A rare Patek Philippe world timer ref. 2523/1 sold for $5,545,999 at Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo’s Geneva Auction XII this weekend, in a sale that totaled $28,002,004. The watch, which Phillips describes as “mythical,” is one of only four made in rose gold with a guilloché dial, and one of only two to ever appear at auction. One of the four resides in the Patek Philippe museum in Geneva. The brand’s 24-city world time watches are rare, and very distinctive for their hand crafted dials of guilloché or enamel. The ref. 2523 was launched in 1953, and was the first to incorporate Patek’s new two-crown system, one for winding the watch and the other at 9 o’clock to control the city disk.
The second-highest ticket was a Patek Philippe ref. 3974 perpetual calendar with minute repeater and moonphases in a platinum case, for $1,579,570, followed closely by an iconic Patek Philippe ref. 2499, a second series perpetual calendar chronograph in yellow gold for $1,432,701. It was from the collection of legendary collector and author John Goldberger, who in 2018 sold one of the world’s most expensive Rolexes, known as the “Unicorn,” the only white gold Rolex Daytona ref. 6265, for $5.9 million. The proceeds were donated to charity. Another yellow gold ref. 2499 in this sale went for $784,063. “What a pleasure when a watch is so widely embraced by the community,” commented auctioneer Aurel Bacs as he fielded several phone and online bids from around the world for the watch. (Produced between 1951 and 1985, in a limited number of approximately 349 examples, the 2499 is the second generation of Patek Philippe’s lineage of famous perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatches.)
The sale also included a rare example of Patek’s first-generation perpetual chronographs, a ref. 1518 in yellow gold, selling for $462,036. The 1518 was first introduced in 1941, and became the archetype of the Patek Philippe perpetual calendar chronograph. Only 281 of the references were ever made.
Rolex, of course, was also among the top ten with two coveted models worth noting. One was a John Player Special, a gold and black Paul Newman-style Daytona ref. 6241, which sold for $867,624. The JPS was produced in a small series in the late 1960s. The other was a ref. 8171 known as the Padellone (Italian for “large frying pan” in reference to the dial), which sold for $812,065. It is one of only two Rolex models ever produced with moonphases.
But, of course, you can’t have a headlining sale without a Patek Philippe Nautilus on the roster. It is still one of the hottest selling watches on the secondary market, and there were several in this sale, including a white gold ref. 3700/11, hammering in at $770,062. It is one of only 12 known ref. 3700s cased in white gold and one of only two known examples of ref. 3700/11 made in white gold.
Of the top 10 lots in the sale, six were Patek Philippe and four were Rolex, unsurprisingly, but this should not overshadow the collectible watches from other brands. Among them were 14 outstanding Audemars Piguet watches, including a rare platinum Royal Oak Offshore chronograph/date watch, which sold for $469,037. The top lot among the eight Vacheron Constantin models was a rare chronograph with pulsometer made in 1938, raking in $58,782. And there were seven A. Lange & Sohne watches, including an early yellow gold Lange 1, which sold for $56,045, as well as six Omegas, the highlight of which was a 1941 chronograph with a rare black and grey dial that came in at $126,010.
Finally, for those who prefer something a little more whimsical than the usual Grail pieces, there were two fun watches worth mentioning. The first was an unusual Rolex “Pepsi,” GMT-Master SARU, a tribute to the blue and red bezel that gives the model its nickname. But rather than the usual blue and red ceramic, the bezel is set with baguette-cut red rubies and blue sapphires (SARU stands for sapphire and ruby). It sold for $105,008. The other was a $287,022 Cartier Crash, with the famously squashed dial, inspired by a Cartier watch that was run over by a car in the 1960s and brought into the store for repair. If you like the Crash, stay tuned for the Sotheby’s “Masterworks of Time” sale in Geneva on November 11, which will also include a rare yellow gold iteration.