You’re in for a treat this week as the roundup is jam-packed with a variety of showstoppers fit for top-tier collections. At the relatively tamer end of the spectrum, we’ve got a gold GMT-Master with oodles of character, along with a full-set Seamaster 300 from Omega. Those that enjoy less commonly-seen pieces will enjoy the Hermès-retailed Tavannes chronograph, plus the prototype dial-fitted Autavia that’s the stuff of Heuer collecting lore. And, just because, a clock owned by Elvis and a watch gifted by Bill Graham to Phil Lesh. It’s about to get heady.
There’s something that just can’t be beat about a product built to last showing its age, and watches bearing tropical dials are a perfect and particularly desirable example of this. Since each one ages to an appearance that can’t be matched, it’s somewhat of a shortcut to a 1/1 timepiece that you won’t see on anyone else’s wrist. Earlier on in my collecting days, rich and even tropical tones were what I was after, but over the years, I’ve grown to appreciate the more abstract examples, like this next piece which nearly mimics the look of an early burst-finish guitar. Gold Rolex fans are advised to keep reading.
A tropical dial’s appeal boils down to rarity, but a unique breed of the sought after state. Objectively speaking, such aging is the result of a dial manufacturing flaw and one which most who ponied up the cash for a Rolex would’ve wished to have corrected if visible. The fact that the owner of one such Rolex decided to just go with it — on a yellow-gold watch, no less — is special, seeing as so many of these dials were swapped or refinished for this very reason. In a loftier sense, it reflects an acceptance of entropy and all its flaws, but let’s not get too carried away.
The brown surface of the dial has aged to achieve a fiery appearance, oozing with character and individuality. Compared to a standard Ref. 16758, this has infinitely more going on in the mojo department. Dial aside, you’re looking at an example which couldn’t have aged any better. From the thick and unpolished case to the pleasingly faded bezel insert, this one checks all the boxes. The only slight “flaw” I could potentially point out would be the darker tone of the luminous compound found in the seconds hand, but as I’ve said before, details like these speak to the overall originality of a watch and a dealer’s unwillingness to fix something that isn’t broken.
Fog City Vintage has this GMT-Master listed on its site for $31,450. Get the full scoop here.
Just as rarity has the potential to work to your disadvantage, it’s also got a few perks for those on the hunt. When so few examples of a watch exist, I like to whip up a little registry spreadsheet of sorts and update it accordingly upon getting word of recent private and public sales. This way, I know exactly where in the proverbial haystack a few of these needles are, should I need to track one down. After first getting into Tavannes chronographs, and later learning of double-signed examples retailed by none other than Hermès, I knew these were watches worth keeping tabs on. With an example now up for grabs, I thought it’d be a good time to dish the details on my tracing of it to date.
This chronograph retailed by the French luxury goods manufacturer first came onto my radar in December of 2007, when it was offered in Paris at an Artcurial sale. With a two-tone, multi-scale dial and an oversized, clamshell-style case, collectors were left in awe, and the realized price certainly reflected this. Just under three years later, the same watch popped up once again at Christie’s, where it achieved quite a bit less, highlighting the difficulty of pricing some watches along with the fluctuating values of more niche markets. Since then, the watch hasn’t been offered publicly again and has remained in an important American collection of primarily vintage Rolex.
Most importantly, this piece’s Hermès signature is legitimate, but the beauty of its dial goes beyond the wildly appealing retailer signature alone. A similar albeit slightly less desirable example came out of the woodwork at Sotheby’s last year, but unlike this piece, it featured red accents in addition to those in blue, along with an outer-tracing telemeter scale as opposed to one positioned centrally. If you were to survey collectors, I’d bet nearly all would opt for this more subtle and ornate configuration. Having said that, it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume this example is the only one of its kind in existence, so our hypothetical collectors would have to duke it out amongst themselves if interested. It’ll be exciting to see where it ends up next.
Much like the word “aesthetic,” the term “undervalued” has been overused to the point of ultimately meaning very little. In both vintage and modern collecting scenes, you’ll see it used across the board to describe adequately hyped pieces from every last adequately hyped brand, speaking more so to many collectors’ underlying dreams of hitting it big in a steel 5711-esque style. With all this in mind, I’d like to suggest a shift away from that word and instead advocate for just getting excited about the stuff you like. Remember, just because something isn’t seemingly everywhere doesn’t mean it’s not collected passionately by quieter types.
