HOLLYWOOD: JOHN TRAVOLTA vs BREITLING

I confess I don’t watch a lot of television, but when FX announced ‘The People vs OJ Simpson’ series starting in February it seems like a great topic. Like many others, I recall the OJ Simpson case but not the details so was keen to re-live, at least in small part, some of the 90s over again.

While watching the first episode I was also impressed with the seemingly authentic 90’s fashion, including noticing a few characters wearing Gucci style watches (you could only see the bracelet) that would have been correct for the period.  Then John Travolta’s character was introduced. John Travolta is a producer on the show and so obviously feels he doesn’t have to listen to the Prop Master when it comes to what watch he should be wearing, as in one of his first scenes he is clearly seen wearing a pink gold Rolex Daytona with ceramic bezel Ref.116515LN, sure it’s an attractive watch and might fit his characters role, except the OJ case was in 1994 and Rolex launched the 116515 in 2011. So some might forgive John Travolta for wearing a Rolex that didn’t exist during the period the drama is set, only JT is a well know and long-term paid ambassador for Breitling watches. Given Breitling’s rise in popularity really started in the early 1990’s, it would have been perfectly reasonable for his character to wear a yellow gold Chronomat (pink gold wasn’t often used, nor even popular in the early 1990s) such as the 1994 model pictured below, this would have kept the costume design accurate for the period and demonstrated Mr Travolta's integrity regarding his position as a brand ambassador.

WATCH TRIVIA: DAVID BECKHAM GOES VINTAGE?

David Beckham, like any modern-day fashionable guy, is a well-known lover of watches and can frequently be seen wearing something different, usually Rolex. His recent contract as an ambassador for Breitling has obviously ended as he was spotted out during the current NY fashion week with a Rolex back on his wrist, only this time it appears to be a late 1970's Ref.1675 'Rootbeer' in steel and gold. Let's hope DB has seen the light and turned vintage.



In a world where everything is immediately available to those with money; the military Submariner is a welcome lesson in patience.

Ok, so I admit if you have enough money you could buy a MilSub, but it isn’t always that simple. To find a good authentic and original specification model can take years of searching and usually requires either plenty of research, or a very good vintage watch consultant. Unfortunately there are far more fake or simply ‘civilianized’ examples of MilSubs out there with changed parts than correct ones. Perhaps for this reason, original examples of the model have gained something of an iconic status in recent years.

The difference between a civilian version of the Rolex Ref.5513 Submariner and a British military issued version is visually negligible, although financially huge. It’s a watch for true watch connoisseur, because when you wear it, no one, or certainly very few, will ever notice. Which is exactly why it’s one of the most desirable vintage Rolex sports watches available. Only another serious collector will appreciate the time you spent to find an unmolested example and applaud you for it, everyone else will think it’s another civilian model on a NATO strap. The Military Submariner is exactly why people collect vintage watches, each watch tells a story; it went to war, or was at least used by a military trained diver in the real world. They all, without exception, saw action on the wrist of some of the toughest men of their generation, for this reason they each have a history, almost a personality. Yet their greatest appeal is their unbelievable rarity, in original military issued form they are extremely rare to find today yet can still be used daily and appreciated for the ruggedly handsome, masculine sort of appeal they hold.

Some might argue that for similar money a vintage Daytona ‘Paul Newman’ is the better buy, but how many are out there? I can tell you thousands. Besides, unless you are buying Paul Newman’s own exotic dial Ref.6239 (you will get your chance one day) then it’s a watch that cost less than US$1,000 when new and could have been bought from almost any retailer, by anyone. It’s not that I don’t love the Paul Newman Daytona, but it’s a vintage Rolex you wear when you want people to know you are wearing a vintage Rolex. The military Submariner is a far rarer watch and worn by those who want to remain discreet. 

As Rolex military issued watches were serviced regularly, worn or damaged parts specific to the military model were often replaced with civilian Submariner Ref.5513 materials and the majority of those found today have had some items changed. The rarity of the military Submariner is in finding an example that remains in the original issued specification. As many collectors today seek ‘unpolished’ examples, the military Submariner is a welcome exception where dents and signs of use are accepted, if not essential; there’s no such thing as an unpolished MilSub. 

It’s no coincidence the world’s most famous secret agent, James Bond, wore a Rolex Submariner in the original 007 movies. The British Royal Navy were apparently testing the Submariner model for use by its elite divers as a service-issued watch as early as the 1950’s (Dr No was filmed in 1962). By the early 1970’s the British Royal Navy had ordered their first batch of Rolex Ref.5513 Submariner’s from Geneva, these were then modified by Rolex UK and supplied to the department for engraving. Each watch was engraved on the case back with the department code ‘0552/923-7697’ (referring to a small item of personal use), the military triangular insignia and an issue number with year. On the inside of the case back was the full serial number of the watch to ensure the correct back was returned to the correct head when servicing. In addition, the holes for the spring bars were drilled out and a solid bar fitted so the watch could only be worn on a threaded (NATO) strap, the strap was specifically designed so it could be easily extended to fit over a dive suit, in addition, as it threaded through both bars, should one break the watch wouldn’t fall off as the other bar would still be securing it. 

As maintaining synchronization is so important within the military, all of the Cal.1520 movements designated for use by the British military models were modified to feature hacking seconds (the seconds hand stops when the crown is pulled out) and the standard bezel replaced with one featuring indexes for the full 60 minutes. The standard Mercedes hands were replaced with larger and more legible sword hands and the dial stamped with a T within a circle to signify Tritium (not radium) was used as a luminescent.  

The British Navy insisted all of it’s equipment be regularly serviced, including the watches, to maintain reliability and it would seem this is when numerous parts were replaced over the years. In addition, once a soldier’s duty was complete and he returned to base he would also return his wristwatch, where it would be serviced and re-issued. The majority of MilSubs found today were ‘lost’ by the servicemen while on duty.

Military items remained the property of the issuing Governments and the watches were no exception. Although only a personal speculation, service personnel that wanted to retain their issued watches but were worried about being caught for theft, arranged to have the case back of their watch featuring the issue number changed. By swapping two case backs the authorities couldn’t identify a watch to the wearer as it no longer matched issue records. (Alas finding examples with exchanged case-backs is frustratingly common today and devalues the watch significantly)


IF IT SEEMS TO GOOD TO BE TRUE; IT PROBABLY IS

To the trained eye the above image might be an obvious fake Patek Philippe Ref.2499 second series, but when you don't have a trained eye, it's accompanied by a genuine Patek Extract from the Archives and the guy selling it is letting it go at an attractive price because he has a gambling debt and needs the money fast, you could be tempted to try and buy cheap to make a quick profit. Sound ridiculous? It's a true story. 

I took these pictures after a collector was offered a 'Patek 2499' and wanted a second opinion, the price? A cool US$650,000. The seller had bought it from someone who was in need of cash fast and so he though he got a good deal, he didn't. The numbers on the watch and certificate were copied  from a genuine Ref.2499 sold at auction years prior and hence an Extract from the Archives would have been provided. A few minutes of research could have proved there were two watches with the same numbers but I guess when all you can think about is how to spend the profit, reason goes out of the window.

