At Wristcheck, we get a fair share of modern timepieces passing through our hands – and while we do love seeing and handling the most recent watches that have hit the market, we hold equal appreciation for vintage timepieces: watches which showcase design aspects that can be traced a few decades back, or have links to the history of a brand. Here, we are going to highlight a few timepieces which fit into this category.
Cartier Crash Skeleton Limited Edition
Over the past few years, the world started paying more attention to Cartier – its vintage designs in particular – which has led to the significant rise in value for such pieces and the occasional appearance on the wrist of celebrities (Looking at you Kanye!). And out of all the incredible designs to have come out of the Maison Cartier, the Crash is arguably the most popular.
Interestingly, the Crash design is also the most fascinating due to its story, and to this day there are still no concrete answers pertaining to what inspired this now iconic case shape. Salvador Dali’s surrealist painting, The Persistence of Memory, is pretty much mentioned as often as the story of a Cartier Baignoire Allongée which melted from the fire of a car crash. The design is said to have also come from the collaborative work of Jean-Jacques Cartier (the great-grandson of the company's founder) and artisan Rupert Emmerson.
More than the design, the attraction also comes from the rarity of the piece. It is believed that only a small amount of watches were made during the 1960’s, and to this day the Cartier Crash has only been released in very limited series. The present watch is part of a limited edition of only 67 pieces where the movement and openworked dial are blended into one: its skeletonised bridges represent Roman numerals which act as hour markers. Looking at this marvel in the metal sure does help you understand the popularity of the piece!
Rolex Daytona (Ref. 6263 “Big Red” Retailed By Asprey)
The Rolex Daytona is, without a doubt, one of the most famous chronograph wristwatches ever released, and was first launched in the 1960’s. To this day, whether you enjoy the modern iterations of it or older vintage ones, it remains a highly sought after timepiece; but even amongst icons such as the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, there are references that stand out – like the ref. 6263 “Big Red” here.
A combination of several elements play in favor of this piece. You first get the waterproof Oyster case, which improved the water-resistance of the model from 50 to 100 meters (an Oyster case is easily recognisable by the screw-down pushers at 2 and 4 o’clock). People were also more attracted to the black plastic bezel as opposed to the ref. 6265 which had a metal steel bezel. A larger winding crown made for better comfort of use, and the contrasting colors between the dial (available in black or silver) and the sub-dials made for a striking visual look. The cherry on top has to be the large bright red “Daytona” inscription above the 6 o’clock register which gave the nickname of “Big Red” to this particular iteration of the ref. 6263. This also adds an element of rarity as, depending on the year of production and dial style, this striking red writing will not always be present.
This particular Rolex ref. 6263 “Big Red,” – in exceptional condition we must say – is propelled to the next level by its provenance. His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al Said, former Sultan of Oman and an established watch enthusiast, was known for gifting luxury timepieces and making special versions with the dial stamped with a khanjar, the National Emblem of Oman. All orders of watches were made through Asprey, the famous London jeweller, due to the Sultan’s long relationship with England, and here the watch also came with a personal card from His Majesty which reads: “With My Compliments, Qaboos Bin Said, Sultan Of Oman.”
Patek Philippe Nautilus (Ref. 3700 “Gübelin”)
The original Patek Philippe Nautilus was the reference 3700 – the second iconic design associated with horological legend Gerald Genta. Launched in 1976, it followed in the footsteps made four years prior by Audemars Piguet and its Royal Oak model, and set the tone for it to be an even more luxurious sports watch in stainless steel.
The design was inspired by a ship’s porthole with a rounded octogonal bezel. The case construction was unusual in that it was made of only one ‘piece’ – the caseback couldn’t be detached. Instead, the movement was inserted from the dial side and the watch was closed by the bezel. Completing the process meant using the ear-like parts on each side of the case, a hinge on the left and a closure on the right, to secure the screws. The watch was 42mm in diameter which was considered large for the time, earning the watch its nickname of “Jumbo,” and was water-resistant to 120 meters.
