John Glenn, Ironman, and More Gamechangers

Reddit loves its watches

Jeff Stein on John Glenn’s watches

Jeff Stein, proprietor of Heuer-focused OnTheDash, published two articles this week diving deep into John Glenn’s watches. Two of Glenn’s watches are up for auction at Phillips’ upcoming December 10 “Gamechangers” auction: a LeCoultre “Lucky 13” watch (Lot 13) and Breitling Reference 809 “Cosmonaute” (Lot 14). But, Stein was also able to acquire a few for himself. First, he tells the story of his Hunt for John Glenn’s Watches, involving frantically phoning Glenn’s estate sale in March of 2018. Then, he gives An Overview and Bibliography of the Watches of John Glenn.

First, Stein tells an exciting story of his efforts to buy a few of John Glenn’s watches from a Glenn’s estate sale over a year ago. The sale went largely under the radar until Stein discovered it and made an effort to purchase a few of Glenn’s watches that hadn’t yet been sold. These include a “poor man’s Heuer” Bulova chronograph and a small black 24-hour LeCoultre that was specially commissioned for Glenn and the other Mercury 7 astronauts. Stein takes great lengths to describe how Glenn was a true hero of his growing up, so what I love most is Stein’s recounting of the first time he slipped the watches he acquired onto his wrist:

I thought of the collectors who had bought Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona and Steve McQueen’s Heuer Monaco, and wondered how they felt wearing those watches.  But I could honestly say, at least to myself, “Forget those guys. I am wearing John Glenn’s watch.” Newman and McQueen were actors cast as heroes. John Glenn was a real-life hero, celebrated around the world. More than that, he was my hero.    

Then, in his Overview post, Stein goes more in-depth into all of John Glenn’s watches, both the ones he purchased and the ones for sale in Phillips’ upcoming Gamechangers auction.


Other News

T-Shirt Giveaway!

If you haven’t yet, make sure to refer a friend to subscribe to Rescapement Weekly and then comment on Watch Thing’s IG post by Sunday at noon ET for a change to win a sweet and soft t-shirt from Watch Thing celebrating old tritium dials.

Speaking of Gamechangers…

There’s a lot of coverage of the Gamechangers auction coming to New York this week. In addition to highlighting John Glenn’s watches up for sale, the Wall Street Journal highlights the Urwerk UR-105 CT Iron that Tony Stark wears as Ironman in Avengers: Endgame. Real life Ironman, Robert Downey, Jr., will donate the proceeds from the sale of Lot 75 to charity.

Quill & Pad also features a Lange 1 in stainless steel for sale, one of about 25 believed to be produced, as well as a Phillipe Dufour Simplicity in platinum. We featured one of these from Phillips’ Geneva Auction X last month, which ended up selling for $325,000.

Speaking of that odd “Lucky 13” LeCoultre of Glenn’s: It was gifted to him by the Anti-Superstition Society of Chicago. It seems like a missed opportunity not to auction this one off next Friday, December 13, but perhaps the sale price will have a few digits to spook the Paraskevidekatriaphobics among us.

Finally, there’s also the Urwek AMC, perhaps even more astonishing than Ironman’s Urwerk. Requiring a decade of research and development, just three pieces of the set were issued in 2019, selling for CHF 2,750,000 each.

The AMC melds two approaches to chronometry, fusing traditional horology and atomic physics to produce two autonomous but linked systems that achieve precision timing with a margin of error of one second in 317 years. Comprised of an atomic master clock and a standalone mechanical wristwatch, the master clock automatically winds, sets, and regulates the wristwatch when it’s docked to improve its timekeeping.

However, the coolest thing about the AMC might be that it was actually inspired by Abraham-Louis Breguet.

In 1795, Breguet outlined his desire to create a timepiece that could be set, wound and regulated without the wearer having to do anything to the watch, including opening the case back, and in 1798 he presented his first Sympathique Clock. A technological marvel, the system featured a master clock with pocket watch, which could be attached to the clock and it would be automatically wound and adjusted. Apparently, Breguet could never quite get his contraption to achieve winding, setting, and regulating. A couple centuries later, Urwerk has taken Breguet’s idea and revolutionized it by applying modern physics.

While the standalone atomic clock Urwerk developed is a stunning achievement in atomic physics (that I don’t totally understand), the wristwatch is just as impressive a mechanical achievement. The watch’s escapement is adjusted to beat more accurately through an entirely mechanical sensor within the watch that compares the timing of the clock to that of its own escapement. The clock therefore serves as the wristwatch’s own “watchmaker”, where its microadjustments, when performed regularly, merge the chronometric performance of the watch to that of the clock, leading to more precise timekeeping.

Watches are really popular on Reddit

This week, Reddit released its 2019 Year in Review, highlighting the top communities, trends, and topics for the year. I’ll save most of the highlights for the tech blogs, but it was a pretty big year for Snoo the Reddit alien: users grew by 30%, Bill Gates did an AMA with 110k upvotes, and Reddit took on a $150 million investment from Tencent, which users loved.

To me, what was notable was the list of the top 5 “General Style” subreddits by activity (where activity is measured as comments + posts):

  1. r/sneakers

  2. r/watches

  3. r/streetwear

  4. r/tattoos

  5. r/piercing

That’s right, we’re number 2! As of this writing, r/watches is 764k strong. While r/sneakers and r/streetwear are larger by subscriber numbers, r/watches punches well above its weight in terms of how active its users are. For example, as I wrote this blog post on a Thursday evening, there are more users online in r/watches than either r/sneakers or r/streetwear. As someone who lurks in all three subreddits, this reflects my experience. Sneakers and streetwear are for flexing, but r/watches is a community in the true sense of the word. When I’m scrolling through posts, I tend to end up engaging someone in a back-and-forth about their watch, collection, or whatever else. Meanwhile, streetwear is mostly fuccbois looking to get a fit off.

Book review: The Watch, Thoroughly Revised

Around the holidays, outlets are prone to putting out all kinds of “gift guides” offering recommendations on what to buy the watch lover in your life. In fact, this very publication made one last year. This year, instead of a listicle that Santa can check twice, I thought I’d give a review of a book I often see on these lists: The Watch, Thoroughly Revised, by Gene Stone and Stephen Pulvirent. Released in November of 2018, it’s the follow-up to Stone’s 2007 book, The Watch. This time around, Stephen Pulvirent, editor at Hodinkee, joins Stone to update the book. As the book’s description says: “in the decade since it was first published, the international audience of watch lovers and watch collectors has grown exponentially.”