As far as I know he never got his money back.

ROLEX BOXES; THE DETAILS YOU NEVER THOUGHT YOU NEEDED TO KNOW

Toro over on Vintage Rolex Forum just posted a very useful bit of information you never thought you needed to know. Even today Rolex Geneva produce a magazine aptly named 'Rolex World' for their authorized dealerships and Toro posted pictures taken from a copy of the magazine printed in 1974. In that edition Rolex explain to the dealer which watch should go with with model for both Rolex and Tudor brands.

This little titbit of information means next time you are going to pay hard earned money for a full-set (box and papers) vintage Rolex, you can have a quick check to make sure the box matches the model. 

Copies of the 1974 Rolex World magazine posted on Vintage Rolex Forum, note the one that reads 'The Royal Navy Still Dives With Rolex'. 

Notice the subtle differences between numbers 11 and 13, one is for, among others, the Rolex Ref. 1675 and 5512,5513, steel 1680 Submariner model, the other is for a ladies steel model.

Although several boxes are obvious a few are important to know, alas the list isn't complete (which box is for a gold Submariner?) but still very useful.

Tudor Range


The Trouble With Research

chair books.jpg

For lovers of vintage watches sometimes the most frustrating aspect is research. There are often numerous variations for vintage watches and making sure the model you are about to buy has the correct matching dial, hands and movement to the period can be a time-consuming process, just as important you want to make sure you are paying the right price. One way to do this is to search through the archives of Antiquorum, Christie's and Sotheby's websites, however you are at the mercy of the corporate's search function and these are sometimes not designed with your ease of use in mind. In 2007 Antiquorum, who undoubtedly have the most user-friendly database, suddenly and without warning shut it down to the public (it has since been made available to those that subscribe). Christie's for a long time had a useful database until they copied Sotheby's and made it virtually useless. As a quick guide for those that haven't used it, the Antiquorum  system combines words and lists results in order of date sold, so if you're looking for the most recent Rolex Military watch offered, it searches for 'Rolex+Military' and lists results, ideal. Sotheby's and now Christie's use the google principle of listing results by relevance, so although you may get the Rolex+Miltary you were looking for, it is just as likely to be from one sold in 2004. If you change the search function to list by date, then it will list results showing anything containing Rolex OR Military in the title, so you really end up with nothing relevant.  I notice Sotheby's have gone one further and now try to interpret what you are searching for, so if you type in 'Patek 1518' it's just as likely to change your search to simply 'Patek' as this produces more results.

Of course there are third-party sites you can subscribe to such as ArtNet but for those that search infrequently a paid service isn't the answer, nor are their images zoomable so seeing details becomes an issue. 

As difficult as it can be, doing research, whether it is sitting in front of a computer, visiting auction viewings and dealers, searching forums or attending collector meetings, is the best way to learn more and personally I love it. Give me a cup of coffee, comfy chair and 20 years worth of old auction catalogs to search through looking for a rare Patek Philippe reference any day of the week.

How Many Watches Does Ed Sheeran Own?

A short while ago I’d never heard of the talented guitarist/musician and fellow Brit, Ed Sheeran. He first came to my attention during a performance at the London Victoria Secret fashion show when I noticed him wearing a familiar looking vintage Rolex watch. Like his fellow guitarists and watch collectors Eric Clapton and John Mayer before him, he was wearing a steel Rolex Daytona Ref.6239 with Paul Newman dial on a black bund strap (just as Paul Newman himself had done in the early 1970’s) while performing on stage. Unlike the other two more experienced watch fanatics, Ed was sporting the black dial version, still, credit for originality. 

 Close up showing the 1960's steel Rolex Daytona, probably Ref.6239, with black Exotic dial, known as the Paul Newman. Worn on a bund strap.

Close up showing the 1960's steel Rolex Daytona, probably Ref.6239, with black Exotic dial, known as the Paul Newman. Worn on a bund strap.

After seeing Ed photographed at the recent Grammy awards held in Los Angeles I checked to see if he was still wearing the Daytona, alas no. Only this time he could be seen with a Patek Philippe Ref.5980/1A-014 modified with PVD coating and a green glass, an abomination of a watch that destroys one of most appealing PP sports models produced. 

Pre 2015 Grammy's wearing the 'abomination watch' (aka Patek Philippe Ref.5980/1a-014 with aftermarket PVD and green glass)

 Post 2015 Grammy's wearing his Richard Mille RM030 limited edition. Pictured with John Mayer who was wearing a steel Patek Philippe perpetual calendar split-second chronograph Ref.5004A.

Post 2015 Grammy's wearing his Richard Mille RM030 limited edition. Pictured with John Mayer who was wearing a steel Patek Philippe perpetual calendar split-second chronograph Ref.5004A.

Obviously the modified Patek is nothing special to report and I suddenly suspected his love of watches was more of a ‘where to spend my new-found money’ interest, rather than a real passion for wristwatches. Only in another picture taken later the same night, he was wearing a Richard Mille RM030 limited edition of 30 examples for the America’s. I confess usually when wealthy young men, particularly celebrities, buy modified Patek Philippe watches or Richard Mille, they are often put into the ‘more money then sense’ category, but something about young Mr. Sheeran seemed different. The only people I know who change their watch that fast (usually to match their clothes) are either paid to do so (Neil Patrick Harris at the Oscars) or true watch fanatics, and this got me searching. The more images of Ed Sheeran I found, the more watches I saw him wearing. I am still not sure if he has a true love for the subject or just showing how much many he is making, but will give him the benefit of the doubt, for now. Below are just a few of the watches he has been photographed wearing, bearing in mind most collectors wear one watch, then change it and wear another, it is unusual to see someone change their watch so regularly and brings me to ask the question; If those were just the images I found of him from a quick search; how many watches does he actually own?

Patek Philippe steel Aquanaut dual-time Ref.5164/a

Patek Philippe white gold perpetual calendar chronograph with blue dial Ref.5270G-014

Patek Philippe steel Nautilus annual calendar Ref.5726/a

Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref.5980/1a-014, aftermarket PVD + green glass

Richard Mille RM011 Carbon (wears it on either red or black strap)

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore PVD coated steel with ceramic bezel, nicknamed the 'Volcano'

Richard Mille RM030 Carbon, LE of 30 for the America's 

At the Brit Awards after winning album of the year, looking slightly worse for wear with his Richard Mille RM035-01 NADAL in NTPT case


I haven’t heard who is advising him regarding his watch purchases but given he is a young famous Brit living in Suffolk and has a penchant for Richard Mille, I have a very good idea. 


Watch Trivia:

Formula One racing supremo Bernie Ecclestonce’s right hand man, Austrian hotelier Karl-Heinz Zimmerman, who, among other aspects, is in charge of F1 VIP hospitality, until recently wore a fake stainless steel Rolex Daytona. He was robbed of his real Daytona at gun-point while visiting the gents during a Brazilian F1 race and refused to buy another one.

