Our good friend Geoff Hess, whom you may be familiar with from our 2023 RollieFest coverage, is now at the helm full-time as Head of Watches for Sotheby Americas. Before we discuss our top lots from this exciting auction, let’s delve into what the “Hammer Collection”, which makes up a large amount of the auction, is and who Alan Hammer Bloore is.
Although Alan may not remember the first time we met, I sure do. It was back in 2018 during my visit with VRA in Bali, Indonesia. I was a “baby dealer” back then, having just created Craft + Tailored, and was honored to have been invited to Bali to hang out with the world’s top collectors, including “Hammer.” I remember listening to Alan talk with the other collectors about his early Panerai collecting days and sharing his deep passion for watches that possess something beyond just surface-level attraction. Alan collects watches with a story or meaning behind them, like his early 1941 Panerai ref 3646 Type B, which comes with an immense offering of original documents and provenance, or the rare Rolex Submariner ref. 5514 COMEX that was on the wrist of COMEX-trained diver Douglas Matheson, confirming the use of the watch during the salvage of the HMS Edinburgh and additional White Star Line salvage jobs. I was honored to have spent more time with Alan today, talking about some of his watches that he is auctioning and learning about a few of the stories behind some of the more special pieces in the “Hammer Collection.”
We have a saying that has, in a way, become the ethos for the Craft + Tailored brand: “More Than Just Watches.” Geoff and Alan have been friends for a long time, and I think that this grouping of watches is a perfect example of how relationships play an important part in collecting and in the ability to cultivate a true community around the passion behind these things, much like Alan’s curated collection of watches that possess meaning and a story well beyond the items themselves.
To be honest, we could have picked a lot more watches to feature in this article. Geoff Hess and his team have been able to cultivate an incredible catalog of watches for the 2023 winter auction season. We highly recommend browsing the full catalog – after checking out our picks, of course.
(Est. $30,000 – $60,000 USD)
The Panerai impact on watchmaking is unquestionably influential, though the brand’s modern offerings are not as highly celebrated as they were 10 years ago, the vintage models remain some of the most sought-after watches with one of the most die-hard collector communities. This Radiomir ref. 3646 “Type B” hails from the Hammer collection and is one of the most regarded and celebrated examples known. The watch remains in original and beautifully aged condition with provenance that is nothing short of exciting, qualifying itself as more for a museum than daily wear. We’re anticipating an impressive result for Lot 34.
(Est. $800,000 – $1,500,000 USD)
The Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 is instrumental in shaping our perception of Patek Philippe as a watchmaker today and is widely regarded as one of the most significant wristwatches ever made. It comes as no surprise that the average high estimate exceeds $1 million. The present example hails from the family of the original owner, boasting provenance as charming as the watch is exquisite—and “exquisite” is an understatement for this timepiece. The condition is admirable, and while finding a Ref. 1518 with absolutely no restoration is nearly impossible, the minimal restoration of Lot 42 is both respectable and expertly executed. The gentle wear and age patterns evident on the case and dial further validate it’s integrity. It’s never a dull moment when a Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 is in the room, so we anticipate an exciting result when Lot 42 takes center stage on December 7th.
(Est. $8,000 – $16,000 USD)
The Cartier Baignoire is undoubtedly on the radars of Cartier collectors, both veterans and newcomers alike. Re-released by Cartier earlier this year, the Baignoire has a tenured history and is one of the more understated yet historical references since its introduction in 1912. This specific Cartier Baignoire has a bit of Hollywood history, as it was gifted by Charlie Chaplin to his wife, Oona Chaplin, who wore the watch frequently. The watch comes with a certificate of authenticity from Cartier, as well as a letter proving authenticity from the Chaplin family. A very cool piece not only in Hollywood history but also a part of Cartier’s horological legacy.
(Est. $70,000 – $120,000 USD)
It’s genuinely exciting to witness the current surge in popularity of the Tornek Rayville TR-900, a watch that went mostly unnoticed by mainstream collectors until recently—a surprising fact given its incredible history. This lot remains in a completely original and well-preserved condition, precisely what we cherish in early Military-issued dive watches but often struggle to find. The lume patina on the dial and hands, the bead-blasted case, the original crown, and the slightly tropical-brown dial all contribute to creating a truly attractive timepiece that perfectly embodies the utilitarian aesthetic we appreciate in military watches. Lot 57 is poised to continue the upward trend we’ve recently seen in the TR-900, further solidifying its position among other heavyweight vintage military timepieces.
