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Saturday, March 14, 2009

World Enough, and Time

An important cache of vintage Rolexes will be on the auction block this Sunday, March 22. Italian advertising executive Davide Blei started buying the watches in 1984, with an eye for models he felt were particularly special or beautiful. The man has good taste. His collection of 114 timepieces, briefly previewed in New York (and viewable online) is very fine, and includes such rarities as a 1951 pink gold Super-Oyster Stelline (Ref. 6062) and this 1940 pink gold Monoblocco Oyster chronograph (Ref. 3525). The sale, mounted by Patrizzi & Co. Auctioneers, promises to be unusual for at least two other reasons: There's a zero premium policy (meaning buyers won't be charged a commission), and, while the physical sale is taking place at the Grand Hotel et de Milan in Milan, Italy, collectors anywhere in the world will be able to bid simultaneously online.

This is also an important second chance for the newly-formed Patrizzi & Co. The firm just officially opened its New York offices this month, but the Blei/Rolex sale will take place against a dramatic backstory: more than a year ago, Osvaldo Patrizzi, former chairman of distinguished watch auctioneers, Antiquorum, split (acrimoniously) from that house and, several months later, announced the formation of his own company. Unfortunately, Patrizzi & Co.'s first sale, on November 18, 2008, in Geneva, was, according to The International Herald Tribune, "a fiasco." By most accounts, it was a perfect storm born of the global economy's downward spiral, made all the worse by technical glitches that crippled both the online sale and the real-life auctioneer. In the wake of this inauspicious debut, the Blei sale (originally scheduled for December 18, 2008), was delayed.

Despite his recent turmoil, however, Mr. Patrizzi was calm, cool and collected at the New York preview. He'd already gone on record about that first auction, telling Reuters
"We suffered because the world is not a happy place. The results were disappointing." However, he seems confident that this collection's integrity will inspire enthusiasm. Perhaps he also feels, or, at the very least, hopes (like so many of us do), that the worst is over. The time has come for good news.