Phillips Watches took to Singapore to showcase a selection of timepieces from both its upcoming Daytona Ultimatum sale as well as Geneva Watch Auction: SEVEN at the Malmaison by The Hour Glass. The line-up consists of some intriguing examples that have beaten lottery-level odds to arrive at the Phillips auction block, from the Elvis Presley’s Tiffany-dial Omega to the only known white-gold vintage Daytona. Here are five standouts from the sale, and bearing in mind that these exceedingly rare gems are ultimately the preserve of the fortunate few, we’ve also included a selection of contemporary equivalents, which offers plenty of premise to build a collection.
The headliner of the Daytona Ultimatum sale is inarguably Italian watch collector John Goldberger’s white gold Rolex Daytona ref. 6265 – a watch so singular it’s known to the collecting fraternity simply as “The Unicorn.” Produced from 1970 to 1987, the screw-pusher ref. 6265, as with all vintage Daytonas, was predominantly made in stainless steel, 18k and 14k yellow gold.
This white-gold example was manufactured in 1970 and sold through a German retailer in 1971, presumably commissioned by someone of distinguished means as it is the first known instance in which Rolex had deviated from the standard metals. Acquired eight years ago by John Goldberger, it features a black “sigma” dial with white gold hands and markers, as well as a steel crown. Goldberger had fitted it with a white gold bracelet that was taken from a white-gold ref. 1507 Oyster Date. Accordingly, the watch has a starting estimate of CHF3 million, with all proceeds to be donated to Children Action, a Geneva-based charity dedicated to helping the lives of youth around the world.
Today, white-gold Daytonas with a gold bezel (ref. 116509) are part of Rolex’s core collection. The design has remained largely unchanged, featuring the characteristic Oyster case with screw down crown and pushers at two and four o’clock. They are equipped with Rolex’s in-house, fully integrated column wheel chronograph movement, which made its debut at the dawn of the new millennium. The self-winding COSC-certified calibre 4130 has several advantages including fewer components for greater reliability, freeing up space for a large mainspring barrel, thereby offering a 72-hour power reserve. It is also equipped with a Parachrom hairspring, offering greater resistance to temperature variations and shocks.
The second highlight is a historical artefact from the Geneva Watch Auction: SEVEN. It is a diamond-encrusted, Tiffany-stamped 18k white-gold Omega that was presented to rock-and-roll legend, Elvis Presley, at a charity luncheon organised by RCA Records in February 1961. Presented along with a plaque, the gift was to commemorate a significant milestone in his career – the 75 million records he had sold worldwide. Presley, however, had later traded away the watch for a diamond-studded Hamilton, after an acquaintance expressed a fondness for the Omega. The watch is decorated with 44 brilliant-cut diamonds and measures 33mm in diameter. The case back features the inscription: “To Elvis, 75 Million Records, RCA Victor, 12-25-60” as it was the Christmas of 1960 that the record-breaking sales figure was achieved.
The slim dress watch, characterised by pure styling and a flash of diamonds, is best equated to the De Ville Prestige Co-Axial 39.5mm in rose (ref. 4220.127.116.11.52.002) or yellow gold (ref. 418.104.22.168.52.001). The watch, as with the rest of the De Ville collection, is distinguished by an elegant, timeless design. It features a thin diamond-studded bezel and a silver dial with diamond-set indexes and gold Roman numerals for the quarter hours. It is powered by the self-winding calibre 2500 introduced in 1999, the first Omega movement to include the Co-Axial escapement invented by George Daniels.
Another big-ticket highlight is a fourth-series Patek Philippe ref. 2499/100 with a custom champagne dial. A successor of the 1518, the ref. 2499 was produced from 1951 to 1985, during which approximately only 349 examples were made. The fourth series was distinguished by its sapphire crystal. Like the third series, it didn’t have Arabic numerals or a tachometer scale. While it is most common in yellow gold, this stunning example features a unique champagne dial as well as a strap that was mounted back to front – a quirk which had caused the owner so much grief that the watch remained almost entirely unworn.
The fact is that Patek’s perpetual calendar chronographs, modern or vintage, are among the most collectible watches in horology. A modern-day example in the lineage is the 5270P, which debuted to an impressive stir at Baselworld this year. Created in platinum for the first time, it features a striking salmon dial – a treatment that is typically only found on custom dials or limited editions – with its hands and Arabic numerals in blackened gold. It’s powered by the hand-wound CH 29-535 PS Q which incorporates Gyromax balance wheel and offers a 65-hour power reserve.
A resounding favourite that has been making waves at auction is the Rolex Triple Calendar ref. 6062. Launched in 1950, it was produced for a brief three years and is one of the only two vintage references from Rolex to feature a complete calendar complication. A black, diamond-set dial version that was commissioned by the last Emperor of Vietnam, Bao Dai, sold for US$5 million last year, the second most expensive Rolex sold at an auction (after Paul Newman’s own Daytona). This particular yellow gold example circa 1952 has a rare star marker dial, for which it has been named “Stelline”, Italian for “Star”. It comes with the original yellow gold Jubilee bracelet and has an opening estimate of CHF 400,000.
A modern-day successor to the ref. 6062 is the Cellini Moonphase, launched just last year. For the first time in almost 70 years, the complication made a comeback albeit in the Cellini – a modern and oft-overlooked line. Forged from 18k Everose gold, Rolex’s proprietary formulation of rose gold, the Oyster case has a fluted step bezel. It features a glossy white lacquer dial with the moon phase cycle displayed on a blue enamelled disc and the full moon cast in rhodium-plated meteorite. Powering the watch is the chronometer certified automatic 3195, which naturally incorporates Rolex’s modern advances including a Parachrom hairspring and a high-performance Paraflex shock-absorption system.
Lastly, there’s the absolutely rare 18k yellow-gold Breguet Type XX, nicknamed “Big Eye” for its larger 30-minute counter. While Breguet produced approximately 2000 Type XXs for the civilian market between 1953 to 1970, only three examples are known in yellow gold. Powered by the flyback Valjoux 222, this example is a first-generation civilian model, featuring a 12-hour bezel and double registers. The watch was sold on June 8, 1956 to M. Sambon for 115,000 French Francs, multiples the price of a steel Type XX.
Currently in its third generation, the Breguet Type XX Aéronavale Chronograph (ref. 3800ST/92/9W6) was launched in 1995, just before Breguet was acquired by the Swatch Group. It has since become a mainstay in the catalogue and is powered by the Breguet automatic calibre 582 which is based on the Lemania calibre 1350 but with the addition of a flyback module on top. Unlike the Type XXI and XXII which have resolutely contemporary designs, the Type XX is a compelling remake of the original three-register Type 20s with its polished 0-to-60 bezel, 15-minute counter and syringe hands. And more importantly, it is without a date display.