The Golden Bear’s golden watch comes up for auction
Gather round, boys and girls, for a very swanky edition of “fashion” news. Put on your finest gowns, your weddings-and-funerals suits, and that one nice T-shirt you just put through the wash because your trusty guide Rachel Tashijan transcended to a new plane of reality recently after wearing a REALLY big fit (jk she’ll be back soon) and I’ve taken the reins. And I’m going to talk about watches.
The first item up for discussion here is a stunning piece: the Rolex Day-Date worn by champion golfer Jack Nicklaus. After wearing it almost every day since 1967, Nicklaus is giving the watch to Phillips auction house. The watch will come up for sale in December of this year. You can imagine the prospective buyers already: staring at the watch under a microscope trying to find small remnants of green-jacket fiber, pressing their noses against its glass display case for a tiny whiff of Augusta’s freshly cut grass, whispering soothing affirmations about how Tiger will never measure up.
Some backstory: Rolex offered Nicklaus a watch of his choosing while at a cocktail event in the late ‘60s. His buddy suggested a Day-Date. The Golden Bear with an 18-carat gold watch—it almost made too much sense. Nicklaus took his friend’s advice and has barely taken the watch off since.
The watch is a perfect collision of everything that makes a timepiece valuable in 2019: it’s a good-condition Rolex with provenance in spades. Nicklaus’s has been along for the ride during 12 of his 18 major wins. If this Rolex were a golfer, it would have the third most majors wins in history, just three behind Tiger.
Collectors who talk themselves into spending small fortunes on watches of this caliber often do so by conjuring fantasies of the “life” a piece “lived.” This often involves watches that have made it to the peak of something: Omegas that went to the moon, or Rolexes that toppled Mt. Everest. A watch that was there as Nicklaus hoisted a large majority of his major trophies is exactly the sort of piece someone will drain the bank for this winter.
The watch is Bond’s, James Bond’s
Enough with watches that will go on sale. How about the ones that have already found loving new homes? May is auction season and Phillips capped off the month with several watches that follow the Nicklaus Rolex recipe, centering an entire auction around sport watches with incredible provenance.
One of these watches was an Omega Speedmaster that spent a leisurely 365 days floating around in far-flung reaches of the atmosphere. The Speedmaster was typically involved in giant leaps for mankind or death-defying missions but this particular watch was part of a test NASA conducted to see how changes in gravity affected a piece’s ability to keep exact, precise time. So, in 1993, 35 Speedmasters were taken to the MIR space station to have a full year of rest and relaxation. 28 of those watches were, like this one, made out of stainless steel (the other eight were gold). The Speedmaster “MIR-365” sold for $175,367.
The top watch from the same auction was a Rolex Submariner “Big Crown,” named for that chunky winding piece on its right side, that is famous for its association with James Bond. This specific Submariner model was worn during the Sean Connery era in movies like Dr. No, From Russia with Love, and Goldfinger. (It should be noted that the specific watch that was sold wasn’t on set for those movies.)
Closer to the beginning of his career, on the song “Dreams Money Can Buy,” Drake rapped “I got car money, fresh start money/I want Saudi money, I want art money.” In that way, Drake and the watch market have at least one thing in common: they both want that elusive art money, the sort of multi-multi millions spent on David Hockneys and Picassos. A string of recent results for Patek Philippe watches is cause for optimism on that count.
“Recent auction results are underlining the trend that vintage Patek Philippe prices are [fire emoji] [fire emoji] [fire emoji],” John Reardon, Christie’s international head of watches wrote on Instagram. “High demand and low quantity of quality pieces are driving up prices and there is no end in sight as watch prices are entering the realm of price points traditionally only seen with flat art.”
Over the weekend, Christie’s sold an 18-carat gold Patek Philippe for $873,011. Over at Phillips, a white-gold Patek with so many complications you’d run out of breath trying to list them all out (Give it a go: “Cathedral minute repetition, tourbillon, perpetual calendar with retrograde date hand, leap year cycle, moon age, angular motion, sidereal time, moonphases and orbit, and sky chart orbit display,” according to the auction listing) sold for $1,090,467. It might not be the sort of money spent on top-tier art, but the fact that Patek prices are consistently hitting near or above a million dollars is proof that the watch community is at least in its Take Care phase.
Article written by Cam Wolf #GQ