A great watch auction includes classic, vintage pieces that appeal to a general audience, superlative modern pieces that are hard to find, and strange historical oddities that turn the catalog into something of a history lesson. Sotheby’s upcoming Nov. 10 sale in Geneva is one of those auctions. There are accessible Rolexes, mega-Pateks, quirky Swatches, and everything in between. Here are 15 of the lots you definitely don’t want to overlook.
Patek Philippe 5951P
Why not start with something big? The 5951P doesn’t look like a classic Patek, but it’s packed with some of the brand’s highest complications, including a mono-pusher, split-seconds chronograph and a perpetual calendar. The looks are polarizing, but if you’re into it, you’re really into it. This example dates to 2011 and is one of only a handful made. Estimate: $332,000 to $383,000.
A. Lange & Söhne Datograph With Bracelet
The original Datograph is a true modern classic and one of the reasons Lange has become so hot with collectors. This platinum version comes with a rare platinum bracelet to match. Usually the watch was sold on an alligator strap, a look many prefer, but on the bracelet this feels like a true (if heavy) sport watch. Estimate: $40,900 to $61,500.
Patek Philippe Freccero
This small, 32-millimeter, pink gold watch dates to 1951. It was sold by retailer Freccero and the store’s name sits on the dial right above the sub-seconds register. The dial has turned a beautiful caramel brown color and the case is a rare waterproof model from the era. Estimate: $8,200 to $12,300.
Cartier Gold Desk Clock
This Art Deco clock is solid gold, with a luminous dial for reading any time. The hands look to have been retouched, but the package includes the original fitted leather presentation box. The movement inside was made by Lemania, who was making movements for a lot of top watchmakers at the time. Estimate: $12,300 to $18,400.
Patek Philippe Skeletonized Ellipse
Subtle, right? The Ellipse isn’t the most beloved Patek model of all time, but this 1984 example has been ornately skeletonized, set with gems, and affixed to a strange, woven-link bracelet. Fewer than 200 of these were made and the level of detail in the engraving and setting is crazy. Estimate: $30,700 to $51,500.
Rolex Fancy Lug Chronograph
This small, 33.5mm Rolex chronograph is a strange one. The gold dial has both telemeter and tachymeter scales, indicates that the watch is anti-magnetic, and has rich, blued-steel hands. There’s no crown logo anywhere, but the triple-step lugs add a ton of interest to the otherwise classic shape. Estimate: $35,800 to $46,000.
Omega Polar Speedmaster
Everyone knows about the Omega Speedmaster Professional and the trips it made to the moon. What you might not know is that American explorers took Speedies to the North Pole in the late 1960s. This is one of four Speedmasters that went to 90 Degrees North with Ralph S. Plaisted, and it includes the box and confirmation paperwork from Omega. Estimate: $30,700 to $51,500.
Longines Dual-Scale Chronograph
In the 1940s, Longines was making some of the best chronographs on the planet. This steel chrono has a special dial with both a telemeter scale around the outer edge and a snail-shaped tachymeter scale at the center. All the print is legible and has retained its rich, blue color. Estimate: $30,700 to $51,500.
Schmid & Muller Swatch Collection
This is a massive cache of Swatch prototypes and memorabilia from the early days, coming from the personal collection of two original Swatch developers, Marlyse Schmid and Bernard Muller. It includes early Keith Harring watches, the original transparent Swatch, and a ton of paperwork and sketches to go with it. If you’re into the history of Swatch, this is the motherlode. Estimate: $1,000,000+.
Tiffany & Co. Triple Calendar Chronograph
With Tiffany’s recent venture back into the world of high watchmaking, it’s interesting to look at what the New York jeweler did in the past. This stylish gold watch has a great combination of complications and is easy to wear. The watch was made by Waldan, who also made retailer-branded watches for Tourneau. Estimate: $3,100 to $5,200.
Breguet Type XX
Not only Rolex made military watches. Starting in 1954, Breguet made the Type XX chronograph for French air force pilots. This original example is from 1960; it’s in great original condition, with just enough wear that you know it’s legit. This variant has a larger, 15-minute counter at 3 o’clock, making it especially desirable. (Not to mention the original box that comes with it.). Estimate: $20,500 to $30,700.
Rolex Double Red Sea-Dweller
From a distance, this might look like your every-day, run-of-the-mill Submariner. It’s not. This early Sea-Dweller is a beast of a 1970s dive watch, notable for two lines of red text on the dial (hence, “double red”) that would be changed to white a few years later. For a collector looking to get into the serious vintage Rolex game, this would make a great start. Estimate: $15,400 to $25,600.
Rolex Beta 21
This is the original quartz Rolex. The Beta 21 movement was designed and manufactured by a group of luxury Swiss watch makers to compete with Japanese quartz movements. Functioning examples are tough to find, and this solid gold version is marked No. 007 (No association with the silver screen spy, sorry.) Estimate: $20,500 to $30,700.
Patek Philippe Ref. 5950A
Rare, complicated Patek Philippe watches in stainless steel are, for many collectors, as good as it gets. This watch has an unusually shaped case and a parchment-colored dial accented by scrolling marks at the corners, along with black hands and Breguet numerals. It’s also a mono-pusher, split-seconds chronograph, so you know it’s not going to come cheap. Estimate: $256,000 to $358,000.
Piaget Bracelet Watch
The structure of this bracelet watch is 18-karat yellow gold, and it is set with approximately 24 karats of baguette and brilliant cut diamonds. A little more subtle is the tiny, slim movement crammed into the central rectangle that keeps this watch ticking. Estimate: $28,600 to $49,000.
Originally posted: The Best Rare Watches From Sotheby’s Upcoming Geneva Auction