We’re here with Mr. Aurel Bacs, head auctioneer of Phillips, Bacs & Russo. I know you’re going to tell us some nice stories about some nice lots that are here in front of us. Thanks for having us here, always a pleasure. Of course, I love watches, but I love stories. Why I love them, I don’t think we need watches just to tell the time. I think a watch tells so much more than just the time. When we come across watches that have never been on the market before and to tell us a story, I have to share it. It’s just my desire. Let me start with two Rolexes. Why? Because they are perfect examples how, to me, they’re time machines.
No pun intended, time machine, but it’s a machine that brings me back half a century and I can live and see things that otherwise I would have never seen. Let me start with the Submariner. It’s a Submariner reference 5508. The 5508 was also called the Small Crown because it has the smaller crown versus the big crown. In my nearly 40 years that I’m looking for watches and hunting watches, I’ve never come across a crisper, minter example. In fact, this watch has been bought in the late ’50s, and we sincerely believe it has never seen one day on the wrist of someone. Think, it’s like a car that you find in 2019 that has maybe 10 or 20 miles on the meter. It’s unbelievable. Let me talk you through a few of these elements. First of all, and maybe you can see it right here from your position, here it says, very finely engraved “stainless steel”.
After one polish this thin inscription is gone and I can hardly even remember seeing a 5508 with that inscription. It’s the original 1958 bracelet that is elastic. Now, normally, these bracelets are, because they have springs, these springs get weaker and weaker. I can hardly remember seeing something as rigid as this bracelet. The bevels, which are these sharp little angles are so crisp that we can conclude it has never been polished and never been worn. Original dial, original crystal, original hands, original bezel, original pearl insert. It’s just unbelievable. It’s a time machine. A movement that is standing still for 60 plus years. I’m sure it needs oiling. Oiling like a bike, like anything mechanical, but because it hasn’t had any pressure on the spring, no friction between the wheels, the escapement, I would expect that it needs a service but nothing more. Okay, interesting. Thanks. Pretty much at the same time, we’re still in the 1950s, the top of the line model which was probably aiming to compete with distinguished Geneva makers or Le Brassus makers is the 8171, the so-called Padellone.
It is a triple calendar watch. That means it has two windows here for the weekday and the month, moon phases, and the date around. Little different layouts than what we see from distinguished Geneva makers. Automatic. At that time, there were no automatic calendar watches from the other firms, but this isn’t a perpetual calendar. The others went all the way for the perpetual calendar. It’s a lovely size, it’s a big 38-millimeter watch. A watch that is not an oyster model, so rather sensitive to humidity, dust, and also, of course, to polishing because these bevels or these edges here are suffering extremely quickly if you polish it. Guess what? Everybody knows I’d like to use superlatives, I’d like to invite any of your viewers come and show me your 8171 and I’ll offer a bottle of champagne to the person who shows me a better one.
You heard that. I hope I don’t have to offer five, but actually, it would be great. That would be a good thing. It would be a great thing. This is, as far as I’m concerned, the best yellow gold 8171 in the world. I make a bold statement, this watch has never seen any wrist on. The watch is, of course, unpolished, unworn, no signs of wear, and here in the case back at the little corner, it’s the serial number. That alone means yes, it’s been looked after, but when you start looking at the original “Rolex of Geneva” alligator strap, that poor crocodile died 70 years ago, can you imagine? The original buckle. We have the original hand tag, the original box, it’s been sleeping for three-quarter of a century. It’s unbelievable. We find these models in poor worn condition without the number on the back, without the accessories as of maybe 100,000 Swiss Francs. We offer this at 400, which is the highest estimate anyone has ever put on a yellow gold 8171.
I can expect seriously competitive bidding on that watch because who as a collector, who understands and appreciates watches would not enjoy owning, hopefully, if I don’t lose the bet with your viewers, the best 8171 the world has seen so far. The watches I’ve shown you previously are references and models that as such are known, but this isn’t the case with this model here that we discovered in Italy.
A watch that even the greatest Longines scholars did not know it existed. The famous A7 model was developed, that’s what we understood, for the US Army. Several makers, Longines included, made that model and these watches were always in the 46 to 49 millimeters. Often chrome-plated as cheap as possible for the Army. When we opened this box, I couldn’t believe what I’ve seen. First of all, it is larger than your normal A7. Second of all, it is the only Longines I’ve ever seen that has also the retailer signature on it, Eberhard Milano, a very distinguished retailer.
Third of all, the watch isn’t chromium plated but is in stainless steel. Mid-1930s. The lugs are much longer and more defined than the regular Milos, for example, and we still have the original mid-1930s leather strap and buckle. Seriously, that’s the original one? The watch has never spent a day outside this box until recently. The family said that it was their grandfather’s, he was a pilot. What we don’t know is why would a pilot go to Eberhard in the mid-’30s, buy this amazing Longines, and then never wear it. We don’t know. I’d like to know, but everything ticks. Longines has very kindly confirmed with the archives that this is indeed a civil version A7 in stainless steel, so more a luxury version, and it’s a model that we didn’t know existed.
It’s a little bit like you go to Siberia and found the frozen mammoth, it’s exciting, isn’t it? Absolutely love it and the collectors love it. It’s not your standard size, it’s a bit of a big watch. You need to be either self-confident or wear it as it was originally intended, outside your suit. Not your business suit, your pilot suit, on the left wrist. It’s quite amazing how if you have your arm in a 45-degree angle or 30-degree angle, you’ll look at the watch and the pusher is at twelve o’clock. It’s very anatomically designed 80-plus years ago, isn’t that amazing? Yes, indeed. Something completely different, really different, that at first sight may just be your first generation 16528 Rolex Cosmograph in yellow gold. This was the first generation automatic Rolex Cosmograph. Let’s not forget that until the second half of the ’80s, the Rolex Daytonas were powered by a manual-wound Valjoux-based caliber. You could imagine how I was shivering, especially also being a little bit of a petrol-head and having watched so many Formula 1 races back then, when I read the case back that says Angelo Da Ayrton, 1978.
