Important Watches
Live Auction: 10 June 2021 • 10:00 AM EDT • New York

Important Watches 10 June 2021 • 10:00 AM EDT • New York

S otheby's New York is excited to offer an exceptional Important Watches auction, live for bidding on 10 June. This season we are pleased to curate timepieces from private tastemakers, whose collections are well preserved, rare, and unique.

Highlighted is the Reference 6241 Paul Newman Daytona 'John Player Special, offered from the original owner. It was affectionately nicknamed “John Player Special” in reference to the livery of the Lotus formula 1 painted in black with the gold tobacco company logo. Few Daytona models are fitted with the iconic Paul Newman dial. Fewer still are presented in this format so coveted amongst collectors. In good company, our sale features a thoughtfully curated selection of important vintage Daytonas including a rare Reference 6239 Paul Newman Daytona retailed by Linz Brothers. Very few are known to exist, with three seen in the market today. This celebrated example is authenticated by Rolex via the accompanying Watch Conditions Document.

Modern juggernauts include a three-dimensional 24-second inclined tourbillon world time wristwatch by Greubel Forsey, a highly complicated split seconds chronograph wristwatch with tourbillon and minute repeater by Audemars Piguet, and an early platinum Resonance wristwatch with brass movement by F.P. Journe. Cased in tantalum and yellow gold, an incredibly rare skeletonized Royal Oak Quantieme Perpetuelle (circa 1990s) by Audemars Piguet will be offered, complete with a winding presentation box and papers.

Completing our sale are iconic, and well preserved vintage models by Patek Philippe, Cartier, Rolex, and more.

Rolex – The John Player Special
View 1 of Lot 220: Reference 6241 Daytona Paul Newman 'John Player Special'  A yellow gold chronograph wristwatch, Circa 1968
Reference 6241 Daytona Paul Newman 'John Player Special' A yellow gold chronograph wristwatch, Circa 1968
Estimate: 500,000 – 1,000,000 USD

For passionate scholars and collectors of vintage Rolex, it’s the manufacturing variances employed by the watchmaker in the production of their most celebrated references which make the iconic brand’s timepieces such a joy to immerse oneself in. These subtle yet significant variances speak to the brand’s continual commitment to evolution and innovation, while also ensuring there will never be a dull moment for collectors choosing to focus their efforts on single models. With nearly six decades behind the Daytona, its dedicated collectors are in continual celebration of the professional chronograph’s many compelling forms, but few are more sought after than those fitted with scarce variants of the exotic Paul Newman dial. Among the most visually striking is the famed John Player Special Daytona, representing not only an aspirational apogee of vintage Rolex collecting, but one of important watch collecting as a whole.

Affectionately named for its resemblance to the black and gold livery of John Player Special sponsored Team Lotus cars of the 1970s, this watch evokes the excitement and boundary-pushing opulence of Formula One racing in unmistakable style. This holy grail tier variant of an already rare watch is characterized by the pairing of a black and gold contrasted Paul Newman dial with a yellow gold case, and was naturally produced in limited numbers, yielding a rarity within a rarity of sorts. With the total production of reference 6241 Daytonas amounting to roughly 3000 examples over the course of just three years, it’s estimated that only an exceedingly small fraction of these watches were both cased in gold and fitted with black Paul Newman dials, explaining the exceptional infrequency with which fresh to market examples surface.

Furthering this example’s anomalistic nature is its execution in 14K yellow gold, confirming the market it was originally delivered to, and contextualizing the factors once guiding watch design. Due to the higher taxation of 18K gold watches entering the United States in the period, Rolex responded through the production of lower karat cases for the Daytona. As regards the reference 6241, fewer than 400 examples are believed to have been cased in 14K gold, and with only a handful of 14K John Player Special Daytonas having surfaced in recent years, one can only imagine just how few times such watches were produced by Rolex. Needless to say, the rarity of this optimally configured and enormously important chronograph cannot be understated.

Though indeed synonymous with race car driving in more ways than one, it’s important to note how in addition to originally marketing the Cosmograph Daytona to motorsports enthusiasts, Rolex also promoted its usefulness amongst amateur sailors, along with professional navigators and pilots. Such campaigns, along with the watchmaker’s designation as the “Official Timepiece of Pan American World Airways” surely resonated with the present example’s original American owner – a professional pilot whose high-flying career spanned nearly 35 years.

