It’s that time of the year again. Tomorrow night, Christie’s will host its first New York auction of 2019 after successful sales in Dubai, Geneva, and Hong Kong. We recently had the chance to preview all 100 watches up for bidding at Christie’s New York showroom in Rockefeller Plaza and here are a few of the top lots that we’ll be watching throughout the night.
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Starting us off is Lot #11, a timepiece that has been receiving a lot of attention recently due to the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Yes, this Omega Speedmaster is the original inspiration behind this year’s limited-edition release that sold out immediately. Just like the 2019 commemorative edition in Omega’s proprietary Moonshine gold alloy, the famous Ref. 145.022 was limited to 1,014 numbered pieces with only numbers 33 through 1,014 of the original reference being offered for sale to the public. The first 33 editions were presented at an “Astronauts Appreciation Dinner” in Houston on November 25, 1969, which celebrated the success of Apollo 11 the previous summer. (Model number “1” was famously intended for the U.S. President at the time, Richard Nixon, but had to be returned due to government protocol involving gifts; learn more here.) As the very first commemorative limited-edition timepiece issued by Omega, the case is made of 18k yellow gold, features a rare burgundy-colored bezel made of anodized aluminum, and, on the first 32 of the 1,014 numbered pieces that were issued to astronauts, watch industry leaders and politicians, the inscription, “To mark man’s conquest of space with time, through time, on time.” The rest of the watches, including Lot #11 in this Christie’s sale, include a commemorative seal noting “The first watch worn on the moon.” According to Christie’s, “There were three different types of engraving: thin and unpainted for approximately the first 100 examples, then thick and unpainted and finally thick and painted with a burgundy color, which complements its burgundy colored bezel.” The watch up for sale tomorrow night is from the latter version, with thick painted lettering, and is #486 out of 1,014. It is in pristine condition and is expected to sell for between $25,000 and $30,000. I’ll be watching closely to see if it tops that, in my opinion, rather conservative estimate given the renewed interest in the moon landing this year and the fact that a number of the younger collectors who purchased one of the 2019 re-editions might be looking to add its progenitor to their collection.
Next is Lot 18, an incredibly special watch that should appeal to Rolex and Tudor fanatics with an interest in the brand’s shared history. Released in the mid-1950s, Ref. 7923 is the only Submariner that Rolex/Tudor ever produced with a manual-wind movement. This version features an engraving of “ROW” on the movement that indicates it was intended for the U.S. market. The watch comes without its bezel, which was lost decades ago. Other details of note include the red depth rating of “100/330” and the lollipop seconds hand. This is without a doubt one of the most compelling timepieces in the entire auction and I’ll be eagerly watching to see what it hammers for. Estimate: $100,000 – $150,000.
As a born-and-raised Texan, it’s a fairly rare occasion when my home state lands in the horological news cycle. This time it’s because an ultra-rare Paul Newman Daytona has been unearthed that bears the signature of Linz Brothers Jewelers, a Dallas-based boutique founded in the late 1800s. While retailer signatures aren’t necessarily uncommon in the watch auction world (timepieces signed by Tiffany & Co., Gubelin, or Serpico Y Laino are some of the most prized), a Linz Brothers signature, appearing underneath 12 o’clock in a bold script, is. Despite the jeweler being one of the largest retailers for Rolex in the 1960s U.S., an extremely small number of watches with the Linz signature have ever come to market. Even fewer have been found on the dials of the legendary Rolex Paul Newman Daytona. Estimate: $300,000 – $500,000
Next up is a stainless steel chronograph from Bulova that was once owned by The Yankee Clipper himself, Joe DiMaggio. DiMaggio owned a number of fine timepieces throughout his life, including a Patek Philippe Ref. 130 that hammered for over $280,000 at Christie’s in late 2018. This Bulova chronograph dates back to 1944 when DiMaggio served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II. It was made especially for the American market, as indicated by the movement import code stamp, BXW, and was originally presented to DiMaggio in 1944. The case back is engraved: 7th Air Force, J. P. DiMaggio, Baseball, 1944. It comes with a Letter of Provenance signed by DiMaggio’s granddaughter as well as one signed by the nephew of Joe DiMaggio’s chauffeur, who wore the watch for a number of years. Finally, it’s accompanied by a typewritten four-page set of orders issued to Joe DiMaggio regarding Air Force assignments in the U.S. and a picture of DiMaggio in his Air Force uniform taken from the family’s personal collection. Estimate: $25,000 – $50,000
Perhaps the most intriguing watch in the auction for vintage Patek Philippe collectors is Lot 94, a Ref. 3448G that is believed to be one of only six models in white gold to come to market with a matching white gold bracelet. The watch comes from the family of the original owner and is in superlative condition with an untouched and unspoiled enamel dial. Reference 3448 is well known for being the world’s first automatic perpetual calendar wristwatch when it was introduced in 1962. According to Christie’s, “a total of 586 examples were made, the majority in yellow gold cases. Only around 130 were cased in white gold, two in platinum and one in pink gold are known to exist to date.” This specific model was manufactured in 1969 and the presence of the Gay Frères detachable bracelet in white gold makes it an incredibly compelling timepiece for students of Patek Philippe history. Estimate: $300,000 – $500,000
The Christie’s “An Evening of Exceptional Watches” sale takes place on June 6, 2019, at 6:00 p.m. EDT. You can explore the rest of the 100 lots here.