Ayrton is Ayrton Senna. To many, the world’s most gifted Formula 1 driver of all times. Angelo is Ayrton Senna’s manager. The man who discovered him in Brazil in the late ’70s. When Ayrton Senna was driving go-carts, he was a very talented, very competitive, very successful go-cart driver, and he said, “Let me take you under my wings as a manager and make sure you get to where you should get eventually to Formula 1.” They were not just business partners, they were very, very close friends. The watch is offered together with this signed visor with a signed autograph with letter of his manager.
I think it’s an amazing piece of history that for the 10th anniversary of their encounter in 1988, Ayrton Senna offered that watch as a token esteem and friendship. Before we go to the obvious Patek Philippe, I’d like to point out a watch what I find myself hugely interesting. It’s a Breitling. I think I’ve only sold, in my 25 years of auction career, one other Breitling Superocean. That one is in lovely, lovely condition. It was a competitor to the Submariners. Of course, Omega and many more were also competing in that field.
In the 1950s, everyone tried to have the best most waterproof, most competitive of price, most reliable, with the best loom design. You cannot say that this loom design isn’t cool. You’ve got Applied Indices that go over a circular loom plot. The bezel is not flat. If I may, I’ll quickly take the Submariner. They’re pretty much brothers and sisters from a similar period. Look at this, the crystal on the Rolex stands out, whereas, on the Breitling, it doesn’t. That means that the edge of the bezel, so if I would ever hit it, it’s the bezel that takes the hit and not the crystal. Because if you break the crystal while you’re diving in a cave or against a rock, it can be problematic.
Clever solution, something I have hardly seen since. I’m very much looking forward to seeing this go under the hammer. Patek Philippe, we cannot have one of your shows without one or two great watches. The one I picked for today’s presentation is this one. It has chrysoprase, onyx, diamonds, yellow gold. It is as 1970s haute couture as it can be. Some may like it, some may find it over the top. This comes from the collection of Catherine Deneuve. Now, you close your eyes for a moment, you picture what probably many considered the most elegant, beautiful, stylish, talented actress of the 20th Century.
You picture her on a Saint Laurent dress from the ’70s, and you picture her with that watch and you start dreaming. The watch itself is an extraordinary rarity that I think if any of your viewers is looking to dress in style and not have the same commercial watch that you buy on high street, with that one, you have an entrance that your friends won’t forget, especially if you have a period Saint Laurent or Pucci dresses to go with it. It’s not just a conversation piece. I think it’s a piece of watch history, of 20th-century history. To me, it’s extraordinary value. Ladies watches are, as far as I’m concerned, not at the same level as sporty chronographs from the ’50s, ’60s, complicated watches. I think ladies as collectors in our field should just be more prominent. Women are so often ahead of men when it comes to style and that subtleness.
Finesse. Finesse, a nice word. Please, make together a strong message. Please, ladies, join us. It’s the most wonderful community, watch collecting. I’d like this watch to find a very, very good home. Yes, definitely deserves it. For sure. An admirer, a male admirer of Catherine Deneuve can also bid on it. I guess so. Complicated Patek Philippe’s are, of course, not just Patek Philippe’s specialty but also our specialty. Here we have two examples. One is a chronograph from the late ’40s. It’s a reference 530. It comes from the family of the original owner. The 530 was the largest chronograph back then with a case that is pretty contemporary in terms of its shape, its design. This watch comes with its original box. Shows its wear quite nicely with a few marks here and there. The original box has the original sticker inside that denotes the retailer in Sicily, Italy where the watch was originally sold.
The watch is here in Geneva again shortly after World War II, so 70 years later. It’s in really nice unrestored condition. MINTes, maybe a bit bold, I would say it’s in extremely nice condition, but let’s not pick here over this and it’s just such a nice watch to wear. It’s just a fantastic size. It looks good, casual, and sporty, and formal. Original buckle, vintage buckle. It’s a fantastic collector’s piece that I think at 150,000 to 250,000 is if you look at the overall landscape, a very interesting value proposition to consider. The reference 1518 is the world’s first wristwatch made in series with a perpetual calendar and the chronograph. In the early ’40s, the model was introduced and just over a decade later, it was replaced by reference 2499. There was in Switzerland vacationing a prominent Brazilian lawyer in 1954, and in fact, he was staying at the Hotel Bellevue in Bern.
Why would I know that? Here we have the correspondence with Patek Philippe. He kept the original certificate. He kept the original invoice. He asked for a manual in French. He asked for a manual in Spanish. It’s like you and I going back to 1954. Geneva, go back and say, “Hello, we’d like to buy a 1518.” This is the package she would have received, of course, including the original box. When we see this, how can you not just fly back in time? To have a 1518 that has never been on the market, that has never been restored, and that is complete as this one is, I would say, a scoop. They made 281 watches in yellow-gold, pink-gold, and stainless steel of course, and to find one that has not yet come back to the sunlight since 1954 is amazing. This is very appealing to a collector. Yes, it makes it very special for sure. It has also if I recall, the dates and day indication are in Portuguese, right? Absolutely. You could have back then at Patek Philippe French, of course, English. I’ve seen Italian, I’ve seen Spanish, a few Germans, and Portuguese.
Thank you very much for your time, Aurel. It’s always a pleasure to hear those nice stories, always very inspiring and I wish you best of luck with the auction. Thank you. I hope to see you soon again. We’ll be there. Thank you.