HK$70.2m Patek Philippe Ref 2523 Becomes Most Expensive Wristwatch Sold at Auction in Asia

We have just witnessed the birth of the most expensive wristwatch on the very first day of Christie’s Hong Kong’s Autumn Auctions 2019: a rare 66-Year-Old Patek Philippe pink gold Ref 2523 wristwatch has just been sold for HK$70.2m (US$8.9m), smashing last year’s record for most expensive wristwatch sold at auction in Asia. Its significance can be seen from Christie’s Hong Kong’s decision to differentiate it from the rest of the pack by offering it with its very own “The Masterpiece” sale.

This watch is indeed one-of-a-kind: dial with royal blue enamel centre, world time mechanism, dual-crown, signatures of both Patek Phillippe and Gobbi, etc. just to name a few qualities that make it such a rarity. Its estimate price of HK$55m-110m (US$7m-14m) is already the highest ever provided by the auction house for a wristwatch.


Patek Philippe Ref 2523 18k in Pink Gold 

The exceptional wristwatch was hammered down for HK$60m (US$7.7m)


The auctioneer initiated the bidding at HK$40m (US$5.1m) and it essentially turned into an one-on-one bidding duel between two telephone bidders represented by Francis Belin, President of Christie’s Asia, and Christie’s Geneva watch specialist Remi Guillemin. The bid reached HK$60m (US$7.7m) after seven rounds of bidding and the telephone bidder represented by Frances finally decided to throw in the towel, concluding the sale at HK$70.2m (US$8.9m) after premium.

The previous record holder for the top-priced wristwatch sold at auction in Asia was a Patek Philippe pink gold reference 2499 wristwatch, selling for HK$23.5m (US$3m) after premium at an autumn auction last year. The selling price this time far exceeded the previous record by HK$4.6m (US$6m).

On a side note, Christie’s just broke the auction record for the world’s most expensive wristwatch less than two weeks ago. The one and only Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime was sold at auction for a record-shattering CHF 31m in Geneva. This Grandmaster Chime was created specially for this charity auction Only Watch 2019. It stands out as the first and only version of this timepiece ever produced in stainless steel.

Francis Belin, President of Christie’s Asia, with his hand semi-raised

Christie's Geneva watch specialist Remi Guillemin on the telephone

Patek Philippe Ref 2499 pink gold sold for HK$23.5m (US$3m) at auction last year

The one and only Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime


The Patek Philippe Ref 2523 was first made in 1953, during a period described by watch lovers as ‘the Golden Age of design, craftsmanship, and technological advancement’. The World Time function or “Heures Universelles” allows the wearer to know the time in 40 different cities around the world - a reflection of its intricate craftmanship and technological complexity.

Patek Philippe's signature on the blue enamel dial

Gobbi's signature on the blue enamel dial


The concept for a world time watch goes back to the 19th century, when Sir Sandford Fleming — the gentleman who had convinced the globe to agree to a standardised system of 24 time zones at the International Meridian Conference in Washington, D.C, in 1884 — commissioned the ‘Cosmic Time’ pocket watch. 

To miniaturise a system for telling the time in every region on Earth that could be accommodated in a wristwatch, the world needed the remarkable talent of legendary watchmaker Louis Cottier. It wasn’t until the early 1930s when he came along and turned this concept into reality.

Louis Cottier

Patek Philippe calibre modified with Louis Cottier's revolutionary "World Time" system

The outer ring of the dial engraved with names of 40 cities around the world


Patek Philippe was one of the first companies to work with Louis Cottier and featured his innovation in their watches. The outer dial ring is engraved with the names of 40 cities around the world representing the different time zones while the 24 hours bezel indicates day as silver and night as dark grey.

The dual-crown design found on Ref 2523 is specifically made for the World Time system. In order to adjust the time, one must first set the local time by the crown at 3 o’clock. Next, turn the crown at 9 o’clock until one’s current location corresponds to the one shown at the 12 o’clock position. Once this is calibrated, the relative time of each global location is set.

The left and right crown sets local time and location respectively

Ref 2523 made in pink gold are extremely hard to come by


It is reported that only seven Ref 2523 dual-crown world time wristwatches in pink gold were ever issued, out of altogether twenty-six watches that were cased with Ref 2523. They are certainly a rare sight in auctions as well, with this being one of only five pink gold Ref 2523 ever to be offered.

There were only four ever Ref 2523 fitted with translucent blue enamel centres that have appeared on the market in the past thirty years. It is thought that there are currently just two Ref 2523 in pink gold with blue enamel centres in existence.


Gobbi is Patek Philippe’s distinguished retailer in Milan

Last but not least, what makes this watch truly unique is the fact that it is the only one to be double-signed by both Patek Philippe and by Gobbi. 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.

Patek Philippe Ref 2523 18k Pink Gold Dual-crown World Time Wristwatch

Lot no.: 2201
Manufactured in: 1953
Estimate: HK$55,000,000 - 110,000,000
Price Realised: HK$70,175,000

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