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As time goes by: Watches for all budgets

John Weldon is selling some important timepieces including two diamond Rolex ladies watches and a coveted Patek Philippe Calatrava

Synonymous with opulence and quality, Rolex, one of the world’s leading watchmakers, produces an estimated million timepieces a year. But even with this output, there is still pent up demand and long waiting lists for some models. This is why many turn to the secondary market when searching for certain covetable designs.

John Weldon’s upcoming live online sale on November 22nd – his biggest of the year –has some timepieces by the Swiss based brand, whose revenues exceeded €13 billion in 2021.

Founded in 1905 by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis in London, Rolex received more than 500 patents since it moved to Geneva in 1919. Some of the old advertisements for “the wonder watch that defies the elements” – the Rolex Oyster – are today quite comical. When launched in 1927, targeting active women, they promised that the “Amphibious Oyster” was not just waterproof, it was also heat proof, cold proof, dustproof and perspiration proof, and could be worn in the bath “without injury”.

The term oyster is in reference to the watch being hermetically sealed, and swimmer Mercedes Gleitze – the first British woman to swim the channel – was sponsored to wear such a watch around her neck for one of her 10 hour swims in 1927. Though she was pulled semiconscious 11km (seven miles) short of her goal on one of her crossings, the watch – which she wore on a ribbon around her neck – kept perfect time for the duration. To celebrate, Rolex published a full-page advertisement in every issue of the British newspaper the Daily Mail for a whole month proclaiming the watch’s success.


Weldon is listing two 18ct gold (one white, one yellow) diamond-set Datejust ladies wrist watches, both estimated at €7,000-€9,000 and a gents two-tone Rolex Datejust from circa 1978 at €3,000-€5,000. A lady’s diamond set Breitling Colt Oceane chronometer (€1,800-€2,400) and an 18ct gold Patek Philippe Gondolo wrist watch (€5,000-€9,000), are also featured.

No doubt timepiece collectors will be keeping an eye on the classic Patek Philippe Calatrava 18ct gold, model 5017, which is boxed with papers. Estimated at €20,000-€30,000, the much sought after iconic Calatrava takes its name from the eponymous cross the company uses as its logo. Created in 1932, the watch’s design was rooted in the Bauhaus concept that less is more, where form follows function.

If you are lucky enough not to be bothered about timekeeping, but fancy something nice to adorn your wrist, the sale has some lovely bracelets.

A Cartier diamond line bracelet in 18ct gold, set with baguette and brilliant cut stones features (€4,000-€6,000), as does a diamond line bracelet, with 46 diamonds weighing over nine carats (€4,000-€8,000). Of this, Weldon says, “This is one of those pieces I would like to have in every auction as it would sell 10 times over”.

More affordable is a selection of Fope jewellery, especially an 18ct gold and diamond bangle, which may well exceed its estimate of €600-€900 as it’s a lovely piece.

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about property, fine arts, antiques and collectables