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Superb vintage Patek Philippe to highlight Sotheby's sale of Important Watches in Geneva
A superb example of the highly sought-after Patek Philippe reference 2497 from the first series, featuring a rare case made by Emile Vichet. Estimate: CHF 500,000 – 1,000,000 (USD 500,000 – 1,000,000). Courtesy Sotheby's.

GENEVA.- Following the success of spring watch sales in Hong Kong and London, Sotheby’s will present its selection of fine timepieces to be offered in Geneva on 12 May. The auction of Important Watches will be led by a group of very fine vintage Patek Philippe and Rolex wristwatches, following a series of exceptional results for this category at auction. The sale will also offer the opportunity for discerning collectors to acquire unique and important Swiss pocket watches from the 18th and 19th centuries.

The group of extraordinary Patek Philippe wristwatches is led by a superb example of the highly sought-after reference 2497 from the first series, featuring a rare case made by Emile Vichet. Seekers of exceptional Patek Philippe will also no doubt be drawn to rare limited-production and beautiful ‘double-signature’ wristwatches on offer. Highlights for collectors of rare Rolex include a superb reference 6239 (the “original” Rolex Daytona reference) as well as an original Sea-Dweller owned by deep-sea diving legend Theo Mavrostomos.

The launch of the reference 2497, with its very elegant proportions, heralded a historically significant development for Patek Philippe. Produced from 1951 onwards, this was the first perpetual calendar wristwatch with centre seconds in the world to be produced in series. A rare and sought-after reference, fewer than 200 pieces were produced. Even rarer are those made in pink gold: research suggests that only around 20 exist. We are therefore very excited to present an example in pink gold during our sale on 12 May. Adding to the appeal and rarity of this watch, it was part of the first series of reference 2497’s production – having been made in 1953 and featuring a case made by Emile Vichet. Only the earliest 2497s were fitted with these cases, which are distinguished by their flat case back and longer, more prominent lugs, shaped like claws (Lot 184, estimate CHF 500,000 – 1,000,000 / $ 500,000 – 1,000,000)

Combining a sporty look with the elegance of officer’s watches, this example of Patek Philippe’s reference 130 embodies 1930s style. The 130 was the first chronograph made by the company to be given a specific reference number. This piece, made in steel, is one of only an estimated 270 produced in this material. Its appeal for collectors is heightened by its superb condition, which allows the beautiful features - including applied Breguet numerals and hard enamel tachymeter scale - to shine (Lot 175, estimate CHF 200,000 – 400,000 / $ 200,000 – 400,000).

Following the extraordinary sale last November of “The Asprey”, a stunning Patek Philippe reference 2499 bearing the signature of prestigious London boutique Asprey, the May sale in Geneva will offer a very fine example of the reference 3448, which also bears this highly sought-after signature. Adding to its appeal, this particular reference from Patek Philippe represents a milestone in horology: it was the first automatic perpetual calendar wristwatch produced in series by any manufacture. A factor greatly appreciated by collectors, the watch has remained in its original condition and is accompanied by the original box and papers, detailing its coveted ‘double signature’ status (Patek Philippe and Asprey) and its sale in 1977 (Lot 76, estimate CHF 120,000 – 180,000 / $120,000 – 180,000).

The reference 6239 is the “original” Rolex Daytona, the watch which would go on to become the most sought-after and celebrated wristwatch ever produced. This piece, from around 1970, is made all the more desirable by the fact that it is made in yellow gold; this material makes up just 2.5% of all 6239s ever made. Furthermore, it is enormously rare to find an example in superb original condition, from the pristine case back and dial to the strong and large lugs. Finally, the watch is fitted with an extremely rare gold bracelet which is a delight in its own right. Complete with its original full set of guarantee, presentation case, box, booklet and invoice, the watch has remained within the family of its original owner: feared lost during a house move, it was recently rediscovered hidden in the cellar behind a collection of wines (Lot 21, estimate CHF 100,000 – 150,000 / $100,000 – 150,000).

Watches built to exacting specifications for a very targeted purpose can command impressive prices at auction. In the 1960s and 70s, developments in the extraction of oil and gas required highly skilled divers to access equipment deep underwater. This stimulated significant innovation among watch companies, including at Rolex who introduced the Sea-Dweller in 1967, building on the technology developed for the Submariner reference 5513. Sea-Dwellers are rightly considered rare, and this year’s spring sale will offer a very special example of the reference 16600 from 1998. It was issued to Theo Mavrostomos, a legend among deep sea divers who worked with Comex – the Compagnie Maritime d’Expertise, a pioneer of deep sea industrial diving – for 20 years. He was also an ambassador for Rolex, appearing in their adverts for the Sea-Dweller (Lot 53, estimate CHF 80,000 – 120,000 / $ 80,000 – 120,000).

In 1921, when Cartier launched the ‘Tank Cintrée’ model, its elongated case (measuring nearly 46mm in length) would have been extremely avant-garde, as smaller watches were very much the norm. The timeless design proved to be a winning formula, and production continues to this day. This very nice piece, made in 1950, is an exercise in effortless mid-century chic: in superb original condition, including the original yellow gold link bracelet and deployant clasp, it has to be one of the finest examples of this model to come to auction in recent years (Lot 150, estimate CHF 100,000 – 200,000 / $100,000 – 200,000).

The auction on 12 May will also include a very fine selection of rare and highly complicated Swiss pocket watches, which showcase the extraordinary talent of the watchmakers and enamellers behind this highly skilled art form. “The Tiger Hunt” is the name given to this beautiful gold, diamond-set and enamel two-train minuterepeating automaton clock-watch which was made for the Indian market by Louis Elysse Piguet. Piguet was renowned for his work to improve chronographs and innovations in repeating mechanisms and keyless winding systems. The exquisite enamel work on the watch is attributed to P.-Amédéé Champod, who was celebrated for his depiction of dynamic Indian hunting scenes such as this one. He received a silver medal at the Paris World Exhibition in 1900 (Lot 64, estimate CHF 150,000 – 250,000 / $150,000 – 250,000).

Watches commissioned by royal households naturally include some of the very finest examples of horological art. This unique Swiss pocket watch was specially made for His Majesty Maharao Keshri Singh of Sirohi – who ruled the city of Sirohi in Rajasthan, India, from 1875 to 1892 - and it exhibits every characteristic one would associate with a royal commission. Its case is finely engraved with foliate scrolls and a diamond-set monogram of the Maharao. It also features beautiful enamel work depicting the ruler by the exceptionally skilled portrait enamellist John Graff. The highly complicated movement would also have required extraordinary skill to complete (Lot 65, estimate CHF 80,000 – 160,000 / $80,000 – 160,000).

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