Lot 124
  • 124

Patek Philippe

12,000 - 18,000 USD
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  • diameter 22 mm
• 8''' jeweled gilt movement with cylinder escapement, bezel-wound • white dial, radial Roman numerals, blued steel spade hands • yellow gold ball-form case with raised scroll-form and dot ornamentation, central blue enamel ring set with rose-cut diamonds, two diamonds missing • movement and dial signed Patent, movement and case numbered

Catalogue Note

Accompanied by an Extract from the Archives confirming production with present ornamentation in 1866 and sale on June 22nd of the following year. Together with an unusual Patek Philippe fitted helmet-form presentation box and spare original crystal in numbered paper.

Considering the age of the piece, it is remarkable that the original accompaniments have been preserved.

Our research indicates that the present lot is the earliest known Patek Philippe ball-form watch to be offered for public sale, exhibited or published. The next one known to be made by the firm was created five years later. In the 1878 Paris Exhibition, a showcase was devoted to these charming ball-form watches.

As a result of this publicity, Patek Philippe received orders for 'boules de Genève' from royalty worldwide, and sold similar pieces to Prince Hussein Kamil of Egypt in 1887 and to Empress Teresa of Brazil in 1888. These pieces are documented in the exhibition catalogue for the 'Timepieces of Royalty' exhibition at the Patek Philippe Museum, Fall 2005. The Museum's permanent exhibition currently includes a few later examples of ball-form watches with varying dimensions and ornamentation.

It is interesting to note the present lot's placement in the early days of Patek Philippe's history. The 1839, Patek, Czapek & Co. was founded, followed shortly by the company's patent for the first stem-wound movement. 1851 saw the firm's transition to Patek, Philippe & Co., and a decade later, Adrien Philippe's improvements to the crown-winding system were patented. With this patent, it was only a matter of years until the first Swiss wristwatch was made by Patek Philippe in 1868, a lady's diamond-set concealed dial bracelet watch, sold to Countess Koscowitz of Hungary. Much like the present lot, the small size of this wristwatch was a feat of mechanics, as beautiful as it was technically impressive.  

The present example is signed 'Patent' on both the dial and the movement, a reference to the ingenious winding mechanism, which is activated by turning one hemisphere of the watch. It is possible that as no earlier examples are known, the present lot may be the first piece that utilized this technique. Given that it was created not long after the perfection of the stem-winding system, this novel invention illustrates the prolific creative spirit in both technology and aesthetics for which the company is still known. Furthermore, it is typical for pieces at this time to be unsigned and only given a single number, as the practice of differing case and movement numbers did not begin until approximately 1875.

For a later example of a Patek Philippe ball-form pendant watch, see Huber, M. & Banbery, A., Patek Philippe Watches, Vol. II, Second Edition, p. 75. While the published example is from 1912, the present lot was made nearly 50 years earlier.

For further discussion, see Tellier, A., Timepieces for Royalty Exhibition Catalogue, 1850-1910 by Patek Philippe, p. 169-170.