Patek Philippe before 1950
Except otherwise stated, all results include the premium.
See also : Patek Philippe Time pieces
Chronology : 1933
In the nineteenth century Patek Philippe had already filed many patents. However, a pocket watch recently discovered with its certificate and invoice changes the vision that historians could have on the development of the brand.
In October 1900, an American banker and benefactor of Princeton University named Stephen S. Palmer came to Geneva to buy three Patek Philippe watches, one of which is narrated below. It includes the best complications available at that time : minute repeater, months, days of the week, split-seconds chronograph, grande and petite sonnerie and phases of the moon.
The story of its design is not known. The Palmer monogram filling the entire back of this gold watch leaves no doubt that it meets the requirements of a special order similar to those, better documented but much later, by Packard or Graves.
This watch manufactured in 1898 is the earliest known watch in which Patek Philippe succeeded in bringing together so many complications in a single pocket watch. It was sold for $ 2.25M by Christie's on June 11, 2013. This watch is discussed by Aurel Bacs in a video shared by Meehna Goldsmith. Please read the article shared by Haute Time.
This masterpiece representing a technological breakthrough cannot be unique. Where are the other watches purchased by Palmer ? What are their features ? Are similar wonders still sleeping in the chests of the descendants of unidentified wealthy clients ?
1923 Split Second Chronograph wristwatch
2014 SOLD for $ 2.96M by Sotheby's
In the 1920s, their development teams managed to incorporate the complications in small and thin cases compatible with the use on the wrist, thus winning a major part in a promising market. Then the miniaturization of the combinations of complications generated the masterpieces of modern watchmaking.
Three prestigious complications received the greatest attention: repetition, perpetual calendar and split.
The chronographe à rattrapante (split seconds chronograph) includes two centered hands. One of them runs its rotation in sixty seconds. The other is stopped by the action of a pusher and joins the first hand when the measurement is achieved. This complication is very popular for the measurement of time intervals in sporting competitions.
In 1923, Patek Philippe manufactures and sells a single specimen of split seconds chronograph wristwatch assembled in an old 'montre d'officier' case. This piece that can be considered as a prototype had no immediate commercial following. For this reason, some of its other features are also unique such as its calibration to 60 minutes and the design of its dial.
This historic watch was sold for nearly CHF 3M by Antiquorum on November 14, 1999, equivalent at that time to $ 1.9 M, and for $ 2.96M by Sotheby's on June 10, 2014, lot 175.
1927 Henry Graves Jr Minute Repeating Wristwatch
2019 SOLD for CHF 4.6M by Christie's
The repeating of minutes is tested by Patek Philippe in the late nineteenth century. The Palmer specimen assembled in 1898, considered to be the very first grand complication Patek Philippe pocket watch, included this feature. The incorporation into a wristwatch is not studied before 1906. Before Packard and Graves, clients did not expect that technical feat.
Henry Graves Jr was the great instigator of the technological progress of Patek Philippe. Along three decades from 1922, he bought 39 special watches from Patek Philippe. In 1928 he came in person to Geneva to approve the drawing of the watch with 25 complications which will be delivered to him in 1933.
During this trip, Graves buys a wristwatch incorporating a movement from 1895, which today appears to be Patek Philippe's oldest prototype of minute repeater. Its 40 mm long tonneau-shaped case made in 1927 was specially adapted to incorporate this very early mechanism and to optimize the repeating sound. The engraving of Graves's coat of arms is added on the yellow gold case for that purchase.
This watch surfaced for the first time in 2012 in the deceased estate of Graves's grandson. It was sold for $ 3M by Sotheby's on June 14, 2012, lot 8, and for CHF 4.6M by Christie's on November 11, 2019, lot 154.
Graves owned three other minute repeating wristwatches. For one of them, also commissioned and assembled in 1927 and delivered in 1928, Patek Philippe managed to reduce down to 24 mm the size of the movement. This cushion shaped platinum wristwatch was sold for CHF 1.2M by Christie's on May 12, 2014, lot 101.
On 11 November, the Geneva Important Watches auction will be highlighted by Henry Graves Jr.’s unique yellow gold tonneau minute repeater of 1927, the first and earliest wristwatch in his outstanding collection of approximately 30 watches by Patek Philippe https://t.co/rLWkgoS7HB pic.twitter.com/OaD3PBOoSI— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) September 25, 2019
1928 A White Gold Chronograph
2011 SOLD for CHF 3.2M by Christie's
Made in 1928, sold in 1931, a watch has a feature perhaps unique in its class : it is made in 18k white gold, including the hands and the numerals applied on the silvered dial.
