New York City-based auction house Fortuna hosts the second installment of the “Important Watches” auction following a successful sale in June. Another sampling of rare timepieces will be up for grabs during the September 27 event. Collectors’ pieces from Patek Philippe, Breguet, Audemars Piguet, Rolex, and more will go to the highest bidder, with starting prices ranging from $500 to $110,000.
The crown jewel of the auction—a rare, fresh-to-market Rolex “Paul Newman” Daytona—carries the highest starting bid at $110,000. And rightly so. The early 70s piece comes to the auction in great condition from its original owner. Other highlights include highly sought after vintage and contemporary pieces from Patek Philippe: a “Nautilus” Ref. 5712/1A (with box and papers) and an incredibly well-preserved first-series Ref. 2526 will be up for grabs. And not to be overlooked are a Gerald Genta “Success” Octagon Chronograph, a circa 1973 Rolex Explorer II Ref. 1655, and an impressive selection women’s pieces from Cartier, Chanel, and Piaget.
Important Watches will take place at 1:00 PM on Thursday, September 27th. Register to bid here.
Alain Hubert is a certified mountaineer, polar guide, civil engineer, and entrepreneur. But more than anything, he is an explorer.
When did you realize that you wanted to live a life of adventure?
Probably when I first reached the summit of a mountain, in Austria. The sun was setting and I had below me a sea of clouds stretching to the horizon. At that particular moment, I knew that my life would be one of a mountaineering. Through that, I became a polar explorer. But essentially, I’m an entrepreneur without any boundaries between all my activities.
You first ascended the East Ridge of the Amadablam in Nepal in 1983. How have exploring tools evolved since then? What is the biggest advancement you’ve seen during your career?
Definitely the lightness of all our equipment, and the synthetic fibers for clothing and all the technical materials, which gives us the possibility of pushing the limits while at the same time being closer to nature. One of the most important evolutions was the GPS and, later, satellite phones. Not for the progression of comfort, but for ultimate safety. Although now I am a little nostalgic when I think of the total isolation of my first expeditions.
What about watches?
My first Rolex was the Explorer II. I still use it on expeditions because I know it will not stop out on the ice and it is also the one I wear every single day of the year. In the middle of the Arctic Ocean, I’m surrounded by an environment that is white as far as the eye can see. You can only find your way by using the sun and the wind. But my Explorer can be used as a compass to help me keep my bearings in any conditions. I just have to look at my wristwatch to check my direction in relation to the sun. When I’m not on expedition, a quick look at my watch is enough to remind me that I made some fantastic expeditions and it makes me dream of new adventures.
How has the brand impacted the field of exploration, not only for you directly, but overall?
Rolex has such a long tradition of supporting exploration that the name has become intrinsically linked with it. It’s a connection with all the explorers who have experienced firsthand the fragility and exponential speed of change in the environment. This partnership with explorers and scientists has put Rolex in a privileged position. It has become a form of recognition of achievement.
What’s the most dangerous situation you’ve experienced during a climb or expedition? Is there a time you remember being scared?
Certainly my first encounter with polar bears in the Arctic. One huge male surprised me from the top of a block of ice. I had just been pushed back by an extremely strong wind while trying to cross an open lead in the middle of a big storm. I thought it was the end. And yet, at the same time, I was fascinated by the majesty of this animal, rightly called Lord of the Arctic.
In 1998, you set a world record crossing the Antarctic continent in 99 days, the longest crossing ever made on foot and ski. What other record would you like to attempt?
Nowadays breaking a record is no longer the most important goal in my life. When looking at the huge challenge of building a future—to be able to survive and live together on planet Earth as a human family—I have to do all I can. [I want to] share this new human adventure.
So how can we build a more sustainable world overall? You come from an engineering background, and developed the solar- and wind-powered Princess Elisabeth Station in Antarctica. What lessons did you learn?
The Princess Elisabeth Antarctica Research Station was designed and built with the International Polar Foundation. It is a zero-emissions station, with a micro-smart grid that produces all the energy needed for our activities. Having to adapt the rhythm of our activities to the availability of the energy, which depends on the sun and the wind, we realized that it wasn’t that difficult to change our habits—and that it didn’t imply suffering or reducing our standard of living. Building a more sustainable world will only be possible if we reconsider our relationship with energy. This is absolutely feasible. But the question is: Are we able to adapt?
With the so-called “blood moon” happening tonight due to the longest lunar eclipse of the century, prophecies and conspiracy theories are predicting the worst. Now might be the perfect time to arm yourself with an extraordinary moon phase. Lasting an impossible to believe 103 minutes, the next total lunar eclipse of this length won’t occur again until 2123.
Feel the pull and predict your lunar energy within the confines of a dazzling complicated timepiece. Charge it now, enjoy, and wait for a new day to dawn. Visible from every country on earth except the US, at least you’ll be able to gaze upon wristwatch magnificence.