Company Review: ABC WatchWerks


ABC WatchWerks are a watch servicing and restoration company based in downtown Los Angeles. I first came across them as a recommendation from a collector who raved about their work, he had a 1960's Submariner he wanted the hands re-lumed on to match the indexes and having seen the 'before' and 'after', can see why he thinks of them so highly. ABC also pride themselves on being able to re-cut a vintage sport Rolex case, removing only a fraction of material to bring the chamfer back to life and give it that 'unpolished' look.

1971 Rolex Submariner Ref.5513 'before'

Above is a 1971 Rolex Submariner Ref.5513 I gave to my wife when we fist met, she wore it daily for a while including holidays, swimming, the beach, everywhere. Alas as it hadn't been serviced for a few years prior to taking a dip in the pool and stopped working shortly after. As my wife loves her vintage to look like new and it wasn't going to be sold anytime soon, I decided to give it to ABC to see what they could do with the case. Below is the result.

Picture showing the reworked shoulders

They managed to replace the crystal with an original version (it had a service replacement on it prior that sits slightly higher at the edge) and, although it remains untested in the real world, they assure me is waterproof. The case edges are once again sharp and although the width of the chamfer is larger than the original would have been, they did a great job considering what they had to work with.  Personally, I prefer the slightly aged look of a vintage Rolex and don't mind some wear, I have owned unpolished examples before but it is a word that today gets used all too frequently and usually unjustifiably by sellers, it also means you really can't wear the watch daily as it's heartbreaking to put dents into the case. 

Beware of sellers advertising unpolished cases that have actually been re-cut, although very good, the chamfer shown above is too wide for a factory finish on a 5513.

Of course there will always be those unscrupulous people that will take a worn case, have it re-cut and sell to an unsuspecting buyer as unpolished. Hopefully the pictures here showing what can be done to a case to bring it back to life will serve as an example of a re-cut case.

ABC aren't just restricted to vintage, they do great work on modern watches including Rolex as well as the highly complex Audemars Piguet Royal Oak cases. Below is the before and after picture of an AP they did for me that had a dent in the shoulder.

AP prior to visiting ABC with dent to the lower right shoulder clearly visible

The same watch post ABC WatchWerks. The dent has been completely removed without any loss of definition.

ABC apparently undertake work for clients internationally and, although they certainly aren't cheap, they are very professional and will discuss the project with you prior to determine what you want done. For those that visit in person you might be in for a surprise, all the guys are very young, fit and very unlike almost every watchmaker I know. I couldn't help but smile when one of them, Edvi, kindly dropped off a watch to me at Urth Cafe in Hollywood and pulled up in a bright blue Porsche 911. Not your average watchmakers set of wheels. Or is it?


Auction News: Paul Maudsley Resigns from Bonhams

Last week Paul Maudsley, international head of Bonhams auctioneers watch department resigned. Paul, based in London, had been with Bonhams for 15 years and the announcement came as somewhat of a surprise to the industry. Although it's well known he had been regularly courted by all of the major houses over the last several years due to his excellent reputation for honesty and his knowledge on vintage watches, particularly vintage sports Rolex, (a vital field of knowledge in todays auction scene), he had previously always declined their efforts and instead decided to stay with Bonhams. Considering he almost single handed built the watch department and sat on the London board of directors for the company, not to mention his love of vintage cars, a field Bonhams excel in, he seemed destined to remain with them.

Rumors are rife with regards to his next position but Paul is, understandably, keeping quiet. We will just have to wait 6 months until his garden leave is complete and the news made public for any confirmation. 

In other news it is now all but official Tim Bourne, the international head of Sotheby's watch department, will be relocated from Hong Kong to London shortly to support Geneva and continue his role from a more centrally located time-zone. (A move I advised he make years ago.) His relocation means we could also see Sotheby's re-launch London watch auctions in 2015. Of course the big question is, will Paul Maudsley be with Sotheby's as head of Europe, or compete against them?

Having worked within the same office with both Paul Maudsley while at Bonhams and Tim Bourne at Sotheby's, I sincerely hope we see them competing in London as they are stronger apart than together;  between the two I know who I would entrust with my watch for auction and wish him all the best in his new position, wherever it may be.

 

 

 

It's Official: Aurel Bacs and Phillips' new watch department will host Only Watch 2015

As previously suspected, for the 6th Only Watch charity auction to be held in 2015, Phillip's auctioneers and their newly formed watch department will take over from Antiquorum as the organizers.

The Only Watch charity auction is usually held to coincide with the Monaco yacht show every two years and is highly anticipated within the industry. In a change to the previous years, instead of the unique watches donated by various significant watch manufactures being previewed globally and ending at the famous Monaco Yacht Show for the auction. In 2015, the preview will start at the Monaco Yacht Show in late September with the auction being held in Geneva in November, presumably to coincide with the traditional Geneva watch auctions held at that time of year. This change probably came directly from Aurel Bacs, the man who, prior to a successful decade at Christies, previously ran the Phillips watch department and has been entrusted with its revival.  Previously the manufactures were on a tight timeline to get their respective 'unique' watches ready post Basel and the event, although widely attended, risked being missed by the larger audience who turned up in Geneva. By postponing the auction, Bacs has managed to maintain the vital association with Monaco, give the manufactures more preparation time to create something spectacular and ensure that the event is widely attended as everyone will be in Geneva anyway. Well done Sir.

Of course, as President of the Jury for the annual Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Geneva, an event which is viewed as the Oscars for watches, I expect Mr Bacs association will have plenty of influence and incentive for the manufactures to create something special for the inaugural Phillips/Only Watch 2015. For those interested in attending don't forget to book your November 2015 Geneva tickets and hotel early, it will, I promise you, be busy.

For more details and information on the event click on the below link.

http://www.onlywatch.com

 

The end of an Era?

Christie's New York December 9 Watch Auction Review.

As soon as the final hammer fell at Christie’s New York bi-annual auction of Important Watches today, my phone started buzzing; ‘What happened?’ ‘Is the market soft?’ ‘Why did so many of the big lots not sell?’

With a sale total, including buyers’ premium, of almost US$6.4 million dollars you would think it should be considered an amazing success, which in many ways it was. They achieved $317,000 for an average condition Patek Philippe Ref.3448 retailed by Tiffany & Co, which was significantly higher than the almost identical example, in similar condition, sold by Antiquorum New York in 2009 that achieved $132,000. Soft market? Definitely not. Especially when you take into account lot 105, a Patek Philippe Ref.3450, that made a very respectable $197,000. 

  Image from Christies catalog, lot 407, of the Patek Philippe Ref.3448 retailed by Tiffany & Co.

Image from Christies catalog, lot 407, of the Patek Philippe Ref.3448 retailed by Tiffany & Co.

