One of three Patek Philippe Eurasia map watches becomes the most expensive timepiece sold across Hong Kong Spring Sales for US$8.38m

The Patek Phillipe World clock reference 2523J depicts in its dial a map of Eurasia. Quite symbolic once you consider that the watch appeared in Geneva before travelling to an American collection then a Southeast Asian one, before arriving in Hong Kong.

Here along with other fine timepieces it was sold as part of Christie’s Hong Kong Important Watches Featuring The Generations & Timeless Opulence Collections on the 26th of May, 2024.

It follows another Patek Phillipe of the same reference number which was sold last year by Christie’s Hong Kong for HK$66,625,000 (around US$8.5 million). Christie’s yet again brings a Patek Phillipe nature to the market with this specific one feature an enamel map depicting Eurasia being only one of three in the world.

When it went up for auction on the 26th of many at least six different collectors vied to purchase it. It eventually went for HK$65,475,000 (around US$8.38 million), making it the best-selling watch of the Hong Kong spring sales by no small margin.

Lot 2256 | Patek Phillipe | Reference 2523J | 18K gold two-crown world time wristwatch with 24-hour indication and cloisonné enamel dial depicting a map of Eurasia
Made in: 1953
Size: 35.5mm in diameter
Movement Number: 720'304
Case Number: 306'201
Estimate: HK$39,000,000 - 78,000,000
Hammer Price: HK$54,000,000
Sold Price: HK$65,475,000 (around US$8.38 million)

On the day of the auction, bidding for this watch opened at HK$28 million. The Christie’s staff manning the telephones put in successive bids for the timepiece on behalf of at least 6 different clients. After 13 bids Alexandre Bigler (Christie’s Senior Vice President and Head of Watches in Asia-Pacific) won the lot for his client with the paddle number “8108” for HK$54,000,000 (hammer price).

Crafted in 1953, the watch came into existence during Patek Philippe's “golden age” of the brand’s wristwatches in the 1950s. The highly sought-after Patek Phillipe reference 2499 also came from this era one of which was sold by Sotheby’s Hong Kong in 2022 for HK$60,265,000 (around US$7.71 million).

From a cursory glance alone, this watch is a work of art with its enamel dial sitting in the middle. The enamel was made by Marguerite Koch, one of the most important and renowned enamel artists of all time. This enamel piece of Eurasia is only one of three all of which are paired with gold cases.

A look at the enamel dial featuring Eurasia and crafted by master enamel artist Marguerite Koch

A close-up of the specially designed “world time” system.

However, the enamel design is only one part of what makes this watch so special, as the exquisite part of the watch is its “world time” system. On the surface, it may seem like a normal watch just with the names of 41 cities lining it. However, with the proper calibration, it can tell the time of all the regions listed around the centre.

To do so it uses a 24-hour clock instead of a 12-hour one. This idea to create a 24-hour clock for a watch came from Swiss watchmaking legend Louis Cottier (1884-1996). In the early 1930s, he managed to successfully miniaturize the 24-hour clock, patenting the process. Patek Philippe recognized the value of such a system and commissioned Cottier to develop for them a “world time” series of watches.

To operate the 24-hour watch it is specially designed with two crowns on opposing ends of the case. Using the crown at 3 o’clock the local mean time is set by the wearer. Then use the crown at 9 o’clock to set the global position until it is shown at the 12 o’clock position.

Once this surprisingly straightforward system is calibrated correctly the wearer can tell the time across all the represented time zones. As a further showcase of cleaver design the two-tone ring around the center is used to showcase which regions are in daylight and which are at night.

A gold reference 2523 with a map of North America as its dial. This one, in particular, was sold by Christie’s Hong Kong in 2023 for HK$66.2 million (around US$8.47 million)

Sadly, however, the “world time” watch was poorly received by consumers at the time. It was probably considered too advanced and a bit ahead of its time for the public to accept en masse. However, seven decades later it appears that collectors and aficionados recognize the rare treasures that these “world time” timepieces are. 

Regarding rarity across the 2523 line of watches, only a total of 12 feature these enamel maps:

  • 6 watches with a map of North America (of which 3 are gold, 2 are pink gold, and 1 is in white gold)
  • 3 watches with a map of South America (of which 2 are gold, and 1 is pink gold)
  • 3 watches with a map of Eurasia (of which all 3 are in gold)

Of the three Eurasia-styled watches one is in the Patek Philippe collection in Geneva and the other is in a private collection. As such they are highly prized with one selling for approximately HK60.8 million (around US$7.7 million) by Phillips’ Geneva in 2021.

For their part, Christie’s sold two 2523 watches in 2019 and 2023. In 2019 a pink gold 2523 with a solid blue enamel dial signed by Milanese retailer Gobbi sold for HK$70.175 million (around US$8.97 million). It is the record holder for the highest-selling watch in Asia.

