During the run-up to the auction season, it’s easy to focus on the big houses featuring superstar lots that get the lion’s share of the community’s attention. But for every horological heavyweight being auctioned at the big houses, there are dozens of lots at smaller houses that don’t get the same sort of visibility – but maybe they should. Dr. Crott Auctioneers out of Mannheim, Germany, is one of those auction houses. On November 7, they will be holding their “103rd Auction” in Mannheim at Speicher7 Hotel.
Back in May, I wrote about the uptick in the frequency of Stainless Steel Lange 1 examples coming to market. One watch stood out for an oddity engraved in the caseback: the name Stefan Muser on a Stainless Steel Lange 1 that was being auctioned by Sotheby’s. Dr. Crott Auctioneers was a central part of that story. As I would later find out, Stefan Muser is the owner of Dr. Crott. From the story that ran in May:
“Further, there’s a very interesting connection between the two watches about to hit the market. Dr. Crott’s is auctioning the aforementioned watch, but it’s case no. 127695, the upcoming watch at Sotheby’s, that’s perplexing. At 12 o’clock on the caseback there’s a name engraved: Stefan Muser. It’s not just a Lange 1 in stainless steel – it’s a personalized Lange 1 in stainless steel. But it gets even more interesting. Mr. Muser is the author of three books on wristwatches no longer in production, including pricing guides. However, that’s not even the most interesting part. Stefan Muser also owns Dr. Crott’s. A watch bearing the name of the owner of Dr. Crott’s auction house is being auctioned at Sotheby’s. What’s the backstory here? We’re working on it.”
Well, it turns out that Mr. Muser reached out after the story was published and cleared it up. He was one of the very first owners of the Lange 1 in yellow gold in the late ’90s. He’d developed a close relationship with Günther Blümlein and Reinhard Meis, two men employed by A. Lange & Söhne largely responsible for the brand’s successful revival, and upon hearing that stainless steel Lange 1 examples were being produced, he reached out and asked for one. He was given a stainless steel case with his name engraved in the back, but eventually passed it on to a collector in Germany.
This is all to illustrate an important point: Dr. Crott is deeply entrenched in this world, and their unique positioning in Germany allows them the opportunity to procure lots that most likely wouldn’t pop up elsewhere. Below, you’ll find a number of lots originating in Germany, and a couple that don’t, but are simply too interesting not to include.
Breguet “200m Automatic” Dive watch
Breguet isn’t typically associated with the sort of dive watches that were tied to the dive boom in the ’50s to ’70s, and for that, this Breguet stands out. It’s a ladies’ dive watch with an internal rotating bezel. Usually, it would be difficult to establish the provenance and background of a watch like this, but Dr. Crott went straight to the horse’s mouth with a casual email exchange between the house and Emanuel Breguet himself. Emmanuel is a direct descendant of Abraham-Louis Breguet, the founder of Breguet, and he works as a historian for the brand currently. He confirmed that it was made in 1976 as a gift. This isn’t a watch that’s noteworthy for what it is – a tonneau-cased dive watch characteristic of the time – but instead for what it is not: a piece of high horology that typifies Breguet.
Lot 129; estimate €20,000 – 25,000
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Jumbo Jubilee Automatic
The Royal Oak may be experiencing a current bout of popularity, but that’s not to say it hasn’t been a fixture for decades. However, the latitude that AP enjoyed with the model was certainly greater back in the day. Take this Royal Oak Jumbo Jubilee for example. There were 1,000 of these made in 1992. Of those, 280 were in yellow gold. There’s the typical “flex” that comes from scoring a modern stainless Royal Oak, and then there’s the flex that comes from getting one that’s almost 30 years old, limited, and in a precious metal emblematic of the good times of the ’90s. It’s a watch I’m taken by, even though I’m certainly not a fan of flexing, and I don’t particularly connect with the Royal Oak.
