Re Weekly: A ridiculous, fresh-to-market pink Patek 1518; Hands-On with Paulin x AnOrdain; Al Capone's Patek
A packed Sunday 'sletter for your reading pleasure
A busy week means a packed Sunday ‘sletter: a fresh pink-on-pink Patek 1518; hands-on with a colorful collab; Al Capone’s Patek pocket watch, and more. Rescapement is a weekly newsletter about watches, smash the subscribe button to get it in your inbox every Sunday:
A ridiculous, fresh-to-market 'pink-on-pink' Patek 1518 is up for auction this fall. Let's take a look.
(This week every article headline is a link, so go ahead and click above to see the full post)
The Patek Philippe reference 1518 perpetual calendar chronograph is about as mythical as it gets. The first serially produced perpetual calendar chronograph from the watch manufacturer, only 281 are said to have been made from its introduction in 1941 through 1954. Only 13 examples were known in the “pink-on-pink” fomulation, a pink gold case with a salmon dial.
So even in a world where you scroll past jaw-dropping watches every day, hardly stopping to give them a split second of your time, it’s not often you see this:
“Excited to finally announce this incredible watch – A ‘Pink on Pink’ Ref 1518 from Patek Philippe - Previously unknown and possibly the finest condition example to come to the market, consigned directly from the estate to Prince Tewfik Adil Toussoun of Egypt, first cousin of King Farouk I and accompanied by its original Certificate of Origin, instructions and box - December 2021 NYC Important Watches” — @jonbinla
Yep, that’s a previously unknown pink-on-pink Patek 1518, posted by Sotheby’s watch specialist Jonathan Burford. It’ll be on sale at Sotheby’s Important Watches Sale in December, surely one of the highlights of the entire auction season.
The watch was owned by Prince Tewfik Adil Tousson of Egypt, who owned it from 1951 until his death earlier this year.
Make that 14 pink-on-pink Patek 1518s, and this looks to be one of the best ones yet. Pink-on-pink is the rarest known variant of the 1518, next to the four examples in stainless steel.
After I saw Jonathan’s Instagram post, I reached out to him and he was kind enough to give us an early look at this fresh 1518.
Sotheby’s found the watch in the Prince’s safety deposit box, where it has remained virtually untouched for the past 70 years. Jonathan said he got “goosebumps” when he first pulled the watch out of the box, equally blown away by the fact that the watch also had its 1951 Certificate of Origin.
Prince Tewfik Adil “T.A.” Toussoun of Egypt died in April 2021 (obituary link) at the age of 96. T.A. is a direct descendant of Mohamed Ali, often considered the “founder of modern Egypt.” He was also a cousin to King Farouk I of Egypt, the penultimate King of Egypt (and, as Sotheby’s notes, another proud owner of a Patek 1518).
Born in Cairo, Egypt, but growing up in France after departing Egypt prior to the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, T.A. would eventually come to the United States for college. He attended Cornell University, earning a degree in agriculture, going on to earn a PhD in Agriculture from the University of California Berkeley. He later became a professor of plant pathology at Penn State University,
On the subject of its Egyptian royal provenance, Sotheby’s points to a long history of selling significant royal Egyptian assets. Most recently, it sold a unique gold US coin previously owned by the aforementioned King Farouk I for $18.9 million, absolutely smashing the record result for a coin (watch collectors aren’t the only crazy ones…).
Back to this 1518. Jonathan said the condition of this example is “breathtaking,” remaining completely unrestored and unpolished, with the Vichet case still retaining its original hallmarks and brushing. The dial is also pristine, free of any major flaws. Altogether Sotheby’s says, “this example in such outstanding condition presents a rare opportunity for a scholarly collector to cherish and admire Patek Philippe’s first perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch in a state near that of when it was fresh from the factory.” In other words, a true museum-worthy piece, when such terminology is often overused.
So what might it sell for? Well, your guess is as good as mine. Last year, Phillips sold a pink-on-pink 1518 perpetual calendar chronograph for CHF 3.4m. That example didn’t have royal provenance, though it had been owned by one Jean-Claude Biver for the past decade, surely horological royalty himself.
In December 2019, Phillips sold another pink-on-pink 1518 for $2.3m (that one also fresh to market).
Sotheby’s is placing this estimate at $1.2-2.2m.
Colorful but classic
There’s something that feels classic about the Paulin Watches Neo C, a collaboration between Scottish brand Paulin and neighbors AnOrdain, the latter known for their vitreous enamel dials. It’s a trick, really, considering Paulin was only founded back in 2013 by the Paulin sisters. They, and for that matter, their countrymates at AnOrdain (to whom I briefly spoke for my “Art of Dial Finishing” piece over on ACM), have managed to make it feel like Scottish watchmaking has always been a thing, with a rich history of craftsmen, artisans, and designers that have led us to now.
For Paulin, “now” is the Neo line, a collection of three watches released in late 2020. The watch is defined by its dial, an entirely UK-made proposition. Each dial is milled from a solid piece of aluminum so that the dial and feet are one piece, and then anodized. Then, each dial is individually hand-dyed by Glasgow artist Helen Swan, giving each its own slight variation and character.