As Pulvirent tells it, he didn’t know much about watches when he first arrived at Hodinkee years ago, so the original printing of The Watch is the book that founder Ben Clymer stuffed in his bag as a homework assignment. “Read this, young padawan,” the cashmere-clad Clymer said. Pulvirent says it’s been a reference guide for him ever since.

The Watch is a three-part reference book. First, there’s a brief overview of the history of timekeeping and watches. Second, and making up the majority of the book, are short profiles of 50 of the most important watch brands, accompanied by pictures of some of their most notable watches. Finally, there’s a section titled “Buying, Collecting, and Maintaining”, which gives tips for novice and experienced enthusiasts alike. While some of the tips are trite (“go online”, “visit watch stores”), the commentary is at times illuminating, and there are short profiles of “normal” watch lovers worth reading. This last section also contains a number of “top ten” lists (“10 models you need to know”, “6 manually wound chronographs”), likely designed to spark conversation and controversy more than anything.

“The urge to know time predates recorded history,” begins part one of The Watch. From the beginning, we’re told of the book’s grand intentions to place timepieces as central to not only the fashion industry or perhaps to Switzerland, but as central to human history itself. And, by the way, as a watch enthusiast, I buy every word of it: as our ability to tell time evolved from looking at the sun and the stars to building sundials to creating mechanical timepieces, so to did civilization itself evolve. How else would all those new factory workers have gotten to their shifts on time during the Industrial Revolution if not for extremely accurate mechanical timepieces?

In watch collecting, as in other aspects of life, one of the greatest curses is to think or pretend that one knows it all; a reader that suffers from this curse may not enjoy this book, but others will. Head to the link for the full review.

Swiss exports hindered by Hong Kong protests

Swiss watch exports grew by 1.5% in October 2019 as compared to a year prior, totaling 2.03 billion Swiss francs. But, growth was hindered by the Hong Kong market, which saw exports decline by 29.7% while the rest of the world was up 6.5%. Like outside the watch industry, much of the headlines within the watch industry have been dominated by Hong Kong throughout the year.

I’m always wary to focus too much on the Hong Kong angle of reporting on Swiss watch exports because declining watch exports is likely the least consequential effect of what’s happening in Hong Kong; while it remains the largest export market through October 2019, exports are down 8.8% on the year.

Meanwhile, the rest of the top six markets are up for the year, with the second-largest market, the United States, up 8.8% (up 9.5% in October). China continues to see double-digit growth: it’s up 15.6% on the year and was up 17.6% in October.


Ticks and Tocks

🔵 Why is the Rolex Blueberry GMT in the news again? New evidence that supposedly supports the claim that none of these are original; there are enough opinions in the forums from those way more knowledgable than me, so I’ll abstain from commenting any further.

🤵 Omega introduces the newest Seamaster 300 007 Edition. 🎾 Hands on with the new Stan Smith-inspired watch. 📷 Fresh off becoming an Omega AD, Hodinkee is now a Bulgari and Leica Camera authorized dealer too. 💽 The enduring allure of retro tech. Chaos at the top of the world.

In Chicago: Chicago architecture, an illustrated guide.

Thanks for reading!

-Tony

Questions/comments/tips? Just respond to this email (and please tap the heart above to like it!).

Meme of the Week:

@brodinkee

6 Great Affordable Vintage Rolex Options

Confessions of a watch 'flipper'

6 Great, Affordable Vintage Rolex Options

It’s a pretty common question: What’s the best in affordable vintage Rolex? Sure, six-figure Daytonas and Submariners grab all the headlines, but most of us just want to get our hands on any Rolex, much less some of the most desirable references around. And with authorized dealers often having limited stock of some of the more in-demand models, that means turning towards pre-owned or vintage Rolex as an alternative.

Modern, entry-level Rolex starts at $5,4000 with the 36mm Oyster Perpetual (and $5,700 for the 39mm version), so we’ll use that as our baseline to define what “affordable” means. Luckily, vintage Rolex can often be found at a fraction of that price. One of Rolex’s strengths as a brand is its offerings at both the extremely high and low end of the market. From six- and seven-figure Paul Newman Daytonas to $2,000 Oyster Perpetuals, there’s something for almost everyone.

I also gave a Primer on Transitional Rolex recently. Many of these models are affordable, and slightly more modern, thus making them easier to find around the internet. It’s a great companion piece to this article as you search for your next (or first) great vintage Rolex.

Rolex Oysterdate Reference 6694

This simple Oysterdate (along with the Oyster Perpetual below), pretty much inspired this entire post. To me, this is the entry-level Rolex. Introduced in the 1960s and measuring just 34mm in diameter, it’s simple, understated minimalism. Manufactured until the 1980s, a plethora of examples can be found on the secondary market with stainless steel or gold cases. Because they’re so plentiful, you should take some time to find a nice, clean example. Most available with an elegant, silver sunburst dial, examples can also be found with black or deep blue dials.

Though marketed to men in the 1960s and 1970s, the Ref. 6694 today makes a great unisex or women’s watch as well (think of it as an alternative, for example, to that Nomos you’ve been eyeing). Minimalist, elegant, and subtle, it’s the perfect Rolex for someone who’s not a “Rolex person”.

What’s really interesting about this reference is that it’s manually wound. In an era of Oyster Perpetuals and sports watches, the simple, manual-wind caliber 1225 kept on ticking inside the Ref. 6694. It beats at 21,600 bph, and, befitting its “entry-level” status, doesn’t have a quickset date. Additionally, the movement is not chronometer certified. But, it’s still an “Oyster”, and rated to 100m of water resistance, featuring a screw-down crown. It’s fair to worry about the wear-and-tear of popping out a screw-down crown daily to wind this watch, but rest assured that the solid construction that gave Rolex its reputation are also present in this watch.

