Vintage Icons? Stelline, Enamels by Patek Philippe and Rolex, and His Majesty the 1518. Word of Sandro Fratini19 October 2020
To debut my column on vintage, but not only, for Watch Insanity – wisely directed by my friend Michele Mengoli – I want to start by telling you about my ideal podium for the three models that still make my heart beat real fast as soon as I look at them and take them in my hands – giving me the same feeling as the first time I put them around my wrist many years ago now. The Rolex Stelline; the 1518 by Patek Philippe, “Her Majesty the Watch;” and all the enamels produced by the two brands aforementioned – also followed later by many other watches from other brands, which I will write about on future occasions: models produced from the end of the Second World War until the mid-fifties, the “Golden Age” of watchmaking history.
The nickname comes from the very original star-shaped indexes. We are talking about the Reference 6062, triple calendar with moon phases, produced by Rolex between 1948 and 1953. In its overall harmony, with a 36-millimetre case, a quite important dimension for the time, it is a simply perfect and well-balanced watch. As a collector, when I was twenty years old I started with the Ovetto and Prince, then around the age of thirty I fell madly in love with the Stelline: every time I found one I never let it slip away. Among the rare exemplars remaining out of a production that we can imagine being around 380 pieces, many are made of yellow gold. On the market, depending on the state of preservation, they can be worth around 400 thousand euros, while there are even less rose gold exemplars, which are worth over one million euros a piece.
ENAMELS, BY SINGER
The watches with enamel dials produced until the mid-1950s are all wonderful, regardless of the brand at twelve o’clock. Those of Rolex and Patek Philippe, both made in very few pieces by Singer, represent one of the highest moments in the history of watchmaking for the level of difficulty in craftsmanship (with relatively big differences) and the artistic challenge they represented (only very few master craftsmen were able to make them). Some models have become legendary, inevitably: the Rolex Caravelle, fortunately in my possession, is a unique piece. Those watches are unique pieces in their own way and in every case, because each and everyone of them, in its masterly craftsmanship, is different from the other.
HIS MAJESTY THE WATCH: THE 1518
Obviously you all know this watch, if only because the last one hat was put on sale, in its rarest version made of steel (we know that there are 4 in the world, although some say 8, and I certainly own 2), was auctioned in 2016 for 11 million Swiss francs. It is Patek Philippe’s first perpetual chrono, produced between 1938 and 1953 not only in steel but also in pink gold (a few dozen) and yellow gold (280) – I own several of these made of the precious metal as well. As far as I am concerned, the 1518 represents Absolute Perfection. Everything about it is sublime, while the leaf hands and the enamel moon are truly hypnotic.
AND CONTEMPORARY PRODUCTION?
Are there any watches on the market that make my heart beat like the vintage ones do? This is one of the questions I often hear, and my answer is, unfortunately: no, none. Of course, I like some models, even a lot – thinking about the first Nautilus produced in the seventies. Just like nearly everything designed by the brilliant Gerald Genta, including the collection that bears his name, like the Gefica Safari which still remain affordable. Among the modern pieces, I especially like Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak Perpetual and the Rolex Daytona with gemstones. But, as mentioned above, the vintage pieces described in the article belong to another category!
By Sandro Fratini