A Record-Breaking Patek; Atelier Wen is Proudly Made in China
And owning a piece of John Goldberger's collection
This week’s newsletter is Presented By Subdial, the trading platform for watch enthusiasts and collectors. We’ve been partnering with Subdial since the beginning of the year, and since we feature a watch from their weekly drop every week, it has been fun to follow the diverse weekly selection of vintage, independent, and pre-owned watches they curate.
Happy Tuesday. Today, a look at the first auctions of the season; hands-on with a new release from Atelier Wen; finally, a look at Ronny Chieng’s collection and Vanity Fair Goes Inside the Watch World and 'the Rich People Who Love Them'.
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Auction Season Kicks Off with a Record-Breaking Patek Philippe 2499 Perpetual Calendar Chronograph
Just the four words — Patek perpetual calendar chronograph — send shivers down the spines of collectors, not to mention dreams of draining bank accounts for the chance to own just one.
On Monday, Sotheby’s Hong Kong held a small auction of just 39 lots, all vintage Patek Philippe timepieces from a single private collector dubbed “The Nevadian Collector” (Nevada is apparently the collector’s favorite place in the world).
According to Sotheby’s, Patek’s perpetual calendar chronographs were this collector’s favorite models. At one point, he amassed 18 Patek reference 2499s and 15 reference 1518s among his collection of 400 watches. That’s basically a Tom Brady-winning-the-Lombardi-Trophy level of collecting. Patek produced both of these models in the hundreds, many of which have since been lost to time over the decades, so owning even a handful can mean you’ve handled most of the good ones.
The Sotheby’s sale was highlighted by a record-breaking Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar 2499 in pink gold, but the results up and down the board were very strong.
If this is the appetizer to the auction season, I can’t wait for the main course in Geneva in a couple of weeks. Let’s take a look at a few of the results.
“I’m like Nevada in the middle of the summer / resting in the lead I need a pillow and a cover.” - Lil Wayne (and the vintage Patek market, probably)
Let’s start with the record-breaker, the Patek Philippe 2499 in pink gold, selling for 60.3m HKD (~$7.7m). It’s a world record for the Patek reference 2499, of which Patek only produced 349 examples from 1950 until 1985. Amazingly, this piece has held the record for the 2499 before, when it sold at Sotheby’s back in 2007 for CHF 2.7m. Most recently, its record was surpassed by the Asprey 2499 (sold at Sotheby’s for CHF 3.9m in 2018), another watch that has also been previously owned by The Nevadian Collector (!).
The 2499 is perhaps the most important collectible reference in all of vintage Patek, beloved by collectors for its bold case proportions, lugs, and round pushers (introduced in the second series of the 2499). These modern features of the 2499 set it apart and make it more desirable than the earlier (and more rare) reference 1518 (more on these in a moment).
So why the record result for this Gobbi-signed 2499? Only nine pink gold second series 2499 examples are known, and this is the only example with a retailer signature. On top of that, it’s in outstanding original condition.
🔨 Check out the rest of the results from The Nevadian Collector Auction.
When I go hands-on with a watch, I try to evaluate it in a vacuum — devoid of social media, other opinions, or scrolling to the bottom of the big H for those comments that always feel like a bad car wreck — you want to look away, but you just can’t.
When I got the new Perception from Atelier Wen, I did the same thing, so I’ll start with my honest impression of the watch. But this is one of those watches that’s also “more than a watch,” so after that we’ll zoom out for a minute to see what it all means for watchmaking.
The Atelier Wen Perception is a “Proudly Made in China” (yes, more on this in a moment) take on the familiar Genta-fied steel sports watch. It’s fascinating that, over the last few years, this has become a category all its own, and it’s no longer prima facie derivative or a “knock-off” for a brand to release a steel sports watch. Everyone, from Lange to Seiko to Atelier Wen, now has a right to build their own sports watch, much the way most brands have a dive watch in their catalog.
It’s the curse of popularity, I suppose: If one brand knocks off your design, they’re stealing, plain and simple. If ten or a dozen do it, it’s a new category.
Aesthetically, the dial is what sets this watch apart from those other sports watches. It features a beautiful guilloche pattern completed by hand by Master Cheng, who Atelier Wen says is the only guilloche master in China. Cheng became determined to study the art of guilloche after first encountering it in 2013. Eventually, he created his own rose engine lathe so that he could perform the arduous task by hand. According to Atelier Wen, it takes Cheng 8 hours to complete each dial.
Read the full hands-on, including what it means for a watch to be “Proudly Made in China”
This week’s newsletter is presented by Subdial, the ultimate trading platform for watch enthusiasts and collectors. Every week, we feature one of the watches from their weekly drop.
The Patek Philippe ref. 5080 is one of those underrated references that shouldn’t be. Nowadays, a stainless steel sports watch from Patek is the ultimate in hype. Nautilus, Aquanaut, you know the names.
But the Neptune, released in 1996 before the Aquanaut, is the forgotten sports watch from Patek. With its 36mm diameter, Roman numerals, and other elegant details, it’s a bit dressier than Patek’s other sports watches. In fact, at the time Patek advertised it as “Ideal for sportswear, the supremely elegant Neptune is, at the same time, the perfect dress watch.” Patek ended up producing it only until 2002, meaning the Neptune isn’t exactly easy to find either. Back then, stainless steel Pateks just weren’t selling. But if Patek released the Neptune in 2022, you have to think it’d have all the ingredients for a hit.
📦Check out this Patek Neptune 5080 on Subdial, as well as the rest of their weekly drop.
This Auction is Your Chance to Own a Piece of John Goldberger's Watch Collection
Mama mia! There’s no denying that there’s a certain intoxicating allure to owning a watch once belonging to one of the great Italian gentlemen collectors. Perhaps you’d become pals and meet on the piazza to sip an Aperol Spritz while chatting about the intricacies of vintage Submariner dials.
Monaco Legends hosted their spring auction April 23-24 in…Monaco! Since vintage dealer Davide Parmegiani took the helm of Monaco Legends’ watches department a few years ago, the house has slowly grown. Last year’s 88 Cartiers auction was a huge hit — Tyler The Creator showed up, and bought at least one watch from the look of it.
This weekend’s sale featured a bunch of vintage goodies — the entire catalog is worth a scroll. But I wanted to focus on just three, since they come from the world-famous collection of John Goldberger. If you’re not too familiar with his collection, check out his Talking Watches here, or his ridiculous Tank Cintree collection here (or, like me, rewatch these videos with your mouth open the whole time).
✨ Take a look at 3 rare watches for sale from Goldberger’s collection at Monaco Legends.
THROUGH THE WIRE
🔍 Recommended: Vanity Fair Goes Inside the Watch World and 'the Rich People Who Love Them'. “Paul Newman’s $17 million Rolex was just the beginning. Now, celebrities, style icons, dealers, auctioneers, and regular Joes do battle for vintage Patek Philippes, Audemars Piguets, and Richard Milles.”
😻 The watches in a 1938 men’s catalog. Imagine flipping through a catalog with pages of Patek, Jaeger, and Breguet watches alongside polos, Hermes trucks, and other such objects from purveyors of the finer things in life. (Strictly Vintage Watches)
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