A standard, silver-dial Reference 6694 can be had for around $2,500 on the secondary market; expect to pay less on forums, more from dealers. Even if you’re not traditionally a fan of bracelets, spring the extra couple hundred dollars to get an example with a Rolex bracelet. The Ref. 6694 features drilled lugs, making it easier to swap straps. You might even end up liking the vintage Oyster bracelets; they’re rattly, comfortable, and beautiful.

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Reference 1002

Similar in appearance to the Reference Oysterdate Ref. 6694, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Reference 1002 strips out the date window to arrive at the most simple three-hand watch a luxury brand like Rolex can imagine. Manufactured from the late 1950s through the 1960s, examples abound throughout the secondary market.

What the Ref. 6694’s simple manual-wind caliber arguable lacks, the Reference 1002 does not. Inside ticks the caliber 1560 automatic movement (later examples feature the 1570 movement), running at 18,00 bph. It’s a chronometer-certified movement, with the signature text at 6 o’clock indicating as much. This is the movement that powered more popular sports watches of the same era, making this a true value proposition at the “entry level” of vintage Rolex.

Like the Ref. 6694, the Ref. 1002 measures 34mm in diameter, features baton indices topped with small tritium lume plots, and has an Oyster case and screw-down crown. The most common example is a simple silver sunburst dial, though any number of variations can be found: linen, slate grey, “underline”, Tiffany-stamped, blue, black, and more. Poke around the internet and you’

Again, expect to pay around $2,500 for an Oyster Perpetual Ref. 1002. The same notes as for the Ref. 6694 apply: spring for the bracelet, and you can probably find box and papers at only a slight premium, due to the numerous examples on the market.

Rolex Datejust Reference 1601, 1603

Are the smooth-bezel above vintage examples not doing it for you? Then look no further than a 16xx series Datejust to satisfy your fluted infatuation. While the Datejust Reference 1600 has a smooth bezel, the 1601 and 1603 have a fluted or engine-turned bezel, respectively, giving the watch a bit more of that characteristic Rolex flash.

The Reference 1601 features a stainless steel case and luxurious white gold fluted bezel, while the Reference 1603 features a stainless steel engine-turned bezel. Both add a bit of character as compared to the above examples, while the stainless steel case means they’re still subtle enough to fit into any situation. Rolex produced the 16xx series of Datejusts throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and the models feature the hallmark characteristics of other Rolexes during the time: acrylic crystal, drilled lugs, Oyster or Jubilee bracelet, and the caliber 1560 or 1570 with a non-quickset date that’s chronometer certified. In short, it’s one of the most classic Rolex models you can find, and it doesn’t cost a fortune. Rolex was selling these things en masse throughout the middle of the century, and these models are part of the foundation that made the brand what it is today.

Like the Reference 1002, the most common examples found feature silver dials, though interesting dial variants can be found. For example, sigma dial variants from certain periods indicate the use of gold for the dials indices. The 16xx series Datejusts were replaced with the 160xx series in the late 1970s, equipping the Datejust with a more modern caliber 3035 with a quickset date, but otherwise maintaining much of the classic Datejust aesthetic.

Like the other examples on this list, the Reference 1601 and 1603 are examples that are widely available on the secondary market, but aren’t likely to lose much value any time soon. While slightly more expensive than the above examples, you’re getting more watch here: 36mm diameter (as compared to the 34mm seen above), robust chronometer-certified caliber with date function, and a slightly more luxurious and classic Rolex aesthetic. Please, just don’t buy from a “dealer” that’s going to overcharge you for what in reality is an easily found vintage Rolex.

See the rest of our affordable vintage Rolex picks here


Other News

Phillips’ picks from its Game Changers Auction.

Of course, everyone knows that the upcoming Phillips Game Changers auction on December 10 in New York features the Marlon Brando GMT. But there are a bunch of exciting lots on offer from Phillips that are playing undercard to the big Here, Phillips highlights six timepieces worth your attention, including a beautiful exotic Universal Geneve and the other ‘celebrity’ game changer from the auction.

Richemont withdraws all its brands from Govberg Jewelers.

According to WatchPro, Richemont will withdraw all its brands, which includes Cartier, A. Lange, IWC, and others, from Govberg Jewelers. Govberg is notable for going all-in on the preowned market with the launch of Watchbox a few years back. At the time, Govberg knew the risk it was taking in potentially alienating watch brands. From the outside at least, it seems Watchbox has been a successful venture, with a large presence across the internet, so this is the trade-off Govberg had to be comfortable making when it made its pre-owned bet.

And while Govberg made its pre-owned bet by co-founding Watchbox, Richemont also made a similar bet by buying Watchfinder in 2018, essentially making the two companies direct competitors. So while not entirely surprising, it’s perhaps a harbinger of the competition to come.

The winner here? Consumers, hopefully. There continues to be a disparity between the MSRP and street price of watches throughout Richemont’s stable of brands. As brands continue to recognize the value and opportunity in the pre-owned market, they’ll have to come to terms with the fact that a watch isn’t worth what its MSRP might indicate. In a world where the internet promotes transparency and makes it easier to resell anything, value retention is a key tenet of the luxury goods proposition. Sure, I want this IWC, but if I want to resell it to Watchfinder or Watchbox in 18 months, am I going to lose 75% of my investment? Increasingly, consumers are uncomfortable with the answer to that question being “yes”, and looking for retailers offering prices that ensure that’s not the answer.

This means cutting prices as well as culling lineups, production and distribution. Richemont’s response to Watchbox is notably different than Rolex’s, as we highlighted last week.

Confessions of a former watch ‘flipper’.

Now, for a look at the other side of the modern watch market: impossible-to-get watches. British GQ published a dispatch from an anonymous and self confessed “watch flipper”. His crime? Buying and flipping a highly desirable and hard-to-get stainless steel Patek Phillipe:

My own experience of "flipping" involved a Patel Philippe Aquanaut 5167 (above). I have – correction "had" – a very good relationship with a Patek Philippe AD in Central London. They managed to find me the watch – which I genuinely wanted – even though it had a very long waiting list. It was selling for more than double its list price on the grey market, so, once I had the 5167 in my possession, I found another buyer and accepted a very healthy profit. It was undeniably good business for me but now, on reflection, it is something I am not proud of.

