Let’s face it: For most of us, luxury watch auctions are little more than a spectator sport. While the metrics within which I am rendered unfit for participation may change (natural talent, hard work, money, even more money), be it pro ball, first seat on an orchestra, or bidding on some amazing lot in this fall’s sales, the outcome is the same. And from slam dunks to perfectly played solos, and the occasional blockbuster multi-million dollar lot, for those of us “in the crowd,” it had better be fun to experience.
With that in mind, here are a few loosely modern oddball lots from Sotheby’s “Important Watches Featuring Masterworks of Time” that stood out to me because they represent a wide range of quirky and uncommon complications or layouts. Some are unique while others are distinctive iterations of known models, but all are special and fun while representing something peripheral to the normal blue chip references common to the vintage watch collecting world.
None of these are the banner lots for the sale, nor are they expected to break any records. I picked this list based solely upon my interests and with the hopes of finding the oddball lots that were neither true vintage nor modern “in-demand” references. For more information on the auction, which Sotheby’s will be conducting live on November 11, 2020, in Geneva, please visit the lot listing here.
IWC Portugieser Grande Complication Reference 3774
Don’t close the tab just yet, this is no standard IWC Perpetual Calendar. While it’s true that IWC tends to go crazy with its very cool perpetual calendar movement, the reference 3774 is somewhat more grande. The first giveaway is the sliding button in the left-side case flank, which telegraphs the presence of a minute repeater.
But wait, there’s more. A lot more. Supported by 657 parts and a remarkable 75 jewels, the 3774 IWC Portugieser Grande Complication sports 21 functions, including a perpetual calendar and a chronograph. This 45mm platinum example dates back to 2013 and is one of just 100 examples produced that year. If you want a modern grande comp that still works as an everyday watch while simultaneously flexing oh-so-hard on all of those “basic” QPs, treat yourself to an IWC that is grande in both size and spec.
Patek Philippe Reference 5050
For those wanting something a bit more subtle than the above IWC grande comp, check out this somewhat more under-the-radar Patek Philippe 5050 in platinum. Quite a bit younger than you might expect, this 35mm Patek reference was originally launched in 1993, and its mid-century looks wrap around a strange and wonderful calendar function that combines a perpetual calendar with a retrograde date for a unique effect.
With an automatic movement, display caseback, and a layout that downplays the complications on offer, this quiet but undeniably charming Patek packs a lot into a mid-’90s platform. You just have to decide, platinum or yellow gold? Because they’ve got a yellow-gold one, too.
Audemars Piguet Jules Audemars Carillon Reference 26015PT
Measuring 39mm in platinum with a matching bracelet, this is one of those watches that you know isn’t vintage but can still be hard to date. Having launched in 2005, this exceedingly complex Jules Audemars model pre-dates the rapid expansion of the watch world via various internet platforms and thus is not a watch that is commonly mentioned. But don’t let its relative anonymity cloud its capability, as the Audemars Piguet Jules Audemars Carillon reference 26015PT carries a big stick.
Sporting a manually wound 57-jewel cal. 2891 movement, the Carillon 26015 boasts a grande sonnerie (chiming each quarter-hour), a petite sonnerie function (chiming every hour), and a dynamograph. Developed by AP, the dynamograph is a small indication (marked “Couple” on the dial) that shows a measure of the active mainspring torque (tension) as a way of indicating when the watch should be wound so that the movement will have the correct amount of power needed to run precisely. Too little torque (or too much, in some cases) can cause timekeeping to slow or speed up, respectively.
Matched with a silver dial, the Jules Audemars Carillon 26015 is from a time when the watch world was somewhat less self-aware – before the snake started to consider its own tail as a meal. Furthermore, it’s a great size, it’s weird, it’s not a Royal Oak (let alone a vintage steel Rolex or Patek), and it sports a gloriously specific and nerd-approved set of complications. What a cool thing.
Gérald Genta GGM1
You want weird? How about a 37mm Gérald Genta with a case made of yttrium. Yes, I managed to spell that correctly. Yttrium is a metallic material commonly used in the production of LEDs, lasers, and even the red phosphors used in old-school CRT screens. Despite being classed as a “rare-earth element,” yttrium is only part of what makes this funky Genta worth a second look.
Tucked inside that rare metallic (and possibly unique) case, this Gérald Genta GGM1 has an automatic movement that supports Westminster grande and petite sonnerie, a tourbillon, retrograde displays for both the hours and the minutes, and twin power-reserve displays (for the repeater and the tourbillon). Oh, and a blue mother-of-pearl dial.
It’s not beautiful, but it is rare, weird, and entirely interesting.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Grande Complication Reference 25865
Those of you who follow my HODINKEE posts know that I have developed something of a penchant for early Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendars. And, while Sotheby’s is offering a few such examples (see lots 36 and 38 if interested), I wanted to find something even further from the steel stoicism of the Royal Oak’s original intent. As such, check out this Royal Oak Grande Complication.
Shown in white gold over a black dial, this RO is a reference 25865BC, and it dates back to 2008. Just like with the other grand comps mentioned here, the 25865’s 44mm case houses a minute repeater, a perpetual calendar with number of the week, and a split-seconds chronograph. Though I’m not sure that the world needed another way to go full beast mode with a Royal Oak, I find the charm and execution of the earlier models to be entirely noteworthy. I also think this is an interesting variation of the Royal Oak that appears to have borrowed some inspiration from the Royal Oak Offshore.
As a huge fan (from the nosebleeds, of course) of haute horology watchmaking in increasingly sporty formats, this chunky Royal Oak has the complications and credibility to warrant plenty of zeros in the lot estimations.
For more about “Important Watches featuring Masterworks of Time,” visit Sotheby’s.