Specialists Pick: Highlights From The 2021 New York Watch Auction

We challenged our team to select their favorite watches from the upcoming 2021 New York Watch Auction (Dec 11-12). Here are their picks.

We challenged our team to select their favorite watches from the upcoming 2021 New York Watch Auction (Dec 11-12). Here are their picks.

 - by the New York Specialists team

Lot 102 - The George Daniels Edward Hornby Tourbillon Pocket Watch

The George Daniels Edward Hornby One Minute Tourbillon is what horological dreams are made of. Widely considered the greatest watchmaker of the 20th century, George Daniels is at the same time the founding father of modern independent watchmaking. Completed three years prior to his invention of the co-axial escapement, The Edward Hornby is the fourth watch he ever made, and one of his first series of eight watches sharing a similar aesthetic, but each featuring unique design details showing how his watchmaking skills gracefully evolved. 

Its size, at 62 mm diameter is as massive as it is unexpected. The expansive dial, featuring a retrograding, blued steel hour hand, three distinctive engine-turned regions, and an eccentric, satin-finished minute ring, is simply sublime. Directly influenced by Abraham Louis Breguet and his classic aesthetics, one can’t help being captivated by its beauty.

However its beauty is not skin-deep. Open the half-hunter case back, and prepare to be utterly wowed by the gilt-finished movement within. Fitted prominently at 6 o’clock, the extremely fine tourbillon carriage, mounted with a slender, mirror-polished steel bridge, uses Earnshaw’s spring detent escapement - a design choice made for maximum timekeeping accuracy. Brilliant! Purchased by Edward Hornby in 1971, he subjected it to an 8-month timing trial where its daily accuracy averaged between 0 and +3 seconds - as good as it gets for a mechanical timekeeper.

With nearly every single component completely hand made by George Daniels himself, it is the very definition of a masterpiece.

Having made only 24 pocket watches and 2 wristwatches over the course of his lifetime, an encounter with a Daniels watch is an extremely rare event. It is truly an honor to have been entrusted with The Edward Hornby’s sale - the first Daniels watch we’ve ever offered in NY. While the watch looks stunning in pictures, they simply can’t capture how magnificent it really is “in the metal”. For any watch enthusiast able to attend one of our world tour exhibition events, we would be delighted to show you this historic treasure - it’s an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed! - Paul Boutros, Head of Watches, Americas

Lot 103 - Cartier Baignoire Joaillerie “Tutti Frutti”

I naturally tend to lean towards gem-set watches, and this Cartier Tutti-Frutti is no exception! The present watch represents the perfect intersection of history and style, with rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and diamonds exuding a classic, yet Contemporary, elegance. Since the brand’s inception in 1847, Cartier has remained a trendsetting brand through its continual experimentation with design, forms, and materials.

Following the success of Tutti Frutti bracelets and jewelry pieces from the early 20th century, Cartier graced the watch world with its interpretation of this exotic and Art Deco style by introducing a colorful, gem-set timepiece design throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Although the Cartier name is synonymous with a high standard of both luxury and functionality, creativity remains at the forefront, and Lot 103 is just that – creatively functional. And what makes this watch even more exceptional? To the best of our knowledge, the exact same watch has not appeared publicly, making this piece potentially unique. Get your hands on this dazzling beauty before it’s too late! - Daniella Rosa, Business Development Manager, Watches

Lot 49 - Patek Philippe Reference 699/3J Retailed by Tiffany & Co.

Each session Phillips Watches is honoured to offer some of the most exceptional timepieces available today. Often they are rare and unusual time only and complicated wristwatches, however it is wise to remember horology’s historical past, and before the early 20th century, pocket watches were the standard of the day. Lot 49 is an amazing and most likely unique Patek Philippe two train trip minute repeating perpetual calendar digital display open face pocket watch with moon phase.

I have always been fascinated by trip repeaters, which activate the repeat feature through the crown, as they are more elegant when compared to the slide mechanism found on most repeating watches that detracts from the symmetry of a round case. The two train movement is a mechanical marvel with tandem winding through the crown to power both the going train and the repeat mechanism, a feature not found today due to the complication in producing it. Patek Philippe appears to have only made these mechanisms between 1899 and 1912. This example is the only known reference 699/3, and made all the more rare with the “Tiffany & Co” signature on the dial. Coming from an important private collection this is a wonderful opportunity to not only own a spectacular pocket watch, but also a very unique piece of history, which demonstrates the exceptional craftsmanship by Patek Philippe. - Doug Escribano, Senior International Specialist, Watches

Lot 81 - Rolex “Double Reference” MilSub

Issued watches were typically created and ordered by contract from a branch of a country’s military force. They were often uniquely designed with requested features to enable the wearer to use them in difficult conditions, either at sea or on land. When the provenance of these watches is confirmed, the history often reflects the type of stories that virtually all watch collectors covet. They have become an integral part of the watch collecting community and interest in the best pieces has grown considerably in recent years. In my view, the pinnacle in collecting military issued watches lies with Rolex, and specifically, with its unique aesthetic, the iconic Rolex Milsub. And within the small batch of surviving timepieces, the Double-Reference 5513/5517 is among the absolute rarest. It’s widely sought-after, having been issued exclusively for the British Ministry of Defense, and in numbers believed to be no more than 150-200 from 1977-79.

