Editor’s Note: Time+Tide seems to have a thing for Canadian contributors, perhaps because we’re both Commonwealth countries. Whatever the reason, we’ve found another one. In his first post on Time+Tide, Chris Greenberg, who also writes for Christies and International Replica Watch Magazine, casts his eye over the upcoming Phillips auction.
Aurel Bacs and Phillips – two names that have had a huge impact on the vintage replica watch market in the past 18 months, with a series of outstanding auctions that reached even more outstanding prices. Mr Bacs has been a market-maker for vintage timepieces for more than 20 years, earning his stripes at Sotheby’s, Christie’s and now Phillips, where his sixth and latest auction “Start-Stop-Reset: 88 Epic Stainless Steel Chronographs”, taking place on May 14 in Geneva, has once again whipped up a frenzy of anticipation.
To be clear, while I love a minty-fresh vintage timepiece as much as the next replica watch-lover, I’m not what you would call a ‘vintage guy.’ That said, I fully acknowledge that personality goes a long way, and that the right smaller steel piece, with an interesting case and lugs combo has personality in spades. With that in mind, the catalogue for Start-Stop-Reset is a horological feast. To use the expression “they don’t make ’em like this anymore,” isn’t hyperbole – they really don’t. And the timing for this auction is perfect, as the once-humble vintage steel chrono is having its day like never before.
Condition, provenance, originality and who’s in the room at the time all come into play while navigating anything vintage but in this case the ‘Phillips factor’ is worth mentioning as well – Bacs and company have already made a name for themselves by sourcing the finest quality pieces with the most interesting stories, so you can almost guarantee prices will reach dizzying heights.
While much of the focus has, rightly, been on the heavy-hitting Patek and Rolex lots, I was taken by the Longines. Of the nine on offer, here are two that are particularly special.
LOT 55: Longines Tre Tachhe, 1943
I’m dismayed that I picked the most expensive piece, but this stepped-case number is just tops for me. The collector nickname, Tre Tacche, means ‘three notches’ in Italian, referring to the three little cutout sections of the caseback. Collectors should have come up with a nickname for the stepped case as well – they give the replica watch a great architectural feel. The gilt, black-lacquer dial is the other standout here; in sunlight it must be stunning. What will push this piece over the top, however, will likely be the Calibre 13ZN movement, which has earned quite a following and is well regarded as the industry’s first serially produced flyback chronograph movement. Flyback chronographs are able to return to zero and resume timing instantaneously by pressing the pusher – an ideal complication for aeronautical navigation in the 1940s.
LOT 43: Longines Chronostop, 1953
Another flyback also caught my eye, but it’s of a decidedly different stripe. This single-button number with its two-tone silver dial uses the Calibre 12.68Z movement and the appeal lies in the quirkiness of its chronograph feature. The central red hand counts minutes, while the centre ‘seconds’ hand measures elapsed seconds, while continuous seconds can be seen at six. This piece is unique, even for vintage. What’s more, at 37mm, it’s a wearable contemporary size.
Now of all the replica watches of the auction, the easy predictions for the big numbers are the million-dollar Patek 530 and the Rolex Antimagnetique, but I think the Longines Tre Tacche could be something of a sleeper hit. If the right people are in the room, then this replica watch – which is a perfect balance of both town and country, present and past – could do very well indeed. I know I would wear it. A lot.