Well-timed for Holiday Shopping, Watches & Wristwatches bring $1.7-Million at Bonhams on December 6th

Bonhams enjoyed a successful sale of Fine Watches and Wristwatches in New York City on December 6, 2007. The sale, simulcast to the West Coast galleries of Bonhams & Butterfields, featured more than 260 rare historic and contemporary examples of the world’s finest timepieces. From private collections came desirable Patek Philippe, Cartier, Rolex and Audemars Piguet examples, several creating competitive bidding during the $1.7-million sale.

The top lot of the sale was a fine Rolex stainless steel diver’s bracelet watch known as the “James Bond” Submariner. The self-winding Oyster Perpetual watch, made in early 1958, achieved worldwide fame when Sean Connery wore one while portraying Sir Ian Flemming’s notoriously debonair secret agent James Bond. Flemming chose this particular Rolex as Bond’s watch not merely due to its being standard issue to British Special Forces of the era, but because the piece was considered a watch that could be worn with any attire, as Bond does with rare exception.

The watch on offer at the afternoon sale is almost identical to the watch worn in 1964’s Goldfinger, with the same 5510 gloss gilt dial. The Submariner immediately joined the agent’s arsenal of stylish accessories (alongside the Aston Martin DB5 sports car and custom-tailored suits) that moviegoers have come to equate with Bond’s suave demeanor. This fine example, valued at $15/20,000, sold after competitive bidding for $93,600, with no covert actions – although the successful bidder has remained a secret agent, their identity not made available as of press time.

Another exciting lot came to the block a bit later in the afternoon, as the cover lot, a fine and rare 18k rose gold chronograph wristwatch by Patek Philippe, was sold for $90,000. This piece was the marquee lot of an important collection of 30 watches owned by a successful Pasadena, California businessman who began amassing his collection in the late 1980s. The wristwatch [Ref. 1579] was made in 1952 and was originally sold in June of 1953 by Gobbi of Milan, Italy. It boasts an oversize rose case with square chronograph buttons and prominent sculpted lugs. The lot was offered with a Patek Philippe extract from the firm’s archives and bidding easily ticked past its estimate of $60/80,000.

Charles Tearle, North American Department Head of Fine Watches and Wristwatches at Bonhams, said of the watch, “Reference 1579 in an oversize 35mm case and sculpted shoulders is one of the most desirable regular production Patek Philippe chronographs to the collector—with examples in rose gold particularly unusual.”

Other important lots sold included a fine and rare circa 1952 Rolex stainless steel self-winding triple calendar wristwatch with phases of the moon (sold for $72,000). It features nickel-plated automatic movement with a patented Super-balance white dial with applied gilt dagger markers and gilt dauphine hands. During their history, Rolex have only manufactured two versions of wristwatches with a moon-phase calendar: the 8171 in a 38mm Precision case with snap-on back, and the 6062 in a 34mm Oyster case with a screw back. “This model was produced in limited numbers from 1949 to 1952. It is today one of the most desirable Rolex wristwatches available,” said Tearle, “we were pleased to have an example of both Moon phase Rolexes within this sale.”

Other incredible timepieces sold include a fine and rare 18k pink gold cushion cased wristwatch by Audemars Piguet, which brought $33,600. This John Shaeffer Jump-Hour Minute Repeater, displayed on the back cover of the sale catalogue, is number 21 from a limited edition of 25 examples made in the late 1990s. The watch has a fan-form aperture for revolving minutes, as well as an aperture for digital hour display. Additionally, a fine Cartier platinum special-edition tonneau-shaped dual time zone wristwatch, with a leap year indicator, sold for $40,800. A rare platinum wristwatch by Patek Philippe with a diamond set dial [Ref.96] went under the hammer, accompanied by a Patek Philippe extract from the firm’s archives. Made in 1954 and sold in February of 1955 by Gubelin, the unique watch changed owners once again, bringing $31,200.