3 Cool Finds – 2 Complicated Rectangular Watches from Ulysse Nardin & Corum, and a Rare Early Panerai from the Vendome-Era
Two weeks ago, we started a new series of article, a series focusing on relatively recent watches for sale that we believe to be highly interesting, the 5 Cool Finds articles. This week, we continue with the third instalment of our market finds, in collaboration with auctioneer Catawiki. Once again, the story is simple. Three watches that we believe to have something special, something unique and again, watches that can be a great deal for collectors. Here is our expert Ilias’ selection of 3 pieces, including an archetypal modern (but early) Panerai and 2 complicated rectangular watches from Ulysse Nardin and Corum.
Corum Goldenbridge Platinum
Montres Corum SARL, commonly referred to as Corum, is a Swiss watchmaker based in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Canton of Neuchâtel. Founded in 1955, it is best known for creating high-quality, exclusive watches, many of which are limited editions. The benchmark model series for Corum is its Admiral’s Cup, a sports watch inspired by regatta. However, we are not going to present you a watch from this series but a different one, way cooler. This is the Golden Bridge model, a true iconic masterpiece.
This watch comes in platinum, has box and papers and was manufactured in 2005. What makes it extremely cool (and therefore applicable for our presentation) is the way it looks and also the technical solutions that were incorporated into it. First and foremost, this Corum is classified as a skeleton watch. A skeleton watch is a mechanical watch in which all of the moving parts are in sight through either the front, the back of the watch or a small cut outlining the dial. True ‘skeletonization’ also includes the trimming away of any non-essential metal on the bridge, plate, wheel train or any other mechanical part, leaving only a minimalist ‘bare’ skeleton of the movement required for functionality. These kind of watches represent horological art at its finest, however the Golden Bridge is not just an “ordinary” skeleton watch. It’s much more than that!
Created in 1977 by master Italian watchmaker Vincent Calabrese, the Golden Bridge movement is considered an historic addition to the world of watchmaking. Calabrese was motivated by the desire to show the beauty of the movement, and to create a movement shaped like never before. His creation won an illustrious award in 1977 at the Geneva International Inventor’s show and from that point onward, it has acquired a near mythical status. Corum owner and founder, Rene Bannwart, noticed the prototype watch that Calabrese presented in 1977. Bannwart immediately struck up a relationship with Calabrese and purchased the patent.
Calabrese’s creation is a masterpiece since we are talking about a linear built movement attached to the case at only two positions, at 12 o’clock and at 6 o ‘clock – so it is almost like floating in the air. Technically we are talking about a baguette in-line movement. This means that every component is lined up in the same row – therefore the designer must counteract to all kinds of technical challenges we are not going to write here in order to avoid becoming extremely geeky. For instance, a common issue was that by putting all the pieces in a row, you would end up having a movement too long, which wouldn’t be wearable on the wrist, so Calabrese had to find a way to miniaturise the components. Therefore, movement components must use a space only up to 33 millimetres long. Each component is critical for the mechanical run of the timepiece, which makes the assembly process a long and highly detailed one.
All in all, we are talking about a true masterpiece, and in my opinion although over the years we have seen many iterations of this concept from Corum, the one we present here is the one to have. Estimation for this rare example in platinum is €23.000 – €30.000, a rather hefty price at first, but also the possibility to have a real watchmaker’s piece on the wrist, by looking at the auction here.
Panerai 6502 A-serial (1999)
Panerais’ are extremely cool watches and have an almost cult among watch aficionados. All creations by Officine Panerai are based upon instruments and watches created for military purpose. As such, their DNA epitomizes watches that are functional, highly legible, and rugged. Tools for a specific job. Our specimen comes from 1999 and it is extremely rare since it is an A-Serial 6502 Luminor Marina. Why we suggest this watch? Please read below.
Founder Giovanni Panerai opened his watchmaker’s shop in Florence in 1860 soon becoming the authorized dealer of some of the most important Swiss brands. At the beginning of the 20th century, Panerai became an official provider to the Royal Italian Navy supplying precision instruments. The invention of Radiomir, a radium-based powder giving luminosity created a stir and in 1935 the Royal Italian Navy approached Panerai and other watch manufacturers with the request of designing a watch resistant to extreme conditions offering excellent readability even under water for the frogman commandos of the navy. The prototype that won the competition submitted by Panerai in 1936 and was called Radiomir. The legend was born!
The evolution from Radiomir to Luminor was completed in the Fifties with the invention of the characteristic crown-protecting device and a new and safer self-luminous substance called Luminor. From the 1950’s up until 1992 the company produced watches exclusively for Italian military forces – and in very small quantities. Most experts agree that Panerai created around 300 watches until 1992. The rarity of these watches well explains the high estimates achieved at international watch auctions.
