There is some serious auction action going down over the weekend, and we can certainly expect some record-breaking results coming out of Geneva. Yet, that won’t be the only place where bidding will be going on, with Kaplans offering just over 150 watches at the same time from its base in Stockholm, Sweden.
Interestingly, this auction house allows online pre-bidding, so I’ve done some digging and found three chronographs which have already blown past their estimates, even before the live auction officially starts. Alongside usual suspects from Omega and Heuer comes a rare Universal Genève, with a whooping 46mm case. Let’s dig in.
Universal Genève Compax Reference 22531
Let’s start with the biggest lot of the three – and I’m talking literal size here. This black dial Universal Genève is a massive 46mm in diameter! It gets even more impressive when you consider that it was produced in the 1940s, when 35mm would have been considered fairly large for a chronograph. The rare exceptions like this Compax were more often than not meant to be worn over a jacket, by racers and military men, which explains the black dial and fixed bars on this example.
The caseback does not bear any engravings (besides the serial and reference numbers), so it’s safe to assume that this was indeed a civilian watch, although I would love to meet the man who was buying such a watch in the 1940s. The sharp lugs and deep engravings show that this watch was likely never polished in its life. The handset shows some aging and the painted numerals have faded slightly, but this has to be expected in a watch of this age.
Live bidding before the auction has already sent this watch to more than 10x the initial estimates, nearing 340,000 SEK (approximately $38,270) at the time of publishing.
Omega Speedmaster Reference 2998-1
There’s no need to explain too much about this early Omega Speedmaster (Ben already did all the work for me in Reference Points, where the 2998 gets more than a mention), which is considered “even the archetype for what we know [the Speedmaster for] today.” Like all early Speedmasters, it does not have lyre lugs, and the case diameter is 38mm instead of the latter 42mm. A multitude of versions exist for the Speedmaster 2998 (eight to be precise), but the present 2998-1 might be the most coveted, and not only because it was the earliest.
The watch here exhibits all the defining traits of the 2998-1, just as you should expect. It introduces the alpha-shaped hands for the hours and minutes, instead of the previous broad arrow hands of the reference 2915. The small hands in the sub-registers are also alpha hands, which would later be replaced by straight hands in the reference 2998-4 (note that the lollipop of the chronograph seconds hand is extremely rare, and entirely correct here). The black bezel is original as it reads “Base 1000“, while it would change to “Tachymètre 500” in the reference 2998-3. The most distinctive feature that separates the 2998-1 from any other 2998 is the oval “O” in the Omega script, not present here as is possible with later 2998-1 (this example is from 1960, while the reference was launched in 1959). While all those can sound like minute details, they are really the key points that make or break the value of a 2998-1. Bonus point, the watch comes with an Extract from Omega Archives, which documents an initial delivery in Sweden, the very same country it is now offered 57 years later.
Pre-sale bidding for this Omega Speedmaster 2998-1 is already at 370,000 SEK (approximately $41,660), showing that it has definitely caught the attention of the collectors.
Heuer Carrera Reference 1153BN
While the manually-wound Autavia usually gets most of the Heuer attention at auction, it seems later automatic examples like this reference 1153BN are catching up, since several examples can be found in various catalogs this season. And there is indeed a lot to love about its 1970s looks, especially the contrast between the radiant blue dial and the orange indexes and chronograph hand. At 38.5mm, it wears extremely well, with short lugs and the winding crown on the left side.
This peculiar crown placement is a characteristic of the novel automatic chronograph caliber originally released in 1969 after a collaboration between Heuer, Breitling, Buren, and Dubois-Depraz. Combining automatic winding with a chronograph complication was a horological challenge that many brands tackled, only to finally achieve success in 1969 (remember, the Zenith El Primero was also released the same year). The movement in this Heuer reference 1153BN is a caliber 12, a small evolution over the original caliber 11. Its configuration of dial and hands is often qualified as the third execution, but it is truly the blue metallic shine of the dial that makes this watch look so stunning.
The estimate for this Heuer Carrera 1153 BN was set at 18,000 SEK (approximately $2,000) but pre-auction bidding is already at 31,500 SEK (approximately $3,550)
Be sure to check out the full catalog for Saturday’s sale, which commences in Stockholm at 1:00 PM local time (7:00 AM ET).