Phillips Geneva Watch Auction: NINE – Highlights

The Geneva Watch Auction: NINE by Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo realised CHF 25,800,625 /$25,496,177 /€22,701,969 and exceeded its pre-sale estimate of CHF 13.8 to 25.3 million. The auction took place at La Réserve, Geneva on May 11 & 12, 2019.

The Geneva Watch Auction: NINE surpassed its pre-sale high estimate, with many of the 216 lots flying well above their high estimates, including several record-breaking watches.

The magnificent and historically important pocket watch by George Daniels (lot 34) was sold for an impressive CHF 2’420’000 /$2,391,444 /€2,129,358, the highest result achieved by any watch sold at auction this weekend. The George Daniels Anniversary wristwatch (lot 32) realized CHF 456,250 /$450,866 /€401,454, setting a world record for the model.

Dominating the top ten, three world records were achieved for Rolex watches, including an unprecedented result for a Submariner reference 5508 ‘Small Crown’ (lot 213) that was fresh-to-the-market, realising CHF 500,000 /$494,100 /€439,950, more than doubling its pre-sale high estimate and establishing a new world record for any ‘Small Crown’ Submariner.

This timepiece’s elder sister model, a fresh-to-the-market Rolex reference 6200 “Big Crown” (lot 220) hailing from the original owner’s family and making its auction debut fetched CHF 596,000 /$588,967 /€524,420.

The superbly preserved Rolex reference 8171 ‘Padellone’ (lot 68) realised CHF 980,000 /$968,436 /€862,302, setting a new world record for the reference in yellow gold.

Other remarkable results were achieved for Patek Philippe, including a very rare platinum reference 5208P (lot 126) produced in extremely small numbers since 2011 that sold for CHF 812,000 /$ 802,418 /€714,479, and a reference 1436 split-seconds chronograph in pink gold (lot 167) that realised CHF 536,000 /$529,675 /€471,626, proving the strong market demand for both contemporary and vintage timepieces from the Manufacturer.

The “Don Pancho” – a spectacular and unique Vacheron Constantin minute repeater with day and retrograde date delivered in 1940 achieved CHF 740,000 / $731,269 / €651,126 a new world record for any vintage Vacheron Constantin wristwatch sold at auction.

Watches with celebrity provenance included the historically important Rolex reference 16528 stamped 16500 (lot 23) offered by Formula 1 Legend Ayrton Senna as a gift to his mentor, manager and friend Angelo Parrilla, realising CHF 162,500 /$160,582 /€142,983. A fabulous jewel-wristwatch by Patek Philippe reference 4321-2 from award-winning actress Catherine Deneuve’s collection (lot 201) realised CHF35,000 /$34,587 /€30,796.

The probably unique Eberhard Longines A7 reference 3592 retailed by Eberhard Milano (lot 209), an unusual and very well-preserved chronograph Pilot’s wristwatch in stainless steel, fetched CHF 250,000 /$247,050 /€219,975, whilst a Zenith El Primero ref. A382 (lot 172) achieved CHF 40,000 / $39,528 / €35,196 – both setting world record prices for these models.

There were lengthy bidding wars between watch collectors in the room, fighting for timepieces by MB&F, Breitling, Zenith, F.-P. Journe, Voutilainen and Habring 2.

Online bidding was particularly strong over the weekend, with almost 1,000 bidders joining the digital saleroom – a new record for a Phillips auction, following successive years of growth of the market. Online bidders were extremely active, placing bids on 84% of the watches offered, with winning bids placed on multiple watches that sold for more than CHF 500,000 online.

Top Ten

Lot 34, GEORGE DANIELS, Grand Complication pocket watch
A unique, spectacular and historically important yellow gold instantaneous perpetual calendar minute repeating open face watch with moon-phases, thermometer, power reserve, equation of time, annual calendar and one minute co-axial tourbillon.

