Highlights From Guido Mondani's Watch Collection

Highlights From Guido Mondani's Watch Collection

Our first live auction of 2024, the PHILLIPS Geneva Watch Auction: XIX, takes place on May 11 and 12, at the Hotel President, at Quai Wilson 47 in central Geneva. The auction includes more than 215 of the world's finest watches – and though we are loath to boast, we truly think it's one of the best catalogs we've ever put together. We'll be highlighting a number of the most interesting lots and stories featured in the sale over the next month, including the Guido Mondani Collection pieces highlighted in this article.

– By Logan Baker

Guido Mondani is a watch collector with few peers.

His comprehensive books and guides have captivated the attention and nurtured the enthusiasm of generations of watch lovers. Mondani is an elder stateman of the international collecting circuit, especially within his home country of Italy, where he’s well-known for providing advice and sharing his knowledge with anyone who asks.

Mondani will open the doors of his private collection once more during the Phillips Geneva Watch Auction: XIX Featuring The Guido Mondani Collection, taking place May 11-12, 2024.

Lot 117: A Circa 1954 Rolex Oyster Chronographe 'Jean-Claude Killy' In 18k Pink Gold. Estimate: CHF 400,000 - 800,000

The collection consists of 44 wristwatches acquired by the Italian luminary throughout his life, including the very first watch he ever bought for himself, a Cartier, as well as a broad range of timepieces from Eberhard, Longines, Patek Philippe, and Rolex. Some of these watches are pieces that he or his family couldn’t bear to part with during the 2006 auction, while others joined his collection in more recent years as the result of his insatiable horological interest.

A pioneering collector and prominent industry voice for close to four decades, Mondani established a publishing house dedicated to sharing his horological scholarship in 1992, becoming an essential tastemaker in the field of vintage Rolex wristwatches in the process.

A portion of Mondani’s vintage Rolex collection was auctioned off in 2006, with memorable results including the two most expensive Rolex wristwatches ever sold at the time. He returns to the Geneva auction stage this May at Phillips, as part of a sale that marks the culmination of a collecting career almost four decades strong.


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Lot 13: A Circa 1985 Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Ref. 6269 In 18k Yellow Gold

Estimate: CHF 600,000 - 1,200,000

Showcasing a bezel set with 44 brilliant diamonds and pavé dial with 240 diamonds, reference 6269 is among the most
regal, glamorous and luxurious Cosmograph models ever made. Research shows that Rolex made no more than thirty pieces in total. It is considered a trophy watch for many collectors. The top of the lugs are sharp, demonstrating how little if any intervention the watch has seen throughout its lifetime.

While today gem-set sports pieces are highly collectible and widely seen, these watches were only brought into the mainstream during the 2000s. In fact, these combinations of watchmaking and gem-setting have been recently rediscovered and are enjoying the popularity they truly deserve. However, only a few decades ago the market for bejewelled timepieces was a very different beast. Prior to that, gem-set sports watches were considered either a special order series, or one-off pieces. During the 1980s, Rolex adorned tool watches with precious gems for its most exclusive and demanding clientele, ranging from Sultans in the Middle East to industry titans. Rolex in particular excels in sourcing and setting gemstones. Alongside reference 6269 and its baguette diamond sibling reference 6270, the brand also developed a ruby, diamond and sapphire-set GMT-Master, known today as the “SARU.”

Lot 13: A Circa 1985 Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Ref. 6269 In 18k Yellow Gold. Estimate: CHF 600,000 - 1,200,000

While the concept of merging gemstones with sports watches may seem obvious today, it was at the time a completely daring and maverick idea. Rolex forever changed the way we perceive and understand a tool watch, paving the way for endless possibilities and developments, such as the “Leopard” or the mythical emerald- set automatic Daytona. At the time, references 6269 or 6270 were mainly made for and worn by men. One can only imagine the debonair and well-heeled gentleman for whom Rolex specially produced this watch.

In fact, such a brave decision would probably not have been made by the company, if they had not been spurred by one of their most important - if not their most important ever - clients: His Highness Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said of Oman (1940-2020). It is under his specific request that the first two bejewelled Rolex sport references came to light. One, reference 6269, is distinguished by its brilliant-cut diamond bezel, diamond pavé dial and golden subsidiary counters. The other is the reference 6270 with a baguette-set bezel.

