James Bond's Rolex Pre-Daytona is up for sale. Or is it?
A curious "Lazenby" Rolex Pre-Daytona, the rise of White Star, and Ed Sheeran wearing an Enicar Ultra Dive
A double feature on a Rolex Pre-Daytona and the rise of White Star; plus a Movado M95 to watch out for and Ed Sheeran wearing an Enicar Ultra Dive.
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I hate to admit: An auction catalog entry completely confused me for much of this week.
Let me start back in 2019: the famous Rolex Pre-Daytona ref. 6238 with a red chronograph hand worn by actor George Lazenby in the Bond film On Her Majesty’s Service was up for auction again. The watch has well-documented provenance, having appeared at auction as early as 2003 at Christie’s. It was offered with its original invoice from Bucherer, made out to a production manager of EON Productions, the producers of OHMS. Since 2003, the watch has changed hands a number of times. Most recently, it was offered by Artcurial in 2016, and then Antiquorum in 2019, both times going unsold under the hammer.
This Lazenby Pre-Daytona has long been believed to be a one-of-a-kind ref. 6238 — the only one with a “real” red chronograph hand. Due to this uniqueness and its status as a Bond watch, it usually has juicy estimates. In 2019, Antiquorum had an estimate of €300-500k on the Lazenby Pre-Daytona.
Hence my surprise when I saw Lot 87 at Antiquorum’s upcoming January sale: what’s being described as a “Pre-Daytona George Lazenby James Bond” Rolex reference 6238. Knowing the Lazenby ref. 6238 went unsold a couple years back, I’d been eagerly awaiting it to come up again, kind of like I’d been waiting for Twitter to ban a certain insurrectionist-in-chief. Finally, I thought, this was it!
Upon closer inspection though, I quickly realized this was anything but the Lazenby Pre-Daytona. The serial number is different, the dial is noticeably beat up, and the sub-dial register hands looks different. The estimate reflects these differences: instead of six figures, this lot has an estimate more commiserate with that of a “normal” ref. 6238, €25k-45k. Here’s the thing though: no matter what you actually think about this 6238, it’s not really normal.
Return to normalcy
Edmond Saran, on his blog Le Monde Edmond, has thoroughly documented the many variants of the ref. 6238. Most notable, for our purposes, is the lack of any documentation of a ref. 6238 with an original red hand, save for the Lazenby Pre-Daytona. Asking around before publishing this article, no one seems to know of any other examples of such a watch (of course, there are stories of hands being painted red because it “looks cool”).
But, this modest red chronograph hand has now become a marketing opportunity. Going forward, a ref. 6238 with a red hand might be labelled a “Lazenby” Pre-Daytona. If this lot somehow does a big number, we might even see a spike in red paint sales and more red hands start to appear on otherwise “normal” 6238s. Despite this marketing, collectors should continue to look to scholarship from the likes of Mr. Saran and A Collected Man’s recent article.
As a guy with a professed love for the ref. 6238 (grail alert!), you hate to see it. For all the reasons Saran and ACM document in their wonderful articles, the 6238 is already an iconic watch. It doesn’t need any red paint to make it “look cool” — it already is cool.
 A sample of recent auction sales of the Lanzeby Pre-Daytona: Antiquorum 2008; Profiles in History 2012; Artcurial 2016; Antiquorum 2019.
White Star: Is this how a trend happens?
Trends have always fascinated me. Even the phrase, it went viral, hardly explains it — how did it go viral? It’s something I’ve analyzed before (tl;dr Kanye wears a Cartier Crash a few times, next thing you know prices have spiked 4x because no one has any imagination). But, often trends are more organic or grassroots than that. A few passionate collectors of a particular niche keep pumping something up, peeling off a few converts with each and every Instagram.com or forum post until the snowball reaches a critical mass (or reaches the right influencer), eventually causing an avalanche of hype and high prices.
Enter White Star. Back in November, I almost featured a White Star Diagrafic offered by Antiquorum. It was a cool watch from a brand I’d never heard of, with an implementation of a date complication I hadn’t seen before (the sun at 12 o’clock that wheels around to track the date in the photo below). On top of that, it was true new old stock, with the “box, blank warranty, seal, dealer plaque, and original technical drawings from Ebauches Venus” to prove it, per Antiquorum. On an estimate of CHF 1.5-2.5k, the lot pulled in CHF 11,250.
Similarly, the next lot in that sale was an NOS White Star triple date chronograph. On an estimate of CHF 1-2k, it did CHF 5k. Not a bad pair of results for a brand no one had really cared about until then — even Antiquorum had never sold a White Star before, and far as I can tell, #whitestar on IG has more to do with the Titanic and Leo DiCaprio fanfiction than with vintage watches (the White Star Line was the company that set sail to the RMS Titanic).