First off, to bring it out in the open, the watch auction world, particularly perhaps Christie's, has seen a significant shake-up recently. Several of the most experienced people, including Christie's world-wide head Aurel Bacs, myself and then Bacs replacement Sam Hines, all left their respective senior positions roughly at the same time. Collectors who were used to receiving buying guidance from someone they knew and trusted are now often having to use the sparse condition reports or, worse, advice from inexperienced specialist’s who  don’t know themselves. This inexperience was perhaps reflected in today’s results with 78 of the 408 lots offered failing to find a buyer, representing roughly an 82% sell rate. This figure is impressive when you consider that the last Sotheby’s Geneva watch auction achieved a sell-rate percentage of around 62 percent, but a far cry from the usual performance we have seen from Christie's watch department in recent years. Personally I don’t recall the last time the leaders in the watch auction field had a sale below 90 percent sold, an achievement they are, or were, immensely proud of. The big question is, now they have a new world-wide head for watches, is this the beginning of the end or just a bump in the road for the once dominant department?

Some will say the market is due for a price correction and these are the same people that will use today’s result as justification for their remarks. Sure, there are currently fewer buyers from China and Asia and the strong US dollar didn’t help, but when a decent watch was offered, it made a decent price. In a way a more focused pool of buyers is a good thing, you can’t offer over-estimated current production watches or poor quality vintage examples and hope that one devoted billionaire will put his hand up to buy it. This isn’t a market adjustment; it’s a wake-up call. If you offer correctly priced modern watches and good-condition vintage examples, the buyers are still there ready and willing to pay, just look at the recent Christies Geneva (regular sale) results. 

  Image of a Patek Philippe Ref.5204,the same as unsold lot 304 at Christie's

Image of a Patek Philippe Ref.5204,the same as unsold lot 304 at Christie's

As an example, in today's market a Patek Philippe Ref.5204 is worth around US$240,000, the example offered at Christie's (lot 304) with an estimate of $230,000-330,000, plus buyer’s premium, would have cost you at least $285,000. Now I confess sometimes big auction houses have clients that just want it regardless and will bid anyway, which is obviously what the NY team were hoping for, but it didn’t happen and the lot didn't sell. Does that mean the market has dropped? No, it means the watch had the wrong estimate. The list of poor condition vintage examples that failed to sell is too long to go into; needless to say Christies NY should consult their in-house specialist’s more regularly to check the Rolex watches being offered in New York. The Milgauss, lot 333, had a dial in very poor condition and the estimate should have reflected this (didn’t sell), lot 403 the gold Rolex Daytona signed Tiffany & Co, well, what to say, no matter how small you make the catalog image you can’t hide the fact Tiffany never signed the dial (also didn’t sell). I didn’t view the other unsold Rolex 6542, 1665 (patent pending) or 2508 to comment but none sold. From the Patek Philippe vintage selection the first lot to miss its mark was a rare oversized rectangular example made in 1919, estimated at $50,000-70,000 it was perhaps considered that if a very similar, albeit exceptional, example could sell in Geneva in 2012 for $155,000 then a poor condition example with restored dial must be worth at least $62,500. Obviously not as it also failed to find a buyer; In short all of the big ticket watches that failed to sell did so for a reason, not because the market is moving out of watches, its not, but because wealthy collectors are usually smart and know when they are being led astray by overpriced or poor examples.

 Of course there were high’s to the sale today, other that the Patek Philippe Ref.3448 and 3450 previously mentioned, the gold Rolex Ref.6542 made a reasonable $112,500, ok so this wasn’t even close to the $214,000 a similar watch sold for in Geneva last year but John Reardon simply doesn’t inspire the same confidence when bidding for vintage Rolex as Aurel Bacs.  Similarly respectable was the Ref.6101 Rolex cloisonné dial cover watch, lot 124, that made $425,000 with an estimate of $200,000-400,000. Perhaps not huge figures but impressive results were achieved by lot 173, the (heavily worn) Richard Mille RM011 that made a total $87,500 (well above its 2007 retail price) but sold for charity so a fantastic result, also of note was the Rolex green bezel Submariner Ref. 16610 that made an impressive $9,375. 

  Image of lot 304 from Christie's New York catalog that made an impressive $9,350.

Image of lot 304 from Christie's New York catalog that made an impressive $9,350.

Overall I personally feel investors and collectors can relax slightly, although I have heard from multiple sources how prices are dropping, this seems to be restricted to certain current production watches and follows a slow-down in the retail sector experienced a year ago. It also seems that only a few people, possible those looking to buy cheap, are the ones spreading the rumour…. Excellent condition discontinued modern watches as well as correctly priced current production, or desirable, original condition well preserved  vintage continue to be in demand. 

Tomorrow is Sotheby’s New York Important Watches auction and I expect we will see much of the same from them, with poor examples failing to sell and stunning pieces, such as the catalog cover pocket watch, making great prices.


AUCTIONS: ONLY WATCH 2015

Michel Teweles (center right), Chief Operating Officer at Speake-Marin, at the launch for the ONLY WATCH 6th edition in Monaco along with Prince Albert (far left).

Independent watchmaker Peter Speake-Marin just confirmed he will be one of the entrants in the 6th Only Watch charity auction. The auction, organized by the Association Monégasque contre les Myopathies was established in 2005 and held every 2 years during the Monaco yacht show, features a collection of modern watches donated by manufactures to benefit research into Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. The charity event is always highly anticipated as each watch has to be special in some way, some manufacturer's change a dial colour or donate a special limited series number, while others embrace the opportunity to do something completely different. The 4th and 5th Only Watch auctions were dominated by specially made Patek Philippe watches (a steel Ref.3939 and a titanium Ref.5004) that smashed expectations. Independent manufacturer MB&F is another manufacturer that really embraces the charity auction and usually donates something exceptional and unique, as does Richard Mille, who in 2010 donated the watch worn by tennis star Rafa Nadal, sweat and all, and in 2012 the watch sprinter Yohan Blake controversially wore while competing in the 2012 Olympic games.

The above picture was recently posted to the Only Watch Facebook page confirming Peter's participation and the auction date of September 26, 2015. What is missing from the posters, for me, is just as interesting as the announcement. Previously Antiquorum auctioneers produced the catalog, organized the preview events and hosted the auction (with the exception of a brief stint when the now defunct Patrizzi Auctions gave it a go), however, as the Antiquorum logo is missing from the above banner, will we see a change for 2015?

Although as of today the website only has 2013 details, keep checking www.onlywatch.com for updates.

MOTORBIKES: THE DUCATI SCRAMBLER IS HERE

After months of teasing us with a dedicated website and carefully veiled images, Ducati officially released  their new retro-inspired Scrambler model at the German INTERMOT show this week.

 The Scrambler Urban Enduro pictured here is likely to be the most popular model in the range

The Scrambler Urban Enduro pictured here is likely to be the most popular model in the range

Launched as an entry-level model to replace the long discontinued (and much missed) GT1000/Sport Classic line, the Scrambler is the first new release since Audi bought the brand. Available in 4 variations titled Icon, Urban Enduro, Classic and the most expensive Full Throttle, priced at just under US$10,000, it's clearly aimed (judging by their marketing videos) at a younger hip, fun-loving clientele; a market the GT1000 never found favor with. Fitted with an air-cooled 803cc engine, looking at the specs the mechanics and electrics are a far cry from the sophisticated 1199 Superbike and Ducati might lose some of their more loyal customers because of it. The initial reactions seem mixed with Ducati enthusiasts disappointed the brand feels it has to complete in this entry-level market and, of course, those that always dreamed of owning a retro-styled Ducati rejoicing. 