Elegance, precious materials, complications, ease of use : this piece offers all these qualities. It was sold for CHF 3.2M from a lower estimate of CHF 1.5 M by Christie's on May 16, 2011 .
These chronographs were of course available in other materials: pink gold, platinum, steel. On November 14, 2006, Sotheby's sold for CHF 920K a watch in 18k yellow gold with black numerals. Its production is simultaneous with the specimen for sale by Christie's: the serial numbers of the mechanisms differ by less than 200 units.
These watches are also contemporary of the beginning of the great economic depression. These difficulties increased the competition to luxury. It was believed that this market sector could survive the crisis better than the product lines for daily use. The same error applied with cars.
2014 SOLD for CHF 23.2M by Sotheby's
By 1900 the Palmer specimen was a pocket watch with minute repeater, months, days of the week, split-second chronograph, grande and petite sonnerie and the phases of the moon.
James Ward Packard, the car industrialist, was one of the most demanding customers of Patek Philippe. In 1916, he obtained a pocket watch with sixteen complications, and in 1927 he had a celestial chart added to nine other complications in a single watch.
When Packard died in 1928, the New York banker Henry Graves Jr. had already ordered the world's most complicated pocket watch, with 24 complications divided into two dials including the night time sky from New York City.
Completed in 1932, the Supercomplication is a unique piece for which Patek Philippe had mobilized their best specialists. The assembly of its 920 components in a case 74 mm in diameter and 36 mm thick is a technical feat that will remain unmatched until the era of computer-aided design.
The Supercomplication was delivered to Graves on 19 January 1933 for CHF 60K, nearly five times the price of the ultimate Packard watch. It was sold by Sotheby's for $ 11M on December 2, 1999 and for CHF 23.2M on November 11, 2014, lot 345. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
1937 Reference 130 in Stainless Steel
2015 SOLD for CHF 4.6M by Phillips
There is no steel watch in the 2499 and world time models.
On May 10, 2015, Phillips sold for CHF 4.6M from a lower estimate of CHF 1M a stainless steel Patek Philippe 130, lot 123. This model corresponds to the development of the single-button chronograph.
The model 130 was normally cased in yellow gold, excepted two steel units with adjacent movement numbers from 1927 which were delivered together in 1937 to the Patek Philippe agent in Buenos Aires.
They were reportedly assembled by special order for the use of two brothers who were medical doctors. Three unusual features are the large size of the case, 35 mm, 2 mm more than the normal case of that model, the spectacular matte silvered dial and the pulsation scale on the outer ring. The dial with two vertically positioned sub-dials is an aviator-type design from the late 1930s.
One of them is kept in the Patek Philippe Museum where it is nicknamed the Doctor's Wristwatch, leaving its sister watch as the only one in private ownership.
1937 Reference 96QL ex Puyi
2023 SOLD for HK$ 49M by Phillips
The variant 96QL, released in 1937, also displays the moon phases (Quantième Lune) and the calendar. Eight examples are known of such a combination of complications, five of them in platinum.
Puyi, the last emperor of the Qing dynasty, was designated in 1934 as the emperor of Manchukuo, a puppet vassal state of the Japanese empire. His reign name was Kangde.
A platinum 96QL made in 1937 with the triple date in French was acquired by Kangde. The date is in French. The dial is circled by a roulette.
After the Japanese surrender, Kangde abdicated and was held prisoner by the Soviets. Puyi's Chinese servant half scratched the surface of the dial to find out if it is made of platinum. It was in brass unlike the casing. The watch was given to his Russian translator by the former emperor before he was repatriated to China in 1950.
Treasured by the translator, the 96QL surfaced with a few other artifacts. It was sold for HK $ 49M from a lower estimate of HK $ 25M by Phillips on May 23, 2023, lot 3.
released in 1939 Reference 1415 HU
see details in page World Time
Patek Philippe, which had delivered their Supercomplication watch to Graves in 1933, are eager for any invention. Their first integration tests of the Heures Universelles (HU) are carried out in 1937 with the support of the inventor.
