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The Bell & Ross BR-X1 Chronograph Sapphire Tourbillon

Bell & Ross BR-X1 Chronograph Sapphire Tourbillon.

Bell & Ross bucks the prevailing trend toward design simplicity and limited functions this year with a complex, all-sapphire chronograph tourbillon, the BR-X1. There is nothing vintage or classic about this ultra-modern watch, which has a truly breathtaking case design, crafted from six blocks of fully transparent sapphire crystal. This affords a multi-angled view of the skeletonized movement, Caliber BR-CAL.285 made by Swiss complications specialist MCH using columns that slightly elevate the bridges from the main plate. Also, because it is a flying tourbillon, there is no upper bridge to block the view. Even the strap is space-age modern. It is made with a combination of translucent rubber with metallic Kevlar weaving.

Bell & Ross BR-X1 Chronograph Sapphire Tourbillon

This is a 45mm watch and thus, as Bell & Ross describes it, “masculine through and through.” Although it is a departure from the brand’s customary vintage aircraft instrumentation aesthetic, it does retain the signature squared case with screwed down construction. It is a limited edition of five pieces, priced at approximately $500,000. It is Bell & Ross’s most expensive watch to date.

Bell & Ross BR-X1 Chronograph Sapphire Tourbillon.

The Rolex “Bao Dai” Ref. 6062 sold for $5-million at the Phillips Bacs & Russo auction today in Geneva.

Rare Bao Dai Rolex Just Sold For $5 Million, A Record Price For A Rolex at Auction

The Rolex “Bao Dai” Ref. 6062 sold for $5-million at the Phillips Bacs & Russo auction today in Geneva.

The Rolex “Bao Dai” Ref. 6062 sold for $5-million at the Phillips Bacs & Russo auction today in Geneva.

A rare vintage Rolex, the Bao Dai Rolex Ref. 6062, was just sold for 4.3-million Swiss francs (or a little more than $5 million, including buyer’s premium) at the Phillips in association with Bacs and Russo Geneva Auction Five auction.  It is the watch every collector wishes he had bought when it last came up for auction in 2002 – it sold for $235,000, the highest auction price paid for a Rolex at the time, but the investment would have been worth it. This time the bidding started at $1.5 million.

The Rolex “Bao Dai” Ref. 6062 sold for $5-million at the Phillips Bacs & Russo auction today in Geneva.

The Rolex “Bao Dai” Ref. 6062 sold for $5-million at the Phillips Bacs & Russo auction today in Geneva.

“This is the one of world’s most important collector’s watches, across all brands, not just Rolex,” says Paul Boutros, head of Americas and international strategy advisor for Phillips. “Made in 1952, it is a rare creation for Rolex.” The watch belonged to Bao Dai, the last emperor of Vietnam, who bought it in 1954 in Geneva. Made in 1950, it is a rare creation for Rolex, with an iconic Oyster case and an in-house movement driving a triple date calendar and moon phase. It was one of the most complicated watches of its era and is one of only three made with a black dial and diamond indexes – the only one of which has diamond indexes for even numerals (the other two mark odd numerals with diamonds). The watch is in great, unrestored condition, with a case that has never been polished. This is the second time the Bao Dai has been up for auction at Phillips. It was sold in 2002 for $235,000 to a private collector, who sold it today. Ten bidders were vying for the watch.

The T&Co. Ref. 2499 Patek Philippe

The T&Co. Ref. 2499 Patek Philippe sold for $1.56-million.

There are several important pieces among the 237 lots to be auctioned in Geneva currently in progress, including the  T&Co. Ref. 2499, which sold for 1.3 million Swiss francs ($1,298,359 at today’s rate). With buyer’s premium, the price is about $1.56-million. It is notable for its dual logo, with Patek Philippe and Tiffany & Co. both appearing on the dial. It is one of only two examples in its particular series to bear the Tiffany & Co. signature, and possibly unique in its use of markers rather than Arabic numerals. “In the world of vintage Rolex, the most desirable watches are Paul Newman Daytonas; in the world of vintage Patek Philippe, the most desirable models are perpetual calendar chronographs, especially the 2499,” says Boutros. Only 349 pieces of the Ref 2499 were made over a period of 34 years, which makes this watch exclusive. The yellow gold woven bracelet is signed Tiffany & Co. It was estimated at $991,000-$1,980,000.

