Christie’s announces the upcoming episodes of The Champion Collection, a themed auction of one of the most valuable and important single-owner collections

Following the “Champion Collection Part I” held last November, Christie’s Hong Kong is presenting The Champion Collection journey throughout this year, spanning 2 live and 3 online sales from April through to December.

The Champion Collection

In total, around 450 modern and contemporary significant and iconic timepieces by major watch brands including Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Rolex, Panerai, IWC and Vacheron Constantin constitute this marvellous collection that was formed over 20 years by a prominent private collector whose discernment, taste and deep appreciation of the highest level of horology can now be shared with collectors worldwide.

This year, the kick off will be on 6 April with The Champion Collection Part II: ‘Sport Elegance’, a single-owner online sale with 120+ lots representing 15 iconic brands, led by new, contemporary watches, many of which are hard to find in the retail market.

Among these highly sought-after pieces: a Rolex Daytona Ref. 116506 in platinum with an ice-blue dial, a Rolex GMT Master II Ref. 126755SARU with diamond-set bezel and lugs, and the coveted Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Self-winding Ref. 15400OR.

Rolex Daytona Ref. 116506 in platinum with ice-blue dial

The story of the Rolex Daytona is closely linked to that of motor sports, yet the origins of the name date back to long before the watch became the iconic three-counter chronograph we think of today.

One of the most popular and successful race car drivers of his day, Sir Malcolm Campbell was known as the “King of Speed”, and was also a Rolex Ambassador. He set no fewer than five World Land Speed Records at Daytona Beach, the fastest in 1935 behind the wheel of Bluebird with a Rolex Oyster on his wrist. It would be close to another thirty years before the legendary speedway in Florida would be reconnected to Rolex – on the now equally legendary Daytona.

Rolex Daytona Ref. 116506 in platinum with ice-blue dial

In 1963 came the Rolex Chronograph reference 6239 with a tachometer scale engraved on the bezel to enhance the readability of the dial. It was in 1965 that ‘Daytona’ first appeared on the dial – of the reference 6239. Even more interestingly, the Daytona wasn’t a runaway success back then, even with celebrities like Paul Newman, already a recognised – and very competitive – race car driver, endorsing it.

Anonymity didn’t last long and an update was released in 1988 with a modified automatic Zenith “El Primero” movement – as the reference 16520 in steel, 16523 in steel and gold, and 16528 in yellow gold.

The main difference was the case size of 40mm, 3mm larger than its predecessor, and a sapphire crystal replaced the Plexiglas one. Limited supply increased desirability, further cementing the model’s cult status.

By 2000, as Rolex started to use an in-house movement on the new 116500 series, it remained the most sought-after model.

In 2013, the Daytona Cosmograph Platinum (reference 116506) was created by Rolex to commemorate the 50th anniversary of its most celebrated watch. Finally, in 2016, the steel Daytona was refreshed with a new black ceramic bezel on the 116500LN series. With each release, the Daytona reinforces its status of cult sport watch, certainly the most desired sports watch in the world.

Estimate: HK$700,000-1,400,000

Rolex GMT Master II Ref. 126755SARU

The history of the Rolex GMT-Master began with collaboration with the Pan American Airways: the first model was released in 1954-1955 and issued to the cockpit crew on long-haul flights.

The major feature was the dedicated hour hand for indicating Greenwich Mean Time (hence “GMT”) along with local time, with the rotatable red & blue (hence “Pepsi”) bezel for night and day over a 24-hour period. The model quickly gained in popularity as a pilot’s watch, and the rest is history.

Various upgrades and metal variations were released over the years, such as bi-colour steel and yellow gold, full gold, with the steel versions remaining the most famous. The nickname depends on the bezel: “Coke” for the red & black version, a model that has since been discontinued; “Pepsi” for the red & blue bezel; and “Batman” for the blue & black one.

Rolex GMT Master II Ref 126755SARU with diamond-set bezel and lugs

The present reference is the GMT Master II – 126755SARU in rose gold. Its Oyster monobloc case is set with brilliant-cut diamonds, the eye-catching bezel with baguette sapphires and baguette rubies to denote day and night, and baguette diamonds representing the hour markers.

This surrounds a dial with the date window at 3 o’clock and indexes in gold with luminescent coating as well as the central hands of hours – minutes – seconds – GMT. The self-winding movement has a power-reserve of 48-hours and is known to be one of the most efficient. It is perfectly protected by the gold monobloc case. A full Oyster bracelet in rose gold with Oysterlock clasp keeps this extremely limited timepiece snug around the wrist.

Estimate: HK$600,000-1,200,000

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Self-winding Ref. 15400OR

Designed by Gerald Genta and introduced in 1972, Audemars Piguet introduced a solid stainless-steel sport luxury watch, inspired by a deep-sea-diving helmet, with an octagonal bezel, visible mounting screws, a large 39mm case with an integrated bracelet.

Within 2-3 years, Audemars Piguet, barely able to keep up with demand, had established a new segment of the sports luxury watch.

Reference 5402, known as the “Royal Oak A series”, was the first with a thin automatic calibre 2121 movement. The level of finishing was remarkable.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Self-winding Ref. 15400OR

The present 18k pink gold example displays a beautiful white dial with a Grande Tapisserie pattern. Around it, the pink gold indexes as well as the hours & minutes hands with luminescent coating. The date window is located at 3 o’clock. The AP logo is displayed at 12 o’clock also in gold.

The automatic movement is visible through the sapphire case back. The bracelet of this very exclusive timepiece is solid rose gold.

Estimate: HK$400,000-800,000

The Spring-Summer season continues with a Single-Owner Sale The Champion Collection Part III: ‘The Artistry of Complications’, taking place on 24 May and consisting of 71 lots with a low estimate of 80M HKD, and a Various Owner Sale “Important Watches”, a second live sale taking place on 24 May, consisting of 120+ lots with a low estimate of HK$ 80 million.

Christie’s Watches Hong Kong has exciting events in store throughout the second half of 2022 too: from The Champion Collection Part IV: ‘The Panerai Encyclopedia: Chapter I’ with 85 Panerai timepieces coming to auction online, followed by a Single-Owner live sale presenting ‘The Finest Watchmaking’, led by 83 timepieces including stunning Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin enamel watches.

Concluding the year will be an online sale presenting the series finale, The Champion Collection Part V: ‘The Panerai Encyclopedia: Final Chapter’ with 83 highly sought-after Panerai timepieces.

Auctions schedule

6 – 20 April 2022: The Champion Collection Part II: “Sport Elegance” Online sale, 120+ lots | Total low estimate: HK$ 12 million

24 May 2022: The Champion Collection Part III: “The Artistry Of Complications” Live sale & Important Watches Live sale, Live Sale SO | 71 lots | Total low estimate: HK$ 80 million & Live Sale VO | 120+ lots | Total low estimate: HK$ 80 million

July 2022: The Champion Collection Part IV: ‘The Panerai Encyclopedia: Chapter I’ Online Sale

December 2022: The Champion Collection Part V: ‘The Panerai Encyclopedia: Final Chapter’ Online Sale