Chronology : 1927 1933 1939 1953 2010 to now
1895-1928 The Sound of Minutes
2019 SOLD for CHF 4.6M including premium
Along three decades from 1922, Henry Graves Jr 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 example 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 by Sotheby's for $ 3M on June 14, 2012 over a lower estimate of $ 600K. It is estimated CHF 3M for sale by Christie's in Geneva on November 11, lot 154.
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
1927 Patek Philippe 130 in Stainless Steel
2015 SOLD for CHF 4.6M including premium by Phillips
1933 Supercomplication for the Use of New York
2014 SOLD for CHF 23.2M including premium
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 for $ 11M including premium by Sotheby's on December 2, 1999. It is for sale by Sotheby's in Geneva on November 11, lot 345.
I invite you to play the video shared by Sotheby's.
1939 Platinum Patek Philippe 1415 HU World Time
2002 SOLD for CHF 6.6M (worth at that time US $ 4M) including premium by Antiquorum
narrated in 2020 before the sale of another watch by Phillips (see below)
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.
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 96 HU has long been considered as a unique piece. It was sold for CHF 410K including premium by Christie's on November 14, 2011. The second watch surfaced in 2011. Unrestored, it was sold as is by Sotheby's on December 6, 2011 for $ 480K including premium and for CHF 390K including premium by Phillips on June 27, 2020.
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. A 1415 HU was sold by Antiquorum on April 13, 2002 for CHF 6.6M including premium, worth $ 4M on that date. It is the only known example in platinum for that reference.
1943 Steel against the Wear of Time
2016 SOLD for CHF 11M including premium
The Reference 1518 is in production from 1941 to 1954. In the following of some pre-war prototypes, it is the first commercial model to offer altogether these two appealing complications which are the chronograph and the perpetual calendar, in addition to the moon phases.
It is ahead of its time and patrons do not rush. 281 watches are built in this reference which is an average of 20 per year. Most are in yellow gold. 34 of them are in pink gold : one of them previously discussed in this column was sold for $ 795K including premium by Antiquorum on April 10, 2013 ; another one, made in 1948, is for sale in Geneva by Phillips on November 13, lot 196.
The 1518 in stainless steel are extremely rare : only four are known. This is not really surprising : we must indeed recognize some contradiction between the need for a perpetual calendar and the fear of wear.
The first two 1518 in stainless steel were manufactured in 1943 and sold together to a same customer in February of the next year. One of them remaining in an immaculate condition had probably been intended by him as a spare. It is for sale by Phillips in Geneva on November 12, lot 38. The press release of September 22 is announcing an estimate in excess of CHF 3M.
RESULTS INCLUDING PREMIUM :
Stainless steel : SOLD for CHF 11M
Pink gold : SOLD for CHF 1.47M
1943 Continuous Improvement at Patek Philippe
2010 SOLD 6.25 MCHF including premium
The model 2499, introduced in 1951, is a star of the sales of watches, and it would be tedious to report all its millionaire results. Before it, for ten years, the flagship of the luxury line was the 1518, which I have not yet discussed in this column.
This is neither the one nor the other but a 1527 that is estimated 1.5 MCHF by Christie's, for sale in Geneva on May 10. Fitted with chronograph, perpetual calendar and moon phases, this watch has the features of the best models of its time, 1943, but its barrel ("tonneau") shape made it a precursor to future refinements.
1527 was manufactured in two copies only. So it is a kind of prototype or custom order carefully kept in mind by the designers of the firm in Geneva waiting for better post war times.
It was unknown to the experts before the sudden appearance of the copy of Christie's on the market 20 years ago. The other copy, simpler (no chronograph), was a surprise six years ago when the son of a former owner of Patek Philippe gave it to the museum of the brand.
POST SALE COMMENT
I warned it more than once: 2010 is a great year to be attentive to exceptional lots. This unique Patek Philippe is an important link in the history of the brand, and in the history of wristwatches as a whole.
The price obtained is as fabulous as the piece: 6.25 MCHF including premium.
Christie's was able to convince the rather closed circle of the collectors of top watches. I say "closed circle", because I had not seen any newspaper article on this lot. The auction house is proud of the result: they posted on Twitter without waiting for completion of the sale (which is also not yet finished at the time of my comment).
The image of this watch is shared post sale by La Tribune de Genève.
1953-1957 Hours for the Use of Milan
2019 SOLD for HK$ 70M including premium
In 1953 the reference 2523 replaces the 1415 after a modification of the Cottier calibre enabling to change the reference setting of the time zone. The 2523 is a luxury watch, most often equipped with an enamelled dial. 26 units were produced. The most usual dial of this model is a cloisonné enamel showing the map of a continent. A North America was sold for CHF 2.8M including premium by Christie's on May 14, 2012.
The 2523 is in turn replaced in 1957 by its variant 2523-1 with a simplification of the lugs and a metal dial. The production of HU movements ceases in 1965. A pink gold 2523-1 was sold for HK $ 19.5M including premium by Phillips on May 31, 2016.
A pink gold 2523 in excellent condition without any sign of repair surfaced in 2010. It was sold for CHF 2.7M including premium by Christie's on November 15, 2010, lot 114. I discussed it in this column before that sale. The dial and movement were made in 1953 and the case in 1954.
The centre of its dial is not in cloisonné but is monochrome in a beautifully translucent ocean blue enamel. The watch was sold to Gobbi in Milan in 1957. It is the only 2523 to have on its dial a double signature of Patek Philippe and a retailer, a feature that is today eagerly sought after by watch collectors. It is estimated HK $ 55M for sale by Christie's in Hong Kong on November 23, lot 2201. Please watch the video prepared by the auction house.
