Source: Christie's
Vintage Watches

13 Beloved Vintage Watch Icons on Auction From Christie’s

We are almost done with the high season for watch auctions, but a handful of great sales remain. On Dec. 16, Christie's New York is hosting its final watch auction of the year, with a 193-lot catalog featuring everything from inexpensive pocket watches to crazy rare chronographs. The sale is heavy on top-condition Patek Philippe watches sprinkled with extremely rare finds from other brands. Here are 13 timekeepers you don't want to miss.

  1. Audemars Piguet Ref. 5516 Perpetual Calendar (Lot 162)
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    Audemars Piguet Ref. 5516 Perpetual Calendar (Lot 162)

    This watch is a Holy Grail. Back in 1955, the ref. 5516 was the very first perpetual calendar ever to show the leap year cycle on the dial. Only nine were made over a three-year period, and this example is in mint condition. The next owner of this watch will have something very, very special on the wrist. Estimate: $150,000 to $300,000

    Source: Christie's

  2. Patek Philippe Pearl of Bahrain (Lot 62)
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    Patek Philippe Pearl of Bahrain (Lot 62)

    This is an, um, interesting, watch. The totally unique Patek was made on the commission of the Emir of Bahrain as a gift for an American adviser in 1958. The pink gold case has a pink gold dial with eight pearls set into it. The hands sit extra high off the dial to make room for the pearls, and the tip of the minute hand is dramatically curved to sweep over their polished domes. Estimate: $10,000 to $15,000

    Source: Christie's

  3. Patek Philippe Ref. 5020 (Lot 191)
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    Patek Philippe Ref. 5020 (Lot 191)

    The so-called "TV-set" Patek Philippe watches weren't popular when they came out. Many sat in retailers' back rooms for a decade or more before buyers finally came along. Because of this, there aren't many, and the complicated ref. 5020 (a perpetual calendar chronograph) in white gold has a strange elegance. It's a big, funky Patek. What's not to like? Estimate: $200,000 to $300,000

    Source: Christie's

  4. Breguet Dive Watch (Lot 120)
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    Breguet Dive Watch (Lot 120)

    With the exception of the Type XX pilot's watch, Breguet isn't exactly known for sport watches. This is an exceptionally rare dive watch from 1962, and you can count the number of known (genuine) examples on one hand. The big steel case houses a beautiful black dial with huge, luminous markers and a script Breguet signature at 12 o'clock. The original bakelite bezel tops everything off. Estimate: $60,000 to $80,000

    Source: Christie's

  5. Patek Philippe Steel Ref. 1463 (Lot 188)
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    Patek Philippe Steel Ref. 1463 (Lot 188)

    It might seem counterintuitive, but for many collectors steel is king when it comes to vintage Patek. The brand made very few watches in the non-precious metal during the mid-20th century, and they're so easy to wear, day in, day out. This classic 1463 chrono in steel has Breguet numerals and a tachymeter scale around the edge; it's calibrated to miles, indicating it was probably sold in the U.S. the first time around. Estimate: $180,000 to $280,000

    Source: Christie's

  6. Patek Philippe Ref. 2497 (Lot 63)
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    Patek Philippe Ref. 2497 (Lot 63)

    As far as perpetual calendars go, the ref. 2497 is one of the cleaner, more minimal options out there. The combination of the two little windows, the nested moonphase and date indicators, and the long, thin center seconds hand keeps a lot of open space on the dial. This yellow gold example is from 1953 and it's in great condition. It looks thoroughly modern, even though it's more than half a century old. Estimate: $200,000 to $400,000

    Source: Christie's

  7. Rolex Les Armoiries Enamel Dial (Lot 34)
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    Rolex Les Armoiries Enamel Dial (Lot 34)

    Enamel dials don't appeal to all collectors. But for those who like the multicolored watches, this is a prime example. The gold ref. 6100 watch itself is relatively unexciting, but the coat of arms motif on the dial was created entirely by hand and has an incredible three-dimensional quality. This watch is new to market, coming from the family of its original owner. Estimate: $50,000 to $100,000

    Source: Christie's

  8. Patek Philippe Amagnetic (Lot 64)
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    Patek Philippe Amagnetic (Lot 64)

    The Patek Amagnetic is a rare anti-magnetic watch from the 1950s (meant for scientists) that's styled like a dress watch instead of a sport watch. The watch was made in small quantities with a few different dial looks; this version, with the long stick markers, 12 up top, and an oversized seconds dial, is the best of the bunch. It's a shame to see some scuffing on the dial down at 6 o'clock, but that's far from enough to ruin an otherwise great watch. Estimate: $30,000 to $50,000

    Source: Christie's

  9. Patek Philippe Ref. 96 Calatrava (Lot 56)
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    Patek Philippe Ref. 96 Calatrava (Lot 56)

    The ref. 96 is the original Calatrava and came in dozens of styles. This example is solid platinum with a creamy dial sporting diamond markers. Sure, it's small, at just 31mm, but it's wearable as a dress watch today. Also, how else can you get a platinum Patek with diamonds for under $20,000? (That's what I thought.) Estimate: $10,000 to $15,000

    Source: Christie's

  10. Patek Philippe Ref. 130 Chronograph (Lot 186)
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    Patek Philippe Ref. 130 Chronograph (Lot 186)

    The ref. 130 monopusher chronograph is one of those Pateks you see frequently enough, but not that many are in great condition. This yellow gold 130 has Breguet numerals and a clean dial with a miles-calibrated tachymeter scale (like that 1463 above), making it one of the rarer variations. It seems to have been popular among early aviators in the late 1930s, around the time it was made. Estimate: $250,000 to $400,000

    Source: Christie's

  11. Audemars Piguet Chronograph (Lot 161)
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    Audemars Piguet Chronograph (Lot 161)

    This is a very rare watch. It's only the second all-steel, vintage Audemars Piguet to surface in years. The white enamel dial is in solid condition and has luminous Arabic numerals and hands, accented by both a spiral tachymeter track at the center and a quarter-mile track at the outer edge, both in bright red. I suspect it will be a long time before we see another watch like this at auction. Estimate: $40,000 to $60,000

    Source: Christie's

  12. Patek Philippe Pisa Orologeria (Lot 72)
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    Patek Philippe Pisa Orologeria (Lot 72)

    Of the modern watches in the sale, this is the standout. The Calatrava from 2008 was made in only 25 examples for the Italian retailer, Pisa Orologeria. It's 38mm, white gold, and has vivid red accents on the dial and seconds hand. It has some of the charm of a vintage Patek, but with all the modern durability and movement technology. Plus you're unlikely to see one across the table at a dinner party. Estimate: $15,000 to $20,000

    Source: Christie's

  13. Patek Philippe Pink-On-Pink Chronograph (Lot 187)
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    Patek Philippe Pink-On-Pink Chronograph (Lot 187)

    The reference 591 chronograph might not be the most popular watch Patek ever made, but this one is special. The combination of a solid pink gold case and the rose dial makes this a covetable "pink-on-pink" Patek, increasingly desired by collectors in recent years. The two Roman numerals at 12 and 6 o'clock are complemented by stick markers that give you a lot of pink dial to admire, too. Estimate: $100,000 to $200,000

    Source: Christie's