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Christie's Geneva to offer Eric Clapton watch in its upcoming auction of Important Watches
‘Spectacular’ is the only word to describe the only reference 2499 cased in platinum by Patek Philippe available to a connoisseur collector (estimate: SFr.2,500,000-4,000,000). Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2012.

GENEVA.- Featuring some 310 lots, Christie’s Geneva auction of important watches on November 12 is estimated to realise a total of more than SFr.15 million (US$16 million). The top lot of the sale is an ultra-rare platinum perpetual calendar chronograph reference 2499/100, from the collection of Eric Clapton (estimate: SFr.2,500,000-4,000,000). Two other extraordinary and historically important platinum Patek Philippe masterpieces will be offered. These include a unique platinum wristwatch, ref. 2458, specially made in 1952 for the legendary collector J.B. Champion (estimate: SFr.2,000,000-4,000,000), and the superb platinum chronograph wristwatch, ref. 1579, manufactured in 1946 (estimate: SFr.1,000,000-1,500,000). Furthermore the sale will feature one of the finest private collections of antique enamelled watches made for the Chinese market - previously unrecorded and unpublished in literature. Christie’s is also particularly honoured to present A Gentleman’s Pursuit for Excellence, Part I, a phenomenal single-owner collection featuring more than twenty complicated Patek Philippe wrist and pocket watches, to be offered in Geneva at various sales in 2012 and 2013.

Aurel Bacs, International Head of Christie’s Watch Department: “Over the past thirty years a combined total of over two million collector’s watches have changed hands via the international salerooms, leading the worldwide community of scholars, collectors, specialists, museum curators and dealers to form, in an official / unofficial way, a list of the ten most significant wristwatches, in their opinion. To make it onto this `all-star list’ a wristwatch has to standout by its historical importance, mechanical complexity, unmatched beauty, original condition, incredible rarity and superior provenance. This autumn we are proud to offer for sale examples which deserve to be placed on that list. These include three extraordinary Patek Philippe platinum wristwatches: the world famous `J.B. Champion’ special order platinum observatory wristwatch, the platinum chronograph wristwatch reference 1579, one of three platinum examples ever made, and the highly important platinum perpetual calendar chronograph reference 2499/100 from the collection of Eric Clapton.”

All Patek Philippe, all hyper-rare platinum examples, all of impeccable provenance, the three top lots from Christie’s Geneva auction of important watches are to be considered to rank amongst the top ten list of platinum Patek Philippe wristwatches to have remained in private hands.

‘Spectacular’ is the only word to describe the only reference 2499 cased in platinum by Patek Philippe available to a connoisseur collector (estimate: SFr.2,500,000-4,000,000). This legendary model displays the most perfect combination of design, functions, mechanical complexity and case proportions. Launched in 1951, reference 2499 was in production for nearly 35 years, during which a total of 349 watches were made. The only two examples ever cased in platinum were most likely never intended for sale. In fact, one of them highlights the wristwatch section of the celebrated Patek Philippe museum in Geneva. The first and last time the other platinum 2499 watch was offered for sale was in 1989 when the firm, celebrating its 150th anniversary, consigned it to the historical “The Art of Patek Philippe” auction, held in Geneva on April 9, 1989. Acquired at the above auction, by one of Europe’s most prominent collectors in the field of vintage Patek Philippe wristwatches, it only changed hands once more before being acquired by Eric Clapton. As a consequence, this masterpiece of horology becomes available at auction this year for the first time since its original sale nearly a quarter century ago.

BUILT TO WIN – The ‘J.B. Champion Platinum Observatory Chronometer’
Patek Philippe cased only two 30mm. competition chronometer movements which were built to compete in the prestigious Geneva Observatory Precision Contest. Fitted with a superb Guillaume balance, movement No. 861121 meets all the requirements imposed by the observatory rules, boasting absolutely unique features. Created for research purposes, similar movements do not become available for sale, yet it comes as no surprise that the ever demanding J. B. Champion, a successful American lawyer and probably Patek Philippe’s most privileged client of the post-war years, commissioned a wristwatch chronometer fitted with such an Observatory movement. A case was designed and built to meet Mr. Champion’s exclusive taste as he opted for the most precious of all materials, platinum. Visually, the most evident difference between Mr. Champion’s platinum ref. 2458 and examples of the same model of the regular production is the dial design which was completed with the signature “MADE ESPECIALLY FOR J. B. CHAMPION” at the 6 o’clock position. Presented in superbly crisp and overall original condition, the ‘J.B. Champion Platinum Observatory Chronometer’ is offered at auction for the first time ever (estimate: SFr. SFr.2,000,000-4,000,000).

