The Three Royal Oaks You Need to Know About This Weekend
Watch theft on the rise; a look at Dr. Strange's Jaeger LeCoultre
Happy Friday! It’s auction week in Geneva, here’s a calendar of all the sales.
With more than 1,500 lots, it’s impossible to cover all of them. So since it’s the Royal Oak’s 50th anniversary, we focus on the three most important examples of the octagonal watch up for sale.
Then, we look at the continued rise in watch theft, this time in Los Angeles.
Finally, a record-breaking Cartier Crash and a close-up on superhero watches, including Dr. Strange’s JLC Perpetual Calendar, as Multiverse of Madness hits theaters.
This newsletter is Presented By Subdial, the trading platform for watch enthusiasts and collectors. Subdial is a real day one supporter of Rescapement, so it’s been fun to partner with them this year. Not only do they curate an amazing weekly selection of neo-vintage, independent, and pre-owned watches, they’re also heavily invested in the community and supporting quality content (if I do say so myself). Below, we’ll highlight a favorite watch from their weekly drop.
Lagerfeld, Genta, and an original Royal Oak: Take your pick
Look at the watch auction calendar for the next month or so, and it’s easy to be overwhelmed.
But this is the year of the Royal Oak. On May 6, Phillips is holding the Royal Oak 50th sale, and they’re not the only ones celebrating. As you’ll hear Eric Wind say in an upcoming episode of Significant Watches, there are 223 Royal Oaks on sale in Geneva this weekend, nearly 13 percent of all lots.
But really, there are only three Royal Oak lots that truly everyone is paying attention to this weekend. Two for their provenance, and one for its condition and historical importance. Let’s take a look.
Karl Lagerfeld’s Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
First thing’s first. We don’t actually know this was the Royal Oak of Karl Lagerfeld, the late fashion designer. Here’s the evidence presented: (1) we only know of two guys in the 1970s that were wearing blacked-out PVD Royal Oaks: Lagerfeld and former King of Spain Juan Carlos I (and he’s in self-imposed exile nowadays); (2) this particular Royal Oak was delivered to Italy in 1973, and Lagerfeld happened to be hanging out in Rome at the same time. Back in the 70s, PVD a difficult, expensive process, so it’s not something that was available to just anyone.
So yes, this is what My Cousin Vinny might call “circumstantial evidence,” but we’ll allow it. Either way, it’s an absolutely badass-looking watch. Phillips is placing the estimate at CHF 100-200k, but this has to go to at least a million, right?
Sotheby’s has been selling off a ton of other items from Lagerfeld’s estate recently. It’s fun to envision how a blacked-out Royal Oak fits exactly into the designer’s aesthetic. An all-black Rolls Royce Phantom with a PVD Royal Oak? It might not be your vibe, but it was definitely Lagerfeld’s, and it just made sense.
Check out lot 88 at Phillips.
Gerald Genta’s Personal Royal Oak
Lagerfeld’s Royal Oak isn’t the only historically important octagon up for sale. The personal Royal Oak of Gerald Genta, the designer of the Royal Oak, is also at auction. If there’s one watch designer that’ll go down in history among the ranks of fashion designers like Karl Lagerfeld, it’s Genta. And the Royal Oak is his greatest achievement, perhaps the one watch that can be legitimately described as a sculpture. It’s why the catalog for this lot calls Genta the “Picasso of Watches.”
Sotheby’s calls this Royal Oak “possibly the most important example that has ever been made,” and it’s hard to think of one that's more important. AP archives confirm it was acquired by Genta in 1978.
Genta’s Royal Oak is made more interesting by the gold bezel, the first stainless steel 5402 with a gold bezel known to the public. According to Genta family lore, the bezel was made by Genta’s atelier. There’s no record of it in AP’s archives either, which seems to corroborate the story. On condition, note that the dial says “Swiss Made” under 6 o’clock, which indicates it’s a service dial that replaced the original at some point.
The estimate for Genta’s Royal Oak is CHF 300-500k. It’s worth pointing out that original drawings by Genta of the Royal Oak and Nautilus have sold for $500k+ already this year, so don’t be surprised if this goes for more.
See lot 72 at Sotheby’s
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, A2
Finally, this Royal Oak doesn’t have the provenance of the first two, but it’s just as historically important. This is an original Royal Oak from 1972. And not just any first series Royal Oak, but number A2, meaning it was the second Royal Oak ever made. It was one of four Royal Oak models presented by Audemars Piguet at Basel watch fair in 1972 to introduce the model.
This is the earliest Royal Oak Series A that’s ever been found. It’s believed that A1 was sold to the Shah of Iran and has been gifted/worn since, which makes A2 even more special.
According to Phillips, the consignor of A2 had already purchased a Royal Oak right when it launched, so when his brother-in-law (an AP retailer) offered him a Royal Oak as a wedding gift, he tucked the gift away, rarely wearing it (my brother-in-law gave me a $50 bottle of bourbon for my wedding; also cool).