Finally, AnOrdain finishes off the process by printing and assembling the dials. By the way, AnOrdain also happens to be founded by Lewis Heath, the husband of Paulin co-founder Charlotte Paulin.
As for the rest of the watch: It comes in a modest 38mm steel case, housing an automatic Seiko NH35A caliber. I preferred wearing the Neo C on Paulin’s mesh bracelet, a nice vintage-inspired touch.
So why does the Neo feel so perfectly retro? I mean, the dial colors are totally modern, as is the process for crafting the beautiful aluminum dials. The numerals are also contemporary, using a bespoke font called Wim created by Paulin.
Perhaps the classic feel has something to do with how easy wearing the watch is. At 38mm and about 11mm in thickness, with a box crystal that gives it a slightly more svelte profile (not to mention more angles from which to admire the dial, which catches the light differently at different angles), the watch wears perfectly, almost disappearing on your wrist until you look down and remember, oh wait, I’m wearing a bright blue (in my case) aluminum dial on my wrist. A worthwhile PTI, to be clear.
Perhaps it’s the case shape, this unassuming round case with modest lugs and an overall curved profile. The high, domed crystal adds to this sloping effect, perhaps the vintage-inspired flourish my senses most picked up on.
Right now, you can find the Neo A and B for $550 at the MoMA shop. I tried the Neo C, my favorite of the bunch, but that’s a matter of subjectivity and opinion; don’t concern yourself too much with the preferences of one writer.
I appreciate brands that try to do things differently. Paulin is unabashed in its focus on design. There’s the custom-made font, the quirky hands, and of course, the dial. Sure, the case is simple (if not a pleasure to wear), and the Seiko movement is “off-the-shelf” (who cares?), but for $500, you’ve got a true piece of thoughtful design you can strap on your wrist. How many other brands can truly say they offer the same?
If I really think about it, it’s this combination of unabashed self-assuredness manifested into physical form that makes the Neo feel so classic to me. Paulin is completely true to who they are, and just as clear about what they are not. Every part of the dial-making process feels transparent, Paulin laying it out on their website for all to see and understand. Dial and design are the focus of this object, full stop.
At five hundred bucks, you feel like you know where every dollar is going, mostly spread across a few artisans in Glasgow. In an age when too few companies achieve this transparency, either through deliberately vague PR and product releases, or unwittingly as opaque communication gets confused in a web of corporate conglomeration and PR-speak, Paulin feels refreshing. It still feels like a project that might originally have been conceived in a Glasgow pub over a glass of whisky.
And perhaps that's why the Paulin Neo feels so classic.
☑️ Check out the full hands-on look at the Paulin x AnOrdain Neo C.
On October 8, 175 items from the estate of Al Capone were auctioned off. One of the biggest lots among them was Al Capone’s Patek Philippe pocket watch, selling for $229,900 (including buyer’s premium). It’s a huge result for a legendary timepiece, especially considering the auction house estimate of $25-50k.
Capone’s Patek pocket watch is platinum with 90 single-cut diamonds on the case to form his initials, AC. The lot description provides further that the watch isn’t working and the dial is turning a yellow/tropical color. Oh, and it’s missing the minute hand.
Still, no bother. In a world where provenance is one of the most valuable things a watch can have, this gangster’s timepiece certainly has it, coming from one of the world’s most infamous tax evaders. The watch was passed from Capone and his wife Mae to their son Sonny, and eventually to Sonny’s daughters (Capone’s granddaughters), who are the ones who put up all the items in the estate sale.
"The items that generate the most interest are the ones that you think of as synonymous with a gangster figure like Al Capone, his guns and his fancy flamboyant jewelry," Brian Witherell, the consignment director for Witherell’s the auction house that held the sale, told Reuters of the estate auction.
Other Capone timepieces
Al Capone’s Patek pocket watch may have been the biggest timepiece at the auction, but it wasn’t the only one. While Capone’s Patek was certainly fit for a gangster kingpin, his son Sonny had a handful of watches that were, well, fit for the son of a gangster. Above: Sonny’s Longines pocket watch, which sold for $8,470.
🔫 Check out the full story, including a look at some of the other timepieces sold off from the Capone estate, and the top lot of the sale, Capone’s “favorite” gun that sold for $1m.
Through the Wire
🍣 A big week for releases: The Baltic Micro-Rotor has big vintage Calatrava vibes for $600. Can’t wait for my salmon dial to arrive (if the pink 1518 remains a mere delusion, get this I suppose). 👌 At the other end of the spectrum, our friends Petermann Bedat announced their Dead Beats 1967 with a titanium case and fun blue dial. Check out my interview from last year with them here.
👓 In Chicago: Andersonville is the coolest neighborhood in the U.S.
Okay ciao! -Tony
Rescapement is a weekly newsletter about watches, smash the subscribe button to get it in your inbox every Sunday:
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🎃 I bring it back around Halloween every year because it’s one of my favorites: