I very rarely ever talk about the world of watch auctions. I frankly have no interest in that area. Upon hearing the words “watch auction”, my mind draws an image of middle aged men frothing at the mouth, itching to raise their hands in response to the garble of steadily increasing numbers being spewed by the auctioneer. That’s my own thought on the matter, and I usually leave it at that.
However, it appears that every now and then, something will turn up in the watch enthusiast circles that’ll start causing a bit of a stir. In this case, it was the news that the Phillips auction house would be putting on offer, a trio of Patek Philippe ref. 1518 with their ‘flavours’ being: Yellow Gold, Pink Gold and Stainless Steel. The famous Aurel Bacs would be the one putting the pieces on the block.
In reflection, seeing a bunch of well mannered professional adults turn into a bunch of excitable school children made me quite curious to find out what the fuss was about. I’m still very new to this game, and can barely scratch the surface of the vintage watch world. I’ll try and attempt a summary.
The Patek Philippe ref. 1518. Copyright Phillips
With these pieces in particular, I understand that they all house the handwound calibre 13’’’130Q which features a chronograph with column wheel and a perpetual calendar. This already raises my interest, given my love for perpetual calendars. They’re actually the first perpetual calendar chronographs to be made in series, putting the family of watches at the apex of desirability.
The movement is housed in a 35mm diameter case and except the ‘flavour’, you can hardly tell the difference between them, being that they look so similar. The steel example supposedly stands out because it has “Patek Philippe & Co Genève” on the dial, instead of “Patek Philippe Genève” like its gold counterparts. (I have no idea what the significance is). That, and it’s one of only 4 known models to exist.
What’s the point of me telling you this? Well it just happens to be that the hammer for the stainless steel model dropped at the insane sum of 9.6 Million CHF, or 7.7 Million GBP. If you want to include the buyers fee, the grand total was 11,002,000 CHF! As a result, the watch now boasts the title as the “most expensive watch ever sold in history”.
I was simply blown away by the news. Insane is perhaps one of the words you can use to string a sentence of response. Some might ask what it is that will push a person to put spend that kind of money. In comparison to the scale of things, this auction makes the ref.2499 look like a charity shop special! I mean, what do you do with that kind of watch? Do you even have it serviced? Do you put it on display, only to be admired visually? Perhaps bragging rights?
In the end it doesn’t really matter. The world of horology never ceases to amaze me. It’s so small, yet so vast, with lots of amusing little tidbits to enjoy here and there. This is one of those stories that’ll serve as a remarkable outlier. Somebody has invested in something they see value in. Perhaps they wanted add a crown to their collection, or simply so that they can admire the piece as their own? It’s up to the new owner. Will it reshape the world of consumer watches, causing a huge shift in customer interest? Nope. Will it change the course of the market, bursting the bubble of watch retail? Probably not. The watch has been sold and questioning motives is a fruitless endeavour. I’m just going to say that it was entertaining to see the story unfold.
Let’s leave it at that.