Over the years, we have seen some pretty crazy stuff in the watch industry. We’ve seen ups and downs, crazy sales and crazy prices, flips and flops, and that’s exactly what this story is all about. Here is a look back at some of the wildest watches to hit the market in the past decade or so that you may have forgotten about (or never heard of in the first place).
The Patek Philippe Titanium Collection
In my former life, I was an associate specialist at Sotheby’s, and in that former life I had the opportunity to see some INSANE pieces, including the Henry Graves Jr. Supercomplication (which was epic). But the one collection that stands out to me as the coolest was the Titanium Collection back 2014. This group of watches belonged a single-owner who commissioned eight unique pieces with five in titanium. The king of the collection was the reference 5001T Sky-Moon Tourbillon but the one that stuck out to me the most was the reference 3928T-001, a simple time-only reference with Breguet numerals. Flip it over and the manual-winding caliber 177 is on full display…through a perfect 9.44 ct., D color, flawless square emerald-cut diamond (sign me up!). You can read more about this unique watch and the rest of the collection (including the earliest single-button split-seconds chronograph) here.
The J.B. Champion That Sold For $4 Million
If you don’t know about the J.B. Champion watch, you should. This watch sold at Christie’s for over $4 million back in 2012 in the same auction as Eric Clapton’s 2499P (which only sold for $3.65 million). J.B. Champion was a VVIP client of Patek Philippe after the war and was an incredibly successful criminal defense lawyer (who lived his best life). The J.B. Champion watch was a modified reference 2548 that housed a special movement produced by Patek Philippe designed for competition in the Geneva Observatory "Concours de Chronomoetrie." There were 30 movements produced to particular specifications so that they could compete in Category D-Wristwatches and the diameter couldn’t be more than 30mm and have a total surface area of 706.86mm. Only two movements were cased and Champion’s watch was one of them (in platinum of course). The best part about this watch is his name is written on the dial. Can you imagine? You can read more about the watch here.
The Only Patek Philippe 3448 In Red Gold
It’s no secret that I love the 3448 (it’s the best!). Way back when, in 2011, Christie’s offered a possibly unique reference 3448 in red gold. As you may know, the 3448 was the first automatic perpetual calendar wristwatch produced by Patek Philippe. When first introduced, people were unsure of it’s retro case shape with angular lugs, but it has now become a highly-sought after reference at auction. Most often produced in yellow gold and the more rare white gold with a few in platinum but none in pink or red gold. Well Christie’s found one in red gold in the back of a client’s safe, no less. There hasn’t been something this disruptive for the 3448 since the Senza Luna. The watch was estimated for CHF 500,000-1,000,000 and fetched over CHF 2,000,000, and you can read more about it here.
When The Cost Of Vintage Daytonas Changed Forever
We all know that Daytonas are expensive, and while today the average cost of a vintage Paul Newman Daytona is anywhere from $120,000 to $250,000, that wasn’t always the case. The Christie’s Rolex Daytona: "Lesson One" sale created by Aurel Bacs was nothing short of groundbreaking. It was a highly curated sale of only the best Daytona references in the best condiition (similar to the way Bacs’s sales at Phillips are handled these days). The auction was a smashing succes,sand Ben calculated that the average watch cost well over $200,000, which was insane at the time and puts the sale of the Paul Newman Daytona in proper context. You can read more about the sale here.
Three Strange Rolexes
While these are recent occurrences, it’s crazy that three super-weird vintage Rolex watches all hit the market in 2017. First, there was this white gold Submariner Prototype sold at Christie’s that I can’t get out of my head. Then there was the two-tone Daytona at Phillips and the Explorer/Day-Date hybrid at Christies. All three claimed to be possibly unique, and boy are they ever. The white gold Submariner went on to be the most expensive Rolex Sub ever sold at auction for $628,572. The Day-Date sold for CHF275,000 and the two-tone Daytona sold for CHF 218,750.
Honorable Mention: The Cartier Tortoise Clock
While there’s a very good chance you’ve never heard of this Cartier Tortoise Clock, it’s an all time great one. This clock came up for sale at Sotheby’s through the family of the original owner who had no idea what it was. It was consigned from a random phone call on a regular day and turned out to be one of the most exciting pieces for sale (along with the aforementioned Titanium Collection). If you know anything about Cartier, you know they used to do some incredible things back in the early 20th century and made some of the most beautiful desk timepieces and clocks around. This tortoise one ended up fetching over $900,000 (nearly double its estimate) and you can read more about it here.