Phillips’ upcoming Geneva watch auction will see an ultra-rare vintage wristwatch by Patek Philippe - a cloisonné enamel "Eurasia Dial" ref. 2523 in yellow gold, which carries a presale estimate of over CHF 3.5m (US$3.8m). With only three of its kind known to have ever been made, one of which resides in the Patek museum, the star piece is truly a rare find in the market.
Also offered in the sales on May 8 and 9 are four ref. 2499s, which carry a collective estimate of CHF 3.2m to 6.4m (US$3.5m-7m). Both models began their production in the 1950s - the halcyon days widely recognized by avid timepiece collectors and enthusiasts alike for the unparalleled design, craftsmanship, and revolutionary vision for horology.
Lot 33 | Patek Philippe Ref. 2523 18K yellow gold world time wristwatch with two crowns and "Eurasia" cloisonné enamel dial
Produced in: 1953
Estimate: in excess of CHF 3,500,000 (US$3,842,952)
Advocated by Scottish Canadian engineer and inventor Sanford Fleming in the International Prime Meridian Conference in Washington in 1884, the concept for a worldwide standard time was unheard of before the 19th century.
Then came the quest to show it on the wrist. And it was made possible in the early 1930s, thanks to renowned Swiss watchmaker Louis Cottier, who was the pioneer in the industry to introduce a bezel that displays real time in various cities of different time zones, which eventually was developed into a patent mechanism.
Swiss watchmaker Louis Cottier
Patek Philippe entrusted Cottier to bring the intricate-for-the-time, world time movement into its timepieces. The present ref. 2523 sports two crowns: one for winding the local time on the watch face and another, the time zones presented by the 40 cities listed on the outer dial. The dual-crown world time system enables the wearer to find the current time across continents.
Though being too ahead of its time, ref. 2523 failed to gain much ground when it was launched, which resulted in only 25 to 36 pieces ever made - one of the lowest outputs for any Patek Philippe serially produced references.
Closer look at the present ref. 2523
Of the known ref. 2523, only 12 have a cloisonné enamel dial, fitted with several maps:
- 6 North America: 3 yellow gold, 2 pink gold, 1 white gold
- 3 South America: 2 yellow gold, 1 pink gold
- 3 Eurasia, including the present one, all in yellow gold
A ref. 2523 cloisonné dial featuring a map of North America, sold for close to CHF 2.8m (US$3m) at a Christie’s Geneva sale, May 2012
A ref. 2523 enamel dial, signed by Patek Philippe and Gobbi, sold for HK$70.2m (US$8.9m) at a Christie’s Hong Kong sale, November 2019
Ref. 2523 with cloisonné dials have only appeared at auction four times, last seen in a 2012 sale in Geneva, when one that features a map of North America was sold for CHF 2.8m (US$3m). Prior to that, one with a royal blue enamel dial, signed by both Patek Philippe and the horology brand’s distinguished retailer in Milan, Gobbi, was sold in 2019, for a record-breaking HK$70.2m (US$8.9m) as Asia's most expensive wristwatch at the time.
With only two yellow gold 2523 world timers with a cloisonné dial featuring a map of Eurasia in private hands, the present one is definitely the one to look out for.
Four ref. 2499s, meanwhile, are going under the hammer in a full set. The perpetual calendar chronograph ref. 2499 series are from a single collector, who spent almost 20 years assembling them.
Introduced in 1950, ref. 2499 is divided into four series, based on the dial designs, and is considered one of the most important families of watches. It succeeded ref. 1518 - its immediate predecessor, and is the last serially produced perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch with moonphases model launched by Patek Philippe.
Lot 161 | Patek Philippe Ref. 2499 18K yellow gold perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch with moonphases and Italian calendar
Produced in: 1953
Estimate: CHF 1,000,000 - 2,000,000 (US$1,090,000 - 2,180,000)
Among the four series, the first series is the scarcest in the market and was only in production for less than a decade. It features the same dial design as ref. 1518, recognized by its tachymeter style, Arabic numerals, and the iconic square chronograph pusher.