In truth, very few have survived in “full spec” condition: Watches with a “circle T” on the dial, fixed bars between the lugs, proper military engravings on the caseback, a 60-minute bezel insert and sword hands. Accordingly, the watch on offer in lot 81 represents a seldom seen opportunity. It’s full-spec in every way, even so far as the vintage nato strap attached to its case with a proper 5517 engraving on the underside of one lug. And finally, it’s accompanied by a coveted letter from Rolex UK, famously known as a “Henry Hudson” letter, detailing the provenance of the watch by confirming its issue to the British Royal Navy in September 1977 and specifically destined for Devonport in England. Paired with a British Royal Navy issued engraved folding knife from the period, this is a true prize for the military watch collector. - Geoff Hess, International Specialist & Head of Perpetual, Americas

Lot 90 - Lange 1 Tourbillon in Honey Gold

With the end of the second World War, the Lange company fell into the hands of the Soviet Union in 1948. Decades later, Walter Lange, the great-grandson of F. Adolf Lange, re-established the brand as the forefront of German watchmaking after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Only four years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, in 1994, the company released their first iconic “trademark” watch the Lange 1, a true testament to the modern age of watchmaking. 

With all the history in mind, the Lange 1 Tourbillion, reference 722.050 simply blew me away when it first came across my desk. Perhaps I am particularly biased when it comes to the ingenuity of tourbillon watches - what can I say? Knowing that they are incredibly difficult to develop, I think this watch truly shows off the skills and talent that Lange has to offer.

Just the sheer science, engineering, and artisanship that took place in the late 1700s by Abraham- Louis Breguet simply bewilders me. Having patented a mechanism which houses a balance wheel, designed to complete one full revolution in 60 seconds in order to counteract the effects of gravity is absolutely astounding. It is the thought behind the development of the mechanism that matters; whether it has a real impact in practice is another story.

If we delve into the watch a bit further, the open caseback displays the beauty of the Maillechort movement no. 82’079 that Lange uses. The movement consists of twin barrels and six gold jewel- bushings which are held by screws and two diamond end-stones. On the left-hand side of the movement (left to the engraving A. Lange & Söhne), we see two beautifully hand-engraved bars for the tourbillion carriage and the intermediate wheel. From the back of the watch, one can also admire not only the hand-engraved bars, but also the beauty of the côtes de Genève, which simply breathes life into the non-functional parts of the watch. The beauty and deceptive simplicity of the watch is what makes this such an exquisite piece in our sale this year. - Ryan Lee, Sale Coordinator, Watches

Lot 26 - Patek Philippe Reference 2526 in Platinum

Literally and metaphorically heavy, it’s no wonder we nicknamed this platinum 2526 with platinum bracelet “The Heavy Hitter”. Fitted with an enamel dial and a woven platinum bracelet, it has a magical quality that few wearable objects possess.

This watch provides a window back in time to the horological appetite of the 1950s, not just because of its excellent state of preservation, but because the original owner ordered this specific configuration, given the option.

When the 2526 was released in 1953, Patek Philippe retailers of the day were given pamphlets with directions on how to sell them given the updated automatic movement and the new double-baked enamel dial. The dial was billed as “easily washable with soap and water”, which makes you realize how rare it is that any of these dials survived – even the thought of doing so would give most collecting enthusiasts frissons of anxiety. The platinum 2526 was specifically offered with either an enamel dial or a silvered metal dial with diamond indexes, and tonly on special order. Additionally, the platinum version cost five times the retail price of the gold version – an incredible price hike (to give perspective, adjusted to 2021 prices with inflation, the gold version was $4,900 and the platinum version with enamel dial was about $25,000).

Many of these 2526s were offered with elaborate Gay Frères bracelets, which I consider masterpieces in and of themselves. The workmanship is second to none. The style was meant for the reference 2591, and you can see it on many examples as an integrated bracelet in yellow gold. This is evidence, to me at least, that a straight endlink version in platinum must have been a very special request from the original purchaser of this timepiece.

The historical importance of the 2526, the superior nature of this example, and provenance from one of the most discerning American collectors makes this an exceptional timepiece, and with only 12 examples in platinum with enamel dial known to have been produced, the word “rare” cannot be seen as an overstatement in this instance. - Isabella Proia, Specialist, Watches