Patek Philippe began in 1937 to assemble World Time watches (Heures Universelles, HU) with the movement patented and supplied by Louis Cottier, without obtaining an exclusivity. A 24 hour disc rotates counter clockwise in synchronisation with the hands. A ring on the bezel refers to 28 locations, later extended to 42. The time everywhere around the world is read directly by the position of these inscriptions in front of the rotating disc.
These early units are experimental. They re-use old movements, perhaps chosen from their availability in the warehouse. The 96 HU is known in two units and the 515 HU in three units. Both 96 HU Calatrava and at least one of the rectangular 515 HU are assembled with cases in the same range of serial numbers. Both types refer to 28 cities.
The rotation of the city ring was not compatible with the 515 but Patek Philippe did not give up. The 542 HU, assembled in five units, is the last model of prototypes before the marketing begins in 1939 under the references 1416 HU and 1415 HU.
released in 1941 Reference 1518
detailed in page Perpetual calendar
The 1518 is ahead of its time and appeals the elite. 281 watches are built in this reference which is an average of 20 per year. The list of customers includes the kings of Egypt, Jordan and Romania and the boxing champion Sugar Ray Robinson, and also the all time top collector Henry Graves Jr.
1942 Reference 570 in Stainless Steel
2021 SOLD for CHF 3.3M by Phillips
A Patek Philippe reference 570 made in 1942 in stainless steel was sold by Phillips on May 9, 2021 for CHF 3.3M from a lower estimate of CHF 200K, lot 160. In stunning condition, it features a satin finished silvered dial and black enameled Breguet style numerals.
Such an exquisite two tone dial configuration is known in two examples only in period. Patek Philippe will re-use it with the reference 5196 in platinum.
Introduced in 1938, the reference 570, which is a larger version of the Calatrava 96, has a flat bezel and is famous for its modernist design.
1945 Reference 1436 in Stainless Steel
2015 SOLD for CHF 3.3M by Phillips
There is no known steel watch in the 2499 and world time models.
On November 7, 2015, Phillips sold a Patek Philippe 1436 made of stainless steel in 1945 for CHF 3.3M from a lower estimate of CHF 1.5M, lot 169. This split-chronograph model was a significant technological advance. Only one other steel example is surviving.
This watch, still in an as new condition, has probably never been used after leaving the factory. Its movement has clearly never been dismantled.
1948-1952 Observatory chronometer
2012 SOLD for CHF 3.8M by Christie's
A wristwatch for sale on November 12, 2012 by Christie's is resulting from these two trends which of course were in no way incompatible.
Its movement is a chronometer watch made in 1948 to participate in the competition of trials of the Astronomical Observatory of Geneva, in the category of diameters smaller than 30 mm compatible with wristwatch cases.
The technical difficulty of this achievement has led the manufacturer to use a Guillaume balance, so named from the Swiss inventor who won a Nobel Prize for his work on new alloys for the needs of precision instruments.
The collector came four years later, in 1952. In the following of the great pre-war customers like Packard and Graves, this Texan lawyer named Champion wanted an astronomical wristwatch in a luxury case.
Patek Philippe then agreed to provide him with the 1948 movement after assembling it in a case similar to the 2458 model but made in platinum. The dial indicates both the reference to the Observatory and the statement that this piece was made specially for JB Champion.
This exceptional and unique watch is accompanied with a replacement dial and a platinum bracelet. It was sold for CHF 3.8M from a lower estimate of CHF 2M, lot 88.
1949 Reference 1526 in Stainless Steel
2008 SOLD for CHF 4.1M by Christie's
The reference 130, launched commercially in 1934, is a single-push chronograph using the calibre 13. It is equipped with two subsidiary dials, one indicating the seconds up to the minute and the other the minutes up to the half hour. Produced from 1940, the reference 1491 is a watch without chronograph with a more elegant design than the already classic Calatrava.
In production from 1940 to ca 1952, the 1526 is a perpetual calendar wristwatch with phases of the moon, without chronograph.
The unique 1526 in stainless steel, made in 1949, was sold in 1951 to the millionaire sportsman Briggs Cunningham. It was sold for CHF 4.1M from a lower estimate of CHF 1.5M by Christie's on May 12, 2008, lot 87. The numerals and hands are covered with black lacquer. The case is larger than the gold version. Its condition is nearly immaculate.
The population of perpetual calendar wristwatches in stainless steel is limited to four 1518, one 1591 and the 1526 narrated here.