Among watch connoisseurs, the name Serpico y Laino conjures a bygone period of the 20th century when one of the finest watch retailers in the world was based in Venezuela, not Switzerland. Founded in Caracas in 1925 by the jeweler Leopoldo Serpico and goldsmith Vicente Laino, the boutique had the exclusive trademark for both Rolex and Patek Philippe and regularly marketed their timepieces, bearing its own name beside that of the brand.
One of those timepieces, a first-series 18-karat-gold Patek Philippe Ref. 2499 wristwatch, purchased in the early 1960s by the late father of the present owners, is the top lot at Christie’s November 12 Rare Watches auction at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues in Geneva. The Patek Philippe ref. 2499 is considered the holy grail of watch collecting, and no other ref. 2499 retailed by the celebrated Patek Philippe dealer is known to exist. It’s expected to fetch upward of $1.6 million.
Fresh to the market and in “superb original overall condition,” according to Christie’s, the piece, which bears the stamps “S.&L.” and “18K” on the outside of the caseback, displays the calendar discs for day and month in Spanish. The vintage model joins some 230 unique watches manufactured from the late 18th century to the present day in an auction expected to realize $12 million. “The sale offers a diversity of key timepieces, consigned by private collectors, that will captivate collectors throughout the world,” says John Reardon, the international head of the watch department at Christie’s.
In addition to the Patek Philippe Ref. 2499 first series retailed by Serpico y Laino (lot 234), another example of Patek Philippe Ref. 2499 (lot 112) belonging to the fourth series of the reference will be up for auction. Bearing a dial with a tachymeter scale, the circa-1981 timepiece—estimated at $580,000 to $990,000—is thought to have been the product of a special request.
“To date, only three other reference 2499/100 dials with outer scales are known to exist,” says Reardon, “two with telemeter graduation and the third with a tachymeter scale, however reconditioned and omitting the ‘Sigma’ symbols to each side of the ‘Swiss’ signature, rendering the present tachymeter example extremely special and possibly unique.”
A third Patek Philippe, a Ref. 2438/1 perpetual calendar wristwatch (lot 233) is, according to Reardon, “a hardly-before-seen occasion for collectors to discover a timepiece retained for almost 60 years in the family of the original owner. Purchased for him on the occasion of his 50th birthday from Patek Philippe’s prestigious retailer A. Mersmann in Lugano, the present reference 2438/1 is one of the scarcest of Patek Philippe’s ‘Golden Age’ watches and miraculously retains its original Certificate of Origin, with envelope.” The estimate is $300,000 to $470,000.
In the pocket-watch offering, which has been increasingly soft at auction, an Audemars Piguet circa-1922 pocket watch boasting nine complications and a fascinating provenance (lot 57) is estimated at $110,000 to $210,000. Gifted by the founder of the Maxwell Motor Company to automotive entrepreneur Walter P. Chrysler, the 18-karat-gold and enamel timepiece bears, according to Reardon, “a very pleasing dial design, a case enhanced with geometric black enamel Greek decoration, a stylized monogram WPC, as well as an interior engraved, ‘To my friend Walter P. Chrysler from James C. Brady, June 7th 1922.’” As a timepiece that once belonged to one of America’s great automotive titans, expect this pocket watch to fetch well above its estimate.
And, of course, it wouldn’t be a major auction without another Rolex Daytona on the block. A stainless-steel Rolex Daytona Paul Newman “Panda” chronograph Ref. 6263 with Mk I dial (lot 154), a version of the Rolex Daytona that has increasingly been fetching a premium, was consigned by the family of the original owner, who purchased the watch new in Geneva.
“It is considered the ultimate vintage Cosmograph model,” says Reardon. “Complementing the overall importance of the present timepiece, the watch features a very rare Mk 1 dial, amongst the rarest gems in the world of Daytona collecting and set apart from their contemporaries by the very different font type used for the printed text. The timepiece also features the very rare Mk 1 pushers, highly sought after by the most astute collectors and often replaced during services.” The Rolex MK I ref. 6263 is expected to fetch a minimum of $300,000.