Usually, gold is considered the most luxurious material for watches. This is especially true when you think about modern watches. But, when it comes to vintage and highly collectible timepieces, steel can be the ‘cherry on the cake’. Some of the steel watches from luxurious brands can reach tremendous prices during auctions, and beat gold hands-down. Why? Because those vintage watches are way rarer than the gold editions. Here are 3 highly exceptional steel editions from Patek Philippe, Vacheron-Constantin and Rolex.
The Steel Calatrava ref. 570
Patek Philippe watches have always been collectible. But some editions top the list of ‘required‘ pieces for a professional collector. And these pieces are, surprisingly, titanium or steel versions. Curious indeed for a brand known for always manufacturing the top of the top, with the best finishing details and the best materials. Steel is common, cheap and in a sense, proletarian. The main reason for this infatuation with the grey metal is simple: Patek didn’t typically produce many watches with that material. And thus, they are extremely rare.
The Patek Philippe we found here is a so-called ‘Grand-Calatrava’ (because of its 36mm size), produced in 1943 within that unusual stainless steel case. Most of the ref. 570 had been delivered in white or yellow gold cases and with a central second movement. So the unique combination of the case’s material and the small second movement (manually wound) makes this one extremely desirable. In addition, take a look at the dial. Formerly in a beige tone, the patina has done a very good job here, resulting in a warm, light caramel tone.
The case is also in extremely good condition and seems to have lived nearly unpolished all these years, judging by the thickness of the lugs and the cutting edges. The watch comes with an official Patek Philippe extraits des archives and is for sale by Corrado Mattarelli in Roma (a very well-known vintage seller), whose webpage can be visited here (Price on Request).
The Steel Vacheron Constantin ref. 4217
Same story for this Vacheron-Constantin. What we have here is a very rare edition of a watch that was usually made in gold, with some enamel dials or lacquered dials, and usually with a central second movement. The Ref. 4217 from Vacheron is not that hard to find in gold. It bears a truly striking resemblance to the Patek Philippe, as it comes in a classical ‘calatrava-style’ case. What makes it so attractive is once again this uncommon stainless steel case, kept in very good condition, and this unique small-second layout. The dial is also very nearly pristine and the polished hands and applied indexes are perfect.
It is a smaller watch of 33.5mm, made in the 1950s. This mint and fully original steel Vacheron Constantin is also for sale by Corrado Mattarelli in Roma, but for a fraction of the price of the Patek (7.500Eur). It is available here.
The Superb steel Rolex ref 6036 Jean-Claude Killy
Let me be very frank with you: this next timepiece is a pure beauty. If you are a vintage Rolex collector, instead of looking at all those Paul Newman Daytonas or chocolate Submariners, you ought to crave this Rolex DatoCompax Ref 6036 Jean-Claude Killy. Why? It is certainly one of the rarest Rolex produced after WWII. This one is an auction breaker – with a record set at 464.000Eur in 2012 at Christies.
The 6036 is the last generation of the antimagnetic triple calendar chronographs made by Rolex, after the reference 4767 and the reference 5036. It has a fully modified Valjoux 72 (the same base as the vintage Daytonas) with a day, date and month complication. It is also famous because of one of its wearers: Jean-Claude Killy, a famous French alpine ski racer that used to wear this watch.
The example we have here comes – of course – with a stainless steel case and a white dial. What is clearly less common are the gold indexes and hands. The shape of the case is also extremely fresh and the overall condition amazing. It is for sale at Paris Heure (price on request). It is listed here. But knowing the market, prepare a serious 130k€/150k€, considering how rare and well-preserved this watch is.