Weekly Digest: Please don't DDoS this newsletter
Muhammad Ali, Phil Mickelson, and how the Samsung family is paying off $11b in taxes
This weekend, a digest of the articles we published on Rescapement (and elsewhere). Rescapement is an independent weekly about watches. Subscribe to get it in your inbox every Sunday. 👉
Listen, not everything has to mean something. I just enjoy watching Phillips auctions for the spectacle of it all. Let’s just celebrate that some watch events have become big and important enough that people outside of watches have started paying attention to them. Let’s celebrate the pure ridiculousness of someone spending $7m on a watch.
I ran a recap with Highsnobiety the day after Phillips Geneva XIII. It concludes:
While years ago, watch auctions may have featured primarily vintage pieces that were exciting to a small niche of collectors, that’s not the case anymore. Auctions from the large houses have become events for all collectors to pay attention to, with exciting and rare timepieces from all corners of modern, independent, and vintage collecting. The results can be astonishing ($7 million for a watch?! You might find yourself saying) but are often more indicative of the rarity of the watches on offer than of any irrationality of bidders.
The increased variety of watches is something the Phillips specialist I spoke to in advance of the auction mentioned as well. When they started, Phillips commissioned primarily vintage watches, but that’s not the case anymore. As any casual observer has realized, they’ve pushed hard into independents (F.P. Journe), modern, and everything in between.
More auction chatter below.
For collectors, by a collector
Unfortunately, not all of us can afford those unspeakably rare and expensive mid-century chronographs sold at auction houses. At $270 and featuring a 38mm case and mecaquartz movement, the Dan Henry 1937 Chronograph is something for the rest of us. It’s a watch for collectors, by a collector.
Our Florida bureau lead, Charlie Dunne, went hands-on with the Dan Henry 1937 chronograph and came away impressed:
The value proposition is where I think the Dan Henry 1937 deserves the highest praise. I envision this as a fantastic watch for a multitude of people. Perhaps it could be an excellent choice for the high school student who is passionate about vintage watches, yet their summer job at the grocery store doesn’t open up the doors to a vintage Rolex Datejust or Omega Constellation just yet. While down the line, an entry-level vintage icon is on the list, they are able to appreciate a masterful homage to a legendary watch at an accessible price.
After two weeks straight of wearing this timepiece, it proved itself worthy of much more praise than it has gotten thus far. There are so many aspects to this watch that were done from the perspective of a collector. Often, collectors are quite vocal about what they want in a watch. When the initiative is taken to deliver on as many collector cues as humanly possible, it is worth celebrating.
He also shares the perspective of some of the big boys in the business, so be sure to check out the full review (where he also stans the Vulcain Cricket).
All it takes is Arnold Palmer
Of course, with the PGA Championship this weekend, there had to be at least a lag towards golf in this edition. Something more than guesses as to whether leader Phil Mickelson will wear his Rolex Cellini or Yacht-Master for today’s final round.
A lob wedge away, over on ACL Golf, I wrote a piece about Rolex and its (and my) relationship with golf.
If you ask Rolex, its relationship with golf started on the wrist of Arnold Palmer in 1967. The King, wearing the Crown. Soon, he was joined in Rolex's ambassador lineup by Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus. The Big Three.
In a sport that begins with tee times, where Young Tom Morris won his first Open Championship in the same year (1868) that Patek Philippe introduced the first wristwatch, it’s a partnership that was always meant to be.
But the golf of 1967 wasn’t that same debonair sport that Young Tom Morris dominated a century prior while wearing knickers and swinging hickory shafts around the country club. By then, it was Arnold Palmer striding down the fairway with a screaming gallery at his back, smoking darts on the tee box, and generally making the game cooler and more popular than it had ever been. (“When I see some of the old film clips and see how silly I am with that thing hanging out of my mouth…I could just cringe,” Palmer later told Golf Digest of his smoking habit that he eventually kicked.)
One more sports tie-in. It’s a commonly-repeated trope: Muhammad Ali wore a Cartier Tank. And if the Heavyweight Champion of the World can wear a dainty dress watch, so can you.
But apparently, Ali also owned at least one other smaller, dressy watch: this vintage time-only Omega. It’s a simple, stainless steel Omega with a subsidiary seconds and silver dial.
This watch came up for auction at GWS Auctions in November of last year, an auctioneer that specializes in celebrity, royal, and other generally famous-people assets. Honestly, had I seen it then, I would’ve personally bid it up way higher than the $5,000 it sold for.
Highlights from the ‘Samsung Collection’
Or, what happens when a billionaire leaves his family with an $11b tax bill?
SJX and Le Monde Edmond wrote nice companion pieces about the recent Christie’s Hong Kong auction, which was highlighted by the first pieces to be sold off from the massive collection of Lee Kun-hee, the former chairman of Samsung.
According to SJX, Lee’s collection of watches, but also art and cars, are slowly being sold off (or donated) to pay off the $11b in taxes that’s now owed by the Lee family due to South Korea’s 60% inheritance tax (Lee died in October 2020).
The highlight from this Christie’s sale was the unique platinum Patek Philippe World Timer, which Lee acquired at Antiquorum in 2002 for $6.6m (at the time, the most expensive wristwatch ever sold).
This time around, Christie’s sold it for “just” $1.8m. As Edmond Saran explains, Lee likely overpaid back in 2002, but…well, we know the story. Rich billionaire gets into a pissing contest with another rich billionaire, leading to some frantic bidding that shoots the price of the lot up.
Nowadays, we complain about rich people driving up the price of all kinds of collectibles (see, $7.5m for a World Timer!?, supra), so it’s nice to read a story that reminds us this is actually a tale as old as time and not a new phenomenon. As long as there are people with too much money, there will be people who spend too much money on the things they want.
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