I t is a rare day when an ardent watch collector offers their most beloved pieces at auction. Sotheby’s The Nevadian Collector presents an extraordinary range of vintage Patek Philippe watches from a historically important single owner collection. The auction features 38 exceptional timepieces from Patek Philippe, widely regarded as one of the greatest watchmakers of all time. The Swiss brand remains the last family-owned independent watch manufacturer in Geneva.
A History of Innovation
Its story started in 1839, when Polish watchmaker Antoni Patek met the inventor of the keyless winding mechanism, French watchmaker Adrien Philippe. The company named after the two founders took off when Queen Victoria acquired one of their keyless pendant watches in 1851. The Queen was such a big fan of her timepiece embellished with rose-cut diamonds that she raved about it and eventually acquired another exclusive Patek Philippe timepiece.
Besides making stylish pieces, Patek Philippe has a history of innovation. It created the first Swiss wristwatch and holds patents for many features and complications that have become mainstays of modern horology, such as the perpetual calendar.
Despite setting the blueprint for the industry, Patek Philippe watches remain in limited supply. The company continues to make many of its timepieces by hand and only creates about 80,000 watches every year. By comparison, Rolex churns out about 1 million watches per year.
A testament to both the quality of its craftsmanship and staying power, even Patek Philippe watches that were made in the 1940s hold up well. Those in this auction are running as efficiently as when they were first made.
Improving on Perfection
A highlight of this auction is Lot 2018 (Reference 2499, 2nd Series), one of only nine pieces of its kind in the world. The unique perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch with moon phases comes in a 18k pink gold case.
It was made in 1957, as confirmed by a Patek Philippe Extract from the Archives confirming production of the present watch in that year. It was sold on 18 October 1958 by famed Italian watch and jewellery retailer Gobbi Milano, which has sold many Patek Philippe watches and served as “Clockmaker to the Royal Court”.
This Patek Philippe is now considered one of the brand’s most important wristwatches and has increased tremendously in popularity in recent years. The combination of its generous case proportions and perpetual calendar chronograph movement make it possibly the most collectable reference of a vintage watch anywhere in the world today.
Only 349 pieces of the Reference 2499 were made, which made for an average of about nine pieces per year during its 35-year production run.
The Reference 2499 had four major evolutions and Lot 2018 in the auction is from the second series, which was when round chronograph pushers were introduced in place of the previous squares and had a production date from 1955 to 1964.
This particular example has been kept very close to its original condition and is expected to fetch up to HK$48 million (US$6.1 million) or more.
In 2018, another Reference 2499 wristwatch sold for HK$23.5 million (US$3 million). It had set a record for the most expensive wristwatch sold in an Asian auction at the time.
Avid Collectors of Patek Philippe in Asia
In the last few decades, Patek Philippe watches were mainly sold in the United States. But more collectors are emerging in Asia and many transactions are happening in the region as these new collectors catch up on adding luxury watches to their treasure trove.
There were an estimated 300 ardent collectors of Patek Philippe watches worldwide two decades ago, but that number has blossomed to an estimated 10,000 thanks to the explosion in Asia.
- Reference 3448
- Reference 1463
- Reference 130
Reference 3448: White Gold Perpetual CalendarFor collectors partial to gold, there are numerous options. Lot 2017 is a very well-preserved white gold perpetual calendar wristwatch with day, date and moon phases. The reference 3448 was produced around 1974.
Reference 1463: Yellow Gold Chronograph with Original CertificateLot 2027 is a yellow gold chronograph wristwatch of the Reference 1463, made in 1962. The 60-year-old timepiece comes with its Certificate of Origin, stamped by Patek Philippe's retailer Guillermin & Mollet in Paris.
Reference 130: Yellow Gold Chronograph with Two Tone Sector Dial
One of the oldest watches in this auction is Lot 2030. A Reference 130 made in 1937, it is a yellow gold chronograph wristwatch with two-tone sector dial.Reference 130 is considered to be one of Patek Philippe's most recognizable and well known vintage chronograph models. Made in stainless steel, yellow gold and pink gold, reference 130 remained in production for almost 30 years.
Other Rare Highlights
Lot 2024 is a Reference 1463 that comes in a stainless-steel case with Breguet numerals. Most of the watches under this reference were made in yellow gold, with a sprinkling of examples made in pink gold and steel. It makes this corrosion free example a rare find.
Other rarities are the several luminous dial vintage Patek Philippe watches. Lot 2021 is a second series Reference 2499 model and the only known example of its kind with a luminous dial. Out of 349 Reference 2499 made over a period of three decades, there are only five luminous examples known and none for the second series till now.
Patek Philippe watches with black dials are also sought-after pieces. Lot 2007 is a well-preserved Reference 2526 yellow gold wristwatch with a striking black enamel dial. There are only ten known examples today and this is one of them.
And the auction features more than just wristwatches. There are a fair number of pocket watches also – nine to be exact.
They all come in gold but span a variety of designs. Something simple yet elegant is Lot 2011, a yellow gold two train trip minute repeating open face straight line perpetual calendar watch. It was sold by Tiffany & Co in 1957 and used to be part of the Esmond Bradley Martin Collection, a famed collector of French and Swiss timepieces. This reference 655/1 watch was sold at Sotheby’s in 2002 for US$265,000 and is expected to go for up to HK$2.8 million (US$360,000) at this auction two decades later.
A pocket watch with more advanced features is Lot 2028, a yellow gold minute repeating perpetual calendar hunting case watch with moon phases. This one was manufactured in 1874 but re-cased upon special request in 1962. This makes it a truly historical piece.
One of Patek Philippe’s best-known slogans is that “you never actually own a Patek Philippe. You only look after it for the next generation.” The Nevadian Collector Auction is a rare chance you can add some unique pieces to your collection and pass them to the next generation.