Preview of the Geneva November 2019 Phillips Auctions
Aurel Bacs & Livia Russo in association with Phillips auction house, are back for their tenth Geneva watch auction together. There is always a ton of buzz around Phillips auctions, and especially thematic sales as Aurel and his teams are established trendsetters.
I think of Geneva watch auctions as the fashion week for watch geeks, and there is no more popular runway being watched like a Phillips auction room. Granted, that can be a nuisance for the auctioneer as so many attendees come to do just that, watch, and recently they have been stricter about paddle holders getting a seat and comfortably bid since the room gets so full.
Phillips has assembled a special retailer signed watch (some clock and pocket watches too) thematic auction they have dubbed Double Signed: A Celebration of the Finest Partnerships Between Manufacturers and Retailers. I think it is an exciting sale as this relationship is also a significant subject of discussion today. Brands’ business with retailers has been drastically changing over the past decade as many brands go online or open their boutiques. Meanwhile, other brands have reinforced their position to remain loyal to their historical retail network. It is interesting to see how these trends evolve today and how we can be reminded of these ties that have been maintained for so long between brands and key retailers. Also, with the recent discussion about LVMH bidding to buy Tiffany & Co., collectors have speculated on whether this may affect the future of Tiffany retailed Patek Philippe watches that still have that double signature today.
This thematic auction takes place in the afternoon on Saturday, November 9th in Geneva is comprised of 64 lots from 12 different brands. However, what stands out to me is that 37 of those 64 lots are Patek Philippes, and 11 are from Rolex/Tudor, meaning these two brands represent 75% of this sale. I think this is pertinent as these two independents, aside from being the two of the most successful Swiss luxury watch brands, still appear to be the most loyal to their traditional retailer network today.
To see the full catalog, you can see it online here.
With all that in mind, I went for something niche and chose to look at a stunning Universal Geneve:
LOT #18 Universal Geneve Compax “Ettore Cattaneo”
Speaking of oversized gold chronographs (as I did in my article on Antiquorum), I think this example probably is as exciting as it gets. A 46mm 18K gold chronograph from 1940 is indeed a unicorn, but a double signed one with clear and unique provenance is as good as it gets. This Universal Geneve bears the name Verga and its crown logo on the dial. The Milan based retailer still operates today although, Universal Geneve technically does not. Usually, that is the other way around with several retailers no longer being around, especially Latin American ones featured in this sale.
Universal Geneve is known for having made these big 46mm aviator chronos, but the vast majority were in stainless steel. It makes sense as a tool watch would have no need to be in gold, especially smack in the middle of WWII.
According to Phillips, this watch comes with provenance and was once owned by Ettore Cattaneo, a famous Italian aviation pioneer. The pilot watch was gifted to him by his nephew Giorgio Agnetti, whose son eventually inherited the watch and sold it to an Italian collector with a letter indicating the provenance of the watch. It is beautifully preserved, and for us detail-oriented guys, it even has the Verga crown logo on the pin buckle, which is pretty cool.
For more information about this watch, please check it out here.
Estimate CHF 50,000 – 100,000
THE GENEVA WATCH AUCTION X (GWA10)
This auction, which takes place on the evenings of Saturday (9th) and Sunday (10th) in Geneva, is comprised of 184 watches, which was the same amount they had in the regular sale in May 2018 when they held their last thematic sale: The Daytona Ultimatum. You can see the catalog for their regular sale online here.
The collection continues to offer a wide variety of wristwatches with 36 brands present, and that is about 12 more than usual. Phillips has been curating some niche modern brands for their auctions, and this means more variety and a slight diversification from their earlier sales with predominantly vintage watches. Their top lot is an ultra-rare oversized stainless steel 44mm Rolex split-seconds chronograph ref. 4113 from the 1940s. It carries an estimate in excess of CHF 1.5 million (Lot 139), and it is always interesting to witness an iconic watch like this hit the block.
Here are a few watches I thought would interesting to discuss:
LOT #150 Rolex Submariner 168000 “First Fleet”
As many of us have seen the past few years, neo-vintage (the 80s & 90s tritium models) has been having its day. Nuances in early discontinued models are highly sought after, and rare transitional models are highly prized. The Rolex Submariner 168000 is one of these rare transitional models that was produced between the 16800 and the 16610 references and was supposedly made for just nine months between 1988 and 1989. It is curious that Rolex released a 6-digit reference between two 5-digit references.
The case back of this 16800 bears the inscription “First Fleet – Re-Enactment Fleet 13 May 1987 – 27 Jan 1988 England Australia”. This was a bicentenary re-enactment of the historic First Fleet voyage from England in 1788 to colonize Australia. This watch came from one of the captains, Captain Kenneth Edwards, of the First Fleet Re-enactment Voyage, and is accompanied by copies of the fax correspondence with Rolex.
Rolex rarely makes customized watches, so when an unknown one does come up, it tends to be a big deal, and this is indeed the first one of these to ever come to market. I think the estimate is interesting enough to give us hope to bid before we are left in the rearview, but nonetheless fun to try.
Should you want to have some more information, you can see visit the page here and inquire directly.
Estimate CHF 10,000 – 20,000
LOT #186 Movado Pink Gold 95M Chronograph
I seem to be on a gold chronograph rant, and I predict/secretly hope the next Stop-Start-Reset sale by Phillips will be a thematic gold chronograph sale. It may be a wild guess, but it would be fun to see.
This particular Movado chronograph is encased in a 35mm 18K pink gold screw-back case made by none other than Francois Borgel, the famous case maker that crafted the Patek Philippe 1463 screw back chronograph cases. The inside of the case back has the FB logo as well as the 11 key hallmark, and this particular example is also super crisp with the step bezel and lug angles sharp and striking. The signature Movado blued serpentine hands are present in the chronograph registers, and the white dial appears to have been equally well preserved with its blue tachymetric scale, and gold applied hour markers. Typical of these dials also is the full country name ‘Switzerland’ printed at the bottom of the dial. This is not common among other Swiss watch brands that usually just have swiss or swiss made at the bottom of their dials.
Founded in 1881 in La Chaux de Fond, Switzerland, and receiving its current name in 1905, Movado means “always in motion” in the international Esperanto language.
For more information on this precious and crisp Movado, you will find it in the online catalog here, and the estimate without reserve can always have a surprising result.
Estimate CHF 4,000 – 8,000 (No reserve)