Three vintage Patek Philippe watches sold for combined US$6.3 million at Christie’s Evening Sale

Though Christie's Timeless Marvels Watch Evening Sale did not achieve a white-glove sale as in the previous season, three Patek Philippe watches set new auction records for their own reference on 27 November. Together, they reached a combined total of HK$49.8 million (around US$6.3 million) dollars. 

Amongst 17 lots offered, 14 lots were sold – which achieved a sale rate of 82 per cent and a sale total of HK$77 million (around US$9.8 million) dollars.

The sale's most expensive lot was a vintage Patek Philippe watch with Reference 2419, which was sold at HK$23.05 million (around US$2.9 million) dollars. Alongside this lot, another two vintage Patek Philippe watches, once belonged to the prominent watch collector Henry Graves Jr. and his family, were both sold at HK$13.4 million (around US$1.7 million) dollars. They were the sale’s joint second most expensive lots.

Lot 2509 Patek Philippe Ref. 1436 18K Gold Split Seconds Chronograph Wristwatch with Breguet Numerals

Manufactured in 1946
Diameter: 33 mm

Estimate: HK$12,000,000 – 24,000,000

Hammer Price: HK$11,000,000

Sold: HK$13,450,000 (around US$1.7 million)

The auctioneer started the bidding at HK$8.5 million dollars. After four bids, the hammer was dropped at HK$11 million dollars. The winning bid was by Christie’s President of Asia-Pacific, Francis Belin, for his client with paddle number 8011.

Reference 1436 is Patek Philippe’s first mass-produced split-second chronograph series watch. 140 pieces of Reference 1436 were made in the approximately 33 years of production from 1938 to 1971.

The mechanical structure of the split-second chronograph is complex. It is recognised as one of the three most challenging complications in the watchmaking process. It uses two seconds hand to calculate the time for two or more targets at the same time. For example, two cars racing, and has a 30-minute counter for single events of longer than one minute in duration.

Another highlight of this watch is that it is equipped with rarely applied gold Breguet numerals. Most watches of Reference 1436 are equipped with either baton or combined baton with Arabic numerals. Around a dozen Reference 1436 are equipped with Breguet numerals.

This watch is equipped with a Breguet numerals, a rare feature of this model

The chronograph's second hand can be controlled by the split-second button

In addition to these features, the watch was also part of Henry Graves Jr.’s Collection.

He was an American banker, who was born in the 19th century. Graves can also be considered as the “patron” of Patek Philippe – a Swiss luxury watch brand. From 1922 to 1951, he commissioned Patek Philippe to produce more than 30 watches. To meet his requirements, Patek Philippe hired the best senior watchmaking craftsmen, astronomers and mathematicians of the early 20th century. With his support, the Swiss company survived the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

One of Graves’ finest pieces in his collection was the Graves Supercomplication.

Graves outbid fellow watch collector, James Ward Packard, an American car tycoon from Ohio, to make a watch with the most complicated functions in the world. It cost CHF60,000 (US$15,000 dollars) – nearly five times more than the sum offered by his rival – and took eight years to design and manufacture.

This pocket watch has 24 functions – including a celestial chart that displayed the stars in the Milky Way above his Manhattan home at 834 Fifth Avenue.

Henry Graves Jr. 

Graves’ Supercomplication pocket watch was sold at CHF23.2 million (around US$25.1 million dollars) in 2014

In 2014, this pocket watch was sold at CHF23.2 million (US$25.1 million dollars). It was the then most expensive watch in the world, which emphasises the Graves’ status in the watch industry.

Graves died at the age of 85 in 1953. His watch collection was left to his daughter and passed on to his grandson, Reginald H. Fullerton Jr. After Fullerton’s passing in 2012, his watch collection was released on the market for the first time.

This watch was sold at Sotheby's New York for US$660,000 dollars. Nearly 10 years later, this watch appeared at auction again, and was sold at HK$13.4 million (around US$1.7 million dollars) – its value rising by more than US$1 million dollars.

Lot 2510 Patek Philippe Ref. 2497 18K Gold Perpetual Calendar Wristwatch with Sweep Centre Seconds and Moon Phases

Manufactured in 1951
Diameter: 37.8 mm

Estimate: HK$13,200,000 – 23,500,000

Hammer Price: 11,000,000

Sold: HK$13,450,000 (around US$1.7 million)

The bidding started at HK$8 million dollars. After five bids, the hammer was dropped at HK$11 million dollars. In the end, it was sold at HK$13.4 million (around US$1.7 million) dollars with buyer’s premium. The winning bid was by Head of Asia-Pacific Watches Department, Alexandre Bigler, for his client with paddle number 8016.

Fullerton inherited his grandfather's watch collection, as well as his taste in collecting. Produced in 1951, this watch was the first model of Reference 2497. It was exhibited at the Basel Watch Fair in 1953, which showcased this new model’s new design; as well as the movement calibre 27 SC Q with perpetual calendar and central seconds functions. It was later purchased by Fullerton in a Patek Philippe brand store in Geneva in 1960. 

Like the aforementioned watch, this was released on the market for the first time after Fullerton’s passing in 2012. It was sold at US$720,000 dollars – its value has risen by around US$1 million dollars.

Lot 2508 Patek Philippe Ref. 2419 18K Gold Minute Repeating Wristwatch, Black enamel applied to the hands and hour markers, repeater trigger & subsidiary seconds, sold by Cartier

Manufactured in 1946  
Diameter: 34 mm

Estimate: HK$12,000,000 – 24,000,000

Hammer Price: HK$19,000,000

Sold: HK$23,050,000 (around US$2.9 million)

The bidding started at HK$9 million dollars. After more than 15 more bids, the hammer was dropped at HK$19 million dollars. In the end, it was sold at HK$23.05 million (around US$2.9 million) dollars with buyer’s premium.

This watch is believed to be the sole surviving watch with Reference 2419. But research shows that at least two watches with this reference were sold to the Henry Stern Watch Agency (Patek Philippe’s agent in the United States). One is with a calibre 12 120, while this one has a minute repeater feature.

Henry Stern Watch Agency sold this watch to the first watch owner through the retail store of the well-known jewellery and watchmaking manufacturing company, Cartier. It has a serial number record and was authenticated by Cartier. Since then, the watch was owned by the watch owner's descendants until it was auctioned in 2011.

This watch was auctioned twice in 2011 and 2016. In 2016, this watch was sold for HK$9.8 million (around US$1.2 million) dollars at Phillips Hong Kong. This year, it was sold at HK$23.05 million (around US$2.9 million) dollars – its value increasing by more than double in five years.

Auction Summary:

Auction House: Christie’s Hong Kong

Sale: Timeless Marvels

Date: 27 November 2021

Number of lots: 17

Sold: 14

Unsold: 3

Sale Rate: 82.3%

Sale Total: HK$77,075,000 (around US$9.8 million)