Rare Patek & Rolex watches lead Christie's Dubai auction

Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Nautilus, several Middle Eastern dials are included in the $4.5 million collection.

Neil Churchill October 10, 2016

If you consider yourself to be a watch fan but you’ve never been to a watch auction before, then you've been missing a moment when all your birthdays, Christmases and Eids come at once.

But the perfect opportunity to change that takes place in Dubai next week, as Christie’s celebrates both its 10th anniversary in the Middle East and its 250th globally with what should be a spectacular auction.

The Dubai Important Watches auction will offer 146 lots – 40 per cent of which will be vintage pieces – totaling a pre-sale estimate of around $4.5 million – that’s AED 16.5 million. Unique models by Rolex, Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, Piaget, Jaeger-LeCoultre and many more will go under the hammer, but it is Patek’s classic Nautilus range that will take centre stage.

Celebrating its own 40th anniversary this year, the Nautilus is embarking on a world tour of Christie’s auction houses with 40 of its most unique pieces. 

Ten at a time have been designated for auction at one of the four stopovers – Dubai, Geneva, Hong Kong and New York – but only Dubai, where the auction tour kicks off on October 19, will get to showcase all 40 watches.

If you're planning to go next week and you’re new to watch auctions, then know the number one rule: do your homework. All 40 of the Nautilus pieces will be on display in the Capital Club, DIFC, from October 10-13, while the official preview for the entire Important Watches auction will open at Emirates Towers on the 15th and run until the day of the auction, Wednesday 19.

In case you can’t make it to either of the previews here is a shortlist of some of the highlights, starting with a select few from the Nautilus 10 allocated to Dubai. For a full overview of all 146 lots, check out the online catalogue.

Stainless steel, ref 3700/1, Oman dial
Estimate: $150,000-250,000 

Made for the Sultanate of Oman in 1978, this reference 3700/1 Nautilus with Oman dial is one of only two confirmed examples of a made-to-order Nautilus for the Omani royal household; both were originally sold on July 31st, 1978. The dial features the national emblem of the Sultanate, the Khanjar dagger in its sheath upon crossed swords.

What’s significant about this watch is its case number: 536'200. Its brother, which went to auction in Geneva in 2012, had the case number 536'201, meaning this watch was the preceding model and therefore, if you’re being very picky, the original.

Gold, diamond-set, ref 3700/3, Jumbo
Estimate: $70,000-120,000 

This unique gold ‘Jumbo’ Nautilus – Jumbo is the nickname for the original 42 mm model – is set within 112 diamonds with a weight of 1.48 carats. As one of the original watches from 1981, it's probably one of the last Jumbo models with a Favre-Perret case. 

Other standouts from the Nautilus 10 include a steel moon phase, an 18k white gold case on leather strap and a steel chronograph with a Tiffany & Co. dial. 

The Nautilus watches – lots 137 and onwards – will bring the auction to a close and will rightly, in its 40th year, command a lot of attention. However, don’t be surprised if they’re upstaged on the day by a different Patek model. Specifically, this one.

Patek Philippe, ref 591, pink gold chronograph, rose dial
Estimate: $45,000-75,000 

Nicknamed ‘Fagiolino’ due to its rectangular chrono pushers and lugs, this vintage Patek is considered rarer than any other chronograph model of its period – 1938 – with only 100 pieces in yellow and pink gold ever produced. Reference 591 is one of the least known Patek chronographs and has a shape and size that differs from its better known siblings the 130 and 533. 

Middle Eastern dials

As special as it is, the Fagiolino won’t be the only vintage Patek that will interest the high-rollers in attendance. There are also two 18k white gold Pateks with Iraqi coat of arms dials, each estimated to go for between $10,000 - $18,000. 

Apart from Pateks, there’s a number of Rolex pieces to bid for, including two with UAE emblem dials – one a gold Day-Date, the other a steel Oyster.

However, it is an 18k pink gold Movado chronograph from the 1950s with the signature of Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdul Aziz Al Saud on the dial that could be the dark horse of the whole lot, especially given Movado Group’s long-standing connection with the Middle East. 

Dark horses and surprise lots

The most frequent model of the whole auction is easily the Rolex Daytona, with an extraordinarily high number of pieces on offer. Our recommendations are the only black-on-black non-Paul Newman piece and a 14k gold champagne dial model; lots 128 and 133. 

Elsewhere, there’s a 1953 stainless steel Rolex triple calendar with moon phases, which will appeal to the vintage Rolex hunter, and there are also a surprising number of F.P. Journe models, a brand that produces a very limited number of watches per year.

While there is a Richard Mille and even an MB&F model up for grabs, it is a unique titanium Emmanuel Bouchet with jumping hours and day/night indicator that should appeal to the modern, quirky collector. 

There’s even a Breitling Emergency Bentley Bentayga edition up for grabs. That’s the watch that buyers of the Bentayga receive when they drive the luxury SUV out of the showroom, which means one of Dubai’s few local Bentayga owners is already trying to claw some money back on the AED 800,000 car. Estimated to auction for just $6,000 – AED 22,000 – the owner will need to sell a few Pateks to get back in the black.

Aside from this select few there are a number of Audemars Piguet models, Panerai, Hublot, IWC, Roger Dubuis, Cvstos and a tonne more Rolex and Patek pieces in the lots.

If you've never been to a watch auction before then we thoroughly recommend you go along and experience the fever of bidding wars for rare and vintage watches. Just remember: do your homework and know what you're bidding for before you put your hand up. 

Dubai Important Watches auction takes place at Jumeirah Emirates Towers, October 19.
Christie’s is also partner of Dubai Watch Week, taking place November 15-19.