Lot 156; estimate €20,000 – 50,000
Sigmund Riefler Astronomical Tank Precision Regulator
In 1901, the most precise clock in the world could be found in Cleveland, Ohio, approximately 6,683 km from Geneva. But the clock was originally from Switzerland’s neighbor, Germany, in Munich. It was made by Sigmund Riefler’s Riefler company, known for astronomical regulator clocks that were able to run with a variance of 10 milliseconds per day. To achieve that level of accuracy, a vacuum was created by pumping air out of a glass tube that contained the clock. Small variations in atmospheric pressure could negatively affect timekeeping, and the design mitigated that situation from happening. This particular clock was a fixture at the Case School of Applied Science in Cleveland. The school was founded in 1880, and in 1948, it merged with neighboring Western Reserve University, forming what’s known today as Case Western Reserve University. Jack spotted another Riefler on a visit to Urwek HQ in Geneva.
Lot 88; estimate €80,000 – 150,000
Mühle Glashütte Teutonia Automatic
This was the watch that kicked off the era of Mühle Glashütte under Thilo Mühle, the fifth generation of the Mühle family and the current leader of the brand. I had the pleasure of having coffee with Mr. Mühle in New York City last year, and throughout the chat, I formed a more complete idea of what modern German watchmaking beyond A. Lange & Söhne was about. The conclusion I came to was that it isn’t really any different from the values that A. Lange & Söhne champions. There are through-lines that run between all of the brands coming out of Glashütte, and they include a strong emphasis on tradition and a commitment to restrained and calculated innovation that’s performed for the sake of sustainable progress and not pageantry. Look at some of the wares from Mühle Glashütte, and you’ll see what I mean. They’ve certainly resisted the temptation to follow trends, and instead, you’ll see visual ties to this very watch that’s coming up for auction, as well as design cues that just don’t appear on any other watches. Like the bezel design of the Rasmus 2000 collection, for instance.
Lot 61; Estimate €1,500 – 2,000
Take a look at the photo essay we ran earlier this week, and you’ll see what’s become the standard dash chronograph set-up: A series of Heuer stopwatches affixed to a metal plate, screwed into the dash. There’s a fantastic period-correct charm that this setup lends to sports cars from the ’50s to ’70s, but Dr. Crott has sourced something that, in my mind, might be even more interesting. This Hanhart unit allows the user to start both watches simultaneously by using a single pusher on the outside of the metal encasing. One is a stopwatch, and the other a chronograph, with different scales. According to Dr. Crott, it was originally advertised as being fit for “industry, by rallye drivers, for military purposes and in sports events.” I’d say it wouldn’t look too shabby on the dash of a 1955 Porsche 356 A, either.
Lot 316; Estimate €1,600 – 3,000
The A. Lange & Söhne Datograph “Dufourgraph” Ref. 403.031
In a 2006 interview with lauded watchmaker Philippe Dufour that ran in Revolution, he was asked if the L951.1, the caliber in the Datograph, was really the best caliber in the world. His response? “Take 10 movements out of the current range of any contemporary brand, put them next to a Lange movement, and comment honestly on what you see. That is the best way to judge – by examining the truth.”
Now you can see the truth for yourself, as Dr. Crott has sourced one for the upcoming auction.
This specific reference is known as the “Dufourgraph” because it’s been on the wrist of Mr. Dufour for years now. When Ben Clymer visited Dufour’s workshop in 2013, he wrote about Dufour’s love of the Datograph, saying, “He paid for it himself, and he’s unabashed in his praise for it. He says what makes this watch so special is the amount of extra value you see in the movement architecture, the finishing, and the design. It says a lot that one of the Vallée de Joux’s greatest sons says the best chronograph in the world is German. It’s an endorsement Lange doesn’t take lightly, either. When I visited the Lange manufacture a few years back, one of their talking points was Dufour’s appreciation for their work.”
Here we went deep on the Datograph in August and examined why it’s still considered one of the holy grails in high horology to this day.
Lot 27; estimate €30,000 – 50,000