PROPERTY FROM THE ORIGINAL OWNER
This superb pocket chronometer is offered for sale by the original owner. The watch was purchased from the famous Milanese retailer, Orologeria Luigi Verga in 1989, during the 150th anniversary of Patek Philippe. The watch is in immaculate condition having spent almost a quarter of a century in a safe with its original accessories: Certificate of Origin, presentation case and swing tag. Our research shows that this magnificent watch’s original retail price for the Italian market, in 1989, was 400.000.000 ITL (today approximately 200.000 euro).
THE REFERENCE 923
An exceedingly rare reference, the 923 was displayed at the Basel fair in 1986 and only two examples were made each one being different in size with specific dial for each example, the present watch being the largest one of the two examples known of reference 923.
THE DETENT ESCAPEMENT AT PATEK PHILIPPE
During the final 20 years of the twentieth century, Patek Philippe started to case and complete a small number of movements with detent escapements (numbers 866’xxx). This extremely limited production appears to have consisted of no more than 2 movements every 3 years. At the present time, only 31 Patek Philippe movements with detent escapement are known in the market, and according to our research:
• Between 7 and 8 movements have never been cased
• 5 movements are known to incorporate quarter repetition
• 1 movement with minute repeater (present lot) plus between 9 and 12 movements with starting number 866’xxx
• 3 deck marine chronometers
• 2 detent escapement movements with Tourbillon
The complexity and skill required to produce the detent escapement has resulted in historically low production numbers. It is interesting to note that, by comparison, 93 tourbillon movements are known to have been cased as pocket watches by Patek Philippe, three times the number of detent movements known.
It is to Pierre Le Roy, son of the famous French watchmaker Julien Le Roy, that we owe thanks for the three fundamental principles that led to the development of the modern chronometer timepieces:
1. The free escapement
2. The self-regulating balance
3. The isochronous hairspring
Comparing the construction of the free escapement introduced by Pierre Le Roy, represented in his ‘Works’ in 1748, published in the History of the Academy of Sciences and applied in 1763, one can see how this device differs from its earlier version. The innovations capture the huge amount of effort which Le Roy deployed during this long period in order to achieve both principles with the free escapement and conditions of isochronous oscillations linked to the adjustment of temperature compensation. In his “Précis des recherches ...”, Pierre Le Roy mentioned, in 1768, a work that he had already announced in 1750, called “Essai de physique et de dynamique sur les ressorts des corps”, which was never published. The manuscript of this essay shows that, from this period, his researches on friction, the elasticity of springs and the phenomena of metal dilatation had led him to conceive a primitive form of equalizing winder and a mechanism to compensate the effects of temperature on the functioning of watches. Pierre Le Roy presented many papers to the Academy, concerning both watches and clocks. However, his work in the field of marine clock making is so important that it possible to speak of him as a true genius. In 1748 he conceived a detent escapement whose design, published by Gallon in “Machines et inventions approuvées par l’Académie Royale des Sciences”, does not entirely explain its way of functioning. It does, however, show the first attempt at making an escapement which ensured that the balance would have complete freedom of motion, outside the phases of unlocking and impulse. The successful design of the escapement, which enabled the vibrations of the balance all the freedom and necessary regularity, allowed Pierre Le Roy to realize that in any spiral spring of sufficient stretch, there was a certain length in which all vibrations are isochronous. This meant that the oscillations, large or small, could be fulfilled in the same period of time. Consequently, this finding led Pierre Le Roy to vary the length of the spiral setting to compensate for temperature variations. It was mandatory that the compensation be made directly on the balance itself. He therefore devised a circular cut bi-metallic balance, in which the segments were distorted inward or outward, due to the difference in coefficient from the thermal expansion of its components, thus compensating for temperature variations. In England, based on Le Roy’s principles, John Arnold, followed by Thomas Earnshaw, produced the very first truly operational marine chronometer watches, which equipped the ships of the British Navy. On the continent, it was Louis Berthoud who was the first, along with his nephew and pupil, Henri Motel, who also built on these principles, the chronometer watches which equipped the French Navy. Thereafter, the pivoted detent escapement allowed the development of this device in almost all Swiss watches.
Orologeria Luigi Verga:
Luigi Verga opened his first shop in 1947, close to Milan’s Duomo in Via Mazzini. Recognised as one of the world’s most prestigious retailers of fine watches, Luigi Verga remains a family business. Luigi Verga’s son, Valerio, began working for his father when he was just fifteen years of age and Valerio’s own children, Umberto and Valeria, have followed in their father’s footsteps, both joining the family firm.
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