Auction Season Kicks Off with a Record-Breaking Patek Philippe 2499 Perpetual Calendar Chronograph
If This Vintage Patek Auction Was an Appetizer to the Season, I Can't Wait for the Main Course
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)
Patek Perpetual Calendar Chronograph 2499 in Pink Gold (Record Breaking!)
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.
Patek Perpetual Calendar Chronograph 1518 ‘Pink on Pink’
Sold for: 22.8m HKD (~$2.9m)
Next up, the father of the 2499, a pink-on-pink Perpetual Calendar Chronograph 1518. The 1518 is where it all started for Patek’s perpetual calendar chronographs, perhaps the most important complication combo in the history of the brand. Introduced in 1941, Patek made just 281 over the course of the next decade.
Remember just last December Sotheby’s brought another pink-on-pink 1518 to market from the estate of Prince T.A. of Egypt. That one broke a record for the reference, selling for $9.57m. This also made it the third most expensive vintage wristwatch of all time, behind only Paul Newman’s Paul Newman and the steel 1518 that Phillips sold in 2016.
So this pink-on-pink 1518 might not have been in the same league as the Prince’s 1518, which remained in pristine condition, virtually untouched for decades, but this represents a solid result for a solid watch. Compared to that record-breaking breaking, this case shows some signs of polish, and the dial has some scratches and blemishes. But no matter, it’s still a multi-million dollar watch.
Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Chronograph 3970
Sold for: 1m HKD (~$127k)
Since Sotheby’s said that the perpetual calendar chronograph was The Nevadian Collector’s favorite, let’s look at the result for the 2499’s successor, the 3970. Now we're firmly in neo-vintage territory, and many (myself included) consider this the last real 'vintage' perpetual calendar chronograph from Patek thanks to its size (36mm) and wearability. Like all neo-vintage watches, it's picked up in popularity recently, and I can attest that it's one of the coolest watches ever on wrist.
Sotheby’s sold a yellow gold example for $127,000, an indication that some of the recent price run-up is real. Not too long ago, you would’ve heard collectors whispering about the relative value of the 3970, and I’m not sure that’s the case anymore.
Meanwhile, Sotheby’s sold a Perpetual Calendar 3940P (“p” for platinum) — the cousin of the 3970 — for just a bit less, 945k HKD.
Beyond the drool-worthy perpetual calendar chronographs, just a couple other results from The Nevadian Collector sale I wanted to cover: the best-performing chronograph and time-only lots.
Patek Chronograph 1463 ‘Tasti Tondi’
Sold for: 7.7m HKD (~$981k)
Sure, the perpetual calendar chronographs are great. But sometimes, you just want a “simple” chronograph. Something to wear when you’re wandering the beaches of Positano during the summer, I suppose.1 For me, the Patek 1463 is the platonic ideal of a chronograph. It’s the only vintage waterproof chronograph Patek ever made.
This example features a stainless steel case and Breguet numerals — Sotheby’s calls it “arguably” the most desirable combination of the 1463, but I won’t be so circumspect. This is the most beautiful watch Patek Philippe ever made. Some might be more complicated, while others more rare, but this watch gets every single detail right. From those Breguet numerals to the large, engraved “Tasti Tondi” pushers, it has tons of vintage style, but the waterproof steel case still feels robust and modern. It doesn’t get any better than this chronograph, and it’s got the results to show for it.
Patek Calatrava 2526
Sold for: 1.26m HKD (~$161,000)
The Patek Philippe reference 2526 is basically the 1463 of the Calatrava line, if that makes sense. It’s Patek’s first automatic movement, perfected over a decade or so of testing. So the movement is perfect. But beyond that, some examples feature beautiful enamel dials that are as much artwork as they are functional time-telling disks. Add in a waterproof case, and this watch represents everything that’s great about mid-century Patek: hand-crafted and hand-finished details, along with sporty, tough builds that make these vintage watches wearable even for modern wrists.
In the Calatrava line, the reference 2526 is as good as it gets. Ben Clymer thinks so too.
Head to Sotheby’s to see the rest of the results for The Nevadian Collector Auction.
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