Slim d’ Hermès L’Heure Impatiente: The Perfect Parking Meter Timer

Slim d’ Hermès L’Heure Impatiente

Slim d’ Hermès L’Heure Impatiente

In the press kit to introduce the new Slim d’ Hermès L’Heure Impatiente, Hermès included a short story it commissioned about a woman who lives five seconds in the future, with hilarious and tragic consequences. It is not an exact metaphor for the way the L’Heure Impatiente alters time, but it does capture the spirit of time tweaking. The L’Heure Impatiente can be set to count down from an “eagerly awaited event” to take place sometime in the next 12 hours. This time set by the wearer and appears on the subdial at 6 o’clock. A countdown begins one hour before the event in question, and that is displayed on the retrograde timer at 7 o’clock. When time is up, the watch chimes a single note.

Slim d’ Hermès L’Heure Impatiente

Slim d’ Hermès L’Heure Impatiente

Hermès sees this as a poetic complication: “Rather than measuring, ordering, and seeking to control [time], Hermès dares to explore another time.” For me, it is the perfect parking meter watch. Before going into a meeting, you can set the timer to ring when your parking meter expires, and as the meeting progresses you can keep tabs on the countdown. As you approach the “event” you can either duck out to put more coins in the meter or orchestrate the meeting to end in time to avoid getting a ticket. Thus, this is very useful function.

Placing the gong on the Slim d’ Hermès L’Heure Impatiente.

Placing the gong on the Slim d’ Hermès L’Heure Impatiente.

The last time Hermès played games with the passage of time was with the Arceau Le Temps Suspendu, using a movement designed by Jean-Marc Weiderrecht of Agenhor, based on Hermès Caliber H1912. It featured a function that could make time stand still and then revert to the correct time at the push of a button. The L’Heure Impatiente also contains a movement based on the automatic Caliber H1912, fitted with a 2.2mm module that drives the striking countdown feature. The 40.5mm case of the Slim d’ Hermès L’Heure Impatiente is rose gold, with anti-reflective sapphire crystals front and back. It is water resistant to 30 meters. The strap is blue matt alligator.

TAG Heuer’s millennial bait: The New Aquaracer

TAG Heuer Aquaracer Camo.

TAG Heuer Aquaracer Camo.

TAG Heuer is building a stable of millennial ambassadors in an effort to attract a younger clientele, and backing it up with a collection of Aquaracers aimed squarely at its target market. In addition to introducing the new millennial-baiting Smartwatch just before Basel, TAG Heuer debuted a new line of Aquaracers at Baselworld 2017 with entry level pricing, at $2,800 with automatic movements. The Aquaracer collection is priced from $1,500 to $3,950, with automatics beginning at $2,150.

TAG Heuer Aquaracer Camo.

The Camo and Khaki military-style Aquaracer models introduced last week at Baselworld are examples of how this collection offers great value for the price. The Aquaracer collection was launched in 2003 as a diver’s watch and these models have all the attributes of a quality sports watch. Both are water resistant to 300 meters, with cases made of Grade 2 titanium, with a matte black PVD treatment. The bezel is made of hardy ceramic, so it will not scratch, as the bezels on some other sports watches even at higher prices have been known to do. The bezel is unidirectional, so it works as a diver’s watch, and it has a minute track that is graduated with an index at every minute for the first 15 minutes, for countdown purposes. The date window at 3 o’clock is covered with a cyclops window in the anti-reflective sapphire crystal. The NATO strap on the Camo model is woven with threads of different colors, rather than printed with a pattern. The color of this model is a new take on the style, with blue replacing the usual green camo. TAG says it was inspired by the Siberian Tundra and calls it “Arctic” camouflage. The movement is the TAG Heuer automatic Caliber 5 a 4Hz movement that is also used in Formula 1 models. All of these qualities in a package priced at $2,800 represents great value for the price. Perfect for millennials.

TAG Heuer Aquaracer Khaki.

TAG Heuer Aquaracer Khaki.

This is the substance behind the growing stable of TAG Heuer ambassadors in that age group. But it is worth noting that while TAG’s ambassadors are young, it is not just their age that qualifies them as poster-millennials for the brand. It is their peer reach. J Balvin, a 31-year old Colombian rapper, songwriter and record producer who was inducted into the ambassador ranks at a press conference in Miami Beach last February, has 14.7-million Instagram followers. Cara Delivigne has 37.9-million. Bella Hadid posts to an Instagram audience of 10.7-million, and footballer Cristiano Reynaldo tops them all at 93-million followers. “It will make the TAG Heuer brand younger, trendy,” says CEO Jean-Claude Biver says of his strategy to reach a younger audience for the brand. “You will never change an older person’s mind, so we are going to people whose minds are not yet fixed. We have huge activity, thanks to these ambassadors.”

TAG Heuer ambassador J. Balvin.

TAG Heuer ambassador J. Balvin.

Mr. Biver says TAG Heuer had its best year ever in 2016, a year that was very difficult for most Swiss watch brands, particularly at the luxury level. The hope is that attracting millennials now and introducing watches at a low entry-level price point, they will later aspire to some of the brand’s more expensive offerings, including a tourbillon, in the future.

The “Bao Dai” Rolex Ref. 6062
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Five “Nicknamed” Watches Headline Phillips Bacs & Russo Geneva Auction Five, May 13, 14

The “Bao Dai” Rolex Ref. 6062

The “Bao Dai” Rolex Ref. 6062. Bidding starts at $1.5-million.

Care for a “Double Swiss Underline” or a “Sydney Rose?” Don’t laugh: a watch important enough to have a nickname, no matter how silly it sounds, means it is adored by collectors and highly sought after on the secondary market. The Phillips in association with Bacs and Russo Geneva Auction Five has at least five such Grail pieces among the 237 lots to be auctioned in Geneva this coming weekend, May 13 and 14. (Not to mention some amazing pieces by Cartier, Audemars Piguet, Omega, Vacheron Constantin and Jaeger-LeCoultre).

The “Bao Dai” Rolex Ref. 6062

The “Bao Dai” Rolex Ref. 6062

  1. The “Bao Dai” Rolex Ref. 6062, is the watch every collector wishes he had bought when it last came up for auction in 2002 – it sold for $235,000, the highest auction price paid for a Rolex at the time. But the investment would have been worth it. This time the bidding starts at $1.5-million. “This is the one of world’s most important collector’s watches, across all brands, not just Rolex,” says Paul Boutros, head of Americas and international strategy advisor for Phillips. “Made in 1952, it is a rare creation for Rolex.” The watch belonged to Bao Dai, the last emperor of Vietnam, who bought it in 1954 in Geneva. Made in 1950, it is a rare creation for Rolex, with an iconic Oyster case and an in-house movement driving a triple date calendar and moon phase. It was one of the most complicated watches of its era and is one of only three made with a black dial and diamond indexes – the only one of which has diamond indexes for even numerals (the other two mark odd numerals with diamonds). The watch is in great, unrestored condition, with a case that has never been polished. This is the second time the Bao Dai has been up for auction at Phillips. It was sold in 2002 for $235,000 to a private collector who stands to make a windfall on May 13. Lot 93. Bidding starts at $1,500,000.
The Rolex Daytona Ref. 6239, nicknamed the “Double Swiss Underline.”

The Rolex Daytona Ref. 6239, nicknamed the “Double Swiss Underline.”

  1. The Rolex Daytona Ref. 6239, nicknamed the “Double Swiss Underline” is a transitional piece in the coveted Daytona line. “Any time Rolex introduces a new model, they experiment with the design with many iterations until they find a configuration that they think is going to sell well. This is a very early iteration of the Daytona,” says Boutros. It is among the first Daytona watches ever created and represents the first series marked “Cosmograph” as well as the first Rolex chronograph with the tachymeter scale moved from the dial to the bezel. It is also the first to use contrasting subdials rather than monochrome. Rolex transitioned from the pre-Daytona 6238 to this model, the Daytona 6239 – in fact the caseback is marked 6238, as Rolex used leftover casebacks from previous models. The nickname, “Double Swiss Underline” comes from two distinctions on the dial; it has two Swiss designations, one barely peeking up above the bezel, and the other just above it at 6 o’clock (hence “Double Swiss”); and the underline beneath the Rolex Cosmograph signature signifies it used tritium instead of radium on the dial. In 1961, Swiss authorities banned the use of radium because it was so radioactive, so companies switched to tritium, which was much less radioactive. To signify the use of tritium in these early days, Rolex used an underline, but stopped using it in 1963-1964. A characteristic of early Daytonas fitted with “pump” pushers is that they were not designated as “Oyster” models, so they were not water resistant. It is therefore rare to find these early models in such well-preserved condition. Lot 234. Estimate $100,000-$200,000.

    “The Legend” is a rare yellow gold Oyster Paul Newman Chronograph, Ref. 6263.

    “The Legend” is a rare yellow gold Oyster Paul Newman Chronograph, Ref. 6263.

  1. The Legend” is a rare yellow gold Oyster Paul Newman Chronograph, Ref. 6263, one of only three ever made. It is called the Paul Newman Daytona because it was the model favored by the actor and race car driver, and distinguished by the arrangement of the subdials and the contrasting colored seconds hand scale along the periphery of the dial. It is called the Daytona because Rolex became the official timekeeper of the Daytona International Speedway in 1962, and so added the word “Daytona” to the Cosmograph reference. (“The Legend” was made in 1969). It is also distinctive for its screw-down pushers, as opposed to pump pushers, a change Rolex made to Daytona models starting in 1965 to make the watches water resistant. The “lemon” dial is another draw, contrasting the black subdials with creamy yellowed “square lollipop” markers and distinctive Art-Deco style font. “This is the rarest of the Paul Newmans because it’s an Oyster with screwdown pushers, with an Oyster dial and in yellow gold. It’s the first I’ve seen,” says Boutros, who no doubt had a hand in authoring this intro in the auction catalogue: “There are some watches so elusive and so mythical that they stun even the most seasoned and weary of collectors.” Lot 237. Estimate $793,000-$1,590,000.

    The “Sydney Rose” is a rare Patek Phillipe Ref. 2497, one of fewer than 20 made in rose gold.

    The “Sydney Rose” is a rare Patek Phillipe Ref. 2497, one of fewer than 20 made in rose gold.

  1. The “Sydney Rose” is a rare Patek Phillipe Ref. 2497, one of fewer than 20 made in rose gold, and a pure representation of the brand’s heritage as a master of perpetual calendars. It is an early model of the reference, made in 1954, with a large case for the era, at 37mm, and Arabic numerals. It is distinctive for its long flared and curved lugs – “If you lay it down on a surface it rises up like a piece of modern art,” gushes Boutros. It is the only one in the world with luminous hands. It is called the Sydney Rose because it was sold to a private collector in Australia. The woven gold Milanese bracelet is original. “The watch sat in a safe for five decades and is now being sold by the family of the original owner,” says Boutros. Lot 171. Estimate $396,000-793,000.
The T&Co. Ref. 2499 is notable for its dual-logo, with Patek Philippe and Tiffany & Co. both appearing on the dial.

The T&Co. Ref. 2499 is notable for its dual-logo, with Patek Philippe and Tiffany & Co. both appearing on the dial.

  1. The T&Co. Ref. 2499 is notable for its dual-logo with Patek Philippe and Tiffany & Co. both appearing on the dial. It is one of only four references in its particular series to bear the Tiffany & Co. signature, and possibly unique in its use of markers rather than Arabic numerals. “In the world of vintage Rolex, the most desirable watches are Paul Newman Daytonas; in the world of vintage Patek Philippe, the most desirable models are perpetual calendar chronographs, especially the 2499,” says Boutros. Only 349 pieces of the Ref 2499 were made over a period of 34 years, which makes this watch exclusive. The yellow gold woven bracelet is signed Tiffany & Co. Lot 38. Estimate: $991,000-$1,980,000.

For more information and to view the online catalog for all 237 lots, please visit https://www.phillips.com/auctions

 

 

 

 

Manufacture Royale ADN
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Best of the Indies: 10 treasures from Independent and smaller watch brands

Manufacture Royale ADN

Manufacture Royale ADN

The big brands aren’t the only ones introducing interesting watches in and around Basel during the watch fair. The unique creations of independent watchmakers are the main reason many aficionados make the pilgrimage to Basel every spring. They all have one thing in common: they combine traditional techniques with contemporary design and inventive watchmaking. They are also all about outstanding workmanship, and because they are made in very limited quantities, they are inherently rare, so getting your hands on one is a rare opportunity. Here are 10 timepieces not exhibited in Hall 1.0 at Baselworld 2017.

Romain Jerome Engraved

Romain Jerome Engraved

Romain Jerome Engraved

The Steampunk Auto model from Romain Jerome’s Engraved collection celebrates the industrial revolution. Zeppelins, steamboats, locomotives and submarines are engraved in red gold over the PVD-coated steel case. Notable details include the pistons at the 2, 4, 8 and 10 o’clock positions; hands shaped like the anchors of transatlantic steamships; rough-finished Roman numerals; and a propeller-shaped small seconds wheel.

Christophe Claret X-TREM-1 StingHD

Christophe Claret X-TREM-1 StingHD

Christophe Claret X-TREM-1 StingHD

Christophe Claret has embraced the Memento Mori trend in timepieces with this variation of the X-TREM-l, known for its innovative magnet-driven minute scale. The skull is subtly placed on the carriage of the flying tourbillon. Also, if you breathe on the sapphire crystal, a skull appears. It comes with two straps as well as a bracelet made by StingHD, adorned with a black diamond encrusted skull with ruby eyes. The case is titanium with black PVD.

