Vintage, Value, and Beauty: My Top Favorites From The Auction Block At Christie’s New York

Without a doubt, I can surely say I’ve got a keen eye for watches of merit. Today, at Christie’s, I tried on everything from a steel ‘72 Daytona with a once black dial that had wondrously aged into a rich deep-brown tone, to an oddly shaped Serpico y Laino signed Patek that I, honestly, did not even know existed. These watches may break sale records, along with a couple dozen more, but the quality of a wristwatch does not hinge on the number of digits you have to write out in your checkbook to acquire that piece.  Naturally, I wandered over to the “no reserve” case to get a sense of what was being offered to guys like me who, let’s just say, haven’t the luxury of throwing down a stack of cash on a new addition to their collection. In this “no reserve” case were some pretty astonishing watches that I would never expect to see there, one of which was the Baselworld 2013 sensation Dark Side of the Moon. Yes, I do admit that I tested out some relatively modern pieces, but, literally, seconds later I was all over the vintage. It’s always been a dream of mine to own an uber-complicated dress watch, but if I’m a born tool-watch lover, what’s the point of expending the bulk of my “watch capital” on a watch with complications nonessential to my everyday life? That’s why I adore the ingenious design of the triple calendar chronograph. Therefore, I will show you two of, what I consider to be, the best deals and steals when it comes to Triple Date Calendars at Wednesday’s auction.


1.     Universal Geneve Tri-Compax (Lot No.185)            

This particular watch, the Universal Geneve Tri-Compax, may be quite the familiar face, or dial I should say, to many of my readers. The instant this watch came into my range of view, my eyes zoomed in on it. What caught my attention was not only the glistening yellow gold case, but also the jet-black dial, an exceptionally rare hue for this model. The diameter of this watch is 35mm; after all, this watch was produced in 1948 (when small was the old big). Characteristically, the movement is a Caliber 481. With a modest estimate of $1,500-$2,000, I say go for it, except for the fact that I’d love to win this one.

2.     Ulysse Nardin Reference 3901 (Lot No. 184)

Opinions run strong when it comes to pink gold. Frankly, this tawny, copper-filled precious metal won my heart early on in the preview even before I got the chance to get an up-close look at this watch. With a contrasting tinted blue outer date ring and a noteworthy pair of day and date apertures written in Spanish, a dial can’t get more stunning. As with the Universal, the case, dial and movement are signed, dated, and complement each other well, likewise. It may be a surprise, but this is not one of Ulysee Nardin’s typical chronos. Just a simple web search (including the reference number) will bring close to zero results. Hey, you never know what’s in store for the future of the 3901, no joke. This piece is estimated to sell for a hammer price of $2,000-$3,000.

3.    Movado World Time (Lot No. 183)

The world time complication is a spectacular and practical design, originally invented by master watchmaker Louis Cottier, one of the early twentieth century’s most innovative watchmakers. There is a plethora of world time watches on the market today, ranging from $200,000 Patek 5131’s to $100 Seikos running on a mass-produced quartz movement. Regardless, the world timer will never go out of style. The world time watch that I believe is a fantastic value at Christie’s, is the Movado World Time reference 58149 in a stainless steel, gold plated case, circa 1945. I’m not usually a fan of gold plated cases, but this watch is a definite exception in my book. What really stood out to me was the coin-edged bezel, which, when tied in with the dimensions and the classic curvature of the case, is almost reminiscent of the hobnail bezel on a Calatrava. For the same estimate as the Ulysse Nardin ($2,000- $3,000), only good can be said about this Movado.


 Luke Rottman (Executive Editor: