The ongoing Watches Online: The Dubai Edit, the prestigious bi-annual auction held by Christie’s Middle East (5-19 October 2023), will witness a wide diversity of timepieces going under the hammer. These include unique “Arabic dial” watches, vintage Rolex Day-Dates commissioned by the late Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al Said, the former ruler of Oman, and more contemporary models like the distinct Harry Winston Opus 7 with a gem-set bezel. A stunning Patek Phillipe Ref. 5077 (one of only 20 ever made) with a unique enamel dial, bearing a miniature painting, will be in the spotlight as well. And, the headliner, a Patek Philippe bespoke creation with a 13.43 ct lasque diamond, estimated to fetch a staggering price of US$1,000,000-2,000,000, is all set to witness a serious bidding war.
In the world of watch collecting, “Arabic dial” watches hold greater value than regular production models. The late Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al Said (the ruler of Oman from 1970 to 2020)—a man known for his exquisite taste in horology—owned several such timepieces and offered them as presents as well. Such gifts could range from a Rolex to a Patek Philippe and beyond, the choice dependent on the level and importance of the occasion. Two such “Arabic dial” watches that will be on offer at the auction include a rare Rolex Day-Date Ref. 1803/8 (date of manufacture: circa 1974) in yellow gold; its blue dial bears the signature of the Sultan in red print. The estimated price of the timepiece is US$35,000-55,000. The other model, also estimated to sell in the similar price range, is a Rolex Day-Date Ref. 1803 in yellow gold, with a blue dial and red ‘Khanjar’ logo (the national emblem of the Sultanate of Oman). Two other yellow gold Rolex Day-Dates (Lots 26 and 22) that date back to 1974 will be available as well; these have casebacks engraved with K.R., the initials of Khimji Ramdas, the Rolex retailer in Oman.
The Patek Philippe Ref. 5077P-091 in platinum, estimated to fetch US$150,000-250,000, flaunts a dial inspired by the works of Orientalist painters, such as Georges Washington, Henri Émilien Rousseau, and Eugène Fromentin. The rich, elaborate miniature painting on the dial portrays two Arab horsemen about to go hunting with a falcon, representing the art of falconry that has been an integral part of the culture of the Arabian Peninsula for thousands of years.
The headliner of the auction is a unique Patek Philippe that has already been garnering generous attention. With the unique reference 3843/1, the bespoke creation in 18ct white gold dates back to 1991. The integrated bracelet merges with the case that is designed around a 13.43ct portrait-cut diamond that serves as the watch crystal. The transparent flat gem happens to be the third largest portrait-cut diamond known and was supplied by the original client to Patek Philippe at the time of commission. The diamond’s unique triangular shape instantly stands out, as does the bespoke dial by Stern Frères. Blue with a sunray finish, it features 18ct white gold baton cardinal indexes and dot hour markers that are asymmetrically positioned.
Speaking about the one-of-a-kind timepiece, Remy Julia, Head of Watches Christie’s Middle East, India and Africa, said, “It is extremely rare for Patek Philippe to make special orders, even for its most important clients. It follows that the appearance of a bespoke Patek Philippe at auction is an event, and for a bespoke Patek Philippe to be adorned with a portrait diamond, probably the third largest known, is a truly rare sight.”
GMT India will, of course, be keeping a close eye on what other stunning models show up at the auction.