In the wake of impressive results from this year’s spring auctions, Phillips are once again bringing their ever-popular watch sales back to Switzerland, courtesy of the Geneva Watch Auction: EIGHT. From 10–11 November, the international auction house will present over 220 eminently collectible timepieces at La Réserve Geneva over the course of two evening sessions, which are free and open to members of the public. As with Phillips’ Hong Kong auctions earlier this May, collectors will have the opportunity to see an exhaustive selection of timepieces (curated by Bacs & Russo), running the gamut from discontinued minute repeaters to Omega’s trinity of 1957 “Broad Arrow” tool watches. To help you navigate Phillips’ offerings next month — which are truly incredible — here’s a shortlist of 5 exceptional pieces that are slated to go under the gavel.

1
Rolex Sea-Dweller "Single Red" prototype (Ref. 1665)

Notwithstanding two or three other historic models (such as the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms), Rolex’s Sea-Dweller is the archetypical dive watch of the 20th century. Amongst this storied and ongoing lineage, the Ref. 1665 stands out as preeminent — a characteristic attributed to its status as the first Sea-Dweller to be mass produced. This particular Ref. 1665 ratchets the anticipation up even further, given that watch scholars have identified it as a “Single Red” prototype — 1 of only 12 such watches that Rolex put into production. This precursor to the later (much less obscure) “Double Red” and “Great White” Sea-Dwellers features a single line of red text (hence its nickname), beautifully patinated tritium lume plots and traces of an engraving to marine biologist Robert Bradley.

Initial estimate: CHF 500,000–1,000,000

2
Rolex Day-Date stainless steel prototype (Ref. 1803)

Nowadays, particularly in Hong Kong, we tend to think of Day-Dates as an antiquated Rolex style. This isn’t entirely unwarranted, as the vast majority of Day-Dates — executed in yellow gold with elements like the jubilee bracelet and fluted bezel — do err on the opulent side. Rest assured, though: This Ref. 1803 is about as far away from all that as you can get. Like the legendary Ref. 6611, the present exemplar features a stainless steel construction sans serial number — the latter detail leading scholars to believe that this Day-Date was never intended for commercial use.

Initial estimate: CHF 60,000–120,000

3
Patek Philippe split-seconds chronograph (Ref. 1463)

When Patek opts to do split-seconds chronographs, their execution is so unique that they inhabiting a class all their own. That’s doubly the case for the Ref. 1436 — a series of two-register chronographs first launched by the manufacture in 1938. Putting aside for a moment its sheer aesthetic beauty — the hand-applied, uniformly coherent numerals in both sub-dials are particularly lovely — the current Ref. 1436 is one of only 16 examples known to feature applied Breguet numerals. As is often the case with Patek, the current chronograph will be accompanied by an archival extract — an addition which should assuage anyone who has trepidation about the watch’s  provenance.

Initial estimate: CHF 250,000–500,000

4
Patek Philippe single-button chronograph

When it comes to vintage watches, historical pedigree — how the particular piece subsequently shapes the culture and DNA of the manufacture — can sometimes overshadow even the most interesting technological developments. This particular Patek chronograph, for example, is bound to immediately pique interest with its single-button interface. Wearers use the crown to activate both sub-dials, switching to central timekeeping mode with the button at the 2 o’clock position. This functionality, combined with the watch’s excellent condition, would be sufficient to make it an attractive consignment, but it’s what’s beneath the surface that is doubly revelatory. Along with 26 other exemplars, this single-button chronograph marks the first documented use at Patek Philippe of the covered column wheel — an innovation deriving from a Victorin Piguet ébauche.

Initial estimate: CHF 400,000–800,000

5
Patek Philippe perpetual calendar with moonphase (Ref. 3974)

Discontinued in 2000 due to its lengthy production times and technical complexity, the Patek Philippe Ref. 3974 is almost too much watch for one person to handle –almost. Integrating a perpetual calendar, minute repeater and moonphase — any one of which would be a high-end complication on its own — this watch is yet another testament to Patek’s industry-leading craftsmanship in the realm of perpetual calendars. Additionally, it bears the initially counterintuitive distinction of being a platinum minute repeater, but thanks to celebrated watchmaker Jean-Pierre Hagmann’s contribution, it emits a clear and resonance chime, undiminished by the sound-dampening effects of the precious white metal.

Initial estimate: CHF 700,000–1,000,000

For further details about Phillips’ upcoming fall sales — including consignment and catalogue information — please visit their auction calendar

Randy Lai
Editor
Having worked in the Australian digital media landscape for over 5 years, Randy has extensive experience in men's specialist categories such as classic clothing, watches and spirits. He is partial to mid-century chronographs and a nice chianti.