 Even the top of the line Scambler 'Full-Throtle' has an RRP at under US$10,000.

Even the top of the line Scambler 'Full-Throtle' has an RRP at under US$10,000.

The design is clearly inspired by the original 1960's Scrambler model yet introduces modern styling such as exhaust and rear guard placement previously seen on the Diavel and new Monster's, as well as safety elements such as ABS as standard.  With the first models due out in early 2015 I expect, like the Diavel before it, the Scrambler will be hugely popular within a new market and traditional Ducati buyers will love to hate it.

Inventive, youthful and free-spirited, the new Ducati Scrambler is much more than a bike, It’s a land of joy, freedom and self-expression.
— http://scramblerducati.com
 The entry model Scrambler Icon pictured above

The entry model Scrambler Icon pictured above

The bike looks like an excellent, well-thought out entry-level model that will appeal to novice riders or those that want a daily commute with a bit of style. The 800cc engine is a good size for city riding and the comfortable upright sitting position will mean more are inclined to use it than the back-breaking Sport Classic. ABS as standard and no-fuss electronics only add to the appeal for new riders. It will interesting to see the build quality and take one for a spin but I am sure Ducati have done their market research, as long as it sounds like a Ducati, whether it performs like one or not, people will want it. For a more in depth review with full pricing and specs visit Cycle World.

 Ducati Scrambler Classic is the only version with traditional rear guard

Ducati Scrambler Classic is the only version with traditional rear guard

 The Ducati Urban Enduro Scrambler I expect will leave dealerships scratching their head and youths beating down the door for a test ride.

The Ducati Urban Enduro Scrambler I expect will leave dealerships scratching their head and youths beating down the door for a test ride.

SUNDAY READING: 100 SUPERLATIVE ROLEX WATCHES

John Goldberger’s book ‘100 Superlative Rolex Watches’ contains, not surprisingly, 100 vintage Rolex watches generally of the highest quality and thankfully omits those pesky fake Paul Newman dials. The layout keeps to his usual display format and remains informative and useful for reference.

 Rolex 18k gold Ref.3525 chronograph with original black dial, note the oxidization to the case form years sitting in a safe unworn

Rolex 18k gold Ref.3525 chronograph with original black dial, note the oxidization to the case form years sitting in a safe unworn

Released around 2009 the book was one of the first ‘luxury’ editions, luxury not for their content but for their print and lavish covers, this example using the traditional Rolex green for the leather-esque outer

 Rolex GMT Master Ref.6542 with bakelite bezel

Rolex GMT Master Ref.6542 with bakelite bezel

Books like this are very useful identifying genuine watches, there are so many reproduction bezels for the GMT Ref.6542 (pictured above)  that having a genuine one to compare with really assists in determining the authenticity. Similarly, it is always good to compare the watch you are being offered to buy with a known genuine example, even well-respected dealers and auction houses can offer you a model with a later replaced dial described as a “beautiful original Rolex dial”, which isn’t wrong, but isn’t right either. 

I have seen an interview with John Goldberger about his personal collection, in the video, while sitting in a restaurant eating cheese with the watches in front of him, he picks up the above photographed Rolex split-second chronograph watch (one of only 13 believed made), grabs a cheese knife and pops the case back open, casual as can be. Opening a watch with a cheese knife isn’t easy; now think about that same action knowing the watch is worth over a million US dollars!

One of my favorite vintage Rolex's is the military Submariner used by the British in the 1970’s and into the early 80’s. They were all fitted with movements that had hacking-seconds (the second hand stops when the crown is pulled out, often used by the military to synchronies watches) had specially modified cases with solid strap bars and used different hands (large Sword), dials (indicating tritium was present) and bezels (with minute indications 0-60) to the regular production model. However as they were frequently serviced these unique parts were often changed for regular ‘civilian’ Submariner ones. A version as illustrated above with all-original components is known as a full-spec military Submariner.

I have heard John Goldberger is currently working on a second edition of ‘100 Superlative Rolex Watches’, keep checking his website for updates

http://www.johngoldbergerwatches.com

The best watch store in the world?

My profession allows me frequent travel to some of the most prestigious cities in the world, one of those cities and a personal favorite is Singapore. One of the reason's I like the city so much, apart from the fabulous chili crab and cereal prawns, is the MalMaison Hour Glass watch store.

  MalMaison can be found at 270 Orchard Rd, Singapore 238857

MalMaison can be found at 270 Orchard Rd, Singapore 238857

The MalMaison (my house) store is like no other watch I have seen, yes the watches it carry's can be found in other locations, but the 17th century European influence, the accessories and the overall experience is very different. On the ground floor as you walk in are the usual Hublot/Brieitling brands intermixed with constantly changing independent jewelry, mens accessories and other interesting paraphanlia; the last time I visited they had the large IkePod hourglass and MB&F music machines on display. Adjacent rooms host the Rolex and Patek Philippe showrooms. Not to be missed, on display in the Rolex room is a cabinet dedicated to vintage sports models (not for sale), all are in excellent condition and carefully curated, most you won't see anywhere else. 

 Alas the stella dial Rolex displayed are not for sale

Alas the stella dial Rolex displayed are not for sale

Similarly the Patek Philippe showroom has one of the unique closonee enamel clocks on view, their version with monkeys, (not for sale), that you rarely find. It would have been good to see a small collection of vintage Patek's in keeping with the Rolex room but perhaps in future? The rear room, as you pass the faux fireplaces and bespoke shoes and ties, houses the more independent manufactures such as Audemars Piguet, Urwerk and Richard Mille. The upper floor offers rare edition books for viewing and perfume as well as Harry Winston and Piaget watches and jewelry. The perfume testing area is really quite unique; there are large tubular floor to ceiling pillars each with a door, you spray the perfume inside the open pillar to get more real-life scent, once finished the door is close, extractor fan activated and the pillar ready, scent free, for the next round of spray. Also upstairs is a circular private room with night-sky decorated ceiling, the stars apparently depicted the view from the owners yacht.

 Shown on the right are three versions of Paul Newman Daytona 

Shown on the right are three versions of Paul Newman Daytona 

For anyone with a love of watches the store is well worth a visit, the staff are friendly and attentive (the same person will attend to you throughout the store) and it's honestly worth it just to see the watch-related adornments and vintage Rolex on display

 

 

WATCHES: IN SEARCH OF THE COOLEST TRAVEL WATCH

PART 3.  JAEGER LECOULTRE MASTER DIVER NAVY SEALS

 Very useful before taking the plunge, the two patented compression crowns have a visual warning to let you know if they aren't sealed.

Very useful before taking the plunge, the two patented compression crowns have a visual warning to let you know if they aren't sealed.

