On the banks of Lac Léman in Geneva, the charming hotel Beau-Rivage will on June 28th be the site where Antiquorum is holding its most recent auction. While they offer plenty of rare and instantly recognizable icons to choose from, we focused, as usual, on the gentleman’s watches among them, particularly the Cartiers. They happen to be plentiful as well, and some are real treats, like the following that caught my eye;
Lot 70; Rotonde de Cartier Jumping Hours
This Rotonde is always a topic for a pleasant debate between myself and George Cramer. While this ranks as one of my favorite watches of the Fine Watchmaking Collection, it isn’t even part of his top ten. George claims that it is not that easy to read the time, and he has a point. The hours are not indicated with Arabic numerals, but with Roman instead. While this is no problem with an ordinary watch, it is slightly different with a jump hour. Geo also finds the Cartier ‘name banner’ too large, while I consider it a much-needed variation of what otherwise might have become too dull of a dial. With a diameter of 42mm, it is a bit oversized for the type of watch that it is, which is something that I appreciate. Cartier also offered this watch in pink gold, but I have always preferred it in white, as Antiquorum is offering it, as otherwise, it is in relation to its diameter too much of a good thing.
Lot 122; Cartier Tonneau
With its narrow strap, it will probably be passed over by most men, but those who can look beyond this will realize that this Cartier Tonneau is an absolute gem. Made around 1925, it is a Cartier from one of the most important eras of the history of La Maison. While its case looks almost unblemished by the passing of time, the dial has a refined patina that shows its pedigree. It is powered by a movement from the European Watch & Clock Co., which was a joint-venture between the Cartier family and Edmond Jaeger. This brilliant watchmaker developed many refined movements, often quite thin, which allowed Cartier to create its form shaped watches that became their hallmark. Wearing a watch measuring 23mm wide and 39mm long may incline a man to have some thoughts of doubt about his masculinity. However, in those days, it was a sign of utter refinement to wear such a watch, and were the ladies watches even much smaller, and quite honestly, that hasn’t changed. Today you will be wearing an important piece of watchmaking history, and for that strap, change it to a black one in a textured calf, and you’ll be surprised what a masculine statement this is on the wrist.
Lot 120; Cartier Bamboo
A Cartier Bamboo is already a rarity as La Maison has never made many of them, and in white gold, it is not hard to envision it as the ultimate grail piece. The one that Antiquorum is offering is also in ‘Jumbo’ size. Connoisseurs of vintage watches know that you should view this from a historical perspective, as by today’s standards, 26 x 34mm is not that large. On the wrist, it will look pleasantly substantial, as the watch is essentially a rectangle. The bamboo-shaped case always looks very attractive, yet while it is very rare in white gold, I am not sure if I prefer it over yellow gold. Perhaps it is because I am more used to seeing that variety, or that the yellow gold is closer in color to actual bamboo. However, the fact that a white gold variety in the largest size is so utterly rare does make it a watch that is very, very hard to resist, if only for the fact that you will never know when such a watch comes around again in your lifetime.
Lot 118 & 119; ‘Reverso’ de Cartier
In the 1970s, Cartier offered a Reverso-type of watch in a Tank-shaped case, where the sides are a bit cushioned. This gives it a distinctly different look and feel, then the iconic Jaeger-LeCoultre. Cartier offered it in two different varieties, and Antiquorum is offering both in this auction. Lot 119 is the single side version. It is fitted with the traditional beaded crown set with a sapphire cabochon, and when it swirls around, it shows a closed caseback. Lot 118 is an ever rare version, showing a different time zone on each side, with one dial being silver, and the other being gold-colored. Unlike the modern-day Jaeger-LeCoultre Duo, who powers both timezones from a single movement, does this Cartier have two manual wind movements back-to-back to each other. The crowns are integrated at the top of the case, similar to that of the Basculante. It results in a very refined watch that highlights a lesser-known era of Cartier, which makes it to me, perhaps even more desirable.
Lot 31; Omega Ref.3950
Omega may be a brand that is now especially famous for its Speedmaster and Seamaster sports watches, but make no mistake; this brand has a true legacy when it comes to tempting dress watches. This Ref.3950 is the perfect example of this. Made in the 1950’s it combines a very attractive case shape, with equally interesting lugs. While that by itself gives the watch already quite the appeal, it is also the combination of the yellow gold with a black dial that makes it pop. An extra sense of sophistication is given by the fact that the dial is not plain, but features a very fine honeycomb pattern. I would definitely wear it as pictured, on a brown alligator leather strap. Black is an option as well, but in my opinion, it makes the color contrast of the yellow gold with the black a bit too harsh, as the brown accent softens this.
