8 Horological Highlights From The June 2020 Dr. Crott Auction: Beautiful Rarities By Prestigious Brands
The auction world is in some disarray right now, but one auction is certainly going forward despite the current situation – whether it will be an online-only auction or take place at Hotel Speicher7 in Mannheim, Germany live as planned, or possibly both, is still in flux. This Dr. Crott auction has been moved from its usual May date to June 29, 2020 at noon CET.
One thing is certain, though: due to Germany’s eased COVID-19 restrictions, interested parties can make a date to inspect timepieces in Mannheim after making a reservation.
The Dr. Crott auction house was founded by Dr. Helmut Crott in 1975. Now Germany’s premier auction house for watches, it is owned by Stefan Muser today. It goes without saying that German timepieces are more often offered here than at the other top-tier houses, and usually there are a great many more pocket watches and antique clocks than one finds at other auction houses.
There are a few watches in the upcoming auction that are notable for various reasons outside of the fact that they fine, rare, and attractive. Or because they were made by Rolex or Patek Philippe (though there is, of course, plenty of that here too). Here are a few of my highlights.
A. Lange & Söhne never officially launched a serial stainless steel watch before the Odysseus arrived in late October 2019. But that does not mean that that there are no stainless steel examples of the flagship Lange 1 in existence. There are some – a very few made for certain early Lange retailers, as you can see here – though they are so few and far between that they have an almost mythical standing among watch collectors. We estimate that there are about 25 or so in existence.
This example seems to have been sold to its original owner on April 1, 1999 (what an April Fool’s Day for this person!) and comes to this auction with its original box and papers.
According to the catalog, Dr. Crott’s research reveals this to only be the seventh example of the steel Lange 1 to come to auction.
For more information, please visit www.uhren-muser.de/en/img.html?lot=51543.
Quick Facts A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 in stainless steel
Case: stainless steel, 38.5 x 10 mm
Dial: solid silver, silvered, blued steel hands
Movement: manually wound Caliber L901.0
Functions: hours, minutes, small seconds; large date, power reserve indication
Year of manufacture: 1999
Most recent auction price: Phillips Game Changers, December 10, 2019, $343,750
Auction estimate: €220,000-€300,000
A complete set of A. Lange & Söhne’s Luna Mundi in mint condition is also on offer at this Dr. Crott auction.
Introduced in 2003, the Luna Mundi set puts an interesting phenomenon on center stage: the fact that the crescent of the moon looks different to the residents of the northern hemisphere than to those of the southern.
This phenomenon occurred to Richemont Group executive chairman, Johann Rupert, a man who often resides in South Africa, which is in the southern hemisphere. Rupert gave A. Lange & Söhne the task of developing a timepiece correctly displaying the moon as it truly appears from both halves of the planet. The Grand Lange 1 Luna Mundi was born.
Luna Mundi is a set containing two A. Lange & Söhne’s watches, one showing the moon from the northern hemisphere and one as seen from the south hemisphere. It was limited to 101 sets. This set on offer is 34/101 and comes to auction with its original box and papers.
Framed by the large Lange 1 case coming in at 41.9 mm, Luna Mundi/Ursa Major is a cool 18-karat white gold version featuring the moon as seen from the northern hemisphere. Luna Mundi/Southern Cross is a fiery 18-karat red gold version depicting the phases of the moon as they are seen from the less populous lower half of the globe.
Most moon phase displays are driven forward once or twice a day, and because Lange’s is constantly in motion it is more accurate than that. Only after a period of 122.6 years is there a deviation of one day. This technology was utilized in Caliber L901.8 for the Big Dipper model Ursa Major, and modified in Caliber L901.7 to show the mirror image of the northern moon for the Luna Mundi/Southern Cross model. The recessed pusher located on the case between 7 and 8 o’clock can be used to reset the moon phase display should the watch’s mainspring wind down.
For more information, please visit www.uhren-muser.de/en/51597/lange-soehne-grosse-lange-1-luna-mundi-no-34-101-wristwatch#startlot.
Quick Facts A. Lange & Söhne Large Lange 1 Luna Mundi
Case: white gold and red gold, 42 mm
Dial: solid silver, silvered, blued steel hands
Movement: manually wound Caliber L901.7/L901.8
Functions: hours, minutes, small seconds; large date, power reserve indication, moon phase from both hemispheres
Year of manufacture: 2003
Auction estimate: €55,000-€100,000
The Tourbograph came into being in 2005, while this ultra-complicated variation, the Tourbograph Perpetual Pour le Mérite, came about in 2017 with the addition of a perpetual calendar.
It is a remarkable watch, not just because it combines five serious complications, a one-minute tourbillon, and a chain and fusée, but because it does so with such class and rationale, resulting in a watch that is easier to read than you might suspect on first glance. And it fits all that in a 43 mm case.
