THE TITANIUM COLLECTION
• white enamel dial with painted black enamel Breguet numerals, subsidiary dials for constant seconds and rare 60 minute register, the outer chapter ring calibrated for 1/5th seconds in black enamel
• circular four-piece hinged Officer's style 18k yellow gold case, hinged gold cuvette, screw down bars with slender lugs, with an early 18k buckle
• the dial, cuvette, movement and case signed, the case further stamped with French import marks and further stamped with another mark with PD with hour glass emblem above and ampersand (&) below
Within the pantheon of important vintage Patek Philippe watches, only a handful are of such importance and renown that they have obtained iconic status. The Patek Philippe split-seconds chronograph, no.124.824, belongs within this category and is, without question, one of the most famous and coveted of all Patek Philippe’s vintage wristwatch production.
This wristwatch first re-appeared to the public eye in 1999 when it was the cover lot of the The Art of Patek Philippe auction and sold by Antiquorum, November 14th 1999, lot 448. The purchase price broke all previous wristwatch records when this extraordinary split-seconds chronograph sold for nearly CHF 3 million, at the time the equivalent of $1,918,387. Antiquorum’s auction catalogue chronicled that the watch "shed new light on the historic production of the Genevan House. It appeared five years prior to the official release of the split-seconds chronograph, making Patek Philippe the first manufacturer to have created this model”.
This timepiece is not only the world’s earliest known split-seconds chronograph born as a wristwatch by any maker, but furthermore is considered the prototype for the split-seconds chronograph category. A combination that shows it as, not only of great importance within the history of Patek Philippe, but also within the development of this genre as a whole. It should also be noted that this timepiece is one of the earliest complicated wristwatches ever made by Patek Philippe and may be the earliest still remaining in private hands.
• Patek Philippe’s, and any maker's, earliest known split-seconds chronograph wristwatch
• Smallest and flattest known split-seconds movement
• Only split-seconds chronograph wristwatch known with enamel dial
• Only known Patek Philippe vintage chronograph wristwatch with 60-minute counter
• Inspiration for the contemporary Patek Philippe ref.5959 split-seconds chronograph wristwatch
Extremely mechanically complex, the split-seconds chronograph is considered one of the three most challenging complications in the art of watch making and is consequently one of the most celebrated by collectors. Designed to time events commencing simultaneously but concluding at different times, the split-seconds chronograph, as we know it today, first appeared around 1880. The split-seconds mechanism employs two central chronograph seconds hands, most often controlled by two push buttons in the case side; the present watch features the rarer single button activation with split pusher above. One hand, the fly-back, can be stopped to register one event's duration then, in turn, reactivated to resynchronize with the chronograph hand; this will allow, for instance, the timing and registering of an intermediary stage. Thus the length of multiple events can be recorded. This complication proves extremely useful during sporting events with multiple competitors, whether it be a horse race, a car race or the 100 meter dash.
One of the most interesting features of this watch is the 60-minute register, which is highly unusual. Patek Philippe chronograph minute registers are usually only calibrated to 30 minutes – indeed, our research suggests that this is the only vintage Patek Philippe wristwatch chronograph to have such a calibration.
This wristwatch features an “Officer” style case with straight, screw-set lugs and rounded, hinged, four-piece case. This was one of the earliest wristwatch case designs to be used by Patek Philippe and is complimented by the use of a white enamel dial.
Extraordinarily flat in design, the movement of No. 124.824 is the earliest and smallest split seconds chronograph wristwatch movement by Patek Philippe. Incredibly, the movement was so innovative that, 100 years later, it was pushed back into service as the working model for its contemporary cousin, the Ref. 5959 split seconds chronograph, which Patek Philippe introduced in 2005. It is interesting to compare the Ref. 5959’s calibre 27 525 PS (12 CCR) movement with that of the present wristwatch, for the similarities are visually striking. Indeed, the similarities between the present wristwatch, No. 124.824, and the modern Ref. 5959 are not confined to the movement: the entire dial and case design are faithfully based upon the original No. 124.824 masterpiece. The production of the Ref. 5959, a century after No. 124.824 was begun, demonstrates the extraordinary status that Patek Philippe has accorded the present lot, their original split seconds chronograph wristwatch.
Following the production of No. 124.824, further production and development of wrist chronographs did not begin until 1926, when Patek Philippe began using the ébauches (blank movements) of Victorin Piguet. Production of a split-seconds chronograph following the designs of the 13-lignes Louis-Elisée Piguet ébauche began in 1927. The economic crisis of 1929 slowed production and very few complicated wristwatches were made during the 1930s. This is perhaps unsurprising when one considers that the finished split-seconds chronograph was up to 50% more expensive than the simple chronograph. [Huber, M., Banbery, A., Patek Philippe Wristwatches, Vol. 2 Second Edition, p. 81].
The enamel dial on this wristwatch is of the highest quality and would have been produced by dial makers Stern Frères. The dial features a signature known as the so-called “block” layout which highlights the letters so that they form a perfect rectangle. This style can be found on other iconic Patek Philippe wristwatches such as the Henry Graves Minute Repeating Tonneau wristwatch, sold by Sotheby’s New York, Lot 8, June 14, 2012. The same signature can also be found on the earliest known repeating wristwatch, see Huber M., Banbery A., Wristwatches, Vol. 2, Second Edition, p. 313, pl. 468a.
Enamel dials are much preferred by collectors since, unlike metal dials, they are not susceptible to oxidation or water damage and, when well looked after, can retain their original finish indefinitely. The pure unblemished finish of the enamel dial remains as fresh in its appearance today as it would have appeared on the day of its original sale.
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