Lot 10; LeCoultre Quartermaster
Looking for something different with a sportive edge, yet without setting aside your usual standards for quality and refinement? Then the LeCoultre Quartermaster might be right up your alley. While its stainless steel case might be a tad straight forward in its design, its dial will most certainly make up for it. This watch is a genuine 24-hour watch, with its hour hand making only one full rotation every day, instead of the usual two. It takes some getting used to, but when you do, you will actually appreciate reading time this way, and wonder why not all watches are like this. It measures 33mm in diameter but has plenty of character on the wrist, and as the bezel is quite thin, it wears larger. The silver dial also plays a vital role in this, as LeCoultre also offered it with a black dial. LeCoultre apparently only made 2.500 pieces of the Quartermaster, making them pleasantly rare, all the more so as this is the only 24-hour watch that the brand has made so far. Do I need to say more?
130; Patek Philippe Ref.2591
Diamonds on a gentleman’s watch, an excellent topic for a friendly debate with friends among the fireplace while enjoying a glass of fine spirit. As there are quite some era’s in history in which this was perfectly acceptable, I am in the camp who actually enjoys these types of watches and think that they are entirely appropriate when done with style like is the case with this Patek Philippe Ref.2591. Made in 1965, it features a simple, elegant case in white gold with diamond hour markers. Four of them are baguette-cut, while the rest is brilliant-cut. In this day and age, diamonds for men have much suffered from the ‘rapper-syndrome’ where only the amount of diamonds plastered on a watch seems to matter. For a gentleman, less is more, and this is just downright perfect. When wearing this Patek Philippe, few will actually even notice that you are wearing diamonds, until a ray of light hits them just right, and you get that fire and scintillation that they are so famous for.
Lot 129; Patek Philippe Ref.3430
Creating a gold bracelet from scratch mainly by hand, is an almost forgotten art. They are very underappreciated today, and that’s such a pity as people don’t know what they are missing out on. A bracelet as on this Patek Philippe Ref.3430 is supple and solid at the same time. It follows the curves of your wrist closely and offers unmatched wearing comfort. Creating a bracelet like this takes not only a great deal of time and requires a significant amount of expertise that one can only get by practicing a lot. To me, it also elevates the overall look of the rectangular case and classic dial from something very understated to a true item of luxury. Is the gold bracelet an overkill? Perhaps for some, it would not match their personal style. However, when compared to the solid style of most gold sports watches on a bracelet, I think that this Patek offers an unmatched sense of refinement, as well as an ode to a nearly forgotten craft gentleman, should stand up to.
Lot 30; Vacheron Constantin
Elegant is also this Vacheron Constantin, which was made in a style that was in particular popular during the early days of the renaissance of mechanical watchmaking after the quartz crisis. A round movement in a form case is rarely a good idea when you have the intent to show it all, but Vacheron Constantin gives with this watch a lesson in how to do it right. It is a proposition where form and function come seamlessly together. The caliber 1006 manual wind movement has been extensively engraved and is surrounded by a dial with Roman numerals that fills up the rest of the case. Even when it is not your style, you have to admit that this results in a wonderful watch that highlights the classic prowess of this old and great brand. I, in particular, like the Vendome-lugs, as they make the watch more refined than regular lugs would. Again, this is a watch that would grab the attention of only a few, but I feel it should be admired by so many, as its craftsmanship is extraordinary. In everyday life, it is even a rather practical watch as well, as, despite its elaborate engraved movement, the time can be read with ease.
Lot 27; Vacheron Constantin Ref.4241 Triple Date
What is not to love about this classic proposition by Vacheron Constantin of a round, yellow gold case with luscious teardrop lugs and a triple calendar function? This particular watch was made around 1942 and has aged beautifully. The dial is still remarkably crisp, and the red details, also on the day and month indicators, give it a unique appearance. Despite its yellow gold case, I actually think that this Vacheron has an almost sport like appearance, despite being a clear object of elegance. I find this difficult to explain, but I do feel that this would be the watch of choice back in the day of those with a more active lifestyle than most of their contemporaries. While I usually prefer classic calendar watches with a moon phase indicator, I think that this one is just right without it. It is now more about the functions and less about the sense of romance, and the subdial for the seconds adds a dynamic touch to the dial, making it a watch that even today would look very smart with most outfits. The diameter also plays a role in this, as with 36mm, it was generous for its time, and even considering today’s fashion, I would consider a watch like this spot on.
The auction at Antiquorum takes place at Hotel Beau-Rivage, Geneva at June 29th, 2020, at 10:00 am. See the complete list of lots here