Lot 13: A Circa 1985 Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Ref. 6269 In 18k Yellow Gold. Estimate: CHF 600,000 - 1,200,000

The present reference 6269 is an extremely impressive example, with crisp and sharp finishes on the top of the lugs.
The hallmarks beneath the lugs are visible and deep, as are the numbers between the lugs. The dial itself is dazzling and bright; it is set with brilliant diamonds, as well as sapphires in lieu of hour markers. Such gems hardly appear on the market, no less in such well-preserved condition.

Lot 10: A 1944 Patek Philippe Ref. 1485 With 'Freccero' Signature In Stainless Steel

Estimate: CHF 10,000 - 20,000

Launched in 1940, reference 1485 was to our knowledge, only created in stainless steel. The case was designed in the attempt to render it water-resistant by using the sliding sides. In short this was a very innovative design with an inner case compartment with gaskets being pressed together with the metal sliders on the sides of the outer case. The patent for this new case was registered on 25th August 1938 as Swiss patent CH 207378, and published 31st October 1939. To date, only approximately 21 examples of the reference have ever appeared on the auction market, and to the best of our knowledge, the present watch is the only known example with this signature on the dial.

Lot 10: A 1944 Patek Philippe Ref. 1485 With 'Freccero' Signature In Stainless Steel. Estimate: CHF 10,000 - 20,000

Fresh to the auction market, the present watch is a very attractive example, retailed by Freccero as seen by the retailer’s signature on the dial. A legendary retailer, Freccero, is based in Uruguay and is still in business today. While it no longer retails Patek Philippe, the store sold some of the most unique retailed-signed watches of the past century.

The dial features the correct long signature, and the enamel is raised and incredibly strong. The comma between “Patek, Philippe” is present, as is the accent in the “Genève” signature.

Lot 22: A Circa 1987 Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Ref. 6265 In 18k Yellow Gold

Estimate: CHF 120,000 - 240,000

Reference 6265 was introduced to the market in 1969, and ceased production in 1987. While the reference was mainly cased in stainless steel, limited amounts were also cased in 18K or 14K yellow gold. As the Daytona was first and foremost a tool watch for professional drivers, the public mostly looked for the light and resistant steel version; the heavy, outlandish and more delicate gold variation made little sense at the time. Thus, notwithstanding its near 2 decades of production run, it is estimated that no more than 2,000 examples were cased in gold.

Lot 22: A Circa 1987 Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Ref. 6265 In 18k Yellow Gold. Estimate: CHF 120,000 - 240,000

One of the peculiarities of the new calibre 727 (found on ref. 6262, 6263, 6264 and 6265) is that it had chronometer capabilities. While, however, steel Daytonas were not certified by COSC, the gold versions, doubtlessly due to their higher prestige, were indeed sent to COSC for certification. Thus, with some very early exceptions, they bear already the script now ubiquitous on all Daytonas: Rolex / Oyster / Superlative Chronometer / Officially Certified. The present watch is a superlative example, fitted with a beautiful champagne dial. It is preserved in most probably unpolished condition with sharp finishes to the top of the lugs, and very crisp serial numbers between the lugs. Even the original Rolex sticker is present on the caseback. It is furthermore fitted with its Rolex guarantee dated October 21, 1989, additional service dial, product literature, calendar, wallet, presentation box and outer packaging.

Lot 117: A Circa 1954 Rolex Oyster Chronographe 'Jean-Claude Killy' In 18k Pink Gold

Estimate: CHF 400,000 - 800,000

Reference 6036 replaced its predecessor, reference 5036, in 1951. Named after champion sportsman and Rolex ambassador Jean-Claude Killy, the ‘Killy’ is the only Rolex oyster model to feature a full calendar and chronograph complication. It is the third representative of arguably the most complicated vintage Rolex line of timepieces, which is now known as “Datocompax” or, more famously, “Jean-Claude Killy”. The model is preceded by two other Killy iterations - ref. 5036 (launched in 1948) and ref. 4767 (launched in 1947) - and succeeded by ref. 6236, all four of them sporting very similar aesthetics and differing mainly for technical updates. It is worth noting the existence also of ref. 4768 - produced alongside ref. 4767 - sharing the same complications as the four Killy models but lacking an Oyster case, and thus its classification as a Killy is somewhat debated.