Reference 1579 takes a unique position in Patek Philippe's production of vintage chronograph wristwatches as it is not only one of the largest models, with a diameter of 36 mm., but it is also the only example with the rare facetted lugs. Launched in 1943, the model was predominantly available in yellow and pink gold, with few examples cased in stainless steel. The reference 1579 offered here for sale featuring a platinum case is without a doubt the version with the most evident gravitas. In fact, only three examples cased in this noble metal are known to exist today, interestingly bearing consecutive case numbers. Few 1940s designs radiate so much masculinity yet flamboyance and elegance, and even fewer examples preserved in such good condition can offer so much quality to a discerning collector as the present "spider lug" reference 1579 (estimate SFr.1,000,000-1,500,000).

Not only will collectors of Patek Philippe watches be fascinated by the complexity of the mechanism but by the rarity, beauty and craftsmanship of enamel watches which had, and still have today, a prominent role in the production of the celebrated Geneva manufacture. In the 1940s and early 1950s Patek Philippe produced highly detailed and incredibly artistic cloisonné dials to fit either pocket watches, “time only wristwatches” - such as the pink gold reference 1595 with polychrome cloisonné enamel dial depicting a Tahiti forest (estimate: SFr.70,000-100,000), and “world time wristwatches” - such as the exceedingly rare, only one of four, yellow gold reference 1415 HU with cloisonné enamel dial depicting the Eastern hemisphere (estimate: SFr.700,000-1,200,000). Later in the 1960s, Patek Philippe re-launched the production of watches with enamel miniatures; one of the most popular enamel miniatures painters is Mrs. Susannah Rohr who was entrusted with the creation of only three pocket watches a year. In her hands, the secret alchemy of the cultured enamels offers a second life, of unequalled depth and finesse, as we can admire in the example offered within the sale with enamel miniature after Jean-Philippe George-Julliard and manufactured in 1981 (estimate: SFr.70,000-100,000).

Christie's will present a sensational collection of antique watches, comprising the different styles made for the export to China such as matching pairs, gold and enamelled watches as well as silver gilt and other enamel examples. The majority of the pieces for sale have been acquired by the present owner and her late husband during their repeated journeys to the Orient between the late 1950s and the 1970s. Together they made a comprehensive selection of timepieces manufactured between the early and the mid-19th century by the most celebrated watchmakers of the time, specialized in this particular domain. Of particular interest to collectors is a pair of duplex watches distinguished by the mirror-inverted enamel motifs and the remarkably rare element of identical numbers, signed Vaucher, Fleurier, circa 1830 (estimate: SFr.80,000-120,000). A superb quarter repeating watch by Piguet et Meylan is decorated by an outstanding enamel scene attributed to Lissignol, circa 1820 (estimate: SFr.80,000-120,000).


Christie's is honored to present A Gentleman’s Pursuit For Excellence, Part I, a superb private collection of more than twenty complicated Patek Philippe wristwatches and pocket watches, ranging from vintage classics to modern production, to be offered at various auctions in Geneva starting from November 12.

The wristwatch section incorporates the complete history of complicated wristwatches and matches the highest level of condition, authenticity, provenance and history. The following typologies and functions are represented: chronographs, including single-button and split-seconds, perpetual calendars, including perpetual calendars with chronographs and further functions, minute repeaters, world time and travel time. The pocket watch selection features the most prominent representatives made after the 1930’s and the four parameters set for the wristwatches were also applicable. Among the highlights from A Gentleman’s Pursuit For Excellence, Part I is a very rare white gold perpetual calendar wristwatch with moon phases, ref. 3448, manufactured by Patek Philippe in 1974 (estimate: SFr.220,000-320,000).

A special section of the Christie's Geneva sale features a number of extraordinary vintage Rolex wristwatches, including a superb yellow gold reference 6265, one of the first Cosmograph Daytona with screw back chronograph buttons introduced to the market in the early 1970s, in close to mint condition and still retaining the original sticker on the back (estimate: SFr.60,000-80,000). Another highlight from this section is a very rare 1955 Rolex Milgauss, ref. 6543 (estimate: SFr.40,000-60,000). Designed in the early 1950s by Rolex for specialized personnel such as scientists, engineers, electricians, technical chemists and physicists who constantly work in high magnetic fields which effected the regularity of their watches, reference 6543 is the earliest and rarest of the three Milguass references (ref. 6543, 6541, 1019) ever produced.

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