Why are these watches worth a million dollars?
Benjamin Clymer is the founder and executive editor of Hodinkee.com, the web's hub for watch enthusiasts. The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
Let's get right down to it. There are four watches in Phillips upcoming sale that I believe could, and maybe even should, break $1,000,000. Two of them are from Rolex, two of them are Pateks, two of them are steel, and two of them are gold. What is perhaps even more interesting is that two of them are, in my belief, almost obvious "top lots" and two of them are slightly more under the radar.
The Obvious Heavy-Hitters
These first two pieces are absolutely incredible watches. They are the things that many of us dream about, and their excellence is universally appreciated by anyone that knows anything about collectible watches.
Lot 214: The Rolex Oyster Cosmographer "Albino" Reference 6263
From Rolex, we have a reference 6263 Daytona "Albino" that was formerly the property of some dude named Clapton. This watch is incredible, arguably within the premier echelons of all Rolex sport models not only because of the Clapton connection -- which, in a watch this extreme, I don't believe plays a huge role in value creation (similar to his platinum 2499) -- but because of the magnitude of its rarity.
There are three Albino 6263s in the world. Three. That's all. Consider how many millions of Rolexes were made over the last century and then think what a Rolex where only three exist might be worth. And then make it a vintage Daytona, the most desirable of all watches in the world, period. Yeah, considering Mr. Bacs sold a black Paul Newman RCO (of which there are certainly more than three) for over $1 million back in 2013, AND considering this very watch pulled down $505,000 in 2008, we expect this to go a little nuts.
How nuts is anybody's guess, but suffice is to say, if you're a mega-Daytona collector, this is about as good as it gets. Unless of course you are John Goldberger and you happen to own a unique 6265 in white gold and one of three Yachtmaster Paul Newman's in the world. As far as I know, there is only one John Goldberger.
The estimate on the Clapton Albino Daytona is 500,000 to 1,000,000 Swiss Franc. You can read more here.
Lot 123: The Patek Philippe Stainless Steel Mono-Pusher Doctors Chronograph Reference 130
The other obvious mega-lot is the Patek Philippe reference 130 Doctors Chronograph in steel. Again, this guy has so much going for it it's almost silly.
It dates to the 1930s, comes in a steel case (the most valuable of all metals for Pateks), features a sector dial, and a mono-pusher movement. There were only two of these made, and the other example sits proudly inside the Patek Philippe museum in Geneva.
The story goes that these two watches were ordered by brothers (both doctors) and the sequential movement numbers would support this.
This watch is downright epic, and considering that two were made and one is in the PP museum, it's essentially a unique watch. This is absolutely any buyer's one and only chance to buy a steel mono-pusher doctor's chronograph from Patek Philippe and because of that, the value is anybody's guess.
I will just say that one point that someone may counter with would be that because Patek already owns the brother to this watch, they will not be bidding on it. This removes one very serious player from the potential buyers list -- though to be fair, I've heard they haven't been buying watches as much over the past few years anyway.
I was able to shoot and try on this doctor's watch at the Phillips preview and it really is that good. In fact, this could be my dream everyday watch, and worn on a casual distressed calf strap with a sweater and jacket, nobody would know it's anything special. The watch is downright amazing and as I've said just a few times before with the watches I write about, with this one, if I could, I would.
The estimate for this stainless-steel mono-pusher sector dial chronograph is $1-2 million Swiss Franc. You can read more about it here.
For The Connoisseur
While the two watches above are rather obvious mega lots in that they are, at a macro level, quite rare and easy to define, the second two of the four watches I believe to be worth $1m+ are really studies in nuances.
I don't think many first-time buyers will understand why these are so special, but to me and a few highly trained connoisseurs I've spoken to, these might even be more interesting, and if you get the right guys in the room, maybe even more valuable.
Consider the first two lots a 6239 Panda Paul Newman -- undoubtedly cool and certainly valuable, easy for anyone to understand --- while these two lots are more like a Mark 1 6239 Double-Swiss Underline Daytona -- only for the real nerds among us, but the nerds that really make the high-end world of watch collecting go 'round.
Lot 72: Rolex Oyster Perpetual Triple Calendar Moonphase Reference 6062 Black Dial
The first is a yellow-gold Rolex triple calendar moonphase reference 6062. The 6062 is Rolex's waterproof calendar watch, and a favorite among seasoned collectors.
The average 6062 is already a mid-six-figures watch in the right shape. What makes this watch so valuable and so compelling is the quality of the case, with its gorgeous black patina, and the quality of the dial. But most important, this watch jumps up a pay grade because that dial is black. You simply don't see a 6062 with a black dial, practically ever.
This means that any serious collector looking for a black 6062 pretty much has to bid on this watch. And in my belief, they should. There is something really special about this watch that I picked up immediately upon seeing it in New York. The dial is glossy and rich, the case dark and warm, and the overall presence just glorious. Did I say glorious? I did, and I really mean it.
I am not 100% sure this watch will break into seven figures, but I do believe it could and with the right level of understanding about quality and rarity, it should. Oh, and did I mention this watch this watch was purchased at an Air Force exchange on July 14, 1955, only three weeks before being presented to a U.S. General Sweeney? And that it comes with full boxes and papers, including its original timing certificate? This watch is SICK.
The estimate for this yellow-gold 6062 with black dial is 300,000 to 600,000 Swiss Franc and you can read more here.
Patek Philippe Pink On Pink On Pink Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Reference 1518
The last lot may not look like much, if you consider Patek Philippe's first perpetual calendar chronograph -- the reference 1518 -- not much.
You can buy 1518s any day of the week in the 300s and 400s, but they are in yellow gold and may have lived a dubious life somewhere in Italy at some point. This 1518 ain't that. In fact, this is perhaps one of the nicest 1518s I've ever seen.
First, it is pink gold instead of yellow (double the price right there, if not more). Second, it has a stunning pink dial (people love pink on pink), and finally, it has a matching and original pink-gold bracelet.
On the extract, it states clearly that this watch was born with a matching pink gold bracelet.
Further, records indicate the watch was sold at the Geneva salon to a prominent French businessman who carried the watch across the border, and as such, the watch received French import hallmarks. These hallmarks are visible on both the case back and the bracelet clasp. When he imported the watch, he was required to pay a duty of half the value of both the watch and the bracelet! Oh, did I mention that at the time the watch cost 1,600 Swiss Franc and the just the bracelet cost an additional 1,000 Swiss Franc?
So the watch is just downright epic in terms of quality and rarity, but what's more is this bracelet is absolutely positively the most opulent, downright absurd Patek Philippe bracelet ever seen. The weight and thickness of this bracelet on this pink 1518 is truly unique, and quite frankly, we might never see another like it.
Add to the that fact the watch was indisputably born with this one-of-a-kind bracelet, it has matching import marks to verify its history, and you have a watch that might actually supersede the steel doctors' chronograph as the top lot. Again, this piece might not appeal to all buyers but those who have been collecting at a high level for a long time, it may not get any better.
The estimate for this extraordinary Patek perpetual calendar with easily the most bad-ass bracelet I've ever seen is 800,000 to 1.4 million Swiss Franc and you can read more about it here.
The Geneva Watch Auction: One is scheduled for May 10 at 6:30PM.