Released in a limited edition of 1500 examples with a 44mm titanium case, the Jaeger LeCoultre diving alarm, apparently designed in collaboration with the US Navy SEAL’s, has all the requirements of a great travel watch. It’s light, understated, automatic with a date, features the essential rotating bezel with time-elapse and has the additional benefit of an alarm. An alarm when travelling personally I find important, sure you can use your phone but often there isn’t any power to charge it and there are always, without fail, those early mornings you need to wake to catch a flight, drive or simply watch the sunrise.  Similarly, as previously mentioned, a rotating bezel calibrated to 60 minutes (or a chronograph) allows you to time your dive or how long you've been out sailing or kayaking for.

 The uni-directional rotatable bezel calibrated to 60 minutes is designed for diving under water, but also useful when timing odd things, like how long you have been on the water.

The uni-directional rotatable bezel calibrated to 60 minutes is designed for diving under water, but also useful when timing odd things, like how long you have been on the water.

At 44mm it isn’t a small watch and I can see why they made it 42mm for later versions (without alarm) but that said it doesn’t get in the way and I didn’t mind the size once used to it. The build quality is very good, as you would expect from Jaeger, however that said the bezel feels a little ‘flimsy’, like it could come off in my hand at any time and the bezel insert is just stuck on with glue. As the insert rises above the metal housing it sits on, it isn’t difficult, as I discovered, to knock it off. Hopefully Jaeger has a large supply of spare bezel inserts for this model as I can see many owners needing one. 

 This would be a bad time to lose the bezel insert.

This would be a bad time to lose the bezel insert.

The patented compression crowns, although perhaps a little bulky, are brilliant. They twist closed quickly and with a visual white/red indicator to tell you if they are locked or not it’s easy to check before jumping in the water. The one major complaint I had with the watch was the date/alarm setting, as they are both set from the same crown, the date in one direction and the alarm in the other, it’s easy, too easy, to move the crown the wrong way and change the date when you are setting the alarm. The watch does have a little indicator with correct direction but when you are bumping along the road in an open truck and informed departure the following day is 0500, my first reaction is to set my alarm before I forget, a quick twist gets me to alarm setting mode but then one wrong turn and I change the date, I then have to revolve through 30 days of the calendar to reset it again before setting the alarm. Maybe it’s just me but this happened a lot and a few times I was unaware I had changed the date forward, potentially disastrous when traveling.

 This picture shows the red arrows indicating, when visible from the dial view, the crowns aren't locked. Note the tiny writing on the upper crown to show which direction to turn the crown for date/alarm setting.

This picture shows the red arrows indicating, when visible from the dial view, the crowns aren't locked. Note the tiny writing on the upper crown to show which direction to turn the crown for date/alarm setting.

PROS

·      Lightweight, understated well proportioned layout

·      Model has an almost vintage look with a grey bezel

·      Reliable automatic (Cal.956) movement with date

·      Mechanical alarm is audible enough to wake you up, even at 3am after a few beers

·      Large luminous hands and markers are easy to see at night

·      Factory supplied easily changeable straps give you plenty of options

CONS

·      The date and alarm set from the same crown, too easy to change the date by mistake

·      Jaeger LeCoultre signature is on the same disc as the alarm indicator so can look a little ‘odd’ as the logo rotates depending on when you set the alarm

·      Bezel feels flimsy and insert is only secured by glue (!?) making it far too easy to knock off

·      44mm case can seem a little large

 The watch looks as good on land as it does in the water, shown here with factory supplied NATO strap.

The watch looks as good on land as it does in the water, shown here with factory supplied NATO strap.

The Jaeger LeCoultre diving alarm Navy SEAL’s is a great travel watch, possibly the best so far. I’m sure with time I would manage not to change the date every time I set the alarm and really love the understated titanium case and almost vintage look the bezel provides. The bezel, or sometimes lack of, is a big concern; I was lucky enough to find my insert undamaged in the car but might not be next time. Still, it has a really different and very cool look about it, almost, if there is such a term, ‘understated luxury’; a bit like a matt-black Aston Martin. I can honestly imagine someone in the US military wearing this watch and former US President Bill Clinton has been spotted with one.

CELEBRITY WATCH OWNERS- THE MEN'S TOP TEN

What do you want when you have it all? Looks, money, fame, the life of a celebrity can seem an enviable one. With so many celebrities today selling their name and image to promote a certain watch brand, below is my top ten list of famous men that demonstrate a passion for watches over money.

 1. Eric Clapton wearing his Patek Philippe Ref.5970G with special order dial

1. Eric Clapton wearing his Patek Philippe Ref.5970G with special order dial

1. In the world of watches Eric Clapton is as famous for his collection as he is for his music. A truly dedicated and passionate watch enthusiast he was always seeking the rarest and finest examples, having sold his watch collection with Christies New York in the early 2000's he has slowed down buying vintage examples, although can still be seen wearing exceptional modern watches. Shown here wearing a Patek Philippe perpetual calendar chronograph Ref.5970G with special order dial featuring fancy Arabic numerals.  I have heard a few stories about Eric Clapton over the years, my favorite two are when a dealer was wearing very rare a Rolex Milgauss Ref.6543 while shopping, as he walked into a store he heard someone say “Nice watch” and turned around to see Eric Clapton. Another is when the collector wanted to bid on a watch in Bonhams London, just to make sure he didn’t miss out he sent an employee to sit through the entre sale in the front row until the watch he wanted, the last lot,  was offered. As the auctioneer started bidding they raised their paddle and kept it there until the hammer came down.

 2. Charlie Sheen and his Patek Philippe Ref.2497, according to his Twitter account the only watch that tells Warlock time...? 

2. Charlie Sheen and his Patek Philippe Ref.2497, according to his Twitter account the only watch that tells Warlock time...? 

2. Charlie Sheen's love of watches become public for the wrong reasons when an adult performer relieved him of his platinum Patek Philippe Ref.5970 in a New York hotel. At the time the watch was very hard to obtain and Charlie became irate when he noticed it was missing, the girl locked herself in the bathroom until security arrived and the world knew he really loved his watches, alas he also loved his porn stars. Charlie currently has one of the largest and most impressive vintage Patek collections of any ‘celebrity’ collector and rarely buys any other brand. His twitter account, which earnt a new world-record at reaching 2 million followers, was set-up by dealer Robert Maron and the first tweet showed the above Ref.2497 watch with the quote ‘the only watch that tells warlock time’. He loves his watches so much apparently he accepted a job in Japan filming an advert just so he could use the fee to buy another one. 