The pink gold solid blue enamel dial “world time” watch, is the record holder for the most expensive selling watch in Asia.

In 2023 Christie’s would sell a “world time” watch with a map of North America on its dial. It was a gold version, meaning that it was also only one of three. It ended up being sold for HK$66.62 million (around US$8.53 million).

As such this watch that sold for HK$65.475 million (around US$8.38 million) was just HK$4.7 million (around US$602,000) short of shattering the old record set in 2019 and becoming the most expensive watch sold on the continent it represents on its dial.


Lot 2226 | Patek Philippe | Reference 5016P-018 | Platinum minute repeater perpetual calendar watch with tourbillon, retrograde calendar, moon phase display, black dial and Breguet numerals
Made in: 2010
Size: 36.5mm in diameter
Movement Number: 1'905'207
Case Number: 4'488'833
Estimate: HK$3,200,000 - 6,400,000
Hammer Price: HK$5,500,000
Sold Price: HK$6,930,000 (around US$888,000)

Second place at the auction went to a Patek Philippe platinum minute repeater watch with a perpetual calendar. Its final sold price including commission exceeded the original estimate by a reasonable margin. 

The watch’s sleek and clean exterior, along with its distinctive Breguet numerals, conceals what is one of Patek Philippe’s most complicated wristwatches ever made. Produced in 1994 the reference 5016P-018 remained the Swiss watchmaker’s most complex watch until they released the reference 5002 in 2001.

One of the key identifiers of this watch’s complexity is the word tourbillon. This is a reference to the system developed by Abraham-Louis Breguet (1747-1823) which was made to nullify the effects of gravity on time-keeping devices. Within the watch lies a rotating balance wheel that rotates along with the watch to offset the effect of gravity averaging out any errors it may cause.

A feature exclusive to Patek Philippe tourbillon watches is the fact that while most watch brands proudly display the tourbillon through the dial with a Patek Philippe conceals their system. This is because they aim to protect the oils necessary to keep the system lubricated from being exposed to light which could degrade its ability to function.

The 5016-reference series of watches were made between 1994 and the end of 2010 with about 200 pieces produced, before being replaced by the 5216-reference series. Along with this platinum variant, there were also three different gold colours available along with silver of black dials to complement the case. To watch collectors who appreciate the fine details in engineering the 5016 reference is a must-have in their collection. 


Lot 2227 | Patek Philippe | Reference 5074P-011 | Platinum self-winding cathedral minute repeater perpetual calendar watch with moon phase, 24-hour and leap year display
Made in: 2013
Size: 42mm in diameter
Movement Number: 5'001'264
Case Number: 4'605'605
Estimate: HK$3,500,000 - 7,000,000
Hammer Price: HK$3,500,000
Sold Price: HK$4,410,000 (around US$565,000)

Another technological marvel of Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe is the Reference 5074P-011. Its design evokes iconic designs of past watches. The tri-balanced perpetual calendars harken back to the reference 1518, while its lugs are a clear call-back to the iconic reference 2499.

Most impressive of all are the watch’s internal systems which use the “Cathedral” repeating mechanism. The mechanism produces a high and low-tone gong based on where the hammer strikes on the watch. This watch’s strikes denoted every quarter hour and every hour depending on which emitted a different sound. 

To amplify the sound of the strikes the watchcase acts as a resonance chamber, enhancing the nose the gongs make. The gongs themselves are thin wires and what sets apart “Cathedral”-style watches is that unlike traditional repeater watches this system circles the movement of the watch twice increasing the length of sound.

Such a system is highly complex to craft. It not just requires to skill of a watchmaker, but also specific conditions to ensure that the sound being produced is perfect. On average it could take an experienced watchmaker 200 to 300 hours to make a repeater watch with this sound feature.

It is then rigorously tested in an echo-free chamber with the sound crosschecked with past models to ensure continuity to audio quality. Finally, the watch is handed off to the President of Patek Philippe, Thierry Stern, who by ear verifies and certifies the sound quality of the watch.

Thierry Stern, President of Patek Phillips

With such a complex production process there have been less than 100 samples of the 5074-reference watch ever produced. Between 2001 and 2005 only gold versions were made. In 2005 rose gold variants began production. The platinum version that was sold by Christie’s did not begin production until 2009.


Lot 2357 | Rolex | Reference 116595RBOW | 18K red gold set with diamonds and coloured gemstones self-winding chronograph with bracelet, previously owned by Eric Clapton
Made in: 2018
Size: 40mm in diameter
Case Number: P399Z863
Estimate: HK$2,000,000 - 5,000,000
Hammer Price: HK$2,600,000
Sold Price: HK$3,276,000 (around US$420,000)

The most expensive Rolex to appear at the auction was a Rolex Daytona Rainbow. This particular one was owned by legendary British Guitarist Eric Clapton and sold for HK$3.276 million (around US$420,000).

The watch belongs to Rolex’s Cosmograph Daytona, more commonly referred to as just Daytona, a family of watches. Easily the brand’s most recognizable group of watches, the Daytona has reached its third generation having begun production in 1963.

Being such a long-lasting family of watches, these watches have come in a variety of metal options and colours. However, easily one of the most dazzling is the rainbow, with its multicoloured gemstones lining the case.

This generation of rainbow Daytona watches was unveiled at the Basel Watch Fair in 2018. This variant utilizes a rose gold watch case, giving it a softer tone in comparison to the yellow gold and platinum versions before.

The case compliments the focal point of the watch, which is its gradient-coloured games lining the case and hour markers. The gems selected undergo an intense selection process with both experts and laboratory-grade machines sorting and ensuring that the shades of the gems are correct. This focus on detail and colour is what enables this dazzling rainbow display.

Guitarist Eric Clapton is a well-known watch collector with him owning an array of Rolexes and Patek Philippes.

However, what makes this watch really special is its prior ownership by guitarist Eric Clapton. Clapton is known for such hits as “Tears in Heaven” and his cover of “I Shot the Sheriff,” having received 18 Grammy Awards for his work. Additionally, he is an avid collector of various expensive items including guitars, sports cars, and watches.

This isn’t the first time Clapton’s watches have been in the limelight either, as in 2012 Christie’s Geneva sold for CH₣3.443 million (around US$3.77 million) the musician’s Patek Philippe reference 2499, an exceptionally rare and prized piece among collectors.

Other Highlighted Lots


Lot 2303 | Patek Philippe | Reference 3974J | 18k gold automatic minute repeating perpetual calendar wristwatch with moon phases, 24 hour, leap year and day/night indication, case made by Jean-Pierre Hagmann, made to celebrate the brand's 150th anniversary
Made in: 1990
Size: 36 mm in Diameter
Movement number: 1'906'020
Case number: 2'867'117
Estimate: HK$3,000,000 - 6,000,000
Hammer price: HK$4,200,000
Sold: HK$5,292,000 (around US$677,000)


Lot 2305 | Patek Philippe | Reference 5014P | 18k pink gold automatic semi-skeletonised minute repeating perpetual calendar wristwatch with retrograde date, moon phases and leap year indication
Made in: 2010
Size: 43 mm in Diameter
Movement number: 5'000'119
Case number: 4'488'744
Estimate: HK$3,200,000 - 6,500,000
Hammer price: HK$3,300,000
Sold: HK$4,158,000 (around US$532,000)


Lot 2335 | Harry Winston & F.P. Journe | Model: Opus One | platinum tourbillon watch with constant force device and power reserve
Size: 43 mm in Diameter
Case number: 4527
Estimate: HK$2,000,000 – 4,000,000
Hammer price: HK$2,800,000
Sold: HK$3,528,000 (around US$452,000)


Lot 2321 | Cartier | Model: Crash | platinum asymmetric watch with burgundy Roman numerals
Size: 24 (width) x 38 (length) mm
Case number: A 109'836
Estimate: HK$1,200,000 – 2,400,000
Hammer price: HK$2,300,000
Sold: HK$2,898,000 (around US$371,000)

Lot 2225 | Patek Philippe | Reference 5275P-001 | platinum limited edition hour striking wristwatch with jumping hour, minute and second, made for the brand’s 175th anniversary
Made in: 2015
Size: 40 (width) x 47.5 (length) mm
Movement number: 5'252'333
Case number: 6'061'417
Estimate: HK$2,400,000 - 4,800,000
Hammer price: HK$2,300,000
Sold: HK$2,898,000 (around US$371,000)


Lot 2220 | Patek Philippe | Reference 5004R-014 | 18k pink gold perpetual calendar split seconds chronograph wristwatch with moon phases, 24 hour and leap year indication, single sealed
Made in: 2007
Size: 36.5 mm in Diameter
Movement number: 3'275'142
Case number: 4’438’217
Estimate: HK$1,400,000 - 2,800,000
Hammer price: HK$2,200,000
Sold: HK$2,772,000 (around US$355,000)


Lot 2341 | Greubel Forsey | 18k pink gold and titanium limited edition 25° inclined tourbillon world time semi-skeletonised wristwatch with rotating globe, 24 hour, dual time and power reserve
Made in: 2021
Size: 45 mm in Diameter
Case number: 05 106
Estimate: HK$2,200,000 - 4,000,000
Hammer price: HK$2,000,000
Sold: HK$2,520,000 (around US$323,000)

Auction Details

Auction House: Christie’s Hong Kong
Sale: Important Watches Featuring The Generations & Timeless Opulence Collections
Auction Date: 26 May 2024
Sale Total: HK$206,291,340 (around US$26.4 million)