You see, the fallout is this: Patek Philippe knows that it is not mine anymore. They found out and I am not sure how. It could have been another Coleen Rooney sting, who knows? But it does mean it is unlikely they will sell me another watch in the future. My name could be potentially circulated among other Patek ADs, I am told. The AD (who I had a great relationship with) will no longer offer me "hard to buy watches".

Over at Horolonomics, economics professor Brendan Cunningham has a few innovative solutions that are more “carrot” than “stick” to better align incentives between brands and consumers: (1) a waitlist ranked by requiring a down payment, (2) reducing or eliminating rationing (i.e., increasing production), (3) raising AD prices or (4) changing the pricing model, for example, by auctioning off new watches to the highest bidder. No matter the alternative solution, flippers are not the only problem.


Ticks and Tocks

🤔 Enthusiast GaryG’s thoughts on the future of watch journalism. It’s similar to what I wrote when I started Rescaepement 1+ year ago. Naturally, it’s an article I generally agree with and I hope more enthusiasts begin to think critically about the future of the industry and who’s covering it.

🤑 Forbes interviews Patek CEO Thierry Stern, who insists the brand is not for sale (although $16.3B is probably looking pretty good). 🏅 Jay-Z used gold Rolex Daytonas as VIP invitations to his inaugural Shawn Carter Foundation Gala. 👻 Meanwhile, the coolest celebrities are wearing a $20 Casio. 🚰 Brooklyn-based Martenero released a dive watch (are there too many microbrand divers?). 💧 Speaking of divers: Monochrome’s top 5 divers of 2019. 🐪 4 new watches from Dubai Watch Week. 🎁 Fratello’s 2019 Gift Guide: The Watches.

Thanks for reading!

-Tony

Questions/comments/tips? Just respond to this email (and please tap the heart above to like it!). And look for an exciting giveaway in next week’s newsletter!

Rolex is suing laCalifornienne for colorful 'counterfeits'

Plus, the must underrated vintage Rolex?

A longer newsletter this week, with a bit of everything: business news, a vintage reference you need to know, and some celebrity watch spotting. If you’re new, subscribe here.

Custom watch maker laCalifornienne has built a dedicated following, including the requisite social media buzz, with its colorful, custom Rolex and Cartier watches. The watches are sold on the brand’s own ecommerce site, as well as with retailers like Farfetch, Goop, and a number of other boutiques around the world.

It’s kind of like Bamford, but targeted at the millennial female set. The brand was founded by a husband-and-wife duo in 2016, and has quickly gained something of a cult following. As laCalifornienne says on its website:

laCalifornienne draws inspiration from the pink and blue magic hour skies of California. From our Los Angeles workshop, we restore vintage timepieces and reimagine them in bold color.

Each watch is given the utmost attention to detail including servicing the movement and refinishing the case to the original specifications in which the watch left the factory. While all of our watches pay homage to their original concept, we find our process to be part of a new beginning. Each dial and strap is hand-painted to produce a unique timepiece.

We guarantee our timepieces to be 100% authentic and as described.

Taking a look at laCalifornienne’s products on Goop, you’ll see modified Rolex watches selling for anywhere between $6,500 and $10,000.

Now, Rolex is filing suit against the colorful brand in California federal court, alleging both counterfeiting and infringement of Rolex’s trademarks in connection with the advertising, promotion, and service and sale of watches that are “not genuine products of Rolex.”

As watch enthusiasts will know, Rolex is notorious for maintaining strict control on its watches, including all their constituent parts. Watches that are modified or altered to contain non-Rolex parts render the Rolex warranty null and void, as Rolex can no longer assure the quality or performance of such watches. Additionally, Rolex will refuse to service such watches because it can’t guarantee they’ll perform up to Rolex standards.

As Rolex tells it, laCalifornienne’s process goes something like this: They buy an old Rolex (usually a Datejust, by the looks of their Instagram), then strip the original dial surface, removing the Rolex trademarks (e.g. the Rolex name, crown, and model name), paint the watch in some colorful, millennial-favored hue, and then re-apply the Rolex trademarks removed from the original dial while also painting “laCalifornienne” on the dial, also replacing components like the crystal and band. Rolex points to a couple specific watches — one obtained by a private investigator, and one that had been sent to its servicing facility — where, in addition to those other issues, the bezel was not properly fitted back on, making water more likely to leak into the watch.

In the United States, trademark cases turn on the “likelihood of consumer confusion” standard. In non-lawyer speak, the question is this: do laCalifornienne’s acts give consumers a reason to believe that its products actually come from Rolex, thus confusing the consumer? That’s exactly what Rolex is claiming in its lawsuit, going so far as to say that laCalifornienne’s acts are “deliberately calculated to confuse and deceive the public.”

As mentioned, since laCalifornienne is re-applying the Rolex trademarks to its products, Rolex is first raising a claim of counterfeiting, i.e. that laCalifornienne is using Rolex trademarks on the watches it’s selling, which is causing consumer confusion, mistake, or deception. A counterfeit is defined in trademark law as a “spurious mark which is identical with, or substantially indistinguishable from, a registered trademark”.

Additionally, Rolex claims trademark infringement because of laCalifornienne’s use of Rolex trademarks in its advertising and promotion of its products. Finally, in light of the facts, Rolex also sets forth a claim of false designation of origin, false descriptions and representations, and unfair competition. Rolex is asking for an immediate injunction prohibiting laCalifornienne from selling its watches (as well as destruction of any inventory), and a bunch of monetary damages.

The Analysis

When Rolex takes a watch in for servicing from a customer, it’s notorious for dressing it down and giving it the full treatment to ensure it’s up to Rolex snuff. This might mean replacing a dial, bezel, hands, or movement parts as needed to get it running to Rolex specs. To every vintage enthusiast’s horror, it also means polishing the case to get it that factory shine.

Rolex also uses this internal servicing and warranty policy to its own advantage. It’s keen to point out that if any third party fiddles with a Rolex, that voids the warranty (and Rolex will therefore refuse any servicing), because Rolex can no longer ensure the watch will live up to the brand’s superlative standards. Third parties getting under the hood of a Rolex compromises the very quality the brand has come to stand for. Of course, much of this is Rolex fluffing its own reputation. But if anyone says they’re buying a Rolex for its accuracy as a timekeeping device in 2019, they’re lying. This is even more so the case with a customized and colorful Rolex from laCalifornienne. No one is buying a watch with the “pink and blue magic hour skies of California and then adjusting it in five places to make sure it meets COSC specifications. They’re fashion pieces. In the complaint, Rolex is touting its own branding in an attempt to make a point about counterfeiting and trademark infringement. And, it might just work.

However, Rolex has spent 115 years building a reputation as not only the world’s preeminent timekeeping name, but perhaps the most valuable and recognizable luxury brand full stop. Trademark law is designed to protect brands from others that may attempt to use their branding to create “confusion” in the marketplace in attempts to profit off another’s hard work and investment. As a matter of law, it seems pretty clear that laCalifornienne is creating customer confusion. As Rolex’s complaint states, one laCalifornienne customer even sent one of its watches to Rolex for servicing, thinking it might have been covered by the Rolex warranty.

But if the law is on Rolex’s side, should it be? As mentioned, no one is buying a laCalifornienne piece because it’s great at telling time. They buy it because it just looks cool. For the industry as a whole, it’s the get-em-while-they’re-young argument: sure, consumers are buying these colorful laCalifornienne pieces now, but eventually they’ll level up to a legit Rolex. And, it’s not like laCalifornienne isn’t adding some value: three years and 30,000 Instagram followers tell the story of a brand that, while not Rolex, has amassed some loyal following. Isn’t that good for the watch industry as a whole (not to mentioned the fact that laCalifornienne is buying these vintage Rolexes from somewhere)? If brands like Steinhart or Invicta are allowed to exist, is what laCalifornienne is doing an order of magnitude worse such that they should be ordered to destroy their remaining inventory? Further, if there’s a demand in the market that Rolex isn’t meeting, shouldn’t other companies be allowed to satisfy it?

The purist in me wants to say that a vintage Rolex should remain untouched and in as original condition as possible. The fashionista in me wants to say that some of these laCalifornienne pieces are actually pretty damn cool, and I wouldn’t mind having one for the weekends.


Other News

Why you need to know about the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Reference 1018

Now, for a story about real Rolexes.

I often tell people that, if you’re just getting into watches, there’s no better option than a vintage stainless steel Rolex Oyster Perpetual. Generally, I’m talking about Oyster Perpetuals from the 1960s and 1970s, with reference numbers in the 10xx range (1002, 1008 and others; or, perhaps, an Oysterdate like Reference 6694). They look great on the Rolex Oyster bracelet or swapped out with any number of straps, providing a versatile watch for someone who’s looking for their first “nice” watch and this might be the only watch in their collection.

Oyster Perpetuals are typically found with gorgeous, clean silver dials, baton indices (topped with small tritium lume plots) and chronometer-certified movements. The Reference 1002, for example, is powered by a caliber 1560 or 1570 movement. This caliber also powers more popular Rolex sports models of the same era, as well as serving as the base for more complicated Rolex calibers. For many years, it served as the base for much of Rolex’s timekeeping prowess.

But, there’s one problem with these vintage Oyster Perpetuals: They typically measure just 34mm in diameter, a bit small by most modern standards. Enter the Reference 1018.

Reference 1018: Living Large

While searching “Rolex 1002” on eBay, Chronext, or WatchRecon might yield hundreds of returns at any point in time, a search for “Rolex 1018” will yield only a few. By all accounts, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Reference 1018 is an extremely rare watch, produced for just a few years of Rolex’s history. What at first glance might look like a simple Oyster Perpetual is in fact an under-the-radar collectible Rolex available in extremely limited quantities.

For example, I’ve seen just two examples of the 1018 pass through sales forum this year, (here and here, listed at $3,099 and $3,950, respectively. You’ll see them listed for much higher prices from dealers).

What makes the Reference 1018 different? In a word: size.

To wit, the specs of the 1018: 36mm case diameter, 20mm lug width, and 11.5mm thick. The 1018 has about the same specs as its cousin, the Explorer Reference 1016, though the case has a slightly slimmer profile.

There isn’t a lot of information about the Reference 1018 on the internet, but it looks as though it was produced for just a few years in the mid to late 1960s. Every example I’ve seen has a serial number dating it to this range. Our best guess is that the watch just wasn’t very popular: If you wanted a 36mm watch, you’d go with an Explorer or Datejust and the extra 2mm didn’t differentiate it enough from the Oyster Perpetual collection to warrant it staying in the Rolex catalog. Of course, this is contrary to today’s catalog, where Rolex has an Oyster Perpetual at 26mm, 31mm, 34mm, 36mm, and 39mm.

Whatever the case, for today’s collector it’s sufficient to know that this is a chronometer-certified, 36mm Rolex made for just a few years. This makes it extremely rare and collectible by any standards.

The Reference 1018 can be found with both the caliber 1560 and the 1570. The 1560 was an in-house movement introduced by Rolex in 1959 and remained in use until 1965, when Rolex transitioned to the caliber 1570. The main improvements of the 1570 were a slightly faster beat rate (19,800 bph, as compared to the 1560’s 18,000), and hacking seconds. The caliber 1570 would go on to power Explorers, Submariners, and Oyster Perpetuals until the 1980s.

Like the more common 34mm Oyster Perpetual, you’ll mostly find the Reference 1018 with a silver dial and baton hands, though there are also earlier versions (c. 1963-64), that feature sword hands with a line of lume down the middle. Additionally, you’ll also find the rare variant with a black dial. If you’re lucky, it might be an early, glossy gilt black dial (for example, here). Some later examples can also be found with a slate grey dial (ignore the service hands/lume on that example). I’ve also seen a couple Tiffany & Co. stamped Reference 1018 examples; these seem to be extremely rare.

In other words, if you want a chronometer-certified movement in a 36mm case, the reference 1018 might be your best (i.e., most affordable) bet. But, they continue to fly mostly under the radar in most collecting circles. It’s a classic case of “if you know, you know.”

At Rescapement, a theme I consistently come back to is that, as vintage Rolex sports watches continue to inflate in price, collectors are turning (and will continue to turn) to alternative brands and models for bargain opportunities. We’ve seen Universal Geneve, Gallet, Movado, Tudor, and other brands all experience surges in popularity over the past few years. But I also think collectors will look further down Rolex’s catalog to find the next hot model.

To me, none is a better candidate than the Rolex Reference 1018.

John Mayer is teaching Shawn Mendes about watches

As I’ve written here before, John Mayer’s weekly IGTV show, “Current Mood” is a goofy and casual 45-minute way for Mayer to hang out with friends and stream it to a few thousands fans every Sunday night. After taking a break to go on his world tour, Mayer’s back for season 3. His first guest of the year was pop star Shawn Mendes.

For the season opener, it looks like Mayer’s got the new Patek Phillipe Aquanaut 5186G on his wrist. The watch is most known because, well, John says he inspired it. When Patek released the watch at Baselworld this year, John wrote on Hodinkee’s Instagram, accompanied by a picture of his Aquanaut Travel Time with a khaki green rubber strap: “The watch/strap combo that inspired @patekphilippe to release the 5168g ‘khaki.’ The satin-like dial finish, along with the travel time feature, means this configuration still stands on its own two feet. We love to see it.”

It’s cool to see the product cycle come full circle: John inspires Patek Phillipe, Patek creates a new product, then John embraces the product and wears it on a casual Sunday evening.

While I knew I’d spot something nice on John’s wrist, I didn’t expect to see anything on Shawn Mendes’ wrist. But, there he was on IGTV wearing a modern Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. Shawn chose the blue dial, a classic look that’ll never go out of style. It’s a solid choice for what might be his first nice timepiece, perhaps informed by his friend, John Mayer?


Ticks & Tocks

The largest Rolex AD in Dubai and Watchbox opened a boutique together, and Rolex isn’t mad about it. Monochrome’s best chronographs of 2019. 💎 LVMH is buying Tiffany & Co. for 16+ billion. 🎁 Gift ideas for the watch nerd from Fratello, Part 1 and Part 2. 🌊 Dan Henry x Worn Wound limited edition. ♣️ Introducing: The Vacheron Overseas Back to Black. 💩 The entrepreneur who made an empire out of Poo-Pourri. 👯‍♂️ Al Pacino & Robert De Niro: The Godfathers of 2019. 📺 Watch Very Ralph on HBO, the Ralph Lauren documentary (mixed reviews so far). What is luxury now?

In Chicago: Timeout Market Chicago in Fulton Market is officially open.

Cheers,

Tony

Questions/comments/tips? Just respond to this email (and please tap the heart above to like it!).

Complete fall 2019 Geneva auction results

Vintage watch ethics, and the future of collecting

Fall 2019 Geneva auction results

And just like that, the biggest week of the year in the watch industry is over.

In the run up to the Geneva auctions, we posted our preview of some of the best lots from the three big auction houses, featuring (1) under the radar lots (under $10,000), (2) next up (under $100,000), and (3) top lots. With the results in, it’s time to take a look at how all the lots performed.

We already took a look at the results from Phillips’ Geneva Auction X, in last week’s newsletter, but below is a more comprehensive look at the results from Geneva’s big week.

Additionally, you can find the results for every vintage Rolex Daytona up for auction from Phillips, Christie’s and Sotheby’s below.

In general, I was glad to see some under-the-radar (at auctions at least, not amongst the collector community more generally) chronographs perform particularly well. You’ll see a Zenith A386 El Primero, Movado 95M and Grana Split Seconds that all out performed estimates.

Of course, the Zenith A386 is a historically important chronograph celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The example that Phillips sold is correct in every way: elongated “C” on the tachymetre, thick, flat subregister hands, and the “A” in “Automatic” offset to the “H” in “Chronograph”. All these are indicators of a correct, non-Mk 1 example of an A386 El Primero.

Meanwhile the Movado 95M is a beautiful, sharp 18k pink gold example, and the Grana split seconds has a deep glossy black dial that, if any other name were on the dial, may have commanded a significant premium. While brands like these have long had niche collector communities on various corners of the web, they’re starting to gain mainstream attention (and dollars). Further, the rise in recognition and value of these pieces has been slow and steady, giving little worry that this may be a bubble waiting to pop (see e.g., Heuer, 2016). Click below for full results.

Full Geneva Auction Results


Other News

Rolex Daytona fall auction results

Before the fall 2019 Geneva auctions, we compiled a list of every Rolex Daytona up for auction at Christie’s Phillips and Sotheby’s this November (sorry, Antiquorum). Now that the results are in it’s time to take a look at how the Daytona faired.

As you’ll see, four Daytonas failed to sell this season (and one earlier era chronograph, a reference 2508). If you look at these lots, you’ll notice all have some imperfections that make them less than desirable: polishing, missing lume plots, etc. This is not to say that all the lots that did sell are perfect; however, collectors have become rather discerning in what they’re willing to shell out six figures for nowadays. And, as prime examples are increasingly difficult to find on the market, the premium paid for such examples continues to grow.

As the vintage watch world continues to have the discussion about originality, restoration, and the ethics of selling vintage watches (see next link), auction results reflect the fact that, right now, buzz words like “original”, “unpolished”, “NOS”, and “honest” are what sells.

Additionally, many non-Paul Newman dial Daytonas performed at or above the top end of their estimates. If we’ve reach peak Paul Newman, perhaps money will increasingly move to these more moderately priced examples. In a community that values the buzz words I rattled off in the previous paragraph, the wise investment seems to be pouring money into the best example you can buy with your budget, and not stretching to pick up a less-than-perfect example of something considered more rare or desirable. In other words, if your budget is $75,000, think about picking up a clean, correct and sharp non-Paul Newman Daytona instead of a Paul Newman that’s got problems.

Meanwhile, the outperformer of the season may have been the reference 6239 Paul Newman in 18k gold that sold for CHF 512,000 at Sotheby’s. In general, gold examples performed well. In the rush to stainless steel, perhaps collectors have realized that gold watches are undervalued in the market.

Talking vintage watch restoration ethics with Ku, Lamdin, and Wind

Worn & Wound got some of the biggest names in vintage watches together to talk about the state of the vintage watch market and their views on restoration. James Lamdin of Analog Shift makes perhaps the most important point:

James sees a huge opportunity for vintage dealers to do the work of educators when selling watches. In a hobby, and a market, that’s growing year by year, he deeply understands the importance of communicating a watch’s honest condition and history. “Wrist watches are just beginning to become incredibly collectible,” he says, “it all comes down to education.” It’s how a good dealer builds a client base: you teach, you provide something of value, and they keep coming back.