 3. John Mayer wearing a Patek Philippe Ref.5004R/1 with special order black dial featuring a tachymeter, note the matching Patek Calatrava cufflinks

3. John Mayer wearing a Patek Philippe Ref.5004R/1 with special order black dial featuring a tachymeter, note the matching Patek Calatrava cufflinks

3. I have read John Mayer wants to be known in watch-circles as a respected watch expert, not just a famous musician. Alas his recent legal action with Robert Maron (settle out of court) over his purchase of Rolex Daytona’s with fake dials didn’t help him (there is a famous fake dial Paul Newman Rolex nicknamed the ‘Mayer dial’ by dealers.) Apparently he has a massive collection of vintage Rolex as well as some important Patek Philippe. In the picture above, if you can draw yours eyes away from Katy Perry’s breasts, he is wearing a (probably) unique rose gold Patek Philippe perpetual calendar split second chronograph on a bracelet with special-order black tachymeter dial. The watch was one of three ordered to the same specifications but in different metals by an important collector, Charlie Sheen owns the yellow version and the platinum with blue dial was sold by Christies Hong Kong in 2014. John Mayer is also listed as a columnist on the popular watch website Hodinkee. 

 4. Arnold Swarzeneggger. Yes, believe it or not, Arnie loves his watches almost as much as his tanks. Here is is wearing the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore 'End of Days' limited edition released in 1999, a model Arnie had an input in designing.

4. Arnold Swarzeneggger. Yes, believe it or not, Arnie loves his watches almost as much as his tanks. Here is is wearing the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore 'End of Days' limited edition released in 1999, a model Arnie had an input in designing.

4. Both Arnold Swarzenegger and Audemars Piguet deny any money has directly changed hands and therefore he is not a paid ambassador for the brand, instead both maintain he has a personal affection for the brand and promotes them whenever possible, in return the company donates money to Arnold’s charity 'After School All-Stars'. He is on this list as Arnold was directly responsible in the development of the 1999 Audemars Piguet End of Days limited edition, a PVD coated black watch with yellow numerals that changed the way we look at luxury watches. He recently launched his own watch, a monster of a piece based on the dials in his personal tank (yes, I said a tank). Shown above wearing the End of Days model. As well as his love of AP Arnie can be seen wearing Panerai, possibly due to the influence of our number 5 celebrity watch-lover, Sylvester Stallone.

 5. Sylvester Stallone. Sly has been a real advocate of large-diameter luxury sports watches, shown here wearing the Panerai PAM00341 'Egyptian Military 8 day' with a 60mm diameter case, made in limited edition of 500.

5. Sylvester Stallone. Sly has been a real advocate of large-diameter luxury sports watches, shown here wearing the Panerai PAM00341 'Egyptian Military 8 day' with a 60mm diameter case, made in limited edition of 500.

5. A few might disagree with including Sylvester Stallone on this list since, like Arnold, he isn’t a collector par-se, however, like Arnold, Stallone had a love of a particular brand, Panerai, and was influential in its success. Stallone discovered Panerai in the company’s early years and famously wore a model in the 1996 movie ‘Daylight’. His apparent genuine passion for Panerai and his promotion of the brand within celebrity circles means most of the actors in the movie ‘Expendables 3’ wear Panerai watches, his pal Jason Stratham is also a fan and Sly has given Arnold a Panerai on more than one occasion. He has recently converted to wearing Richard Mille, possibly in the hope he would do the same for them as he has for the Panera brand. In the same way Stallone was inducted into the boxing hall of fame for his portrayal as fictional character Rocky, and therefore promoting the sport, he deserves to be on this list for his continued drive and passion in promoting the luxury sport watch industry.

 6. Orlando Bloom has previously sold a number of personal watches with proceeds going to charity. Pictured above wearing one of the watches stolen by the 'Bling Ring', a very rare 1950's Rolex Milgauss Ref.6543 with tropical dial.

6. Orlando Bloom has previously sold a number of personal watches with proceeds going to charity. Pictured above wearing one of the watches stolen by the 'Bling Ring', a very rare 1950's Rolex Milgauss Ref.6543 with tropical dial.

6. Orlando Bloom once said he didn’t like to talk about his passion for collecting watches as it was one of the few aspects of his life he wanted to keep private. Alas, the bling-ring changed that. Orlando famously had a small but valuable collection of watches, mostly vintage Rolex, stolen from his Hollywood home. The consequence was, suddenly everyone knew about his private passion. He has apparently been buying for a long time, or rather had been, with a particular interest in vintage Rolex, especially the Explorer model. Orlando is currently an ambassador for British watch company Bremont, although continues to be spotted wearing various brands, most recently a pink gold Panerai. Shown here wearing a very rare 1958 Rolex Milgaus Ref.6541 with a brown 'tropical' dial on a NATO strap.

 7. Who would believe Rolling Stone drummer Charlie Watts was a pocket watch collector?

7. Who would believe Rolling Stone drummer Charlie Watts was a pocket watch collector?

7. Yes, Charlie Watts, the drummer from one of the most cult rock bands in the world, the Rolling Stones, is a passionate pocket watch collector. Believed to favor Cartier from the 20's/30's, he apparently has display cabinets in his home with the watches set on stands to view his vast (100+) collection.

 8. Daniel Craig. Although the Bond star was the first to openly snub Rolex in the Movie 'Casino Royale' with the scripted line "Beautiful watch, Rolex?" to which Craig replies "Omega". In his personal life the actor prefers the later, vintage, not modern.

8. Daniel Craig. Although the Bond star was the first to openly snub Rolex in the Movie 'Casino Royale' with the scripted line "Beautiful watch, Rolex?" to which Craig replies "Omega". In his personal life the actor prefers the later, vintage, not modern.

8. Shortly after Daniel Craig was featured as the new James Bond in ‘Casino Royale’ the actor caused a bit of a stir when he was spotted on several occasions wearing vintage Rolex watches, including the above Daytona Ref.6263 and also apparently a 1950’s Rolex Submariner Ref.6538 big crown, ironically, known as the ‘James Bond’ Rolex. At the time Omega, unlike Pierce Brosnan before him, were only sponsors of the movie character James Bond, not Craig himself and therefore he could wear what he liked. I am sure though the bigwigs at Omega were fuming after spending millions over the years promoting Omega as the James Bond watch, only to have the new James Bond character publicly wearing a Rolex. Craig’s stunt was short lived and possibly just to drive up his fee, as soon after the above image was taken he became an Omega ambassador, his Rolex collection returned to the safe to only be worn and admired privately. Although he perhaps shouldn't be on this list as he sold his name and likeness to Omega, privately he apparently maintains a love of vintage Rolex and I am sure the money from Omega came in useful when adding to his collection.

 9. Nicolas Cage. Although I believe he has now sold his collection, at one time Cage owned some of the most famous vintage watch references including the Patek Philippe Ref.2499 shown here and a pink gold moonphase calendar with star dial on a bracelet signed Rolex and stamped Ref.6062.

9. Nicolas Cage. Although I believe he has now sold his collection, at one time Cage owned some of the most famous vintage watch references including the Patek Philippe Ref.2499 shown here and a pink gold moonphase calendar with star dial on a bracelet signed Rolex and stamped Ref.6062.