  • Estimate: In excess of CHF 1.5 million.
  • Sold for: CHF 2,420,000/$ 2,391,444/€ 2,129,358

Lot 68, ROLEX, reference 8171
A large, attractive and exceptionally well-preserved triple calendar wristwatch with moon-phases and two-tone dial, original box and numbered hang tag.

  • Estimate: CHF 400,000 to 800,000
  • Sold for: CHF 980,000/$ 968,436/€ 862,302 (World Record for a Reference 8171 in Yellow Gold)

Lot 126, PATEK PHILIPPE, reference 5208P
A very rare and highly important platinum minute repeating single-button chronograph wristwatch with instantaneous perpetual calendar, moonphases, certificate and boxes.

  • Estimate: CHF 550,000 to 950,000
  • Sold for: CHF 812,000/$ 802,418/€ 714,479

Lot 50, ROLEX, reference 6241 “John Player Special”
A fine, rare and extremely attractive 14K yellow gold chronograph wristwatch with Paul Newman “John Player Special” dial.

  • Estimate: CHF 350,000 to 700,000
  • Sold for: CHF 800,000/$ 790,560/€ 703,920

Lot 109, VACHERON CONSTANTIN, “Don Pancho”
A spectacular, unique and historically important yellow gold minute repeater wristwatch with day, retrograde date and original unrestored extra dial

  • Estimate: CHF 400,000 to 800,000
  • Sold for: CHF 740,000/$ 731,268/€ 651,126 (World Record for a Vintage Vacheron Constantin Wristwatch)

Lot 153, ROLEX, reference 6263 case back stamped 6239 to the inside
A very fine, extremely rare and highly important stainless steel chronograph wristwatch with “Oyster Sotto” Paul Newman dial.

  • Estimate: CHF 400,000 to 800,000
  • Sold for: CHF 704,000/$ 695,693/€619,450

Lot 220, ROLEX, reference 6200 “Big Crown”
An extremely rare, important and early stainless steel diver’s wristwatch with black glossy “Explorer” dial.

  • Estimate: CHF 300,000 to 600,000
  • Sold for: CHF 596,000/$ 588,967/€ 524,420 (World Record for a Reference 6200)

Lot 71, ROLEX, reference 6062
An exceptionally fine, rare and important yellow gold triple calendar wristwatch with star-set numerals and moonphases.

  • Estimate: CHF 400,000 to 800,000
  • Sold for: CHF 548,000/$ 541,533/€482,185

Lot 167, PATEK PHILIPPE, reference 1436
An extremely fine and rare pink gold split seconds chronograph wristwatch with pink dial.

  • Estimate: CHF 300,000 to 500,000
  • Sold for: CHF 536,000/$ 529,675/€471,426

Lot 213, ROLEX, reference 5508
An early and attractive diver’s wristwatch with bracelet, box, wax tag and anchor.

  • Estimate: CHF 80,000 to 160,000
  • Sold for: CHF 500,000/$ 494,100/€ 439,950 (World record for a ‘small crown’ submariner)


The George Daniels Grand Complication Pocket Watch

A mechanical tour de force, the Grand Complication stands apart in the Daniels production. Fully hand made by Daniels, it is the only timepiece he made to feature an instantaneous perpetual calendar with retrograde date and minute repeater, both mechanisms to Daniels’ own design. The sublime layout of the engine-turned dial, and the finesse of the gold case and gilt movement show the artistry of the maker, combining the majority of the complications incorporated in his earlier watches; moonphase, differential screw mechanism for the power reserve, bimetallic centigrade thermometer, Daniels keyless pendant and bow, Co-axial 1-minute tourbillon, and annual calendar with kidney cam and equation of time indication.

The Grand Complication was retained by Daniels for his personal use and was never sold during his lifetime, further underscoring the special significance of this watch. That this watch also incorporates the Daniels Co-axial escapement further elevates this timepiece to an even greater level of historical importance.