Even though the perpetual calendar mechanism is hidden underneath the dial, the rear of the movement with the split-seconds chronograph is entirely visible and finished in typical Lange perfection. The dial was developed with as much logic and precision as possible, so much so that this dial is iconic in its classiness despite the array of displays.
It is not the most complicated watch A. Lange & Söhne has ever crafted, but it’s in the top three – and with only 50 pieces ever made, it is also exceedingly rare. True treasure here.
This example originally sold on November 20, 2017 and is in excellent condition. Number 02/50 comes with its original box and papers.
For more information, please visit www.uhren-muser.de/en/51576/lange-soehne-tourbograph-perpetual-pour-le-merite#startlot.
Quick Facts A. Lange & Söhne Tourbograph Perpetual Pour le Mérite
Case: 43 x 16.6 mm, platinum
Movement: manually winding Caliber L133.1 with fusée-and-chain transmission and one-minute tourbillon
Functions: hours, minutes; split-second chronograph with minute counter, perpetual calendar with leap year indication and moon phase
Limitation: 50 pieces
Year of manufacture: 2017
Original retail price: €480,000
Auction estimate: €180,000-€400,000
Talk about treasure! Dr. Crott has not one, but two legendary pilot’s watches made by Tutima from World War II on offer in this auction. Let’s look briefly at the history of this to understand it fully.
In Glashütte, Germany at the start of 1927, a new group of companies best known by the initials Urofa-Ufag was founded under the management of Dr. Ernst Kurtz. Urofa-Ufag emerged from the economically crumbling Präzisions-Uhrenfabrik GmbH. Kurtz helped create the legendary Glashütte watch factories Urofa (Uhren-Rohwerke-Fabrik Glashütte AG) and Ufag (Uhrenfabrik Glashütte AG). While Urofa concentrated more on manufacturing ébauches, Ufag produced finished watches.
This also marked the birth of Tutima, the leading brand of the newly founded conglomerate. Kurtz is therefore considered the founder of Tutima, which was originally a line created to encompass the company’s highest quality products.
With war on the minds of Europeans and a belated lesson learned in being too late to introduce new products – in this case the switch from pocket watches to wristwatches, which took place so late in Glashütte’s history that the town almost lost its source of income due to overwhelming competition from Switzerland – Glashütte began heavily concentrating on the manufacture of wristwatches.
As of 1938, Urofa and Ufag were appropriated as factories for defense manufacturing (as were so many other companies throughout Germany), and plans for pilot’s watches began to take shape using specific characteristics provided by the air force.
Tutima would become most famous for a pilot’s watch known today as the original Tutima Glashütte pilot’s chronograph: this Glashütte classic boasted a striking fluted bezel featuring a conspicuous red reference marker on an extra-large fluted case outfitted with a very large crown, ergonomic chronograph buttons, and a large, legible dial featuring luminescent elements for great night-reading capability. It also featured a flyback function, which was known as a “Tempostopp” in old German watch parlance.
From 1941 through 1945, approximately 30,000 of these classics left the Glashütte workshops destined for pilots’ wrists, a number confirmed by author Kurt Herkner in his historical book, Glashütter Armbanduhren Band II. (Just as an aside, a view of the back of this watch graces the cover of that book.) This pilot’s watch was outfitted with Urofa’s now-legendary chronograph Caliber 59, a movement created especially for it.
The manually wound column-wheel chronograph with a 30-minute counter was developed from 1939 to 1941 and remained in production until 1945. Caliber 59, the first German chronograph with flyback function, measured 34 mm in diameter and 5.4 mm in height and had 17 jewels. It boasted integrated column wheel control of the chronograph functions, a monometallic screw balance, and a Nivarox Breguet balance spring as well as shock protection.
Herkner’s book describes this movement’s wheels, pinions, and case as having been imported from Switzerland. Caliber 59 was only used for this one model and never sold to other manufacturers. It was produced in three finishes: silver-plated frost covered with gold plate; silver-plated frost; and nickel plate.
On May 8, 1945, just scant hours before the official end of World War II, Glashütte was bombed one final time. The Russians made sure that all of the “military installations” located there were leveled. Any factories that survived the attack from the air were dismantled and transported back to the Soviet Union, including the contents of Urofa and Ufag. Herkner describes in his book this taking place as of July 1, 1945. By August 8, the factories’ rooms were entirely empty, and all blueprints for Caliber 59 were lost.
Tutima reverse-engineered the movement to introduce its modern Tempostopp in 2017, but the two lots offered here are wartime originals.
For more information, please visit www.uhren-muser.de/en/51141/tutima-uhrenfabrik-ag-glashuette-chronograph#startlot and www.uhren-muser.de/en/51325/tutima-uhrenfabrik-ag-glashuette-chronograph.