MB&F Destination Moon

MB&F Destination Moon

MB&F Destination Moon

MB&F is unique in the world of watchmaking for its spaceship meets high-watchmaking aesthetic and its policy of partnering with unique talent. This is the brand’s sixth collaboration with Swiss clock maker L’Epee 1839. Destination Moon is a clock shaped like a rocket, with a vertically structured open-worked movement. Two aluminum disks indicate hours and minutes. The frame is made of stainless steel, with PVD coated landing pods that ground the clock.

Arnold & Son Instrument DSTB

Arnold & Son Instrument DSTB

Arnold & Son Instrument DSTB

This is a new steel version of the DSTB (Dial Side True Beat), with the true beat mechanism shown on the dial. Seconds are the focus here, and are indicated on a large subdial at 11 o’clock. Hours and minutes are shown on a lacquered dial at 4 o’clock, with a blue dial plate as background. The 43.5mm case is steel and looks bigger than it is.

Greubel Forsey Balancier

Greubel Forsey Balancier

Greubel Forsey Balancier

Greubel Forsey is known for its tourbillons, but the Balancier is a time-only watch with scrupulous finishing and the marque’s signature asymmetrical case. The focus is th large (12.60mm) adjustable balance, made in-house, and place in a diagonally inclined position. The base plate is made of German silver that is scrupulously finished. The words engraved on the caseback – including “exclusive,” “inventive,” “original,” and “architectural” – reflect the company’s mission statement. It is limited to 33 pieces.

MCT Sequential One S110 Evo Vantablack

MCT Sequential One S110 Evo Vantablack

MCT Sequential One S110 Evo Vantablack

Vantablack (Vertically Alligned NanoTube Arrays) is a new wonder material that at least two other brands are using this year. It is composed of carbon nanotubes that trap light, so it has a 99.965% absorption rate. The point? It makes things seem to disappear into an abyss: the skeletonized movement appears to be suspended in space against the vantablack dial plate. The hours are indicated by five prisms in four positions that flip.

Hautlence Labyrinth

Hautlence Labyrinth

Hautlence Labyrinth

To call this a timepiece is a stretch since it doesn’t actually tell time. It is, as its name suggests, a labyrinth, the child’s game of jiggling a ball through a maze. Worn as a wristwatch and set with diamonds, it is more like a bracelet for men. The dial is carved out of gold and the ball is platinum. The case is titanium.

Hautlence Vortex Bronze

Hautlence Vortex Bronze

Hautlence Bronze

Okay, this one tells time. The case is bronze, with a titanium crown, place at the top of the case instead of the side. The three-dimensional sapphire crystal displays the bridge-shaped caliber from both front and back. This is a big watch (52 x 50 x 17.8), with two barrels. Hours are displayed by a 12-link chain, hinged on a pallet system. It is limited to eight pieces.

Manufacture Royale ADN

Manufacture Royale ADN

Manufacture Royale ADN

This is a big watch (46mm) but the hinged horns (composed of more than 67 components) pivot to hug the wrist, which makes it wear much smaller and fit comfortably. The rubber strap also helps with fit. The skeletonized manually wound Caliber MR09 is a flying tourbillon with two time zones, including a jump hour for local time. The case is either steel, steel-DLC and forged carbon or pink gold and forged carbon.

H. Moser & Cie Heritage Perpetual Moon

H. Moser & Cie Heritage Perpetual Moon

Moser & Cie Heritage Perpetual Moon

Normally, a flinqué enamel finish on a timepiece is displayed on the dial or on portions of the dial. H. Moser breaks the rules with this stunning case-side application. Traditional elements include a luscious white grand feu dial, hand-painted Roman numerals, classic moonphase indicator, tubular lugs and lavish swallow-tail hands. This a 30-piece limited edition.

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Best of Baselworld 2017: New Watches From Blancpain, Patek Philippe, Rolex, Bulgari and more

Baselworld 2017 opening day.

New introductions at Baselworld this year tended to fit one of two categories. 1. Trends that reflect the times – and by “times” I mean an industry that is entering its third straight year of decline (see my story on that here) – with watches that are smaller, less complicated and more realistically designed and priced. And 2. Watches that reflect the fact that Baselworld is also about showmanship and haute horology, with high complications (like the Breguet Equation of Time) and metiers masterpieces (like the Dior VIII Grand Bal). Here are my top five men’s and top five ladies’ introductions for Baselworld 2017. Click on each link to find more pictures and detailed descriptions. Read more