That means the A2 is in remarkable condition. So much so that Phillips says they’ve not even dared to open the watch or turn the hands.
Phillips has placed an estimate of CHF 200-400k on A2, but like the others, there’s no telling how high it could go.
Check out lot 8 at Phillips
Royal Oak Royalty
So there you have it, three of the most important Royal Oaks, ever. Money not an object, I’d probably take Lagerfeld’s, buy a bunch of black Chanel to match (hey, I said money’s not an object), grow a ponytail like Lagerfeld and move to Paris. There’s no telling which one of these might achieve the biggest result this weekend, but no doubt it’ll be exciting to watch.
This week’s newsletter is presented by Subdial, the ultimate trading platform for watch enthusiasts and collectors. Every week, we feature one of the watches from their weekly drop.
I don’t say this lightly: the original Chopard 1860 featuring the caliber 1.96 is one of the best modern watches, full stop. The list of automatic movements that might seriously lay claim to the title of “ best automatic movement ever produced” is short. But one credible answer is the L.U.C. caliber 1.96 from Chopard, a manufacture that might surprise some. It’s the caliber featured in this 1860 from the 1990s, designed to put Chopard on par with manufacturers like Patek and Lange. And it did. The micro-rotor movement is a true mechanical feat, matched only by the watch itself, a perfect distillation of a dress watch.
I wrote an in-depth article about this watch for Subdial too (which I’ll feature in a future ‘sletter), but this is a watch that’s seen a tremendous growth in appreciation over the past year. Even still, I don’t think enough people are paying attention to how special and rare it is.
Check out this Chopard 1860 featuring the gorgeous caliber 1.96 on Subdial, as well as the rest of their weekly drop.
Recommended: Rise in Watch Theft in Focus at the Los Angeles Times
The Los Angeles Times has been busy reporting on the trend of stealing luxury goods — including watches — from the city’s wealthy. Last week, the Times ran an article, “17 L.A. gangs have sent out crews to follow and rob city’s wealthiest, LAPD says,” covering the trend:
More than a dozen Los Angeles gangs are targeting some of the city’s wealthiest residents in a new and aggressive manner, sending out crews in multiple cars to find, follow and rob people driving high-end vehicles or wearing expensive jewelry, according to police.
In many cases, they’re making off with designer handbags, diamond-studded watches and other items worth tens of thousands of dollars and then peddling them to black-market buyers who are willing to turn a blind eye to the underlying violence, police said.
The article included a number of recent crimes involving these gang members stealing expensive watches from wealthy residents or tourists:
[One suspect], according to Moore, was involved in eight separate follow-off robberies over a sixth-month period starting last fall, including one in which two UCLA students were robbed of two watches worth nearly $145,000 after leaving a club, a second in which two foreign tourists were robbed of watches worth $73,000, and a third in which $51,000 in property was stolen.
According to the L.A. Times, the story went viral, so it ran a follow-up op-ed trying to explain the phenomenon and the nerve it struck with readers:
“As it did for many readers, the story generated a swell of feelings in me: horror at the violence inflicted, concern about the city’s growing class divide, and shock that so many brazen attacks could take place in broad daylight on busy streets.
But the story also piqued my curiosity. What makes a watch worth more than I paid for the house I’ve lived in the last 30 years? Who are these people walking around with the equivalent of $300,000 strapped to their wrists?”
The op-ed continues:
“High-end watches today are no longer the fussy, sober, ostentatiously complicated styles that previous generations venerated. ‘They are beautiful watches,’ The Times’ resident watch expert, Daniel Miller, told me. ‘Sleek and stylish with integrated bracelets ... evocative of a kind of ‘70s cool.... It’s part of the uniform of the new wealthy class.’
And that, I suspect, is what’s making watch owners targets. But we ought not blame the victims, or suggest that people need to hide signs of their wealth. Anyone should have the right to walk around this city without having their watch stolen — whether it’s a Timex or a Rolex.”
It’s a trend that’s caught international attention. The Vanity Fair article we recommended here last week relayed the story of a high-profile watch theft in Beverly Hills in March when a man was robbed of his Richard Mille RM 11-03 at gunpoint.
Here are the links to the Los Angeles Times articles:
THROUGH THE WIRE
🌊 Making the Case for the Original Vacheron Constantin Overseas. Sure, the Royal Oak and the Nautilus get all of the attention. But the Vacheron Constantin is the still-forgotten sports watch from the final third of watchmaking’s Holy Trinity. And you can still get original 1990s references of the Overseas for less than $20k…for now. Our friend Michael Piscatelli tells us why it’s time to take a look at the original Overseas.
🌍 Watches in the World of Action Movies. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is back with Dr. Strange this weekend, and it looks like the former neurosurgeon’s Jaeger LeCoultre Perpetual Calendar is poised for another close-up. Lucky for us, Randy Lai on Wristcheck takes us through the history of watches in cinema, from just another prop to carefully-thought-out product placement.
😻 Record-setting Cartier. Finally, Loupe This sold an original Cartier London Crash for $1.5m, a record for the model.