(Est. $15,000 – $30,000 USD)
Finding a good early Zenith A386 is increasingly challenging these days and this 1970 example serves as a case study for reference. While several Zenith El Primeros have passed through our collection, none rival the quality of this specific piece. This lot is in absolutely impeccable condition, even retaining some of the factory blue protective seal on the caseback. Noteworthy as well are the original strap, buckle, hang tag, booklet, and box that accompany this watch. In full transparency, we will be bidding on this item without a specific client in mind, and it will likely find a place in Cam’s personal watch box!
(Est. $15,000 – $25,000 USD)
If you’re familiar with vintage Heuer, then you’re very likely acquainted with the Abercrombie & Fitch Co. watches made by Heuer. There’s so little not to love about this Seafarer Ref. 2443, being a near-perfect representation of a ‘first execution’ model—an arguably more attractive execution due to its simpler dial formation. The striking tropical dial is uniformly orange throughout, coordinating perfectly with the original color scheme. The original case finishing is present throughout, and all the functional components are original to the watch. In other words, it checks all of our boxes in the condition category. While the Ref. 2443 isn’t unheard of, it’s notably uncommon, with the majority of examples reaching the market only through auctions. So, if a first execution Abercrombie & Fitch Co Seafarer Ref. 2443 is on your list, be sure to bid with conviction on Lot 66, as the likelihood of finding another that’s this good anytime soon is highly unlikely.
(Est. $20,000 – $40,000 USD)
The Heuer Monaco range of watches are iconic due to their distinctive square case design – but we also have Steve McQueen to thank for the Heuer Monaco’s iconic horological status. But one of the more interesting and lesser highlighted facets of Heuer’s history is the brand’s ability to experiment and constantly reinvent itself over and over again. The Monaco at its core is a perfect illustration of this but the “Dark Lord” is an extreme example that showcases what Heuer was doing in the late 1970s – they weren’t just experimenting with case shape and movements etc, but also in case finishing, exotic dial and hand color accents, and pushing the limits of art meeting form and technical function.
It has been estimated that Heuer only made a couple hundred of the Ref. 740303N chronographs and that they were never available to the U.S. market – only ever being offered for sale in Germany. I have only seen a few over the entire span of my career. This specific example stands out as the case shows honest patina, especially around the winding crown and pushers. The original dial and hand-set remain vibrant and free of any blemishing or marks.
(Est. $400,000 – $600,000 USD)
Handling numerous Ref. 6239 and Ref. 6241 JPS Paul Newman Daytonas has been a distinct honor of my career and this particular piece stands out as one of the finest I’ve ever had the pleasure of examining. Let’s start with the dial – it’s an absolute marvel, flawlessly preserved. My time studying this watch was well spent, appreciating each perfect lume plot, free from any degradation or crumbling typically associated with a “Paul Newman” dial, the hands also perfectly matched and free of any lume degradation. Moving on to the case, the delightful purple and blue oxidation, a result of years spent in repose, especially behind the lugs near the caseback, adds a charming touch. The overall feel of the watch is sharp and bright. I wouldn’t be surprised if this exemplar surpasses the high estimate; it truly stands as a prime example of top-notch condition!
(Est. $60,000 – $90,000 USD)
Being true vintage horology enthusiasts means we always love a watch with a little extra sauce, especially when the watch itself is already a grail for most collectors and this 1985 Rolex Daytona ref. 6263 delivers on all fronts. This is also a piece coming from the ‘Hammer Collection’ and is one of the most impressive screw-down pusher Daytona we’ve had the pleasure of viewing. Everything is phenomenal on this watch— the case geometry is exact, the bezel and pushers are original, and the dial is virtually flawless with every lume plot perfectly preserved. Lot 105 is further amplified with sub-dials that emanate a deep chocolate brown coloration that is evermore present in natural light. Though exceptional examples of any execution deserve to be celebrated, some are cut above the rest, which is why we foresee Lot 105 surpassing its very reasonable estimate.
Thanks again to Geoff Hess and the whole team at Sotheby’s for inviting us to NYC to experience this incredible collection and participate in the Dec 7th auction.
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