Given to the original owner by his parents on June 5th, 1972, this exceptionally grand gift marked both the earning of his pilot’s license in 1971, along with his date of graduation in 1972, which is endearingly engraved on the gold chronograph’s caseback. Making its uniquely exciting, brand ethos-aligned past all the more compelling is the fact that the watch was relied upon as a trusted companion throughout the majority of the professional pilot’s career, until eventually being retired from regular wear in 1996. This affords the important watch a high-flying provenance aligned with the brand’s ethos of ensuring impeccable performance and tasteful aesthetics all while under the pressure of demanding professional applications.

Combining one of Rolex’s absolute greatest designs with especially thrilling provenance, this outstanding example of the John Player Special Daytona is a timepiece of monumental importance and a nonpareil to no end. It’s unlikely to ever again encounter a Rolex Daytona of this variety, caliber, and condition, with such intrepid professional provenance.

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Cartier – The Tank Cintrée

View 1 of Lot 222: Tank Cintrée A rare platinum and yellow gold rectangular wristwatch, Circa 1925
Tank Cintrée A rare platinum and yellow gold rectangular wristwatch, Circa 1925
Estimate: 40,000 – 60,000 USD

Having long exemplified the pinnacle of luxury and prestige by way of tasteful design and quintessential elegance, Cartier came to be known as the “Jeweller of Kings and the King of Jewellers.” As one would expect, Cartier’s earliest watchmaking efforts attracted a comparably compelling and prestigious clientele, in search of some of the most refined designs the period had to offer. It is for this reason that the few remaining examples of desirably configured Tank models are often accompanied by provenance perhaps best described as larger than life. With reverence for early Cartierwristwatches now more widespread than ever before, the offering of any significant example inspires excitement and interest, though it could be said that the offering of one with a story is truly an event to behold.

Produced at the height of what’s considered the house’s golden age, this outstanding example of Cartier’s Tank Cintrée dates back to 1929, when it was purchased for the New York talent manager and once owner of the Piccadilly Hotel, William Weber, in commemoration of an Atlantic crossing aboard the LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin airship, which came about by way of a golf wager. After sighting the Graf Zeppelin on its first 1928 Atlantic crossing during a game of golf, Weber proceeded by staking an airship voyage on the golf game played with his friend and once owner of New York’s Palace Hotel, Nathan Wexler.

From left: The LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin airship; friends William Weber and Nathan Wexler

With the odds working in Weber’s favour, Wexler was left to pay for the Zeppelin passage, which cost an estimated two thousand dollars per person in 1929. The duo departed on August 8th, 1929 from Lakehurst, New Jersey, and arrived in Friedrichschafen, Germany on August 10th, 1929, travelling over seven thousand kilometres in the most extravagant manner possible. Considering the rare luxury that was regular air travel via airplane in the 1920s, the momentousness of a voyage aboard something as revolutionary as a transatlantic airship cannot be understated. It is for this reason that commemorating the event with a Cartier Tank Cintrée in platinum seems only natural.

The inscription on the inside of the watch: "To William Webber, commemorating our Atlantic Crossing by Graf-Zebbelin, 42 Hrs ~42 ms. Aug. 8-10-1929"

For figures like Wexler and Weber, it was natural, given that both lived lives emblematic of the tremendous prosperity, which defined post-war New York City throughout the Roaring Twenties for a privileged few. Apart from the aforementioned voyage itself, little is known of William Weber’s enigmatic life apart from his later work in the management of nightclub singers and comedians, working with the likes of Jackie Gleason and Don Rickles among others. However, it is known that neither Weber nor Wexler were without their ties to organized crime in New York. With Nathan Wexler being the brother of notorious bootlegger Irving Wexler, also known as “Waxey Gordon,” it is believed that Weber used this connection to establish relationships within the world of mob-owned nightclubs, to later act as a liaison between talent and management.

Similarly, the Tank Cintrée itself was and still is emblematic of the elegance and glamour which characterized William Weber’s life amongst New York’s high society in the 1920s.

Introduced in 1921, the Cintrée appealed to Art Deco sensibilities with its grand stature and impressively thin, curved case. Complimented by curved upper and lower minute track edges, referred to by collectors as “chemin-de-fer,” this new take on the Tank was singular in its daring approach to elegance, which is only intensified by its execution in platinum — a precious metal pioneered within jewelry by Cartier. The offering of an impossibly elegant and convention challenging timepiece originally purchased to mark an exclusive airship voyage certainly presents a rare and unique opportunity to own a piece of horological history, synonymous with one of the most wondrous periods of the 20th century.

