This Week (in Watches) Today, 17 May 2022: 7 things you should know

Its auction season this week! In particular we have Royal Oak auctions galore, the latest Cartier Crash auction results, plus multiple releases from Seiko and Grand Seiko (no surprises here), and a hot new watch from Jaeger LeCoultre. These are the top 7 things in the world of watches; let’s get into it.

Phillips Geneva Royal Oak 50th Anniversary Auction 

Audemars Piguet Ref. 5402ST Royal Oak A series, “The A2”

This week we had an auction for some of the most historically important Royal Oaks put together by Phillips together with Bacs & Russo. The auction was put together to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Royal Oak first designed by Gerald Genta in 1972. In total, the auction house put together a collection of 88 Royal Oaks to mark this occasion. Unsurprisingly, the Royal Oak collection raked in very remarkable hammer prices, with one even setting the record for vintage Audemars Piguet at US$1,073,319, at the point of the auction. The reference took this accolade was the 5042ST A2, which was said to be the second Royal Oak ever made, and was one of four pieces shown at Baselworld in 1972. It was not the only Royal Oak to cross the US$1 million mark with the reference 25645PT Royal Oak which was a very rare perpetual calendar model featuring a brown dial and forged in platinum selling for US$1,036,511. While the rest of the top 10 Royal Oaks did not cross the US$1 million mark, they all also performed well, ranging from about US$589,000 to US$950,000. 

Sotheby’s Gerald Genta owned Royal Oak sets record

While Phillips may have had the larger Royal Oak collection for auction, it quickly lost the record for most expensive vintage Audemars Piguet to Sotheby in less than the week. The watch that took the crown was Gerald Genta’s personal Royal Oak which naturally gave the watch a unparalleled provenance especially when this is the first watch directly owned by Gerald Genta that has been auctioned off. It also features a yellow gold bezel that was produced and added by Gerald Genta personally, which made the watch that much more unique. All these factors created a perfect storm for this 1978 Royal Oak to set the record for vintage Audemars Piguet by some distance, achieving a hammer price of US$2,130,767, more than double the previous record. 

Cartier Crash continues solid performance at auction

Photo Credit: Christie’s

Another auction, another Cartier Crash performing amazingly. In the recent Christie’s auction, the hammer came down on a 1990 Cartier Crash at CHF 819,900 (approx. US$817,500). This auction price takes third place in the record books for Cartier Crashes, narrowly losing out to the then record-setting US$884,972 hammer price that the 1970 Cartier Crash sold for at Sotheby’s in December 2021. This latest result cements the Cartier Crash as one to look out for at auctions even if the current record price set by the 1967 version that sold for US$1,503,888 (approx. CHF1,506,700) slightly more than a week ago is still some ways ahead. While virtually similar in appearance, 60s & 70s Cartier Crashes differ slightly from those produced in the 90s. The later models feature slightly longer, thinner painted numerals; a bigger but thinner Cartier London signing, and the twists & folds in the case are marginally less pronounced. The overall effect created is a somewhat more elegant aesthetic. Historically, auction results were somewhat separate from the actual in production watch market, though the record setting Paul Newman Daytona from 2017 might have changed things. It would be interesting to see how these string of results affect the market for Cartier watches, even if the Crash is not a current production model.   

Jaeger LeCoultre Polaris Date 

Scottish Watches and Fears Watch Company

Jaeger LeCoultre (JLC) released its latest iteration of the Polaris Date this week, and it features a really cool dial. Unlike some brands (looking at you Grand Seiko), JLC is not known for flooding the market with multiple iterations of the same watch with different dial colours, so when it does release a new colourway, it is worth taking note of. The Polaris Date in and of itself is an interesting 200m dive watch, which unlike most divers today, makes use of an internal countdown ring via a 2 o’clock crown. This together with the regular 4 o’clock crown gives this line its unique dual crown look. Love it or hate it (I’m in the latter camp), it certainly differentiates the watch from the crowd, but the brand has just added a new dial colour to take that a step further. You might think that green has been overdone lately, but JLC has opted for a very muted olive green that leans more serious than you would otherwise think. But it doesn’t end there, both the inner smaller stepped dial which tracks the minutes, and the outer ring are separately smoked, which is an interesting touch. Contrasted against silver lume filled trapezoid & 6-9-12 numeral indices and hands, the dial is allowed to stand out as it rightly should. As  the other Polaris Date models, the watch comes in a 42mm x 13.92mm case which is thicker than a 200m WR watch should be in my opinion. The watch is powered by the JLC calibre 899AB which has a 70-hour power reserve and top notch finishing with Geneva stripes and blued screws. Ultimately, it is a good looking sporty watch (twin crown aside), especially since it comes on an integrated rubber strap, but you would have to decide if the case size and thickness especially is a worthwhile trade off. For those interested, the watch costs €8,700.