9. The fact Nicolas Cage collected watches isn’t surprising, I am sure I have read the actor collects everything from dinosaurs to knives to probably moon dust. Like some collectors though his passion was fleeting and he is on this list only because he is wearing such a great watch in the image shown above. Having now I believe sold all of his collection I can find little about it other than it seems to have concentrated on vintage rare examples by famous brands without a true understanding of what he was buying. In short, he probably bought a lot of over-restored or questionable watches. In the image above he is wearing a yellow gold Patek Philippe perpetual calendar chronograph Ref.2499, one of the most famous and collectable watches available.  (it is the same watch detailed below that John Lennon received on his 40th birthday)

 10. Robert Redford. Ok, so he isn't a watch collector, nor does he really promote the industry, but he has worn a Rolex Red-Submariner Ref. 1680, as seen above on his wrist in the 1976 movie 'All The President's Men' for at least 38 years.

10. Robert Redford. Ok, so he isn't a watch collector, nor does he really promote the industry, but he has worn a Rolex Red-Submariner Ref. 1680, as seen above on his wrist in the 1976 movie 'All The President's Men' for at least 38 years.

10. Ok, so Robert Redford isn’t really a collector, just the same as his late pal Paul Newman wasn’t a watch collector. In the (excellent) 1976 movie ‘All the Presidents Men’ Redford is seen wearing a Rolex Submariner Date, Ref. 1680 with red print Submariner text. This was neither a paid product placement nor a movie prop; it was his own watch he chose to wear. Over the years pictures exist of RR wearing the same red Submariner while out and about, including one taken recently when a well known San Francisco based vintage Rolex dealer spotted Robert at SFO and asked what watch he was wearing, yep, the same red Submariner he wore in the 1976 movie. He is on this list because, just like his Rolex, the guy is a classic.

Worthy of a mention are British TV personalities Gordon Ramsey and his vintage Rolex Submariner as well as Simon Cowell and his Jaeger LeCoultre tourbillon. Also former US President Bill Clinton who has been photographed wearing a modified Rolex Pro-Hunter as well as a Jaeger LeCoultre Navy SEALS alarm, neither are watches I would ever associate with a US President, former or current, and show his personal love of military-themed rugged watches. There is another rock star with a real passion for American pocket watches, however as I can't recall his name, he didn't make the list.

Not on this list because I can’t confirm via images is Will Farrell, yes, comedian Will Farrell. I heard he was an avid vintage Rolex fan after someone told me the story of the actor commenting on his rare Rolex at a Starbucks, however he might have been pulling my tail as I can’t find a picture of the comedian wearing a vintage Rolex anywhere. Sure, he is always wearing a different watch so the story might well be true. If anyone can prove it please email me, am curious to know.

I have purposefully left out footballers.

 

Essential reading: Top ten watch books for reference

The best way to learn is to research; you can do this online by following forums etc but personally I enjoy the old fashioned way, with books. That said there are an overwhelming number of options out there for the beginner, just take a quick look through Amazon and you can find numerous useless books written by people who don’t know anything about watches, but somehow get a book published. Please don’t buy these as it only perpetuates the problem. As a guide to the novice, below are my personal top ten books, in no particular order, that are useful in researching vintage watches

1. Omega Sportswatches – John Goldberger

2. Vintage Panerai, The References – Ralph Ehlers & Volker Wiegmann (reviewed below on Aug 31)

3. Patek Philippe Vol 1 (pocketwatches)- Martin Huber & Alan Banberry

4. Patek Philippe Vol 2 (wristwatches) – Martin Huber & Alan Banberry

5. 100 Superlative Rolex Watches – John Goldberger

6. Heuer Chronographs – Arno Michael Haslinger (reviewed below on Aug 24)

7. Rolex Daytona, A Legend is Born - Carlo Pergola, Stefano Mazzariol, Giovanni Dosso

8. Rolex Submariner Story– Mondani Editoire

9. Rolex GMT Master – Mondani Editoire

10. The Art of Breguet – George Daniels

A less useful book perhaps in terms of its practical application, since you aren’t likely to find one of these watches being offered and the only reason it isn’t on the above list, is John Goldberger’s Patek Philippe Steel Watches. As reviewed below (Sep 14), if you love watches then it is still worth the purchase before it becomes out of print and the price increases. Yes, this is a rare situation where a specialist book can, and I believe will, increase in value.

watches: John Lennon’s Patek Philippe Ref.2499

On October 9th 1980 John Lennon turned 40 years old and celebrated by spending 21 hours working. Having not released an album for over 5 years, he was in the studio with his wife Yoko Ono on an album to be released later that year called 'Double Fantasy'. Having left for the Hit Factory recording studio in New York on Oct 8th at around 1pm, he worked with Yoko and team through the night and returned to his New York apartment on his birthday, a birthday he happen to share with his son Sean. Several photographs exist that were taken inside the studio the day/evening or morning of his 40th birthday, presumably taken by Yoko Ono, that show a carefree John Lennon wearing signature round glasses and a denim shirt with jeans, in two of the images he is clearly showing off the gifts he received from Yoko on such a milestone day. The most talked about present from Yoko is probably the tie she hand-knitted for him as well as a diamond and ruby studded American flag pin she apparently ordered from Tiffany or Cartier jewelers at a cost of US$75,000, less mentioned is the Patek perpetual calendar chronograph reference 2499 wristwatch, also very possibly either from Tiffany & Co. or Cartier. The significance of the tie and pin remain a mystery to me but no doubt have a relevance, I had read the US flag pin was to celebrate John obtaining US citizenship, although as he received his US green card in 1976 he wouldn’t have been eligible for US citizenship until the following year in 1981. According to others working at the studio that night, Yoko presented him with the tie and Lennon was slightly upset such a milestone birthday didn’t warrant a more significant gift, she then presented him with the pin he proudly attached to the tie and presumably at the same time, a Patek Philippe watch. The pictures taken tell a slightly different story. The picture displayed above, presumably taken first, show Lennon wearing the pin on his shirt without the tie, the two pictures below appear to have been taken at the same time and show him wearing all of his presents, the tie now around his neck with pin attached to it and him holding up his hand, clearly showing off the watch. In the first picture he looks very straight faced and posed and you can almost imagine the photographer, presumably Yoko, saying “Come on, look happy!” hence the second picture with him grinning like a Cheshire cat and pointing to his new Patek Philippe watch.

JL 2499-100.jpg

The smile really says it all. The watch he is pointing to with such glee is a yellow gold Patek Philippe perpetual calendar chronograph reference 2499/100 (the /100 was the sapphire crystal version). The model is one of the most popular and collectable in the company’s history; first released in 1951 it underwent 4 significant variations until the last one was sold in 1987. The version Yoko Ono gave John Lennon in 1980 would have been a fourth series fitted with a sapphire crystal.

John Lennon was tragically shot dead outside his apartment in New York by Mark David Chapman on December 8th 1980, just 2 months after his 40th birthday. Researching images and video taken of Lennon during those 2 months, Oct 9- Dec 8, I can’t find another scene where he is wearing the watch, nor tie or pin. 

So somewhere there is a Patek Philippe Ref.2499/100 given to John Lennon on his 40th birthday and probably worn only once or twice, of course the big question is, will it ever see the light of day again?