The entire article is worth a read to get each dealer’s thoughts on vintage, restoration, and the state of collecting.

GQ on the sale of the $31 million Patek Grandmaster Chime.

To Lamdin’s point above, watches are increasingly being recognized as collectible, and at certain levels, an asset class alongside art, cars, and other stuff sold by auction houses. The sale of the $31 million Patek Phillipe Grandmaster Chime at Only Watch only solidifies this point. From GQ:

Watch collecting largely will benefit from this [The Grandmaster Chime] ceiling-raising piece, too. The watch community has long wondered why watches weren’t considered as valuable as cars or pieces of art. While this result alone won’t put watches in the same tier as those collectibles, it’s certainly a step in the right direction. “It’s good to see the goalposts getting expanded for the field of watch collecting,” [Eric] Wind says.

As Lamdin said above, watches are just becoming collectible (or, more accurately, it’s become mainstream to acknowledge them as such). This goes for both the high- and the low-end of the market. It starts with educating those new to collecting about what to look for when making their first purchases, and leads up to highly-skilled artisans making unique pieces of artwork that can stand up at auction to even the masterpieces of painters sculptors, and other artists.

Next Up, Hong Kong. Meanwhile, Hong Kong is gearing up for big auctions from Phillips and Christie’s next week. With the Patek Grandmaster Chime breaking records, all eyes will be on the unique Patek world time from Christie’s to see what it sells for. Estimates have it at $7 million to $14 million (USD).

Hodinkee is an Omega AD now, and they’ve got the pop-up to show it. I love the comments in this post. First this week, Hodinkee announced they’d become an official Omega authorized dealer; then, they announced they’ve got a Hodinkee x Omega pop-up in Soho. Cue Hodinkee kingpin Ben Clymer engaging with internet commenters (while taking a shot at the other “watch publications” out there) to defend his company’s shift from publication to ecommerce company. To be clear, I don’t begrudge the shift at all, though I do miss the old Kanye. For some reason, this move seems to have caught the ire of ‘dinksters more than other moves, even though Hodinkee has been an AD for a number of brands for years now. Soho is a hot bed for hypebeasts, so the Hodinkee pop-up will fight right in down there.


Drops

🇺🇸 Polo drops a denim flag bear watch. ✨ Timex releases the Celestial Automatic Opulence collection, its first women’s automatic collection since 2011. 🇮🇹 Timex also drops the S1 Giorgio Galli Automatic in collaboration with the Italian designer. 👍Longines’ heritage line continues to kill it. 🌃 The Nomos Tangente in midnight blue is gorgeous. 🤩 F.P. Journe introduces the Astronomic Souveraine Grand Complication. 👩‍🚀 Richard Mille x Pharrell, I guess.

Meanwhile, the Phillips Game Changers catalog is up. More to come on this.


Ticks & Tocks

🤔 Would you pay a retailer 100k a year to choose 12 watches for you? That’s what one retailer in Australia is offering. 🎩 Permanent Style visits the Optimo hat factory in Chicago. 🎸 Ed Sheeran wants to be the new John Mayer? 🎧 The Goldman Sachs CEO moonlights as a DJ. 💎 New Book: The Cartiers: The Untold Story of the Family Behind the Jewelry Empire.

In Illinois (kind of): One man’s 1,648-page quest to preserve an American watch company’s history.

Thanks for reading!

-Tony

Questions/comments/tips? Just respond to this email (and please tap the heart above to like it!).

Everything you need to know from Geneva’s big week

Art, wine, cars, watches: The best investment classes?

Everything you need to know from Geneva’s big week

We’re in the middle of Geneva’s big watch week: first up was the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG), followed by the biennial Only Watch auction, with auctions from the big three auction houses closing out the week. Phillips hosted its Geneva Watch Auction X on Sunday, featuring some of the biggest headliners of the season. Christie’s and Sotheby’s will close out the week, with Antiquorum also offering some solid lots on Monday. As always, stay tuned to Rescapement for all the latest (and bookmark our auction calendar to stay up on what’s coming for the rest of 2019).

Phillips Geneva Watch Auction X: Results

The day after its themed Double Signed Auction, Phillips hosted its Geneva Watches Auction X, with over 180 lots up for auction. After streaming the sale, I had a few general thoughts, and also wanted to highlight the watches from from our auction preview, taking a look at what those pieces ultimately sold for.

While not completely surprising, it’s impressive that the pink gold Rolex Ref. 6062 “Stelline” matched the Ref. 4113 split seconds chronograph (both pictured below) with a sale price of $1.940 million. It’s particularly impressive considering there are thought to be 50 Ref. 6062 models manufactured in pink gold, and only 12 Ref. 4113 models made in stainless steel.

Meanwhile, a couple chronographs with high estimates — a Patek Phillipe Ref. 1463 in stainless steel and a Paul Newman Daytona Ref. 6263 — failed to sell. It’s perhaps not too surprising the Daytona, for example, failed to sell: the case is a bit polished, a couple lume plots are missing, and the pushers are not original. In a world where condition is everything, examples that are anything less than original can fail to even reach reserves, while original, mint examples hit record-breaking prices.

Other pleasant surprises: The Zenith El Primero A386 soared past its estimate to hit a sales price of $22,500. This year is the 50th anniversary of the El Primero, so it’s certainly riding high, but it’s good to see such a historically important watch get the attention it deserves.

Another chronograph, a pink gold Movado 95M, also blew past its estimate, with a final sale price of $21,250. Not bad for a watch that had no reserve.

Also performing well was this three-register Breguet, a Speedmaster Ultraman, and a Rolex Ref. 6238. It’s nice to see some of these more mid-priced watches get the attention they deserve at auction. Some of these pieces ran past their estimates, even as higher-profile Daytonas, Pateks and the like settled in on hammer prices well within the expected. Sure, some of the Royal Oaks, Nautiluses and other popular models continued to surpass even the highest of expectations, but some lesser-known models are getting attention too. And that’s good for everyone.

