While Aurel Bacs’ reputation as an auctioneer is universally recognised, he recently managed to impress the watch-collecting community again, by being entrusted with the sale of no less than Paul Newman’s Paul Newman Rolex Daytona. A true Holy Grail in watch collecting. However, that’s not all. Phillips, in Association with Bacs & Russo, managed to create around this watch an entire and fascinating catalogue, which inaugurates the New York auctions for the Maison. Today, we’re pleased to receive Aurel, to talk Paul Newman’s Paul Newman Rolex Daytona and other highlights from the “Winning Icons, Legendary Watches of the 20th Century” that will take place in New York, on 26 October 2017.
Let’s first turn the floor over to Aurel Bacs, Senior Consultant and Auctioneer at Phillips, in Association with Bacs & Russo:
The Auction – Winning Icons, Legendary Watches of the 20th Century
Creating an auction such as the one that will occur in just over a week from now must have been extremely difficult. The main question is, once you have in your hands a watch as legendary as Paul Newman’s Paul Newman Daytona, and once you know you’ll have the chance to auction it, what else can you have around it? Certainly, you can’t just have one lot and if you have more watches to be auctioned, they have to be outstanding.
The idea behind Phillips’ Inaugural New York Auction “Winning Icons, Legendary Watches of the 20th Century” is a simple theme: having for sale the most iconic watches of the 20th century, watches that, just like the Paul Newman Daytona, created the legend; watches that are, all of them, considered as must-haves by the watch-collecting community. This is how you end up with 50 watches, mainly from the second part of the 20th century, from most of the historic brands. This means Rolex and Patek Philippe for sure, but not only.
The complete list of the 50 watches that will be auctioned by Phillips, in Association with Bacs & Russo, on the 26 October 2017, in New York
The scope is actually extremely large: military pieces from WWII, racing chronographs from the 1960s, pioneer dive watches, uber-rare complex calendar watches, Gerald Genta’s brainchildren, a Speedmaster commissioned by NASA and a special piece from one of the most prominent independent watchmakers. The most interesting part: even with such iconic watches, it doesn’t necessarily mean inaccessible prices. For instance, 8 lots have low-estimates below $20,000. On the other hand, Phillips’ Inaugural New York Auction “Winning Icons, Legendary Watches of the 20th Century” (full catalogue available here) will certainly remain in collectors’ minds for being the one where Paul Newman’s Paul Newman Daytona appeared first.
The Legendary Paul Newman’s Paul Newman Daytona 6239
Aurel Bacs is behind some of the most impressive watches recently sold. He’s the one who made the winning bid (for an anonymous client though) on the Patek Philippe SuperComplication “Henry Graves”, the most expensive watch ever auctioned, at CHF 23,237,000 with buyer’s premium. He’s the one who sold the unique Patek Philippe ref. 5016A-010 for Only Watch, which reached a stratospheric 7,300,000 Swiss Francs, making it the most expensive wristwatch ever sold during an auction (at that time…). He’s the one who sold the most expensive wristwatch ever, the Patek 1518 in steel (for over CHF 11,000,000), the most expensive Rolex yet (the Bao Dai 6062, for over CHF 5,000,000) or the most expensive Rolex Daytona (sold for CHF 3,722,000).
It’s no surprise that he is, through Phillips, the one who has been entrusted with the sale of what might be one of the most important watches ever (and this time, we don’t talk about a model, but a precise and personal object), Paul Newman’s very own Rolex Daytona Paul Newman. And if this watch has an estimate “in excess of $1,000,000”, believe us, it will sell for much more – common consensus, with which I agree, says over $8,000,000 or more. And there are some good reasons behind this enthusiasm.
You probably read about how the watch was discovered and finally made it to an auction – if not, take a look at Michael Clerizo’s story in The Wall Street Journal – but the main question for us was about the watch itself. What does this very special piece represent? As said by Aurel in the video above, this watch is not just another watch worn by a celebrity. In fact, it goes much deeper than that. If this Paul Newman’s Paul Newman Daytona is such an important piece, it’s mainly because of its effect on the market, for what it means for collecting steel sports watches.