In 1993, Officine Panerai decided to present to the public a collection of three series of limited edition watches, the Luminor, the Luminor Marina and the Mare Nostrum, which were designed drawing direct inspiration from the historical models. The new Luminor and Luminor Marina references lay the foundations literally for the watch we are presenting since we are talking about a polished 316L stainless steel case measuring 44 mm in diameter. It featured integrated lugs and the signature crown-protection device guaranteeing water resistance to 300 meters. The black dial, had four Arabic numerals at 3, 6, 9,12 and barred hour markers filled with a tritium. The movement of choice was the hand-wound Unitas 6497.
In 1995, Sylvester Stallone noticed a Panerai watch while in Italy and liked it so much that he requested to Officine Panerai a special edition to be used during the shooting of the movie Daylight. This created a huge buzz and attracted the attention of the Vendôme Luxury Group (today Richemont Group) which in 1997 completed the acquisition of the Officine Panerai. Watches produced between 1993 and 1997 are generally referred to as “Pre-Vendome” models. The following year (1998), the brand debuted on the international market expanding the collection with various Luminor and Luminor Marina variations. These are the so-called A-Series of Panerai models and were produced in very low numbers. This one for sale is one of 1500 watches produced and that makes it extremely rare. It represents the archetypal modern Panerai watch and besides the real military issued ones that have reached a price level inaccessible for ordinary mortals it is one of the coolest Panerai’s around. Estimate is €10.900 – €15.000, and while you can find new ones for less, this one has to be seen as one of the very first modern Panerai, and thus a highly collectible piece, which is listed here.
Ulysse Nardin Michelangelo Full Calendar Moon Phase
In almost any conversation with fellow watch freaks about the history and the innovations of specific Swiss watch companies, there are particular names that do surface more frequently than others. That is natural since some of those players have made great things and also have invested a lot of money for their promotion. However, there are some companies that have created fantastic watches and innovations in general without being at the forefront; and that is unfair. A classic example is Ulysse Nardin.
Ulysse Nardin, born in 1823 in Le Locle, Switzerland, was an accomplished watchmaker having first been trained under his father, Leonard-Frederic Nardin and later perfected his skills with two master watchmakers, Frederic William Dubois and Louis JeanRichard-dit-Bressel. Ulysse Nardin, the company, was founded in 1846 and remained under Ulysse’s control until his passing in 1876, when his 21-year old son, Paul-David Nardin took over. Since the founding of the company, Ulysse Nardin was known for their high-quality and high-accuracy craftsmanship, so much so that they became worldwide known for their Marine Chronometers.
The company, throughout the years, continued to create horological masterpieces. In 1975 the Observatoire Cantonal de Neuchâtel, the main Swiss observatory at that time, released a publication regarding the performance of chronometers from 1846 to 1975: of the 4504 certificates awarded in this period, 4324 went to Ulysse Nardin. In 1985 Dr. Ludwig Oechslin, a scientist, inventor, historian and watch-maker extraordinaire created the Astrolabium. The watch entered into the Guinness Book of Records in 1989, as the most complicated wristwatch ever made – with 21 complications, indicating the position of the sun, the moon and the stars in the sky at any given hour as seen from Earth, as well as sunrise and sunset, dawn and dusk, moonphases, moonrise and moonset, eclipses of sun and moon, the month and the day of the week. Quite an extraordinary feat!
The model we present here is an heir of the company’s’ tradition and character and as such, it is for me a great choice, especially since it is offered at a great price level. Perhaps THE definition of value-for-money for such a complicated and stylish Swiss watch. The Michelangelo from Ulysse Nardin is an 18K gold rectangular automatic watch with a triple calendar function and a moonphase. It has a white dial with applied gold baton indexes, subdials indicating day, date, month and phases of the moon, combined with a lunar calendar. The case has hinged gold lugs, stepped bezel and a ball-shaped crown while there is a sapphire crystal back secured by four screws. Its dimensions are 30 X 40 mm with 18mm lug size and 9mm in height.
The Michelangelo Triple-Date Moonphase from Ulysse Nardin was conceived as a stylish rectangular dress watch while in parallel includes great complications from a company that has the know-how and the experience of creating such a watch. Combine those with the value for money it represents and you soon realize that you must take a closer look to this fabulous wristwatch, estimated at €4400 – €5800 – and listed on Catawiki here.
To see more watch auctions, keep an eye on Catawiki. Every week a few new auctions start and mainly the “men’s luxury watches auction” comprises the most interesting lots.