Watches of Knightsbridge 21st November Auction Highlights
With the holiday season coming ever closer and Thanksgiving only next week why not sit down, put your feet up and take a look at my personal highlights on the upcoming Watches of Knightsbridge 21st November Auction. Who knows, maybe you'll find an early Christmas present for yourself or a loved one? Something that surprised me this time round is that the majority of my highlights (bar one special Rolex right at the end) all have low end auction estimates of below $2000 as I make a note of not even looking at the auction estimates till after I've made my selections. In a market where vintage Seiko's are now reaching unheard of prices, vintage divers are consistently going for several thousands and modern pieces have prices that climb higher and higher, it is imperative that prospective buyers take the time to carefully research what they want and where they can get the best deal from. To see the entire catalogue for the November 21st auction click here and for my chat with Toby Sutton from Watches of Knightsbridge where he talks about the vintage watch market click here.
Lot 19 - Breitling Emergency Orbiter 3 Limited Edition circa 1999
The Breitling Emergency is a perfect example of how dedicated Breitling is to the field of aviation regardless of consumer need. No ordinary consumer is going to need a watch that has a radio transmitter inside of it but serious pilots and adventurers will which is why it is great to see Breitling make something of such singular purpose as the Emergency. The brainchild of adventurers Bertrand Piccard (Who would eventually partner with Omega to create the Solar Impulse solar powered plane) & Brian Jones, the Orbiter 3 succeeded in doing becoming the first balloon to circumnavigate the world non-stop in 1999 with this limited edition watch coming out in the same year.
There are some signs of wear on this watch but the original antenna caps are still in place and seeing as the 121.5mhz frequency isn't used anymore by the organization in charge of international aeronautical rescue (Cospat-Sarsat now favor 406.04mhz) I doubt they will see use in future. Whoever buys this watch will never need the potential life-saving capabilities it can offer but as a memento of a Breitling's dedication to the spirit of adventure in modern times I think it's a great watch.
Lot 58- Enicar Sherpa Guide circa 1970s
I recently wrote about the history of Enicar watches and what makes them such a great value proposition and this Sherpa Guide is a perfect example. There were other Sherpa Guides up for auction this month but this slightly later piece from the 1970s looked to me in much better condition. The bezel looks completely immaculate as does the outer red rotating city selector that is most commonly seen chipped or broken so seeing one with such a vivid red color is really satisfying. There is very little about this watch that isn't to love starting off with the fact it's a forty something year old watch that is 43mm wide. 43mm!! Imagine what people thought of it's size back then as now 43mm is considered a conservative size for a tool watch.
Not only is this watch a great size but the supercompressor case is always a favorite of mine, especially with the engraved Enicar "Seapearl" back that the Sherpa Guide has. The close up shot of the hands shows very much that this is a functional watch as there isn't any unnecessary decoration or engraving. Bare steel with block corners, love it!. This is a watch that was designed as a Go Anywhere Do Anything watch so I think some mild winter weather or desk diving will be just fine.
Lot 175 - IWC 18kt Gold Dress watch, circa 1999
On the surface there doesn't seem to be anything all that special about Lot 175, a fairly standard gold IWC dress watch however if you were to turn the watch over you'll see the reason I picked this particular piece. I'm always saying that every watch has a story and this piece has it's story engraved right onto the back. "Presented to G.J. Harman in appreciation of 25 years' service 1952-1977. Marks and Spencer Ltd". Now for my American audience that aren't familiar with the Great British institution of Marks & Sparks, think Belk mixed with Harris Teeter but with more tea and crumpets. I love this watch not only for the fact it's a beautiful timepiece but also for the story behind it.
Who was Mr. Harman? What did he do so well for 25 years to warrant getting a solid gold IWC? Do M&S still give out solid gold watches for their 25th work anniversary? Probably not. The watch itself is timeless and I especially love the gold block capital applied IWC logo. There are some minor dings on the lugs but seeing as how soft 18kt gold is I don't consider it too much of an issue. Just imagine Mr. Harman caught it on a door knob during his retirement party after one too many pints.
Lot 189 - Longines Mono-pusher Chronograph circa 1920
It seems completely crazy to think that there were once was a point in time when there weren't wristwatches as before World War One they were mostly thought of as women's accessories. Then during The Great War, Officers needed a more reliable and convenient way to keep time in the trenches as the standard pocket watch proved too cumbersome for use in modern warfare. This Longines is a perfect example of the slow transition between pocket watches and wristwatches. Note the thin wire lugs and the fixed spring bar requiring a thread-through leather strap and Bund to be used, note the completely circular case without any crown guards and of course note that it's a monopusher so the chronograph is controlled completely through pushing the crown button.
It wasn't until 1923 when Breitling perfected the single pusher chronograph and then later again in 1934 with the now ubiquitous double pusher chronograph. Rather fittingly for the use of an Officer, this Longines watch is cased in 9ct yellow gold and has a beautiful white enamel dial with roman numerals style fitting of the period. The sub dial placement is again typical of these early transitional pieces as they are very nearly edges of the dial rather than being aligned nearer the center. This watch is certainly not your usual everyday piece and I wouldn't recommend wearing a such but it is completely unique and a very special part of history both in the watch world and in the broader context of advancing technology.
Lot 298 - Rolex Submariner Ref. 5513 Issued to the British Military in 1971
Perhaps the greatest ever tool watches ever created are the Rolex Military Issued Submariner or "Milsubs". Modified specially for the Armed forces these watches saw active duty and if watches could talk then they'd probably have to kill you for all the stories they could tell. The identifying markers for a Milsub are all here: Broad Arrow engraving on the case back, a notifying T for Tritium on the dial, fixed lugs for NATO straps and a larger bezel for ease of use with gloves. There are some details on this watch that have unfortunately changed since it was issued however. The sword hands that were military issue have been replaced with the standard "Mercedes" Rolex hands at some point and the bezel which should hash marks for all sixty minutes have been replaced for a stand Sub 15 minute mark bezel.
The hands have got the same beautiful patina that the hour markers have so for me that's not the greatest concern, the bezel whilst disappointing isn't a deal breaker for me either. There was only an estimated 1200 of these made with an approximate amount of 120-200 remaining in the world so to me just having one in working condition is good enough. One recently was showcased on the British "Antiques Roadshow" (Something I find myself watching more and more) and is now heading for auction at Bonhams in December with an estimate of 50,000 to 70,000 GBP. It might not be all original but that should dissuade anyone from getting this piece of military history.