Read on to see more results:

See More Results

GPHG 2019: The winners and the upsets

Whether you like to call it the Oscars of watches or not, the fact remains that the GPHG is the watch world’s biggest awards event of the year. The prizes are highlighted by the “Aiguille D’Or” prize, basically the night’s “best in show”.

Let’s first acknowledge the problems with GPHG: Winning watches tend to be expensive and not necessarily representative of what people are actually buying from Switzerland; and because brands self-nominate, Patek and Rolex do not participate (they can’t handle the risk of losing!). That said, it’s still a wonderful evening to highlight some of the best of what’s come out of the manufacturers in the past year.

2019 Aiguille D’Or: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Self-Winding Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin

There really aren’t enough superlatives to describe this watch. It’s the world’s thinnest automatic perpetual calendar wristwatch, with the movement measuring just 2.89mm thick, and a case 6.3mm thick. Presented as a prototype in platinum at SIHH 2018, this production version features a case that’s a combination of platinum and titanium, with a satin-brush finishing.

Upsets: From Ugly ducklings to GPHG winners

Two of the most controversial watch releases of the past year were the P01 from Tudor and the Code 11.59 collection from Audemars Piguet. The news cycle went something like this: enthusiasts shit all over them, made some memes, while the watch media levied a number of defenses. Then, the media got mad at enthusiasts for all the jokes, while enthusiasts got mad at the media for what they viewed as disingenuous defending of shitty products. Round and round we went for a couple weeks, then we mostly forgot this had ever happened at all.

Notably absent from this cycle were the brands. If we live in an “any press is good press” age, in which the best thing a company can do is get some social media hype and free press, the releases can be considered nothing by massively successful. And now, both Audemars Piguet and Tudor have a GPHG prize to show for their efforts (somewhere, Kevin O’Leary is smiling).

The Code 11.59 Minute Repeater won the Men’s Complication prize, while the Tudor Black Bay P01 won the “Challenge” prize for watches under CHF 4,000. It’s certainly an endorsement of brands taking risk and doing things differently, which I can get behind.

Only Watch 2019: ‘The world’s most expensive watch and the world’, and why that sucks

On November 9, Christie’s played host to the biennial Only Watch auction, raising money for research into Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Some of the most renowned manufacturers create unique pieces for the auction (with F.P. Journe even developing a unique movement for his pieces). Much of the speculation around this year’s auction was around the unique Patek Phillipe Grandmaster Chime in stainless steel: would it become the most expensive watch in the world? Of course, Paul Newman’s Paul Newman had set the record for most expensive wristwatch at $17 million in 2017, while the Patek Phillipe Henry Graves Supercomplication pocket watch held the record for the most expensive watch, having sold for $24 million in 2014.

Well, the Grandmaster Chime blew away both watches, hammering for CHF 31 million. The watch is polarizing, mainly because … it’s kind of ugly. One can acknowledge the technical accomplishment of building this watch, but still be disappointed that this watch now carries the mantle of “most expensive watch in the world,” and will become representative of watch collecting as a whole in many ways.

In terms of getting people into watch collecting, consider me a hater. It’s unfortunate that if people Google something like “most expensive watch in the world,” or happen across a story about this record-breaking watch, they see this ugly, hard-to-wear piece. When the Paul Newman set the record in 2017, it was mainstream news: everyone knows who Paul Newman is — his movies, looks, philanthropy, Newman’s Own — he’s an American icon and spawned an entire industry of watch collecting.

To me, there’s an accessibility to vintage Rolex collecting — or even, vintage sports watches more generally — even as prices continue to sky rocket into the six- and seven-figure range. Meanwhile, there’s never been an inherent accessibility to Grand Complication Patek collecting. It’s a small circle, inhabited by modern Henry-Graves-type characters. And that’s fine; there should be a place for all collectors in a community. But, I’m wary of these types of watches grabbing headlines and being the aesthetic with which the larger collecting community is associated.

As a collector in Chicago, I rarely see complicated Pateks anywhere, and I have to imagine many others are the same. Sure, they’re interesting from a pure technical perspective, but I’m unlike to spend $31,000, much less $31 million on one. One can acknowledge that it’s great this piece exists, while still wishing it didn’t carry a mantle for an entire community of collecting.

By the way, we should also mention that this is also an indictment of our (and sometimes, my) tendency to focus on headline grabbers and not do the work to find watches under the radar. This doesn’t necessarily apply at a high-profile auction like Only Watch, but my goal with Rescapement is always to introduce you to a range of watches, not just those already grabbing headlines on other publications.

So congrats to Patek, Mssr. Stern, and Only Watch, but I can’t help but feel the watch world is losing something by having this reign as the “most expensive watch in the world.”


Other News

Oak & Oscar and Worn & Wound are hosting an event in Chicago. RSVP to join them on November 19.

Seiko Exits Baselworld 2020.

Seiko says it’s because the fair is happening in May instead of March, a time that coincides with Japanese national holidays. Ironically, Baselworld had moved its fair to May to coordinate with SIHH, the industry’s other big trade show, to make it easier for media, dealers, and the industry at large to hit both events over a condensed period. Instead, Seiko will be launching products earlier in the year, including at the new “Grand Seiko Summit 2020”, yet another in a slew of brand-specific summits taking the place of trade shows.

The best investment of 2018? Art, wine and cars.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Cars have been the best-performing luxury investment over the past 10 years, gaining 289%, according to a report published by Knight Frank earlier this year. Coins gained around 182%, wine 147% and jewelry 125% over the same period, while antique furniture and Chinese ceramics lost value.

In a recent article, I found that an investment in 5 vintage Rolex picks by John Mayer would’ve yielded a ~100% return over the past 7 years, so watches are probably roughly in line with the broader “jewelry” category referenced by the study.


Ticks & Tocks

🐶 There’s a Timex Marlin Automatic, Snoopy Edition now. 😳 Joe Rogan on watch collectors (only linking for the clicks). 💰 WSJ profiles Jim Simons, the world’s greatest investor. ➕ Andrew Yang is not full of shit. 📉 Richemont reports flat watch sales and falling online sales. 🍜 The official instant ramen power rankings.

In Chicago: The world’s largest Starbucks on Michigan Avenue opens this week.

Thanks for reading!

-Tony

Questions/comments/tips? Just respond to this email (and please tap the heart above to like it!).

Meme of the Week:

@brodinkee

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