Prototype Roger W Smith Series 2 Open Dial
This is a prototype, depending on how you define it. At the very least, it is the first ever Series 2 Open Dial in white gold and one of 5 examples with a mark 1 movement. The mark 1’s escapement is the first evolution of Smith’s co-axial, the first step it had made since Daniel’s work. Twelve Open Dial Series 2 have ever been produced, and there is much variance between examples.
Rather interestingly, this the only time I can remember where there are two Series 2 Open on the market. One is early production, one is very early production (this). And the side-by-side comparison yields many more distinct differences than you might expect. Dial side, or lack thereof, the minute chapter ring is diminutive, substantially thinner and remarkably with no ‘R.W. Smith’ signature on it. Instead, the manufacture and number are engraved on the main plate upper. The back of the watch reveals a 3/4 plate with considerably intricate finishing. Some examples are entirely frosted, this combination of frosting and ample freehand engraving is the way to go. Of course, both are sporting wide bevels in perfect mirror. All iterations of the Open Dial are beautiful, but they are markedly different, this one more than most. As the first in white gold, this simply is an important watch.
The premium for such a distinction is 200K in USD. The most recent Phillips sale landed at 840K. ACM’s example is listed at 915K. This, the first, is 1.15M. Does any of this make sense? For context, consider the FP Journe Octa Réserve de Marche prototype, 38mm brass movement, which sold in 2019 at Phillips. That was 250K. Platinum to platinum comparison, following production models sell regularly around 130K. Give or take 10K, that’s double. If you look at the 200K as a premium for an early production it is crazy. But on a percentage basis, it’s actually rather small for something that could be considered a first of the breed.
More telling than either example or pricing, though, is the fact that two of the twelve are currently on market. The immense heat placed on independents in the last five years has been switched from a rolling boil to a simmer. Values aren’t cratering. They’re just not expanding into the stratosphere as prior years, where each year it seemed like 30% was just being added to each independent listed and then they’d sell regardless. We’re in new territory, where fair and accurate values are being tested. But the upside is buying opportunity. Any Smith was gone in an hour of listing the past four years. Now, you have a chance to contemplate which you’d like and what value is justified. Which is more normal? That’s yet to be determined.
This example is in excellent overall condition, light surface wear only just visible. It comes from a new startup watch platform, Wristcheck, aimed at maximum transparency watch dealing out of Hong Kong. This is their standout offering and it’s not difficult to see why. It comes with its original documents and box.