1966 Time around the World
2020 SOLD for CHF 5M including premium
Patek Philippe uses the Cottier application from 1937. The 2523HU is released in 1953. Its dual crown design enables to easily change the time reference when traveling. Here are two results including premium by Christie's for this reference : CHF 2.7M on November 15, 2010 and CHF 2.8M on May 14, 2012.
The 2523 is too expensive and some movements had been left unused at the factory. Its 2523/1 evolution launched in 1957 is an attempt to simplify the assembly by changing the design of the lugs.
Once more the customers do not follow and this variant also is extremely rare. A 2523/1 assembled in yellow gold in 1965 and sold by the brand in 1973 was sold by Christie's for CHF 1.12M including premium on May 16, 2016.
A 2523/1 in pink gold with guilloché dial assembled in 1966 with a 1954 movement was sold by the brand in 1973. Having resurfaced in time capsule condition, it was sold for HK$ 19.5M including premium by Phillips on May 31, 2016, lot 373. It is estimated CHF 2M for sale by Phillips in Geneva on November 6, 2020, lot 39.
1989 White Gold Patek Philippe Calibre 89
2004 SOLD for CHF 6.6M including premium by Antiquorum (worth US $ 5M at that time)
1989 The Yellow Gold Calibre 89
2009 SOLD 5.1 MCHF including premium
The reference 989 by Patek Philippe better known as Calibre 89 was for many years the most complicated watch in the world and is still now the most complicated ever made by that prestigious brand. It is now overcome by another pocket watch, the unique specimen of Vacheron Constantin reference 57260 released in 2015 for a private customer.
The working prototype of the Calibre 89 was completed in July 1988 and the yellow gold copy was released only nine month afterward, in April 1989.
The yellow gold Calibre 89 was immediately offered in Geneva in a themed auction devoted to 'The Art of Patek Philippe' : that brand new watch fetched the equivalent of US$ 3.2M at Habsburg Feldman on April 9, 1989 which was at that time a world auction record for a watch.
This unit was sold for CHF 5.1M including premium on November 14, 2009, by Antiquorum successor to Habsburg Feldman. It is now estimated in excess of CHF 6.5M for sale on May 14 by Sotheby's in Geneva, lot 171.
I introduced the utmost importance of the Calibre 89 in the history of horology before the 2009 sale, as follows :
The best wristwatches are highly sophisticated masterpieces of miniaturization. Pocket watches, not limited by the size of the wrist, can do even better in terms of convened complications.
In 1989, Patek Philippe celebrates its one hundred fiftieth anniversary with the model Calibre 89, which had required more nine years of design, manufacturing and assembly.
According to the brand, it is the "most complicated watch in the world": double open faced with a dial for solar time and a dial for sidereal time, 33 complications, 24 hands, 1728 components. All of this fits in a case of 89 mm in diameter and 41 mm thick and weighs 1100 grams.
The Calibre 89 was produced in only four copies, respectively in yellow gold, white gold, pink gold and platinum. On April 24, 2004, Antiquorum sold for CHF 6.6M including premium then worth $ 5M the white gold watch.
Please play the videos shared by Sotheby's : the shorter one is an appealing introduction of that lot. The other video is cleverly showing the indexes related to the complications.
2017 Titanium and Triple Complication
2017 SOLD for CHF 6.2M in charity sale without premium
Patek Philippe responds most often with a high-end model in a refractory metal unusual in its similar productions : titanium in 2007 and 2013, steel in 2011 and 2015. The Patek Philippe 5016A-010 sold by Phillips on November 7, 2015 fetched CHF 7.3M.
The titanium comes again in 2017 with the unique Patek Philippe 5208T-010, lot 12 estimated CHF 900K.
Released in 2011 with a platinum 5208P version, the 5208 is a triple complication watch : minute repeater, mono-pusher chronograph and perpetual calendar with apertures and phases of the moon taking into account the leap year. It is resistant to moisture and dust but not to water. Its removable back case can be replaced by a transparent back in sapphire crystal providing visibility onto the inside. It is assembled with more than 700 parts.
In the ever-improving range of the Patek Philippe complication watches, the 5208 is the first wristwatch whose triple complication includes a chronograph, unlike the 5207 released in 2008 with a tourbillon.
2019 Five Chimes on the Wrist
2019 SOLD for CHF 31M in charity sale without premium
The 5175 is 48 mm in diameter and 16 mm in height with 11 pushers and buttons. Its central mechanism activates in parallel the visual reading on two dials including the perpetual calendar, the chimes of hours, quarters, minutes and day, and the acoustic alarm preselected with an accuracy of a quarter of an hour. The running time of the mechanical winding is 72 hours in silent mode and 30 hours in grande sonnerie.
Two of these applications are unprecedented : the insertion of an alarm in a wristwatch, and the audible indication of the day in the month in two digits covering 1 to 31 by the tens and units. The watch also strikes on demand the current hour and minute. A security prevents the user from operating two mechanisms at the same time if they are not compatible.
The reference 6300G in gray gold launched in 2016 is similar to the 5175 except that the references to the celebration have been removed.
The Only Watch charity sale is held every second year since 2005 for the benefit of the research on the Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The 2019 auction is managed by Christie's in Geneva on November 9.
According to the rules applicable to this operation, each manufacturer offers a watch for which it guarantees that it is and will remain a one-off. On this year Patek Philippe supplies the unique copy of Grandmaster Chime in stainless steel, reference 6300A-010, lot 28 estimated CHF 2.5M. The steel improves the sound. It is inscribed "The Only One" on one of the dials.
The lot includes a one-day private tour of the workshops and museum for two people and a lunch with Thierry Stern, president of Patek Philippe.