Quick Facts original Tutima Glashütte pilot’s chronographs
Case: 39 mm, matte nickel-plated metal
Movement: manually wound Urofa Caliber 59, integrated chronograph with column wheel, 34 x 5.4 mm, 17 jewels, monometallic screw balance, Nivarox Breguet balance spring, shock protection
Functions: hours, minutes; flyback chronograph with 30-minute counter
Years of manufacture: approx. 1942 and 1940
Auction estimates: €2,200-€5,000
I love these old mystery watches and watch with interest when they (quite infrequently) come to auction. Created in the era of the “American Dream,” they were made for men, not women, as you might think.
One watch of that era to embody the prestige of Swiss lineage with American taste of the period was the LeCoultre Galaxy . . . and something else mysterious you might not know is also present: one not only finds the LeCoultre name on the front of this watch, but also the Vacheron Constantin name on the back of it. That makes this watch the only model signed by both brands: the case is signed with Vacheron Constantin, while the dial is signed by LeCoultre. And the movement is a LeCoultre caliber.
The reason Vacheron Constantin’s name is on the case is best explained by the fact that at the time the Galaxy was introduced, both of these venerable Swiss companies had entered into an agreement created to aid the then-ailing Genevan giant. “The solution did appear in 1938 with a bold association between two of the most prestigious watchmakers in the world,” Franco Cologni wrote in 2015’s Artists of Time, a magnificent retrospective of Vacheron Constantin’s history. “. . . SAPIC (Société Anonyme de Produits Industriels et Commerciaux), a joint company, was formed, comprising Vacheron Constantin, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and the latter’s various subsidiaries.”
This association combined the strengths and skills of both Vacheron Constantin and Jaeger-LeCoultre. In 1938, “Fundamentally reorganized, but stronger, Vacheron Constantin prepared to face the dramatic years ahead.” The two only separated again in 1965.
This meant that both Vacheron Constantin and Jaeger-LeCoultre shared the same American subsidiary from 1938 through 1965 – LeCoultre was the brand name used in this period in the United States. Perhaps the synergy of both brands’ combined signing of this watch was to offer potential customers an extra reason to purchase it.
The unassuming 14-karat white gold case sets the stage for the real action here: the dial offering small, white gold rectangles serving as hour markers, each of them featuring three brilliant-cut diamonds set inside the applied marker outline.
These diamond-filled markers form the outer perimeter of the dial at whose center turns a disk set with a single diamond inside a white gold chaton indicating the hours. Above this another disk made of transparent hesalite is positioned in which another diamond is set surrounded by a white gold chaton; this diamond indicates the minutes.
The brilliance of the design is that the diamonds seem to be suspended in air. The transparent disk is exactly same size as the revolving center of the dial, so that when one looks at the watch the transparent disk it is virtually invisible. From the side an astute observer can see the disk, although to accomplish this the watch must be positioned at precisely the right angle since the cleverly formed crystal prevents observers from seeing it otherwise.
For more information, please visit www.uhren-muser.de/en/51240/lecoultre-watches-co-swiss-vacheron-constantin-a-geneve-galaxy-mystery#startlot.
Quick Facts LeCoultre/Vacheron Constantin Galaxy Mystery
Case: 33 mm, 14-karat white gold
Dial: silvered, set with 35 diamonds in the markers and two as hands (37 total), revolving disk with applied diamond hour and minute hands
Movement: manual winding LeCoultre Caliber K480/CW
Functions: mystery hours and minutes
Year of manufacture: approx. 1950
Last known auction price: $6,875 at a 2012 Christie’s auction
Auction estimate: €2,500-€3,500
This Les Historiques-line re-creation of Vacheron Constantin’s unique 1921 model is offered in mint condition and with box and papers. A personal favorite of mine, this model is a true eye catcher.
Vacheron Constantin is a specialist in taking elements of its long past and revamping them for exquisite use in a very real present. This traditional maker has been producing timepieces uninterruptedly since 1755 and it often draws on that heritage for the models in the Historiques collection. In this case, it has recreated a 12-piece driver’s watch of 1921, the first three pieces of which went to clients in the United States – hence the “American” predicate.
The origins of the “1921,” as collectors and fans of the style are wont to call it, lie in the so-called driver’s watch style, which allowed the driver of a (for the time) newfangled automobile to see the time without taking eyes off the road.
The visually arresting 1921 American is perhaps Vacheron Constantin’s most recognizable model. Among connoisseurs it is one of the most popular – which allows us to forgive the Geneva-based company’s many reissues, most notably the 40 mm size we see here. The brand chose that size back in 2008 during the era of larger watches, and it has proved rather successful for them.
For more information, please visit www.uhren-muser.de/en/51068/vacheron-constantin-a-geneve-les-historiques-american-1921-#startlot.
Quick Facts Vacheron Constantin Les Historiques American 1921
Case: 40 x 46 mm, pink gold
Movement: manually wound Vacheron Constantin Caliber 4400/1; 65-hour power reserve, Geneva Seal, 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Year of manufacture: approx. 2012
Auction estimate: €20,000-€28,000
For more information on the auction and timepieces, can view the catalogue at www.uhren-muser.de/de/documents/Crott_102.