Well, now it’s 2021, and White Star is back. In Antiquorum’s January 24 auction, it’s got another Diagrafic up for auction, the third watch from the brand in as many months. Unlike the lots from November, this one’s not exactly NOS: the hands have been relumed, the strap/buckle isn’t original, and it looks like it’s definitely been worn. But hey, as G-Eazy famously said, if I hit it three times I’mma wife her. So what’s going on here — is it time to wife up White Star? Is this the beginning of a trend? Is WHITE STAR the new Cartier Crash?
Another Diagrafic: Fool me twice
As far as I can tell, up to now the sequence of events has been something like this:
Auction house (Antiquorum) gets their hands on a couple NOS watches from a brand called White Star that no one’s ever heard of. Auction house says to itself: “self, times are good, let’s throw these in our year-end auction, slap on a low estimate, and see what sticks.”
Two collectors, bored at home watching Steve Kornacki in khakis and flipping through Antiquorum’s catalog, think to themselves, “self, maybe I should start collecting White Star, because hey no one else is so this could be fun.”
Said two collectors bid each other up, such that one spends CHF 16k to build the world’s greatest White Star collection.
Auction house realizes maybe there’s something here and we can take more of these White Star things on consignment instead of turning them away.
Some mostly irrelevant blog/newsletter writes up this third White Star (just doing my part here), and its XX million followers consume said nonsense, proceeding to register to bid in an auction because hey it’s a global pandemic and there’s nothing else to do.
White Star avalanche ensues.
I’d imagine the same collector bought both that Diagrafic and triple date chronograph back in November. A big congrats to this collector for now holding what must be the world’s greatest White Star collection.
In Grafic detail
White Star, king of the auctions?
So it seems the White Star is shining bright, but let’s extrapolate a few lessons from our little shooting star’s rise.
Here’s lesson one: don’t confuse a high auction price for any sort of market depth. If my assumption is correct that the same collector bought both White Stars back in November, there might only be one guy on the entire planet who really cares about White Star (okay, and the underbidder). But, this person really only care about NOS, full set White Stars. Why would they stoop to the level of this example, what with its grossly re-lumed hands?
Now that there are sales to back it up though, this less-than-perfect lot has an estimate of CHF 3-5k. And it might just get that number.
But, as J. Cole quoting George Bush quoting an old Texas saying once said: “fool me once shame on you / fool me — you can’t get fooled again.” Which brings us to lesson two.
Those White Stars weren’t collectible because they were White Stars. If anything, they were collectible despite the generic name on the dial. They’re collectible because they’re watches with interesting complications in pristine, NOS condition.
Collectors get so tied up with names on dials — it makes sense, it’s an easy shortcut to perceived quality and collectibility. But, it’s just that: a shortcut. No sequence of letters printed on the dial is a substitute for a watch that’s NOS, unpolished, or otherwise in pristine condition. And figuring that out requires the hard work of researching and analyzing, combing through catalog after catalog.
This is why real, organic trends often have staying power: those collectors posting on Instagram and forums, collecting the watches no one else cares about? They’re developing the scholarship required for others to understand what’s collectible and what’s not. On the other hand, top-down trends are often hollow below, devoid of the true research required for a sustainable market of collectibility.
Listen, it’s pretty unlikely that White Star is the next Cartier Crash or Supreme. The market for old-school, dressy yellow gold watches is only so big. Then again, maybe Leo Dicaprio bought that Diagrafic to commemorate his days on the White Star Lines RMS Titanic. In that case, none of this matters, and the White Star avalanche is nearly here.
 So sorry to hear about the divorce, lemme know if you need a place to Crash in Chicago. And for those keeping track, I made it zero weeks into 2021 before making a Kanye reference.
 This newsletter is firmly team Halsey, to be clear.
 Update: I posted this article yesterday, and the underbidder on November’s Diagrafic actually commented. He confirmed that, indeed, he is not Leo DiCaprio (nor was the lot winner), and White Star is not a trend.
Buyer Beware: Movado M95
Since a former Rescapement contributor and current slinger of high-quality vintage wares wrote the f*cking deepest online guide to the vintage Movado M95, it’s incumbent upon this very publication to call it like we see re the M95. That’s why I felt obliged to highlight this M95 on sale at Antiquorum’s January auction. Compare the lot at Antiquorum (left, above) to an original example (above, right), and you’ll quickly notice the former is a redial. The confused subdials are the first giveaway, but the printed Movado also looks off. Fwiw, the case also looks polished. Collectors will pay good money for a clean, original M95: just last month, we saw Phillips sell an example for $20k. But even with an estimate of €2.5-5k, this lot should have collectors looking elsewhere.
Through the Wire
📅 Auction calendar for Spring-Winter 2021. 🔮 Is Substack the media future we want? Substack gets the New Yorker treatment.
Okay ciao! -Tony
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Watch of the Week
Ed Sheeran wearing an Enicar Ultra Dive: