On Thursday, Phillips released the lineup for its upcoming New York auction, which will take place on Saturday, December 11 (lots 1-81) and Sunday, December 12 (lots 82-165) at its new headquarters in Manhattan’s 432 Park Avenue.
Leading the sale is a George Daniels timepiece, known as The Edward Hornby Tourbillon Pocket Watch (estimate $600,000-$1,200,000) and named after the lawyer who began amassing a watch collection in the 1930s. He purchased the watch directly from Daniels in 1971. But what makes this piece special, other than the fact that it was made by one of modern watchmaking’s greatest masters, is that every part, with the exception of the balance spring and crystal, was created by hand. It’s the fourth timepiece that the late Daniels ever created and belongs to the first series of pocket watches he hand-crafted for collectors between 1969 and 1974.
A watch from Daniels’ protégé, Roger W. Smith—a pink-gold Series 2 model—tripled its pre-sale estimate at Phillips Geneva auction, selling for $715,478. The New York auction will see another Smith piece hit the block with the first watch made for Series 1 (estimate $120,000-$240,000). Technically, it’s the second Series 1—the first lineup of Series 1 came in a rectangular case—recognized as a round wristwatch with only the hours, minutes and subsidiary seconds dial. It was intended to represent clean, refined and masterful British watchmaking at its best in 38 or 40 mm cases. Like his predecessor, Smith also hand makes and hand finishes all of his timepieces. The Series 1 on offer is the first in the “new” Series 1 timepieces Smith crafted and comes to Phillips direct from the original owner.
But no horological auction is complete without a Rolex leading the pack. The standout Rollie in the upcoming sale is an 18-karat yellow-gold Cosmograph “Paul Newman” Daytona Ref. 6241 “John Player Special” (estimate $600,000-$1,200,000). Fewer than 300 examples of this watch—so nicknamed for mimicking the colors of the racecars that John Player Special sponsored in the late ’60s and ’70s—were made in 18-karat yellow gold. Even fewer “Paul Newman” versions of the “John Player Special” Cosmograph Daytona were made. It is the first time this example is coming to auction and is said to be in an “outstanding state of preservation.” It’s followed by a Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Ref. 6239 “Pulsations Cherry Logo” (estimate $350,000-$700,000) and a Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Ref. 6241 “Paul Newman” dubbed “The Krug.”
For those on the hunt for a more modern-looking timepiece, Richard Mille’s RM022 “Tourbillon Aerodyne” Dual Time (estimate $250,000-$500,000) should do the trick. It’s set in a case crafted from carbon nanotubes injected into black polymer, resulting in a material that’s 200 times stronger than steel but considerably lighter on the wrist. Its techy dial was crafted using orthorhombic titanium aluminides—a material NASA uses for wings on supersonic aircraft thanks to its resistance to corrosion and high temperatures—to form a honeycomb structure. It is one of only five examples ever made. If you’re planning to bid, you can bet on a bit of a race—four Richard Milles in Phillips’s Geneva Watch Auction XIV went well above their top estimates.
But all eyes will certainly be on F.P. Journe, the independent maker and current watch industry darling, whose prices in the secondary market have entered the stratosphere. A complete set of five of the watchmaker’s Souscription watches, No. 1 in each series, sold for a total of $10,810,800 at Phillips in Geneva. In the New York sale, there are three Journes on offer: a platinum first-generation 38 mm Chronomètre à Resonance with a brass movement (estimate $120,000-$240,000), a 40 mm 18-karat pink-gold T30 30 Years Anniversary Tourbillon with an unplated silver dial that has developed a unique patina and a 40 mm 18-karat pink-gold Tourbillon Souverain Limited Edition “Black Mother-of-Pearl” ($150,000-$300,000). Only 10 examples of the latter were made for Sincere Fine Watches in Singapore and this piece comes from its original owner.
But public provenance may reign supreme. The Omega Speedmaster Professional Ref. 145.012 that belonged to the celebrated author Ralph Ellison, who wrote Invisible Man, will, no doubt, be a focus of the sale. Omega set a record for its most expensive watch ever sold at auction in Geneva with the tropical dial Omega Speedmaster Broad Arrow that sold for $3,399,633. Ellison wore his Omega from 1968 until his death in 1994. Read more about it here.
And, finally, the usual king of the auction block, Patek Philippe, will have its moment as part of an array of timepieces Phillips calls the “Ride the Wave” collection, brought to the sale by an American surgeon said to have a passion for surfing. All of the pieces were manufactured in the early 1940s—which happens to be the era when surfing was in its nascence as a sport in America. The collection includes a covetable water-resistant platinum Patek Philippe Ref. 2526 (still, you probably shouldn’t take it for a spin in the ocean), but also boasts a tropical dial Paul Newman Daytona Ref. 6263 with Mk 1 millerighe pushers.
There are plenty of reasons to get stoked, but with the secondary watch market hotter than ever, any bidders should come prepared for a fight.