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Maison De Cartier

F.P. Journe – An Early Chronomètre à Résonance with brass movement

F.P. Journe
Chronomètre à Résonance A platinum dual time wristwatch with power reserve indication and brass movement, Circa 2002
Estimate: 100,000 – 200,000 USD

Modern Complications

The intertwining of tradition and innovation of ground breaking materials and time-tested complications lies at the heart of today’s watchmaking. Today’s watchmakers stand on the shoulders of giants, refining and improving on centuries horological history. Whether it’s Grubel Forsey development of the inclined tourbillon, Richard Mille’s rotor mechanisms or A Lange & S Söhne’s modernization of the Fusee and chain, we are pleased to present you with a large curated selection from these brands, alongside some extraordinary high complications from world’s greatest companies including Audemars Piguet, A Lange & S Söhne’s and Patek Philippe to name a few.

Reference 6239 'Paul Newman' DaytonaRetailed by Linz Brothers: A stainless steel chronograph wristwatch, Circa 1968

Dials emblazoned with retailer signatures have long been revered by astute collectors for their ability to provide further context to already awe-inspiring watches. In their more conventional forms, iconic and sought after timepieces like the Paul Newman Daytona are most definitely deserving of attention and praise, though upon the addition of a history suggesting retailer’s signature, examples ascend to a new tier of both exclusivity and significance. Amongst scholarly authorities of the aforementioned jewel of vintage watch collecting, few signatures are as captivating and desirable as that of the Texas based Rolex retailer, Linz Brothers, and especially so when found on a piece held in such high esteem.

This historic American retailer’s story begins in 1870s, after a curious Joseph Linz of St. Louis, Missouri had followed the railroad to Denison, Texas, soon discovering the art of watchmaking, and beginning to repair timepieces for the conductors and engineers of various railroads. It was this fateful brush with horology that lead to the decision of Joseph and Elias Linz to begin retailing jewelry and watches to the people of Denson, in October of 1877. The business would grow quickly in the years to follow, with brothers Simon, Ben, and finally Albert Linz joining the firm upon their 1891 settlement in Dallas, Texas.

Following the eventual retirement of Joseph Linz in 1907, the retailer’s name would be changed from Linz to Linz Brothers, in an effort to better market the family owned and operated nature of the retailer. By the time both the Linz Brothers and Rolex had established their respective presences within horology, a strong and prosperous relationship was quickly formed. Despite the infrequency with which Linz signed the dials of Rolex watches, they would be recognized in the decades to come as one of North America’s largest Rolex retailers.

In the interest of simplicity, the Rolex dials to which they applied retailer signatures in later years would simply feature the name Linz. Such is this case with this reference 6239 Daytona of sensational importance, proudly bearing the retailer’s logo below the Rolex Cosmograph designation on its Paul Newman dial. Executed in white print against a matte black foreground, the backwards N Linz logo stands out prominently, complementing the exotic dial’s three colour configuration. Providing an unequivocal answer to the example’s origins at first glance, this small detail elevates the watch from a blue chip vintage chronograph of already extreme scarcity, to one existing in even fewer numbers, and of particular significance to American collectors and historians of Rolex retailing alike.

Worth noting is how the reference 6239’s aesthetic straightforwardness makes it perhaps the purest Daytona reference in which to find a retailer-signed dial. Fitted with a stainless steel bezel and pump pushers, the reference’s intrinsic subtlety affords all the attention to the immensely special dial that earns this rarity its renown. With so few opportunities to acquire Paul Newman Daytonas of this configuration and condition, this example is sure to attract important collectors eager to simultaneously celebrate the histories of Rolex and that of the great American retailer, Linz Brothers.

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Vintage Rolex Daytonas

The Daytona 'Beach'

Property From A Distinguished Texan Collector

Tastemaker: The Patek Philippe Calatrava

We are pleased to offer part-two of a collection of fine timepieces from a distinguished Texan collector. Any student of vintage Patek Philippe would hope to own a fine Calatrava wristwatch. Our collector was a prolific curator of the Calatrava, amassing over 20 pieces throughout the years.

