I n the world of horology, where time is not merely measured but celebrated, Patek Philippe stands as an icon of craftsmanship and tradition. Since the first half of the 19th century, watchmakers at Patek Philippe have woven time into masterpieces that not only tell hours and minutes, but also narrate stories of innovation and artistry. This history of excellence is what has attracted so many to the brand through its near-two-century history, and what has in part helped guide the brand’s modern success today.
Founded in 1839, the length of Patek Philippe’s operation and the importance of its milestones are also a key reason why commemorative timepieces produced by the brand have attracted sustained if not rising attention in recent years. Marking critical moments like significant events, exhibitions, and anniversaries, commemorative watches by the brand are often historically very timely in their release, alongside being highly limited in production and aesthetically unique. These factors come together to provide a ripe, niche space for in-the-know collectors on a select handful of watches, some of which will be available via Sotheby's Hong Kong Important Watches I auction on 7 October, where a special group of commemorative Patek Philippe will go under the hammer.
Patek Philippe Reference 5070R-014: The Saatchi Gallery Showcase
Commemorative watches are more than mere timekeepers; they are living artifacts of horological heritage and pivotal moments. These timepieces are crafted to celebrate milestones, whether it's a significant anniversary, a special event, or a remarkable achievement in watchmaking history. In recent years, there has been a notable surge in the interest from brands to mark these occasions and from collectors for the timepieces proper. These watches are not just instruments for measuring time but also tangible connections to a brand's legacy.
Our journey with commemorative Patek Philippe models begins with a special reference 5070R-014, a pink gold chronograph wristwatch seen in lot 2299. This exquisite timepiece was crafted specifically for the Patek Philippe Watch Art Grand Exhibition at Saatchi Gallery in London, produced in circa 2019. The 5070 is no stranger to watch enthusiasts, as it was first introduced in 1998, with its design paying homage to the vintage style of the reference 2512 from the “golden age” of watchmaking, itself characterised by dual sub-dials, interrupted Arabic numerals, and an outer tachymeter encircled by a periphery minute track.
What makes this particular 5070 truly exceptional is its connection to the prestigious Saatchi Gallery exhibition. This variant, believed to be one of only five, was created exclusively for the event, where it remained beyond the reach of the public. The watch's pink gold casing is elegantly contrasted by an elusive black dial, setting it apart from the traditional silvered dial of the pink gold 5070. As an embodiment of Patek Philippe's heritage and craftsmanship, this commemorative watch offers collectors a rare opportunity to own a piece of horological history.
The 175th Anniversary Tribute Watches
In 2014, Patek Philippe marked one of its most important years to date, with the brand celebrating its 175th anniversary. To acknowledge the special occasion, the esteemed watchmaker launched a capsule collection of commemorative timepieces, each of which has since become historically significant and of worthy note for keen-eyed collectors. Sotheby’s Hong Kong Important Watches I is fortunate enough to feature three distinct models from this moment.
Leading the group is the Patek Philippe Reference 5275 via lot 2303, a limited edition platinum chiming wristwatch. Drawing inspiration from its predecessor, the Reference 3969 which was created for Patek Philippe's 150th anniversary, the 5275 a true masterpiece of horology, featuring a tonneau-shaped case and showcasing a remarkable jumping hour display and a conventional minutes mechanism.
However, what sets the Reference 5275 apart is its extraordinary movement, the Caliber 32-650 HGS PS, which is comprised of 438 meticulously crafted components. This exceptional movement not only incorporates a seconds display, but also an extraordinary striking mechanism. With each passing hour, a hammer gracefully strikes a gong, precisely synchronised with the instantaneous jump of the hour viewed through the aperture at 12 o’clock. This watch embodies Patek Philippe's rich heritage while embracing modern advancements in watchmaking technology. The movement is housed in a 40 mm platinum case and the opaline dial is highly decorated with engine turned floral motifs, further enhancing its aesthetic appeal. The solid case back proudly displays the engraving “PATEK PHILIPPE GENEVE 175e Anniversaire 1839 - 2014.”
The second 175th anniversary model to be presented is in lot 2250, the Patek Philippe Reference 5975, a limited edition multi-scale chronograph wristwatch. What makes this watch particularly appealing to collectors are the three logarithmic scales it features: a pulsometer scale for measuring pulse, a telemeter scale for calculating distance, and a tachymeter scale for determining speed. With its eye catching scaled dial and aesthetics that echo vintage pieces from the early 20th Century the yellow gold 5975 was produced in a limited series of only 400 pieces and is unsurprisingly prized by collectors for its technical appeal and rarity.
The Reference 5975 also notably houses the automatic caliber 28-520, making it the first automatic chronograph-only timepiece produced by Patek Philippe, with that caliber housed inside a 40mm case boasting stepped lugs that adds comfort and style.
The final anniversary edition is seen in the Patek Philippe Reference 5089, a white gold wristwatch featuring a wood marquetry dial found in lot 2282. This edition was released both as a commemorative edition to the 175th year of the brand’s operation, but also as part of the watchmaker’s prestigious “Rare Handcrafts” series, which is a yearly capsule collection of highly limited and piece unique watches and table clocks that showcase various craft and artistic abilities.
The model features a dial inspired by a vintage postcard showcasing the scenic view of Lake Geneva with traditional barques, all executed in an ultra-fine wood marquetry, whereby various pieces of wood and veneer are joined together to form one complete image. As part of the 175th anniversary group, its hinged display back, engraved “175 Anniversaire 1839-2014,” allows collectors to uncover the intricate movement within. This watch is not only a remarkable creation, but also a testament to Patek Philippe's commitment to excellence and heritage.
Patek Philippe Reference 5738: Celebrating the Golden Ellipse
The last in the commemorative models to be showcased in the upcoming auction is in the Patek Philippe Reference 5738/50P-001, which saw its launch in 2018 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Golden Ellipse. The Golden Ellipse, introduced in 1968, broke the circular paradigm of horological design with its rectangular ellipse dial and case, both of which took direction inspiration from the “Golden Ratio” principle of ancient Greek mathematician Euclid, also known as the “divine” proportion which has been observed in some of humankind’s and nature’s greatest works.
This limited-edition timepiece is one of only of 100 to be produced. The watch's harmonious ellipse shape serves as a canvas for its intricate black enamel dial, delicately engraved with a dazzling silver volute. It's a stunning blend of art and horology, capturing the essence of Patek Philippe's craftsmanship and design philosophy, altogether making the commemorative edition all the more special.
The allure of commemorative watches, and especially Patek Philippe commemorative editions, lies in their unique designs, limited availability, and the stories they tell. They feature exceptional craftsmanship, innovative movements, and intricate details that set them apart from regular production models. Enthusiasts are drawn to the exclusivity and historical significance of these timepieces, as they offer a glimpse into a brand's journey and evolution. They are living tributes to the art of watchmaking by the master watchmaker, carrying with them the stories of innovation, craftsmanship, and tradition.