Rare 66-Year-Old Patek Philippe Wristwatch Could Fetch HK$55m at Christie’s Hong Kong

When you are asked about the current local time in different regions around the world, the easiest way to find out the answer is to check the world time via the internet or mobile apps. But what would people do back in the time before the Internet was invented? The desire to show the relative time of each world location in a wristwatch led to the creation of this beautiful timepiece — a 1953 Patek Philippe two-crown world time wristwatch — which is set to fetch HK$55m-110m (US$7m-14m) at Christie’s Hong Kong on 23 November.

Patek Philippe Ref.2523 18k Pink Gold Two-Crown World Time Wristwatch

This 66-year-old watch is one of the only seven Ref. 2523 dual-crown world time wristwatches believed to have been issued in pink gold. Not only is the blue enamel dial centre Extract confirmed, but only one other single-signed example is known to exist. Furthermore, it is the only known reference 2523 to be double signed with both Patek Philippe’s signature and that of the prestigious Milan retailer Gobbi.

The Ref. 2523 was first made in 1953, during a decade described by the auction house’s specialist as ‘the Golden Age of design, craftsmanship, and technological advancement’. The complexity of the watch is also shown in its revolutionary world time system - or “Heures Universelles” designed and patented in the early 1930s by legendary watchmaker Louis Cottier (1884-1966).

It is signed with the signature of both Patek Philippe and Gobbi

It is signed with the signature of both Patek Philippe and Gobbi

The idea for a world time watch dates back to the 19th century, when Sir Sandford Fleming — the man who had persuaded the world to accept a standardised system of 24 time zones at the International Meridian Conference in Washington, D.C, in 1884 — commissioned the ‘Cosmic Time’ pocket watch.

But it wasn’t until the early 1930s that the legendary watchmaker Louis Cottier miniaturised a system for telling the time in every region of the planet, so that it could be accommodated in a wristwatch.

Louis Cottier

Silvered outer dial ring with engraved enamelled 40 cities around the World

Patek Philippe immediately saw its potential and commissioned Cottier with the development and production of a series of "World Time" watches. Silvered outer dial ring on the dial has engraved enamelled 40 cities around the World according to the time zone. The two-tone 24-hour ring indicates world locations that are in night time by the grey section and daytime by the silvered section.

To calibrate the world time mechanism, one must first set the local or mean time by the crown at 3 o'clock (the 24 hour ring will revolve in the opposite direction of the hands). Then the outer ring is adjusted by turning the crown at 9 o'clock until one's current global location is indicated at the 12 o'clock position. Once this is calibrated, the relative time of each world location is set.

Patek Philippe’s reference 2523 in pink gold

It is thought that in total only 26 watches were cased with ref. 2523, 18 in yellow gold, 7 in pink gold, 1 white gold. The present one is only the fifth pink gold reference 2523 ever to be offered at auction.

Least known are those versions that have been fitted with a polychrome translucent blue enamel disc, with only four of these having come to market in the past 30 years.

Gobbi is Patek Philippe’s distinguished retailer in Milan

The watch was sold in April 1957 by Gobbi, a business that has been run by six generations of the same family since it was established in 1842. It is preserved in original condition with no signs of restoration or cosmetic enhancement.

World expensive wristwatch is currently held by the Rolex “Paul Newman” Daytona that formerly owned by Paul Newman

Once the present watch reaches its low estimate of HK$55m, it will immediately stand at No.5 in the list of the world’s most expensive timepieces. The auction record for the word’s most expensive watch was set by the Rolex “Paul Newman” Daytona that formerly owned by Paul Newman, which was sold for US$17.8m in New York.

Patek Philippe Ref.2523 18k Pink Gold Two-Crown World Time Wristwatch

Lot no.: 2201
Manufactured in: 1953
Estimate: HK$55,000,000 - 110,000,000

Auction details

Auction house: Christie’s Hong Kong
Sale: The Masterpiece Auction
Venue: Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre
Sale date: 23 November 2019 | 5:30pm