There was a particular interest in the progression of the automatic wristwatch starting with the Reference 2526, a superlative self-winding model introduced in 1953 with the cal. 12-600 AT movement, now classic amongst collectors. This sale features five unique references bearing the original self-winding caliber: The Reference 2526, 2551, 2552, 3415, and 3444.

In the 1960’s the famed movement was succeeded by the cal. 27-460 which remained in production until 1985 – one of the longest production calibers manufactured by Patek Philippe. The movement was much improved by an adjustable balance spring stud carrier, and a revamped rotor ball bearing to manage the oversized and heavy gold rotor. It is rather interesting to note that these early automatic models did not feature sapphire display backs, but the movements were nonetheless incredibly elaborate and dressed for display. We are pleased to present six models featuring this important automatic caliber: The Reference 3429, 3439, 3445, 3473, 3466, and 3558

View 1 of Lot 227: Reference 2526  A yellow gold wristwatch with a first series black enamel dial and bracelet, Made in 1954
Patek Philippe
Reference 2526 A yellow gold wristwatch with a first series black enamel dial and bracelet, Made in 1954
Estimate: 80,000 – 120,000 USD

Of special note is an incredibly rare first series Reference 2526 in yellow gold with a black enamel dial.

The first series of the reference 2526 is distinguished by its twice-baked enamel dial and gold indices set into the enamel using pins or feet. These flared holes under the numerals give the dial an extraordinary 3 dimensional quality and add to the alure of these early examples. Whilst most of these first series examples have ivory/eggshell dials, a handful, like the current watch were produced with rare factory black dials. Black dialed Patek Philippe’s from this era, confirmed on their extract form the archives like this example are some of the most desirable examples ever made, rarely coming to market and are a collectors dream. The high contrast between the gold case, luscious deep black dial and gold applied indexes make its appeal obviously from first inspection.

Elevating the current watch further is the condition of its dial, free of any hairline cracks or other imperfections and having aged exceptionally well and combined with its strong case proportions, original PP crown (indicating water resistance) and the presence of its period correct 18k gold Patek Philippe signed bracelet and clasp.

In addition, the watch retains its Patek Philippe presentation box and outer packaging and an Extract from the Patek Philippe Archives confirming the date of sale as May 23, 1955.


Patek Philippe debuted reference 3448 in 1962, which was the first self-winding perpetual calendar wristwatch made by any firm. Almost two decades later, they made some slight upgraded alterations to the beloved watch when introducing reference 3450.

Reference 3450 was in production from 1981 through 1985, and according to scholarship, only 244 examples were made – making this reference more limited than its predecessor. Despite there being quite a few minor upgrades to reference 3450, arguably the biggest difference between the two references was the improved movement.

Reference 3450 houses the caliber 27-460 QB, which was the firm’s first movement to incorporate a leap year indicator. This example from 1982 features a “Roman” leap year indicator, located on the dial between the 3 and 4 o’clock position. Offered in overall excellent condition, the present watch is a wonderful representation of Patek Philippe’s constant innovation over the course of its history. Further enhancing this watch’s rarity is its original Certificate of Origin, which is an absolute treat for any collector to see with a watch of its age.

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Patek Philippe – The Jewel-Set Nautilus

A selection of this iconic Gerald Genta design, heightened by factory gem setting

Berd Vay’e – Sign of the Times, Piece Unique Offered Without Reserve

Berd Vay’e is a young company rooted in decades of experience celebrating haute jewelry and horology. The brainchild of two incredible artisans, these specialists have painstakingly sourced countless vintage watches, and components preserving these moments of history in precious Lucite.

The present lot is a piece unique made especially for auction at Sotheby's. A reoccurring theme for this young firm, the skull represents memento mori, a reminder that time is precious and fleeting. Suspended flawlessly in lucite, Sign Of The Times uses individual watch components to create symbols in today's popular culture, from the hashtag to the bitcoin logo.

Each limited edition masterpiece is offered with a polished mahogany case lined in satin. Each piece, dressed with a .925 silver plaque is offered with a Certificate of Authenticity, presentation gloves, and instructions for care.

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View 1 of Lot 282: Sign Of The Times A unique precious lucite sculpture composed with movement parts, Made in 2021
Berd Vay’e
Sign Of The Times A unique precious lucite sculpture composed with movement parts, Made in 2021
Estimate: 10,000 – 20,000 USD

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