History of the Rolex Daytona - Fortuna Fine Jewelry & Watch Auction

History of The Rolex Daytona

The Rolex Daytona is an iconic success story that began as a tool of ambition. First introduced with the “Daytona” signature in 1965, the watch proclaimed Rolex’s sponsorship of the celebrated sports car race in Daytona Beach, Florida. For the Daytona specifically, Rolex had introduced a couple of major stylistic changes from its earlier chronographs, drastically improving the utility of the watch with a race car driver’s needs in mind. First, the inverse colors of the main dial and registers provided the watch with a sportier look and clear contrast to read elapsed times in each sub-dial. Second, the tachymeter scale was removed from the dial and engraved onto the bezel, allowing for greater legibility.

 

Daytona Beach

The historic Daytona race was born at the turn of the 20th century, at Daytona Beach (shown above). Only in 1959, did the race relocate to the world-famous Daytona International Speedway.

 

Yet despite its durability, aesthetics, and reliable movement, the Daytona was not hugely in demand when produced. In fact, many sat at retailers before they were sold, and often at steep discounts. At the time, Rolex was competing with a host of other watch brands that had already been well-known for creating chronographs. Furthermore, the Daytona remained a manually-wound timepiece until 1987, during the height of the world-wide craze for quartz movements.

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Jewelry of Tony Duquette - Momento Mori Brooch- Fortuna Fine Jewelry & Watch Auction

The Jewelry of Tony Duquette

Renowned for his unabashed love of ornament and theatricality, Tony Duquette’s inimitable design is one of the highlights of Fortuna’s September sale. A well-known painter, sculptor and jeweler, he was renowned for his over-the-top style in interiors, jewelry, costumes, and set design.

 

With the creation of pieces that are filled with such awe-inducing whimsy and wonder, it is no surprise that this American style icon started his career in costume and set design for theater. As a young man, Tony Duquette was awarded scholarships to the renowned Chouinard Institute in Los Angeles and the Yale School of Theater. Growing to become one of the most recognized LA designers of the time, it was through the patronage of Sir Charles and Lady Mendl, the then international arbiters of taste, that Duquette was able to establish himself as a designer for the film industry. He created both costumes and sets for theater, opera and ballet, as well as many Metro Goldwyn Mayer films.

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Ilias Lalaounis Gold Ruby Bull Brooch- Fortuna Auction NYC

Ilias Lalaounis

Taking inspiration from Grecian, Byzantine and a variety of other ancient jewelry styles to create contemporary pieces, the Athenian goldsmith Ilias Lalaounis has gifted the world with an appreciation for the venerable art of adornment.

Lalaounis started working as an apprentice in his family’s jewelry company in 1940. In 1969, he decided to separate from the family business to start his own production. Focusing mainly on the fabrication of chains, Lalaounis would later introduce ancient Greek revival pieces to incredible success. The jewelry house achieves the international recognition that it was striving for when in the 1960’s, Aristotle Onassis started purchasing pieces for Maria Callas, as well as his later wife, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.

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Robert and Louis Koch Egyptian Revival Necklace-Fortuna Auction NYC

Robert and Louis Koch

Recognized by their supremely sophisticated style, Robert and Louis Koch are two of the most celebrated German jewelers of their time. With their meticulous craftsmanship and keen eye for design, the jewelry house quickly received international recognition, becoming a favorite amongst European royalty, even being awarded in 1883 the title of “Jeweler of the Court.”

 

Shown in the above portrait, is one of many Koch tiaras commissioned by European royalty—a glittering diamond kokoshnik, created by the firm in 1905 for Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Crown Princess of Germany.

Originally founded in 1879, Koch opened their first store in Frankfurt to nearly immediate success. The Koch brothers’ production of regal tiaras, crowns, diadems and bandeaux, which supplied the German imperial family as well as aristocrats and millionaires alike, solidified their presence in the local market, while their acute business sense led to their successful expansion to further international clientele. The strategic placement of a store in the fashionable spa resort of Baden Baden and Louis’s impeccable taste and salesmanship drew the attention of even more European royalty; and soon, the King of Italy, the Russian Tsar and the Prince of Wales were all looking to adorn their courts with the brothers’ creations.

 

In 1902, Robert Koch passed away, leaving Louis to take charge of the company. Louis managed to successfully lead the firm for nearly half a century, through the difficult post-World War I years and widespread economic recession. Even after his subsequent death, the firm continued to be prosperous in the hands of his grandsons and nephews. During the oppressive Nazi regime, the company was “Aryanized,” and taken over by Robert Bosch and the family eventually lost control of the firm. Although the popularity of the company was briefly revived in the 1950s, Koch jewelry from the late 19th and early 20th century continue to be considered the golden period of the Koch House, are very much sought after in today’s antique jewelry market.

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Belperron Blue Cambodian Chalcedony Cuff

Suzanne Belperron

With her unapologetically bold style and sensually carved designs, Suzanne Belperron would distinguish herself among the first female master jewelers of the early 20th century, and as a designer whose aesthetic was so unique, it would serve as her signature.

 

Belperron’s creative genius quickly drew the attention of esteemed clientele including: the Duchess of Windsor, Josephine Baker, Diana Vreeland, and countless more high-profile figures; yet, she never sought public recognition. When asked why she never signed her pieces, as was customary of all haute joaillerie maisons, Belperron famously said, “my style is my signature.”

Writing in the San Francisco Sunday Chronicle in 1961, journalist Cécile Sandoz, expressed that the creations of Belperron possessed an instantly recognizable “abstract fluidity of form, a Pharaonic or Aztec sheen that gives a centuries-old patina and a highly personal technique of setting precious gems in larger semiprecious stones.”

 

“My style is my signature.” – Suzanne Belperron

 

From humble beginning, Suzanne Vuillerme Belperron grew up in a small town in eastern France. In 1916, she enrolled at the Écoles Municipales de Musique et des Beaux-Arts, located in Besançon, a city that would be known as the birthplace of France’s watch industry. It was here that she began her formal study of jewelry design. Knowing that versatility would give her the competitive advantage she sought, Belperron immersed herself and excelled in a variety of studies. Her early productions revealed an intuition of style and form, as well as a wealth of talent.

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