What to know about Sotheby’s and Christie’s back-to-back watch auctions in Dubai

From vintage, small-number and luxury watches, to dials inspired by figures and emblems from the Arab world, the 310 lots offer plenty of choice to all manner of collectors

Whether it’s a Rolex Daytona you desire or a Pathek Philippe you prefer, two auctions being held in Dubai present the perfect opportunity to add to your trove of timepieces. The Important Watches auction by Christie’s is at Jumeirah Emirates Towers hotel on March 22 at 5pm; while the Sotheby’s Watches auction is at the Sotheby’s Dubai showroom in DIFC on March 24 at 7pm. From vintage, small-number and luxury watches, to dials inspired by figures and emblems from the Arab world, the 310 lots offer plenty of choice to all manner of collectors, who can view the pieces all day today before the in-person, online or by phone bidding begins. Here are some models to watch out for.

A to Z of luxury

The brands you can bid for at these auctions span the whole gamut of high-end horology, and include some of the most renowned names in watchmaking, from A Lange & Sohne and Breitling to Vacheron Constantin and Zenith.

At Christie’s, look to a Harry Winston model from 2016, with an extremely large dial and 18k white gold tourbillions. Only 10 examples of this model exist, and the one at this auction is estimated to sell for up to US$400,000 (Dh1.47 million). For $500,000, you can find a diamond-set Hublot Big Bang, which comes with matching cufflinks, ring, pen and rosary beads. For an additional $100,000, consider a platinum Vacheron Constantin with zodiac and day/night indication, from 2011.

Not all models are valued in the millions, though. A Rolex Submariner, offered in “like new” condition, for example, is estimated to sell for Dh33,000; while a Bulgari Octo from 2011 is estimated at Dh44,000; and an FP Journe wristwatch with a metallic blue dial starts from Dh66,114.

Over at Sotheby’s, too, models range from the low thousands to millions of dirhams. A limited-edition Audemars Piguet watch, made in tribute to Brazilian F1 racer Rubens Barrichello, for instance, could set you back Dh294,000; while an Omega Speedmaster is estimated to start from Dh29,400.

There’s even an entire set of TechnoMarine Marvel Super Heroes models, featuring Silver Surfer, Spidergirl, Hulk, Captain America and The Thing on the dials, and ranging from Dh7,300 to Dh14,700. The most expensive chronograph at this auction is a Paul Newman Rolex Daytona, but more on that below.

About a third of the 300-plus lots coming to Dubai are aimed at collectors of women’s watches. At Christie’s, look to a “possibly unique” Audemars Piguet skeletonised model from 1996, set with diamonds and emeralds, and estimated to sell for up to Dh183,650. Sotheby’s has a number of options from Piaget, Cartier, Patel Philippe and one lit-up Boucheron with an elephant on its dial etched out in diamonds and tsavorites, estimated at Dh110,225.

Arab dials

Eight watches selected for the Sotheby’s auction depict links with the Middle East on their dials, including a Rolex GMT from 1978, made for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai – who was then the UAE’s Minister of Defence. Also on offer is a pink gold and ruby-set Patek Philippe from 1957, featuring a portrait of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud on its enamel face.

Only 250 of these wristwatchs were made, and the one going for auction is in “excellent original condition”, and estimated to sell for up to Dh238,800.

Other watches were commissioned by or for the Middle East’s military officials in the 1980s and 1990s, and feature various emblems on their dials, such as a Rolex Air King stamped with the official coat of arms of the UAE’s Armed Forces – featuring a falcon and the flag – from 1989; and one with Saudi Arabia’s emblem – a palm tree between two blades – from 1995; as well as a Rolex Oysterdate with King Abdulaziz University’s emblem; and another made for the Kuwait military.

Over at Christie’s, an 18k gold automatic Rolex features the time, day and date in Arabic numerals, and can be yours for an estimated Dh550,000.

Vintage value

Two Patek Philippe vintage watches are the stars of the Christie’s show. Excitement is bound to be at an all-time high when Reference 1491 comes under the hammer; manufactured in 1937, this comes with an estimate of US1 million, the highest from the auction house for a Middle East sale. The Patek Philippe 1463R, meanwhile, dates from 1950 and was originally sold by the Venezuelan store Serpico y Laino, the leading retailer of Rolex and Patek watches between 1926 to 1966. It once belonged to Eric Clapton, and is estimate to sell for between Dh2m and Dh3m.

The sale also includes a couple of Rolex Daytonas, including a platinum automatic wristwatch with pavé diamonds and blued white gold hands (up to $180,000); and one in 18k gold with diamonds and emerald-set square numerals (up to $65,000).

A cache of Daytonas is also to be found over at Sotheby’s, notably Rolex’s “Paul Newman” Daytona, one of the rarest and most highly coveted vintage models on the market. What makes these watches unique is that when they were first created, between 1965 and 1969, the dials were considered distinctly un-Rolex: with art deco-style fonts, hash marks with small squares at the end, and a “step” between the outer minute track and the centre of the dial.

However, the exotic dials didn’t have many takers, with buyers opting for traditional Daytonas. Consequently, Rolex didn’t produce too many versions, making them all the more precious when they first gained favour with Italian collectors from the late 1980s. In fact, experts now estimate that there are more fake Paul Newman dials in the world than there are fake dials for all watche brands combined. Consequently, the 1968 model that will be available at the Dubai auction is highly collectible; only 2,700 examples of its kind were manufactured, and it is estimated to sell for up to Dh1.1m.

Published: March 21, 2019 07:30 AM


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