The Patek Philippe ref. 3700 is extremely historically significant and finding one could already be considered a challenge. The piece we have here is again elevated to the next level due to its condition, the fact that it comes as a full set – and mainly because the dial features a rare “Gübelin” signature. A double-signature on a dial reflects the name of the retailer where a watch was sold. This harkens back to a time before brands had boutiques in every corner of the world, and when they heavily relied on retail partners to reach new markets: with Patek Philippe, Gübelin played an important role in promoting the Maison within the German-speaking world. To further illustrate its importance, this exact watch was prominently illustrated in the Patek Philippe Steel Watches book by John Goldberger.
Rolex Submariner (Ref. 16618 with a Lapis Lazuli dial)
With a history dating back all the way to the 1950’s, the Rolex Submariner could be the only watch one would need for the rest of their life, and for many it has been. Designed and built as the ultimate tool watch, and the first dive watch capable of being waterproof to a depth of 100 meters, the Submariner encapsulates a perfect mix of comfort, design, size, visibility and practicality.
The reference 16618 was produced from the mid-1980’s up until 2010 with a variety of dial colors and configurations but the one that interests us here is the mesmerizing Lapis Lazuli dial. Lapis Lazuli, or Lapis for short, is a semi-precious stone famed for its deep and rich blue tones with specks of gold-tone pyrite found throughout. In the watchmaking industry, it is used to create beautiful dials that are each unique in their own way due to the random pattern that the stone can have. The main attraction for having a Lapis Lazuli dial rests in the ‘starry sky’ design that the stone exhibits.
Rolex produced very few Lapis Lazuli dial ref. 16618's during a short timeframe in the early 1990s. Difficult to find and even more difficult to mine due to the explosives needed to extract it, Lapis Lazuli is often cracked or damaged so that it is unsuitable for watch dials, thus rendering a pristine example like the one we have here exceptionally rare. Presented with an 18kt yellow gold construction and a blue anodised aluminium bezel, this ref. 16618 is unlike any that you have probably seen before.
Patek Philippe World Time (Ref. 5231J)
The world time complication is closely linked to Patek Philippe and to Louis Cottier who developed a mechanism consisting of a 24-hour ring paired with another ring with city names on it. His system would let anyone read all the 24 time zones at once on one watch, and allow for quick and easy time adjustment for all time zones when travelling to a new city.
The Patek Philippe ref. 5231 is the Maison’s modern take on its famous World Time complication with the added beauty of the cloisonné enamel map on the dial. The design of the case is visually connected to the iconic World Time ref. 2523 of the past and saw the removal of the crown guards seen in the previous generations. The star here is arguably the rare cloisonné enamel dial at the center of the timepiece representing a map of Europe, Africa and the Americas. This principle requires a thin gold wiring (the “cloison”) to be carefully sculpted to create the outline of the dial motif. Enamel powder of various colours is then applied to fill in the various areas before being fired in an oven at around 1000 degrees Celsius. But even this rigorous process doesn’t always result in a perfect dial, and any defects found means that the process has to be done all over again. This is why these watches with cloisonné enamel dial are exceedingly rare and highly sought after by discerning collectors.
Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5711/1P “40th Anniversary”
The longevity and continued popularity of the Nautilus speaks for itself when a brand is able to celebrate a model’s Ruby Anniversary. To celebrate this particular milestone, Patek Philippe released a special version of the Nautilus ref. 5711 made entirely in platinum: the Nautilus ref. 5711/1P “40th Anniversary.” Released in 2016 and taking the Patek Philippe Nautilus' design, exclusivity and demand to a whole new level, the Nautilus ref. 5711/1P celebrates the iconic timepiece's 40th anniversary in style.
Far more exclusive, expensive and harder-to-machine, the 5711/1P elevates its stainless-steel sibling's standing as a sports watch into a wholeheartedly luxurious piece. Featuring a dial with a slightly brighter shade of blue, the 5711/1P stands out visually when compared to the stainless steel 5711. And while there has previously been a 5711 made of platinum, it was never listed in the brand’s catalogue and was secretly offered to a very select clientele. The 40th Anniversary model, on the other hand, was available to customers at authorized retailers, and released as a limited edition of 700 pieces. It featured a special commemorative engraving on the dial and 12 baguette-cut diamonds serving as hour markers. To link the watch back to the original Nautilus of 1976, Patek Philippe re-introduced the vintage-style cork box originally delivered with the first Nautilus.