Closer looks at the present watch, with the square chronograph pusher being an iconic feature for the first series
The present first series 2499, which carries a presale estimate of CHF 1m to 2m (US$1.1m - 2.2m) is kept in a good condition, considering especially that the watch dates back to 1953. The engraved and enamelled graphics still remain clear, even the accent on the “è” of Genève - a detail notoriously sensitive and often lost - is present.
Another notable feature of the watch lies in the extremely rare Italian calendar. With most perpetual calendar watches bearing English or French calendar, there are only four first series yellow gold examples with an Italian one.
Lot 208 | Patek Philippe Ref. 2499 18K pink gold perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch with moonphases and German calendar
Produced in: 1957
Estimate: CHF 1,500,000 - 3,000,000 (US$1,630,000 - 3,270,000)
The present ultra-rare second series in 18K pink gold, of which only nine examples are known, comes the presale estimate of CHF 1.5m to 3m (US$1.6 - 3.3m), highest out of the four ref. 2499 on offer. One noticeable difference from its predecessor is the round chronograph pusher. Produced in 1957, the present watch was purchased in the early 1960s and had remained in the hands of the German owner until it was sold to the present collector in 2010, at its auction debut.
A rare German calendar
Lot 100 | Patek Philippe Ref. 2499 18K yellow gold perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch with moonphases
Produced in: 1964
Estimate: CHF 400,000 - 800,000 (US$436,000 - 871,000)
The third series 2499 remained in production for roughly two decades, from 1958 to 1978 circa, during when around 10 were produced annually. The case is very similar to that of the second series, aside from the removal of the tachymeter scale to streamline the design. This series is also characterized by its full hard enamel dial - a feature that was fading out in the late 1960s and is immensely appreciated by collectors today.
Lot 130 | Patek Philippe Ref. 2499 18K yellow gold perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch with moonphases, mineral crystal and German calendar
Produced in: 1985
Estimate: CHF 300,000 - 600,000 (US$327,000 - 653,000)
Last but not least we have the fourth series, which was made in 1985 - the year of the discontinuation of the entire model. According to the auction house, the present fourth series 2499 is one of the only six that feature a German calendar, and carries an estimate of CHF 300,000 to 600,000 (US$327,000 - 653,000).
Other highlights from the sale include:
Lot 142 | Harry Winston and F.P. Journe Ref. 200/MTFPJ38P platinum wristwatch with tourbillon
Produced in: 2001
Estimate: CHF 150,000 - 300,000 (US$163,000 - 327,000)
Lot 93 | F.P. Journe platinum tourbillion wristwatch with remontoir d’egalité, brass movement and white gold dial
Produced in: 1999
Estimate: CHF 250,000 - 450,000 (US$272,000 - 490,000)
Lot 31 | Richard Mille Ref. RM022 limited edition red quartz TPT tonneau-shaped dual-time wristwatch with tourbillon, function selector, power reserve, torque indication
Produced in: 2018
Estimate: CHF 250,000 - 500,000 (US$272,000 - 544,000)
Lot 79 | Rolex Ref. 5513 stainless steel wristwatch with black lacquer "Explorer Underline" dial
Produced in: circa 1964
Estimate: CHF 100,000 - 200,000 (US$109,000 - 218,000)
Lot 185 | Rolex Ref. 6241 stainless steel chronograph wristwatch with "Paul Newman" dial
Produced in: circa 1968
Estimate: CHF 120,000 - 220,000 (US$131,000 - 240,000)
Lot 152 | Rolex Ref. 6036 stainless steel triple calendar chronograph wristwatch with tropical dial and Gay Frères bracelet, retailed by Joyeria Riviera
Produced in: circa 1953
Estimate: CHF 150,000 - 250,000 (US$163,000 - 272,000)
Auction house: Phillips Geneva
Sale: The Geneva Watch Auction:XIII
- Session 1 (Lots 1-130): May 8, 2021 | 2pm (GMT+1)
- Session 2 (Lots 131-236): May 9, 2021 | 2pm (GMT+1)
Venue: La Réserve, 301 Route de Lausanne, 1293 Bellevue, Switzerland