On October 31, Birmingham-based specialist Fellows sold an Omega Speedmaster ref 2998-1 for £69,000. The bidder, using the internet, placed the final bid well above the £14,000 estimate after close to five minutes of competition. The price is Fellows’ highest for a watch in 2018.
The ref 2998-1, produced from 1959-62, was the first Speedy to come exclusively with the black bezel (previously they were steel). They are, like all early Speedmasters, extremely hard to find, especially in good ‘barn find’ condition with this watch admired for its chocolate brown dial and original ‘Base 1000’ tachymeter bezel – a feature often replaced over time.
The dial colour is simply a result of ageing but – as most Rolex and Omega ‘tropical’ dials were replaced under warranty or during servicing - the untouched original is the rarity.
Such a huge price would have been inconceivable a few years ago but other early Speedmaster variants have made even more in recent years as a once arcane collecting niche becomes more competitive.
Estimated at £15,000-20,000, a rare c.1967 ref 1665 Rolex Sea-Dweller Submariner sold for £92,000 at Stride & Son of Chichester, West Sussex, on October 11.
This particular variant of the Sea-Dweller – a watch first issued to deep sea explorers in the 1960s but later sold through Rolex retail stores – is known as the ‘Double Red’ on account of two lines of red writing on the dial.
It was produced for approximately 10 years but elements of the design (particularly the ‘patent pending’ case back) denote it as the first model. It had been bought by the vendor’s father in 1972.
As well as the original purchase receipt, the watch was sold with paperwork and service books (documenting the replacement of the strap), original tags and a 1970s photograph of the original owner wearing the watch.
Another version of the 1665 ‘Double Red’ sold for £29,000 (estimate £6000-9000) at McTear’s in Glasgow on November 6.
In well-worn condition (the bezel scratched and cracked in multiple places and the Tudor bracelet a replacement), it had been bought in 1975 by the vendor to use while working on a Norwegian oil rig. It sold to a buyer from southwest England.
The Submariner offered at John Nicholson’s in Haslemere, Surrey, on September 27 was a ref 6538, distinctive for its large 8mm crown with the word Brevet and no crown guard shoulders.
This watch has been christened the ‘large crown James Bond’ as ref 6538 Submariners were used in some of the early films including Dr No, Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice. For this reason, the watch commands more attention and more value in today’s collecting world: this one sold way above hopes at £40,000.
A Rolex GMT Master ref 1675 sold for £17,000 at Lockdales of Martlesham Heath, Ipswich, on October 10-11. This watch was available in a number of different bezel colour combinations, each with their own nickname.
This example in blue and red, with a serial number dating it to the 1970s, is known as the Pepsi. Other bezel combinations include the Batman (blue and black), the Coke (red and black) and the Rootbeer (orange and brown).