Patek Philippe collectors, Sotheby’s has a grail just for you.
In 1941, the Swiss watchmaker unveiled Ref. 1518, the world’s first perpetual calendar chronograph to be serially manufactured. A total of 281 units were created for the series, but only 58 are believed to have been cased in pink gold—one of which sold for $1,392,489 last fall. Now, an even rarer example of coveted model is set to cross the auction block this summer.
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A “Pink-on-Pink” Ref. 1518—with striking salmon pink gold dial—will lead Sotheby’s Important Watches Auction in New York on June 9, and is estimated to fetch between $2.5 million and $4.5 million. To date, only 14 pink-on-pink examples had been known to exist, making this newly discovered example the 15th known version. The auction will mark the first time the watch has been offered since first being sold in 1947. Cared for only by its original owner since then, the historically important watch showcases a gorgeous time-worn patina.
The piece’s details make it even rarer: Around 1948, Patek Philippe shortened the dial signature on all of its watches, removing “& Co.” This particular 1518, however, was produced in 1946 so it features the longer, classic signature. Only seven pink-on-pink models have the Swiss watchmaker’s earlier signature. Further, the watch’s French calendar wheel is only found on three pink-on-pink models with the original signature.
The star of the show, of course, is the watch’s Stern Frères-made “pink” dial. It is topped with a starry moonphase, subdials, and accenting pink-gold hour markers. The case, meanwhile, was handcrafted by Emile Vichet, a master craftsman who designed all of the gold 1518 cases. Vichet’s cases were divided into two series, with this watch belonging to the second series produced between 1946 and 1953. Its tapered lugs, large crown, and low position of the chronograph pushers are signature features of the series. Given its production date, the pink-on-pink case could be one of Vichet’s first editions for the second series.
The 1518 was once popular among celebrity collectors. It has been sported by famous figures such as Henry Graves Jr, Sugar Ray Robinson, and King Farouk I of Egypt. In fact, the late prince’s personal 1518 model was also sold by Sotheby’s in 2021, where it surpassed pre-sales estimates by over four times, raking in a dizzying $9.6 million. Whether this example will follow suit and bust through pre-sale estimates remains to be seen.
“To unearth a previously unknown, undiscovered and vintage watch from a single owner in such remarkable condition is the stuff of dreams for vintage Patek Philippe collectors, a ‘holy grail’ watch so to speak,” Sotheby’s executive Jonathon Burford said in a statement.
Interested in owning a piece of watch history? You can place your bids on the vintage grail at the live auction in New York on June 9, starting at 10 a.m.
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