Important Watches

Important Watches

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 42. Reference 1518R | A pink gold perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch with moon phases, Made in 1950.

Property From The Family of The Original Owner, Mr Joseph A. Kaplan

Patek Philippe

Reference 1518R | A pink gold perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch with moon phases, Made in 1950

Auction Closed

December 7, 07:12 PM GMT


800,000 - 1,500,000 USD

Lot Details


Dial: silvered

Caliber: cal. 13"' mechanical, 23 jewels

Movement number: 868'024

Case: 18k pink gold, snap on case back

Case number: 668'393

Size: 35 mm diameter

Signed: case, dial and movement

Box: no

Papers: no

Accessories: Patek Philippe Extract from the Archives confirming the date of sale on July 25, 1952

The landmark Reference 1518 represents one of Patek Philippe’s most vaunted historical achievements. The reference, simply on the merits of its complications, demands huge appreciation but, moreover, taking into consideration the time at which such a watch was produced (the midst of WWII) and how such a watch was manufactured, one cannot remain anything other than awe struck. 


Launched in 1941, at the height of World War II, at the Swiss Watch Fair in Basel, the Reference 1518 was a technical revelation and an aesthetic masterpiece that set the design language for all the subsequent references up to today's Reference 5270. The reference was not only Patek Philippe's first serially produced perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch but also the first of its kind from any brand, earning the reference its well-deserved place in horological history and setting the standard of haute horology for the decades to come. In fact, Patek Philippe was so advanced in this regard that it wasn't until the 1980s that another major manufacturer serially produced a perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch with moon phases.


The significance and renown of the reference 1518 were not lost on collectors throughout history, with the world's most important collectors, including Henry Graves Jr. and Sugar Ray Robinson, owning this timepiece. The reference's association with royalty has also been well established, with owners including the former ruler of Romania, King Michael I, the King of Jordan, and Egypt's penultimate ruler, King Farouk I.


While a wristwatch may not be a typical calling card of the American Dream, our present example is the very embodiment of it.


Its story begins, as so many American Dreams do, on Ellis Island. Joseph A. Kaplan, a five-year-old boy, was passing Lady Liberty with nothing but the dream that inspired millions to come to America. During the Roaring 20’s - Kaplan found inspiration in optimism and revelry of that nation - and had an idea. What if he replaced the usual white duck shower curtains with colored fabrics in a variety of designs. While those curtains are something we take for granted today – this revolutionary concept was an absolute hit in the 1920-30s, and fortune smiled upon Mr. Kaplan. In the post-war boom of the 1950s, he operated no less than two factories, a healthy real estate portfolio that spanned the nation, and a happily expanding family. The present Patek Philippe 1518 was a gift from his son, Harold Kaplan, whose devotion, and awe of his father’s ability to achieve the American Dream was unmatched. In the summer of 1950, Harold Kaplan holidayed in Switzerland with the sole purpose of buying a Patek Philippe for his father. While there, the representative from Patek told Harold about a newer, better, and more expensive model, the ref. 2499 which launched that same year. Unsure his father would know the difference, Harold made the frugal choice, and his wife, Penny Kaplan recalls that he ‘bought the cheaper, older model.’ Looking back on it decades later, Harold often felt guilty, having pinched pennies by getting his father only the ‘second-best watch.” 


Shortly thereafter in 1955, the family commissioned a striking portrait to commemorate Kaplan’s 60th birthday, prominently featuring the Reference 1518 on Mr Kaplan’s wrist. The portrait here (fig. 1), was commissioned from Mr Joseph Hirsch, a Jewish American painter whose work appears today in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and more. 


In addition to its objective rarity and wonderful condition, this example was previously unknown. Having remained in the possession of the family of its original owner since its purchase in 1952, passed down from father to son, and finally bequeathed to the original owner’s great grandson. Familial caretakers of this watch maintained it regularly and thoughtfully with Henri Stern Agency throughout the years. To discover a previously unknown and undiscovered vintage watch with a single owner in this condition is what elevates an extraordinary watch to ‘grail-status’ for collectors of Patek Philippe, but to discover one whose provenance is so charming and unique adds further delight! 


Examples of reference 1518 are illustrated in: Patek Philippe Wristwatches by M. Huber & A. Banbery, 1998, plate 386, page 231.

We are grateful to Tortella & Sons for their kind assistance in researching this piece. The lot is further accompanied by a detailed by report by Tortella & Sons.