Case in point, the “Big Triangle” Seamaster 300 from Omega. They might not be at the top of every Instagram feed, but it’s still unquestionably one of the coolest tool watches of all time, fit with all the legibility-maximizing fixings of another era. While the case may be two millimeters larger, I find these to wear quite similarly to maxi dial Ref. 5513 Submariners – roughly affording the same sort of feel on the wrist, but with a slightly more antiquated edge thanks to the bakelite bezel. No, it’s not a Submariner, but it’s still not undervalued, under-appreciated, or overlooked in collecting circles. You’re looking at an absolutely world-class watch, and you better believe it.
Today’s example in question is outstanding and proof that condition and completeness do indeed come at a price. Not only is it mint and unpolished, but it’s fitted with a crack-free bezel and includes the original box, papers, and various hangtags. As the provided Omega Museum archive extract would indicate, the watch was delivered to Italy after being manufactured in 1967, and it’s more than safe to say it didn’t see much wear over the past five decades. One on hand, I’d like to see its next owner get some use out of it, but if you’ve handled a watch of this grade, you’ll know the feeling of protective custodianship that comes with owning one. In that examples like this don’t surface every day, I’d suggest acting accordingly, or watching as it moves quickly.
Roy and Sacha Davidoff are offering this ridiculously complete Seamaster 300 for CHF 35,000. Follow the link to claim it as your own.
When looking at watches, there’s a handful of words that immediately stand out to me as red flags, and “prototype” is most definitely one of them. Though our beloved manufactures did indulge in prototyping practices, it’s become a bit of a thing in the Rolex scene to slap a dial derived from fantasy onto a watch and deem it as such. In that the bulk are indeed bunk, I’ll only endorse a select few prototype watches, and this next piece is one. Unlike more murky mockups, this Heuer is as genuine as the day is long, which is always good news when the variant looks this good.
You’re looking at a compressor case Autavia which corresponds with the reference number 7763C SN. Technically speaking, this was a watch Heuer never produced, but the sum of its parts is all Heuer, not to mention exceedingly desirable. Among historians and scholars of the brand, it’s agreed upon that a small number of silver panda dials were ordered for both the Ref. 7763C and 2446C, but never fitted and sold. In the time that’s passed since 1968, a handful of these dials have made it into circulation to later be fitted, realizing stunning watches like this example, plus a reissue piece supporting the dial’s authenticity. The trick is fitting the right hands and bezel inserts alongside the dial to yield an appearance both pleasing and period correct for the dial’s production.
I’ve always admired the acceptance of these watches despite indisputably being pieced together, as it demonstrates the importance of documenting horological history by any means necessary. More specifically, I’ve admired the Ref. 7763C variant for likely being more rare than its triple subdial sibling, though it should be noted that examples of either are near impossible to track down. This piece offers a truly once in a lifetime opportunity to acquire one of the most attractive Heuers and an example that’s been recognized by several Heuer authorities, so if panda dial chronographs tickle your fancy, you know what to do.
After a roundup consisting mainly of heavy-hitting pieces, I thought we’d end on a lighter, though still impressive, note. This is yet another one of those instances where I was browsing for something totally unrelated, but horology somehow worked its way into the fold. Naturally, I couldn’t be any happier. If anyone’s interested, my birthday is in September, and I’m awfully fond of the second auction lot we’re about to discuss.
First up, we’ve got an Atmos clock by Jaeger-LeCoultre, but not just any old mechanical torsion pendulum clock. This example was originally given to Elvis Presley as a Christmas gift and would reside in his Beverly Hills home until the time of that house’s sale. At that point, it was then regifted by the King to his friend and once bodyguard, Sonny West. Included with the clock is a letter from West on TCB letterhead, which is honestly pretty epic on its own.
But, here’s where I really get excited. The second watch lot in this sale is a genuinely uninteresting ana-digi watch by Junghans, but like the aforementioned Atmos, it’s got an ace up its sleeve. This was originally owned by the Alembic-wielding, “bomb”-dropping bassist of the Grateful Dead, Phil Lesh, but what makes it even more compelling is who gave it to him. Its caseback reads “From your friends at Bill Graham Presents 3-10-00,” and while the name Bill Graham might not mean much to you, he’s a legend by all definitions of the term to Deadheads like myself. As a promoter and owner of both San Francisco’s Fillmore and Winterland Arena, Graham famously hosted and promoted the Dead, playing a pivotal role in the growth of their fanbase. To own a watch connected to both a member of the band and a man partially responsible for their success really would be something.
Both of these lots are going up for sale on June 19 at Julien’s, where they’re being offered with estimates of $1,000 — $2,000 and $400 — $600 respectively. Get in on the action by clicking here for the Elvis clock and clicking here for the Junghans.
The Master Grande Tradition Grande Complication is not a grand complication in the narrow sense of the term, but that hardly seems to matter when confronted with the actual watch, which is interesting and even beautiful enough in its own right. I don’t think there is anything quite like it – it is, essentially, a...
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