T he highly anticipated Important Watches sale (11 July, Hong Kong) features 313 lots, offering a superb selection of chronometers from Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Rolex, Philippe Dufour and more. Within this abundance of spectacular watches, Sotheby’s watch specialists choose and share the timepieces that have caught their eyes. John Chan discusses the singular aesthetics and features of unique Rolex watches, Joey Luk introduces luxurious watches that showcase enameling of the highest level, and Bryan Li selects alternative timepieces of idiosyncratic design.
The Rolex Allure
John Chan discusses the singular aesthetics and features of unique Rolex watches. Scroll through the selection below to discover fascinating history behind these watches.
- Rolex Platinum Zenith Caliber Daytona
- Rolex Daytona with UAE Quraysh Hawk Dial
- Rolex Submariner "Explorer Dial"
- Rolex Daytona with Test Dial
- Rolex Daytona with Citrus Dial
- Rolex “Comex” Sea-Dweller
- “Double Red” Sea-Dweller
Rolex Platinum Zenith Caliber DaytonaFor years, Rolex only produced automatic powered Daytonas in stainless steel, yellow gold, white gold and steel and gold. It was said the late Patrick Heiniger, the CEO of Rolex, wore a platinum automatic Daytona, having made only four in platinum cases as special gifts. It remained a rumor until 2018, when Sotheby’s sold the only known platinum Cosmograph Daytona powered by Zenith caliber. Another singular platinum Daytona, reference 16516, will feature at our Important Watches sale. It bears a lapis lazuli hardstone dial, the only known one of its kind, and was manufactured in 1999, specially made by Heiniger as a gift to the Gobbi family, who founded the famed watch retailer Gobbi 1842.
Rolex Daytona with UAE Quraysh Hawk DialThe desert eagle is an exceedingly rare dial that exhibits the UAE coat of arms with the signature of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, made upon special request for ruler of Dubai. The collector received this fabulous Rolex Daytona from his uncle, who decades ago had been in Dubai to instruct the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces on parachuting and designing canopies. The uncle received the watch after the army had won a world competition. He in turn gifted this treasure 40 years ago when his nephew, the consignor, earned his SCUBA diving license. It has been secured in a safety deposit box ever since, never once used with an impeccable condition to the dial and case.
Rolex Submariner "Explorer Dial"To say the Submariner is a diving watch understates its significance, and since its introduction in 1953 has also defined how a sport watch should be. Because the reference 5513 had such a long production of two decades (1962-1982), it is a symbolic reference for Rolex. However not all watches of this reference are identical, featuring slight variations collectors observe with keen interest. The 3-6-9 luminous hour marker, which was only available in the UK, accounts for a small fraction of early Submariners. The 3-6-9 numbers are proportional with lovely golden-brown color text, clean with a glossy dial – it is one of the best looking Submariners in the market that will appeal to collectors of all categories.
Rolex Daytona with Test DialThis automatic Daytona, reference 16520, is very rare because it has what is called the “test dial.” There isn’t a lot written on why these dials were created, but it is likely that Rolex used this in the manufacture of their watches for chronometer testing, to ensure the timekeeping ability of the watches. To distinguish these watches, they would pop on the test dial, which itself is quite plain but gives this Daytona a very unique appeal. This is for the first time a test dial Zenith Daytona to be offered on the market, and number among the very rare Rolexes.
Rolex Daytona with Citrus DialWhat’s striking about this rare variant of the automatic Daytona is the bright color, which is called the “citrus dial.” Standard commercial production of the dial typically come in white or black, while the citrus color was never sold commercially. At the time, Rolex dials would be produced by the workshop Singer, which would experiment with designs including different colored dials. Despite the pleasing color, the citrus dial was not chosen for standard production, which is why it is so rare in the market.
Rolex “Comex” Sea-DwellerNotice on the dial the logo reads “COMEX” referring to the French company specializing in deep sea exploration and engineering. Rolex worked with COMEX to develop their diving watches. The emergence of SCUBA diving during the 60s and 70s called for very specially designed equipment, spurring demand for precision timepieces that could tolerate the stresses of prolonged deep water. Introduced in 1967, The Rolex Sea-Dweller was manufactured as an evolution of the Submariner reference 5513. As divers plunged ever deeper the then current technology was tested to its limits and new technologies had to be developed.
“Double Red” Sea-DwellerThis watch holds a fascinating story of provenance. The Sea-Dweller was designed to withstand pressure deep beneath the ocean. To test this, Rolex presented the watch to Allan E. Witcombe, who agreed to take it with him on test dives as he was working on a project to install transatlantic cables. On his final dive, Witcombe took the watch as deep as 1560 meters, far exceeding the 600 meter limit estimated by Rolex. With the case back of the watch inscribed with “Presented by Rolex to Allan E. Witcombe Pisces V Dive No. 231 5000FT August 3 1974,” Rolex gifted this special watch to Witcombe, who wore it throughout his life.
Bryan Li selects alternative timepieces of idiosyncratic design, which deliver innovative and often futuristic visions of horology. Click on the slideshow below to see the timepieces that take watch design to the next level.
Enamel Works of Art
Joey Luk highlights timepieces that display enamel work of the highest craftsmanship, paintings in miniature that elevate these watches to veritable works of art. Browse the examples below to see works of stunning beauty.
Vacheron Constantin Le Cabinotiers with Champlevé Enamel Dial Depicting Koi Fish
Master Enamelist Laurent from Vacheron Constantin designed the dial, drawing inspiration from katanas and tsuba engravings from Edo period Japan. The champlevé enameling technique used here is masterfully executed, with vibrant colors of autumn leaves, delicate engraving that details fine fish scales, and an sense of translucence that make the koi appear as if they were underwater. The result is absolutely stunning.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso À Eclipse with Enamel Dial Depicting the Port of Singapore
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso was first introduced in the 1930s and has become an iconic model for the brand. The watch pays homage to Singapore and is numbered one of five pieces only. Often with enameling technique, the enamelists will create a miniature of an existing painting. In this case, this is an original panoramic scene depicting the Port of Singapore from the harbor. The wearer can also close the shutter as if the watch were a window, and hide from view this beautiful scene under gold panels.
Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso "Four Seasons"
Patek Philippe World Time Wristwatches
Patek Philippe "Les Faisans" Gilt Brass Yable Clock
Patek Philippe dome clocks are one of the most collectible creations of the Patek Philippe universe. Characterized by their cylindrical form, spherical top and often found finely decorated with traditional artisanal techniques such as cloisonné enamels. The enamelist A. M. Secretan finely displays Patek Philippe’s strength in merging fine art with watchmaking. Patek Philippe would often create scenery from different themes such as horses or other animals. Here the theme is pheasants or “Les Faisans,” with cloisonné enamel panels decorated with marvelously colored pheasants amid the background of a hazy morning in a summer forest.
Patek Philippe Platinum Watch with Cloisonné Dial Depicting Tropical Fish
Jaquet Droz Minute Repeating Wristwatch with Automation Birds
The limited-edition Bird Repeater watch depicts a family of hand-painted Blue Tits nesting over the scenic valley of the Jura region in Switzerland. When activated the eggs will crack open, and the birds will feed the little chicks. Other animated elements include a moving waterfall made of mother-of-pearl water, representing the second wheel. It is a fun piece.