the L888.5 movement, which is an upgraded ETA 2892.

I’m certain it’s a robust and reliable movement – in fact it has several notable technical features – but it isn’t exceptionally attractive despite being dressed up, which is why a solid back with an interesting motif would have been more appealing.

It’s worth mentioning the criticism that emerged on social media after this watch was launched. A few comments noted its similarity to the watches of Japanese brand Naoya Hida.

The critique entirely misses the point since both the Master and Naoya Hida watches are both derivative and share the same inspiration of mid-20th century vintage watches. Neither are the engraved numerals original, they can be found on vintage pocket watches as well as various Grand Seiko models from about a decade ago.

Even though the Master anniversary is merely another vintage-inspired watch at heart, it is masterfully executed (no pun intended). And with a retail price of US$2,400, it goes without saying that it’s excellent value.

Lastly, three variants of the model are available: the regular-production steel model featured there that’s almost an no-brainer given what it costs, as well as two limited-edition gold versions don’t offer quite as much value.

From left: The Master 190th Anniversary in rose gold, steel, and yellow gold. Image – Longines

All about the face

The only feature that sets this apart form the standard 40 mm model is the dial. But the dial is done well enough that the anniversary edition feels like an entirely different watch.

The dial has a blasted finish that results in a finely-grained surface, along with the all-important engraved hour numerals. It is the engraved numerals that make all the difference as they give the dial a depth and character usually absent in watches of this price.

Although the engraved numerals resemble hand engraving at a distance, they are done by laser – a necessity considering the price. Evidently care was taken to ensure that the result is a good approximation of hand engraving.

The numerals are laser engraved but done in a deeper, more pronounced manner than the laser engraving usually found on watch dials. As a result, the recesses formed by each of the numerals have a V-shaped profile, albeit one with softer edges than created by hand engraving.

Cost efficient yet tremendously attractive yet, the numerals will surely make their way into more Longines watches, as well as those of other brands.

Interestingly, the dial isn’t that different from the standard model in terms of design, which is more or less derived from the standard Master aesthetic in use for several years now. The standard model has the same leaf-shaped hands, along with printed Arabic numerals (although Roman numerals or batons are also an option).

Simple lines

While the dial is indeed special, the case is essentially stock Master collection; it’s identical to the standard 40 mm Master model.

The case is simple in form with clean lines, rounded edges, and a polished finish on all surfaces. The quality of the case is solid and good enough given the price.

Even though the watch is already fairly slim, it feels even thinner due to the flat case middle. In fact, most of the vertical height is accounted for by the bezel, with the case back being almost flat.

One detail that stands out are the widely-spaced lugs that give it more of a vintage look. Instead of the 18 mm or 20 mm that’s typical for a case of this size, the lugs are 21 mm. While that does add to the visual appeal, it also means that the options for aftermarket bracelets and straps will be smaller.

And the lugs are also helpfully short, in contrast to many of the remakes in Longines’ Heritage collection that tend to have overly long lugs. Even though the Master anniversary isn’t a Heritage model, it is arguably most comparable to the remakes given its classical styling.

An industrial workhorse

Based on the slim ETA A31.L11 (that’s in turn descended from the ETA 2892), the L888.5 is made by ETA exclusively for Longines. As with most ETA movements made exclusively for Swatch Group brands, the L888.5 has been hugely upgraded over the original construction.

Most useful is the 72-hour power reserve that’s almost double that of a stock ETA 2892. It also has a silicon hairspring, which boosts the movement’s resistance to magnetism (and results in the peculiar 3.5 Hz frequency).

And the movement also features a free-sprung balance wheel, something typically found on higher-end watches because of the labour-intensive nature of its regulation. However, the L888.5 is surely regulated in an automated process considering the price. It’s still a useful feature and proof of ETA’s industrial prowess.

The movement has been dressed up substantially relative to the lowest grade of ETA movements, though it is still evidently a thoroughly industrial product with little refinement.

The rotor is striped, while the bridges are finished in perlage. Both are done by machine and reveal tool marks up close. That said, the look is attractive enough especially considering the affordability of the watch.

Concluding thoughts

Historically the Master collection offered strong value and reasonably attractive styling, but the details were not quite refined enough for the watches to stand out. The anniversary editions certainly solved that problem. For someone seeking a watch of this style, the Master anniversary is undoubtedly one of the top choices in its price segment.

I’m certain the steel version will be a good seller and consequently lead to other Master models with similar styling. More options with a similar dial will definitely be a good thing.


Key facts and price

Longines Master Collection 190th Anniversary
Ref. L2.793.4.73.2 (steel)
Ref. L2.793.6.73.2 (yellow gold)
Ref. L2.793.8.73.2 (rose gold)

Case diameter: 40 mm
Height: 9.35 mm
Material: Steel, 18k yellow or rose gold
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 30 m

Movement: L888.5
Functions: Hours, minutes, and seconds
Frequency: 25,200 beats per hour (3.5 Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 72 hours

Strap: Alligator leather with steel folding clasp or 18k gold pin buckle

Limited edition: 190 pieces in each colour of gold, steel model is regular production
Availability:
 At Longines boutiques
Price:
Steel – US$2,400, or 3,420 Singapore dollars
Yellow and rose gold – US$12,000, or 17,170 Singapore dollars

For more, visit Longines.com.


 

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