The co-axial escapement, invented by Daniels in 1975, is considered as one of the greatest innovations in horology of the past 250 years. It is a modification of the lever escapement with some features of the detent escapement avoiding the sliding friction of the lever escapement, making lubrication of the pallets theoretically unnecessary and thereby minimizing one of the shortcomings of the traditional lever escapement.

“Don Pancho”, the Vacheron Constantin Minute Repeater with Retrograde Calendar from 1940

This Spring Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo has auctioned one of the most sought after wristwatches ever made, a Vacheron Constantin minute repeater yellow gold wristwatch with retrograde calendar from 1940.

Known as the “Don Pancho” in reference to its owner’s nickname, the timepiece was kept by the family of the original owner in a vault for over 60 years.

In December 1935, the renowned Geneva-based watchmaker Vacheron Constantin received a letter from Madrid-based retailer Brooking who, on behalf of a client, wished to commission a watch. The order, highly unusual at the time, combined a large yellow gold tonneau case, a crown at twelve, a minute repeater with the lowest possible notes, a repeater trigger on the right side of the case, day, retrograde date, and his initials in blue enamel on the caseback. Two dials, one with enamelled black Breguet numerals and the other with radium numerals, both with all twelve numerals, and 6 straps which are easily changeable.

The creation of this masterpiece was a combined effort among Switzerland’s greatest craftsmen who had worked on some of the most complicated watches to have been produced: the repeating mechanism being assigned to Nicole, the calendar to Victorin Piguet, and the dial to Stern Frères.

The watch was finally delivered in January 1940 – with only one radium dial – to its future owner, Francisco Martinez Llano so-called “Don Pancho”, a successful Spanish businessman. Francisco Martinez Llano had left his native Spain in the late 19th century for Latin America where he made his fortune in mining in Chile. He was a philanthropist and a benefactor whose self-imposed mission was to bring education to poorer families by funding schools both in Spain (where he received recognition from Alphonso XIII, King of Spain) and Chile.

From then, mystery surrounded what was probably one of the most complicated wristwatches ever produced at that time, the watch disappeared for over 60 years. This timepiece had turned into a legend that every horological collector, scholar and enthusiast wanted to pursue but could not as its very existence was untraceable… until now.

Following the owner’s passing away in 1947, the watch remained in a vault for over 60 years before it was rediscovered by his family. The years spent in the hot and humid climates of Latin America had left their traces on this timepiece. As a result, the original dial showed substantial ageing and the movement needed complete restoration. The watch was assigned to Vacheron Constantin’s expertise and talented watchmakers for restoration, left in the caring hands of its maker with the instruction to: restore the movement using the original components where possible, not to polish the case and to create a second dial, identical to the original one with the techniques used in the 1930s. The only exception being the use of modern luminous material as opposed to radium. The original unrestored dial is also offered with this watch.

For months, a team from the Vacheron Constantin Heritage department worked relentlessly to uncover all archival material available and a team of watchmakers was dedicated to bringing this watch to its former glory. The final result is nothing short of astounding.

Made during an era where multi-complicated wristwatches simply did not exist, it was a technical feat and masterpiece of human genius. Housing such a complex mechanism in a wristwatch by itself if simply an exploit. The combination of a minute repeater and calendar with retrograde date were never seen before in a wristwatch. Only three wristwatches featuring calendar indications and a minute repeating mechanism made before the end of the 1940s are known today: A Patek Philippe that is today in the Patek Philippe Museum, the James Schultz made circa 1930 that is today in an important private collection, and the present Vacheron Constantin “Don Pancho”.

The present Vacheron Constantin “Don Pancho” joins the exclusive circle of watches bearing the names of their owners, famous and historical personalities such as King Farouk (Vacheron Constantin), Marie Antoinette (Breguet), businessmen: Henry Graves Jr. and James Packard (Patek Philippe) or celebrities such as Paul Newman (Rolex) and Elvis Presley (Omega).

It is being offered with its original dial as well as duplicate documents and various sketches from the Vacheron Constantin archives retracing the evolution of the watch from original order to completion.

Courtesy: Phillips /

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