Prior to the 1970s/1980s, watch-collecting was nothing close to what it is nowadays, with the exception of certain gold Pateks, in a market driven mainly by Italian collectors and dealers. Sports watches, steel watches and in general Rolex watches were not that coveted. In fact, you could easily buy a new Rolex Daytona at a dealer with a massive discount. However, things changed during the 1980s, and some collectors started to seek for rare editions, which include exotic Daytonas. Why? One of the main reasons was Paul Newman, who has often been photographed and seen wearing this specific Rolex chronograph…
Paul Newman wearing his own Rolex Daytona Paul Newman – Images Credits: Douglas Kirkland/Corbis via Getty Images (left) – Ron Galella via Getty Images (Right)
In short, we had one of the most famous and respected actors and pilots, an icon of style, and by wearing this watch, he made collecting steel, sports watches sexy, cool, desirable and popular. This is a watch that is not important for what it is, but for what it represents. It is a milestone in the history of watch collecting, not just a rare celebrity watch. More details to be found here and here.
The Audemars Piguet Perpetual Calendar 5516
As said, Phillips’ Inaugural New York Auction “Winning Icons, Legendary Watches of the 20th Century” is not only about Paul Newman’s Rolex. There are 49 other lots, and all of them are worthy of interest. One of them particularly caught our attention, a perpetual calendar from Audemars Piguet. While the first serially produced perpetual calendar wristwatch is credited to Patek Philippe (the Ref. 1526, from 1940-1941), Audemars also has quite some history in this market. Besides the clear visual attraction for this watch, the AP 5516 may be seen as important as Patek’s siblings for a simple reason: it was, when introduced in 1955, the first perpetual calendar wristwatch to feature a leap year indication. In fact, for over two decades, no other brand would offer a perpetual calendar with leap year indicator until 1981, when Patek Philippe introduced the reference 3450.
What makes this watch also very special is its rarity. It has been produced in only 9 examples, and most of them are now in AP’s museum in Le Brassus (four of the six examples with leap year indicator at 12 o’clock are part of Audemars Piguet’s Heritage Collection). What is also interesting to note is that even if only 9 examples exist, practically all of them are unique. Some show the moon at 6, some at 12, some have a silver dial, some have a champagne dial. In short, with this watch, you have the opportunity to get your hands on one of the two watches that are not in AP’s own collection (and in fact, one of them, with silver dial, was still in London dealer Marcus’ own collection back in 2015, see here). A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, for an important watch, in pristine condition. Estimate is accordingly high, at $300,000 – $600,000. More details about this 5516 here.
The platinum Cartier Tank Cintrée
Another breathtaking lot of the “Winning Icons” auction certainly is this impressive Tank Cintrée in Platinum. First of all, this collection, probably the most important in Cartier’s history, is this year celebrating its 100th anniversary. More interesting is the watch itself… What we have here is one of the very few examples of the large size Tank Cintrée – measuring a dramatic 46mm long by 23mm wide – with its curved case made in platinum and attached to its original platinum 7-link bracelet. As an anecdote, explained by Aurel in the interview, this watch was bought by a certain Oscar C. Seebass, a New York-based financier, just before the great recession… This watch certainly was the epitome of luxury and decadence at that time.
Now about the watch itself, not only this platinum Tank Cintrée is an extremely rare edition (especially on this bracelet), but even rarer is the condition of the watch. The vintage Tank watches don’t usually age well – dials and hands often become rusty and spotted, due to a lack of waterproofness – and the cases were often badly repolished or even replaced. The present example is in almost new condition, with crisp case and bracelet, retaining original angles, and the dial is almost flawless. This, and the combination of the large case, from the first edition, in platinum, makes this watch certainly one of the most important Tank watches ever. Estimate: $250,000 – $500,000. More details here.
The “00” Philippe Dufour Duality
The fourth watch we’ve selected and talked about with Aurel Bacs certainly is one of the most important modern watches, from one of the most respected contemporary watchmakers. His influence on the independent-scene of the watchmaking industry is immense, and his work has been coveted and admired by so many. His name? Philippe Dufour. Because this “Winning Icons” auction covers the entire 20th century, there had to be one modern watch, and what “brand” or watchmaker best represents the re-birth of the traditional, one-man-driven production than Dufour. The man and his watches are modern icons and, in this perspective, having one of his watches in this auction totally makes sense.
The watch in question is a Duality, the first modern wristwatch to feature two independent balances compensated with a central differential gear, a watch that was first planned to be produced in 25 examples, however, because the demand for the Simplicity was so high, only 9 examples of the Duality have ever been manufactured. In addition to this extreme rarity, the present model is “00”, meaning the first ever produced by master watchmaker Dufour. Presented in platinum with a silver dial, it offers an absolute discretion when worn, and a superb complexity when observed from the caseback side. The estimate is $200,000 – $400,000. More details about this impressive piece here.
All photos courtesy of Phillips, to the exception of Paul Newman’s portraits – Douglas Kirkland/Corbis via Getty Images – Ron Galella via Getty Images.