The website Mr Porter is best known for its selection of fashionable menswear, supplying modern shoppers with deftly chosen clothing by a range of labels, from Acne Studios to Z Zegna. It’s built a loyal following since launching in 2011. But recently, the site has been gaining recognition for offering designer wares of a different ilk: luxury watches.
“Our view on watches is the same as it is with fashion,” says Toby Bateman, Mr Porter’s managing director. “We’re trying to create a selection of brands that represents different aesthetics and different price points so that ultimately we’ll have something for everyone.”
Log on to mrporter.com, and you’ll find pieces from Montblanc and Baume & Mercier, starting at under $1,000, running up to investment-grade Piaget and Jaeger-LeCoultre. Mirroring the clothing side, which carries discovery labels such as And Wander and Herno Laminar as well as mainstays such as Gucci and Prada, insider watch brands like Ressence and Weiss are included in the mix.
All told, Mr Porter has hundreds of watches from more than a dozen brands. But the selection isn’t overwhelming. Like everything else on the site—and on its womenswear sister site, Net-a-Porter—what’s stocked is a concise, targeted edit instead of a scattershot.
“We’ve got buyers who can whittle down what can be a complicated and quite daunting shopping process for customers,” Bateman says.
His curation includes multiple iterations of classic pieces, quite a few exclusive styles and limited editions, the occasional desk clock, and even adventurous one-offs, like Bell & Ross with a transparent crystal sapphire case (priced at $480,000 and, as of this writing, still available.)
“We can talk about watches in the context of style . . . no one else in the market, online or offline, is really able to do that.”
– Toby Bateman, mrporter.com
But unlike a dedicated jeweler or watch retailer, Mr Porter’s overall breadth of stock—in addition to clothes and shoes, sunglasses, briefcases, neckties, and jewelry—helps shoppers imagine how a timepiece could fit in with their wardrobe. Bateman sees this as a major advantage.
“We can talk about watches in the context of style, and pretty much no one else in the market, whether their online or offline, is really able to do that,” he says. “If you go to a jewelry store on Madison Avenue or on Bond Street, you just see watches—you don’t really [get] ‘This is how you wear that diver’s watch,’ ‘This is the one for the office,’ ‘This is the one for jeans and a T-shirt over the weekend.’”
In terms of ushering high-end menswear into the e-commerce realm, Mr Porter’s has been a trailblazing force, and the site’s upscale look was crucial to its breakout success. Even judged by those lofty standards, timepieces get special treatment in terms of imagery and text. Every watch is photographed in-house with dedicated cameras; more details about each are included than would be with, say, a pair of trendy sneakers or a bomber jacket. Some pieces are even offered with multiyear warranties.
“When you actually see how professional and well-done Mr Porter is, it was a little bit of a no-brainer,” says Nick English, the co-founder of Bremont, the first brand to partner with Mr Porter when it began carrying watches, in 2013. “The whole experience is pretty amazing—they just do it really well. It’s the closest thing to going in there and talking to someone in a shop.”
Some watch companies view the site’s unique position—egalitarian and accessibilible, but still upmarket—as a bridge. Put simply, Mr Porter represents a medium to showcase items to shoppers from around the world that might be intimidated by a traditional watch store, or simply unfamiliar with their brand.
“We felt this is a good opportunity to potentially connect with a new clientele in a very convenient way,” says Giovanni Carestia, North American President of Panerai, which has been carried on the site since last year. “This is great way to raise the bar.”
Nearly five years in, Bateman describes the site’s watch business as being “in its infancy.” He says a Luxury Watch Guide expansion is planned, and Mr Porter did stock the new Cartier Santos when it launched in April. Still, the site’s catalog largely leans away from formal dress watches, emphasizing versatility. Zenith, IWC, and Nomos Glashütte are featured heavily. TAG Heuer and Montblanc smartwatches have been popular thus far, but—ironically, for a digital-only retailer—a broader range of tech watches will be added only if they fit well into the overall mix.
(Bateman: “It will depend on what comes to market and whether it’s got a good U.S.P. [unique selling point] that we can talk about with our customers.”)
Regardless, he says timepiece category has already helped broaden the site’s customer base. And whether or not Mr Porter becomes a major player in the luxury watch market, Bateman believes that it’s positioning the site as a more holistic retailer for the shopper of the future.
“Having watches on the site has enabled us to reach guys who don’t consider themselves to be ‘fashion guys,’” he says. “They come to Mr Porter and see the watch selection, but in the process they’re discovering Mr Porter. What they then see is that we create really great content which isn’t overly fashion-led—it’s quite lifestyle—and we have a very diverse product offering across all our categories. [Those shoppers] hopefully will become Mr Porter customers in other aspects.”