Lot 117: A Circa 1954 Rolex Oyster Chronographe 'Jean-Claude Killy' In 18k Pink Gold. Estimate: CHF 400,000 - 800,000

The reference was typically cased in stainless steel. Yet, for their most discerning clients, Rolex also offered the model in yellow gold, steel and gold combinations, and most exclusively, in pink gold.

The present example is a superlative example, with a beautiful case and crisp hallmarks. The numbers are crisp between the lugs and the dial has changed to a beautiful ivory hue. The luminous dots are also round, intact, and have aged with warm patina.

An incredibly important watch, the present watch is furthermore forever preserved in literature, being published in Master Rolex by Guido Mondani Editore, pages 66 and 67.

Lot 124: A Circa 1938 Eberhard & Co. Split-Seconds Chronograph In 18k Yellow Gold

Estimate: CHF 20,000 - 40,000

Preserved in absolutely astounding and most probably unpolished condition, the present timepiece is a true time capsule. Displaying powerful and defined lugs, it is unspoiled and barely worn despite being over 70 years of age. It most notably features a split seconds mechanism - among the most prestigious and complicated of all chronograph movements.

Lot 124: A Circa 1938 Eberhard & Co. Split-Seconds Chronograph In 18k Yellow Gold. Estimate: CHF 20,000 - 40,000

The start, stop and reset functions are all controlled by a single push piece that is integrated into the winding crown. The top pusher is responsible for the split-seconds function, meant to measure intermediate times without interrupting the timekeeping of an event. Appearing to look like a third chronograph pusher, the lower pusher at 4 o’clock instead works as a “stop and lock” mechanism controlled by simply sliding the bottom button up towards the crown. When the slide is moved upwards, the precise time is protected, and can be recorded by the user. The lock prevents the accidental actuation of the chronograph’s pushers that would result in losing the measurement.

The dial of the present timepiece is particularly noteworthy. Hardly displaying any signs of aging, it is free of visible tarnishing or spotting. The graphics are crisp, clear and free of losses. Considering the age of the timepiece, the dial is truly remarkable.

Lot 127: A Circa 1966 Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 'Paul Newman' Ref. 6239 In Stainless Steel

Estimate: CHF 180,000 - 280,000

Superbly iconic and highly sought-after, Rolex Cosmograph Daytona “Paul Newman” dials are one of the most well-designed chronograph dials of the past century. They are also one of the scarcest horological resources on the planet.

Lot 127: A Circa 1966 Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 'Paul Newman' Ref. 6239 In Stainless Steel. Estimate: CHF 180,000 - 280,000

A quintessential “Paul Newman” Daytona, this example perfectly embodies the Hollywood legend. It was during the filming of “Winning” that Paul Newman fell in love with racing. His wife, Joanne Woodward, consequently gifted this exact Daytona variant to her husband, inscribed with phrase “DRIVE CAREFULLY ME”. It is thanks to this particular design that exotic-dialed Cosmographs are now synonymous with the philanthropic icon. The dial is remarkable and impressive. While almost sixty years in age, it is preserved in immaculate condition, showing how exotic dials originally left the Rolex factory. The ivory portion of the dial does not display any tarnishing or spotting, and the concentric circles within the contrasting subsidiary registers are defined and delicate.

Of particular note is the superb case. Showcasing full lugs, the satin finishes are crisp. The lug-holes remain a considerable distance from the edge of the case, evidence of its original condition. Sparking memories of Paul Newman’s “Paul Newman”, this model is one of the most iconic Daytonas ever produced, representing the high-octane world of auto racing, speed and glamour.

You can learn more, place a bid, and view the entire Geneva Watch Auction: XIX catalog right here.

About Phillips In Association With Bacs & Russo

The team of specialists at PHILLIPS Watches is dedicated to an uncompromised approach to quality, transparency, and client service. Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo holds the world record for the most successful watch auction, with its Geneva Watch Auction: XIV having realized $74.5 million in 2021. Over the course of 2021 and 2022, the company sold 100% of the watches offered, a first in the industry, resulting in the highest annual total in history across all the auction houses at $227 million.

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About Logan Baker

Logan has spent the past decade reporting on every aspect of the watch business. He joined Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo at the start of 2023 as the department's Senior Editorial Manager. He splits his time between New York and Geneva.

Recommended Reading

The Spectacular World Of Gem-Set Rolex Daytonas

Photo Report: An Evening in Milan with Guido Mondani and Friends

Specialists' Picks: The Phillips Geneva Watch Auction: XIX