Seiko Black Series additions

This week, Seiko dropped 3 new additions to its Black Series i.e. dive watches that the brand has given a black PVD treatment to. The more commonly covered and probably more popular models would be the King Samurai SRPH97K1 and Tortoise SRPH99K1 but the model that I am particularly interested in is the SNE587P1. This model is part of the brand’s more recently added smaller solar powered dive series, that some might dismiss because of its quartz based calibre, but I like because of its more svelte proportions, a rarity in the Seiko line-up. Housed in a  38.5mm x 46.5mm x 10.6mm, this diver is wonderfully sized (for my wrist anyway) and offers a breath of fresh air amidst the larger divers that we commonly get from the brand. This Black Series version comes with and all black case and bracelet and dial with a very contrasting turquoise/green coloured filled markers and indices which adds a touch of fun to the watch.  Limited to 6,000 pieces, the watch costs around £550.00, which makes for a great value proposition.

Seiko Presage Arita Porcelain SPB293J1 & SPB319J1

If the Seiko Black Series divers were too serious, too rugged for your liking, fret not, the brand has still got you covered. It released two new additions to its Arita Porcelain dial watches, and these look really classy. Seiko’s Arita Porcelain a produced under the oversight of Hiroyuk Hashiguchi, a specialist porcelain artisan, and requires a very intricate process which involves casting in very precise moulds before firing the dials repeatedly at 1,300 degrees in order for them to have their elegant sheen. While not quite as complex as enamel dials, these dials require a very delicate touch, and are nothing to scoff at, especially when they are not a simple flat dial but feature a shallow bowl in the centre. There were two dial colours released, in classic white (SPB293J1), and light blue (SPB319J1), are appropriately paired with Roman numerals with a classic round case and slim lugs. If I have any complaints, it would be the fact that they are cased a 40.5mm x 12.4mm case, which seems larger than a dressy watch should be and somewhat negates the elegance that the absence of a date window provides. The watch is powered by the brand’s mid-tier 6R31 movement (like the 6R35 but without the date complication) that has 70 hours of power reserve and an accuracy of -15/+25s a day. The SPB293J1 comes on a bracelet while the SPB319J1 comes on a leather strap and they are priced at €1,750 which may seem steep for a Seiko but is unparalleled in value for the dial complexity. 

Grand Seiko SBGW297 Ginza Limited Edition

Finally, we have Grand Seiko’s latest Ginza limited edition model, the SBGH297. Bucking its own trend, the SBGh297 eschews the usual nature inspired dials in favour of a bird’s eye view of Ginza’s street, this latest offering, pairs actual grid lines against what looks remarkably similar to a Tiffany blue dial. It’s unfortunate that the brand would pick this dial colour given how hot & overused it’s become since it appeared on the swan song Nautilus, but hey, at least it isn’t another Grand Seiko blue with its umpteenth different nature inspiration. While I personally would have preferred more texture (how cool would 3D building patterns have been) than just grid lines, this new dial & dial inspiration is more left field for Grand Seiko, which I do appreciate. The watch comes in the brand’s less popular but no less iconic 62GS case which is easily my favourite case from the brand. It measures by 40mm x 47mm x 12.9mm and comes with the trademark mix of Zaratsu polishing brushed finishing. The 62GS case is interesting because its slim sharp lugs reduces its wrist presence but that is offset by the absence of a bezel that allows the dial to appear bigger it is. Together, that combines for a very wearable case profile that gives the dial centre stage as it should, in Grand Seiko’s case. The watch is powered by the brand’s older 9S85 mechanical Hi-Beat movement that runs at 5Hz, has an accuracy of +5/-3s a day, and a power reserve of 55 hours. This movement may not be as beautiful as the brand’s latest and greatest 9SA5 movement but its still good looking, if only we could see it clearly without a darned lion printed on the display case back. For those interested, the watch is limited to 260 pieces, is only available at 5 selected Ginza boutiques and costs ¥770,000, so act quickly since these go extremely fast.

 So that is it for this week. As always, get in on all the action on the Scottish Watches website, and of course, the podcast on your podcaster of choice. Till next time, take care everyone.