The world’s earliest civilizations kept time by observing the moon—tracking the days from one new moon to the next. The ancient Greeks took the process a leap further, inventing the Antikythera, one of the first-known complex machines. Housed in a wooden box with more than 30 bronze gears, the instrument could predict the moon’s phases and position in the sky. According to historians, the Antikythera’s four-annum cycle was used for adjusting to leap years or pinpointing the best city—sans eclipses—to host the next Olympic games.
Alas, this innovative tool (along with the instructions needed to replicate it) was lost at sea, near the isle for which it was later named. Other tinkerers wouldn’t catch up to the Antikythera’s technology for more than a thousand years. But by the late Middle Ages, Italian astronomer and engineer Giovanni Dondi dell-Orologio of Padua had created the Astrarium, an astrological clock that mapped the positions of the five then-known planets, along with the sun and the moon. This time, the device was reproduced—and shared widely—greatly influencing the burgeoning clock (and future watch) industries.
Rudimentary moon pointers—special discs that rotated on the dial to aim at numerals signifying the moon’s monthly age in days, from 1 to 29—can be found on pocket watches dating back to the turn of the 17th century. But since the real moon’s cycle is about a half day longer, these early versions required manually adjusting the watch at least every couple of years. Over time, the moon-phase complication became both more accurate and more beautiful as elaborate sky scenes were painted on or beneath the rotating discs (which sometimes had open holes to reproduce the waxing and waning of the moon). Adding more teeth to the gears turning these lunar mechanisms resulted in watches that needed far less correction. Some moon phases can now stay true for more than a thousand millennia.
Of course, in the current age of smartphones communicating with satellites in real time, moon phases no longer serve any functional purpose. Their value is purely historic and aesthetic, enhancing traditional timepieces with often gorgeous complications. Take the new Rolex Cellini Moonphase (reference 50535), for example. A handsome, oversize 39 mm case in 18-k Everose gold contains a self-winding movement made by Rolex with the company’s Superlative Chronometer certification, with an accuracy of plus or minus two seconds a day. The blue enamel disc at 6 o’clock tracks the various phases of the moon, indicated by an arrow indicator on the subdial. A full moon is depicted by a meteorite appliqué, while the new moon is designated by a simple silver ring.
The Cellini, the most elegant of Rolex’s styles, has long been overshadowed by the brand’s sportier models, like the Daytona and the Submariner. But this particular edition, designed with a subtle brown alligator-leather strap and spare white lacquer dial demands the spotlight—not least because it’s the first moon phase Rolex has issued in more than six decades.
“Rolex watches with a moon-phase indication are exceptionally rare—among the rarest of all of the brand’s historic and modern models,” says Paul Boutros, Americas & International Strategy advisor and senior vice president at Phillips auction house. Boutros points out that, before the new Cellini, only two Rolex moon phases were ever manufactured: “Reference 8171 and reference 6062 were both produced for only a few short years, from about 1950 until approximately 1954. Due to their timeless beauty, size, and rarity, these references are among the most sought-after of all vintage Rolex watches.”
One particular example, the Bao Dai Rolex, a 6062 moon phase in yellow gold with a black dial and diamond indices, once owned by the last emperor of Vietnam, has set records at Phillips both times it has come to market. It sold for $372,346 in 2002 and $5,034,084 in May of 2017, marking the highest price ever fetched by a Rolex, not once, but twice.
“The new Cellini is especially noteworthy since it is the first modern Rolex wristwatch to include a moon phase,” Boutros says. “Due to its large size and classic aesthetic, we believe it will sell well to collectors of modern, complicated wristwatches.”
Resale value is but one reason to get moonstruck.
WHERE TO WEAR IT
With the once stark line between work and leisure dissolving into a blur, few opportunities remain for true formal dress—and the Cellini Moonphase is, undoubtedly, a formal watch. Perhaps that’s why Rolex has become such an ardent supporter of the arts? It’s certainly one way to ensure the brand’s devotees can find suitable venues to exhibit their finery.
The company underwrites select performances at Teatro alla Scala in Milan, the Royal Opera House in London, the Opéra National de Paris, the Sulzburg Festival and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in Austria, and the Metropolitan Opera in New York, which just celebrated its 50th year at Lincoln Center. Even at the Met, though, dress codes have eased. “Monday nights at the old Met [on Broadway and 39th Street] were all white tie,” says Susan Froemke, a filmmaker who documented the Met’s 1966 move to the Upper West Side in this year’s exceptional The Opera House. “Everybody adhered to those rules,” she adds. “The old house was built by the nouveau riche—the Vanderbilts, if you can believe it—people who couldn’t get boxes at the old Academy of Music. They wanted a place to be seen in their ermine and jewels.”
Now, at Lincoln Center, inside Wallace Harrison’s sleek Modernist temple to the arts, there’s considerably more variety in audience attire. “Today, people are coming straight from work,” Froemke says. “But luckily, they do still make an effort.”
Under the starburst “sputnik” chandeliers, the Cellini will look right at home.