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The legendary Patek Philippe "Calibre 89' leads Sotheby's Geneva Sale of Important Watches
This stunning pocket watch is the most complex mechanical watch ever made by Patek Philippe. Photo: Sotheby's.

GENEVA.- Leading the spring auction of Important Watches at Sotheby’s Geneva is the legendary ‘Calibre 89’, Patek Philippe’s most complicated watch. This pocket watch in yellow gold features no fewer than 33 complications and was completed in 1989 to mark the company’s 150th Jubilee Anniversary. The ‘Calibre 89’ still stands today as the brand’s mechanical ambassador and ranks among the most coveted prizes for the most discerning collectors in the world. The auction on Sunday, 14 May will also feature a very fine selection of wristwatches and pocket watches by renowned makers including not only Patek Philippe, but also Rolex, Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin, Greubel Forsey and more.

Looking ahead to the sale, Daryn Schnipper, Chairman of Sotheby’s International Watch Division, commented: “It is a privilege for Sotheby’s to be offering the Patek Philippe ‘Calibre 89’ – which remains without question among the most important watches ever made. A standard-bearer in the field of mechanical watchmaking, it represents an extraordinary accomplishment in the history of one of the great manufacturers in the world. This exceptional timepiece will lead the sale in May, during which keen collectors and newcomers alike will have the opportunity to acquire fine and rare watches from a broad range of makers, including Patek Philippe, Rolex, Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin, Cartier and Greubel Forsey.”

Sotheby’s will present the legendary Patek Philippe Yellow-Gold ‘Calibre 89’. After research began in 1980, nearly a decade of craftsmanship and refinement made the ‘Calibre 89’ the most complicated watch ever created when Patek Philippe unveiled it in 1989 to mark their 150th anniversary.

This stunning pocket watch is the most complex mechanical watch ever made by Patek Philippe. Weighing 1100 grams (2lbs 6.4oz) and measuring 88.2 mm in diameter (with the case) and comprising 24 hands, 2 dials, 8 disks, 61 bridges, 129 jewels, 184 wheels, 332 screws, 415 pins and 429 mechanical components, the watch is comprised of an astonishing 1,728 parts. In addition to the complex calendar functions, including a tourbillon escapement and an astronomical sun hand, the watch features a unique calendar which displays the date of Easter every year.

Offered with an estimate of CHF 6.5–10 million / $6.4-9.9 million, this horological masterwork is one of the most important watches ever to be offered at auction, and it today, remains the brand’s mechanical ambassador (Lot 171).

In addition to the legendary ‘Calibre 89’, visitors to our sale room in May will have the opportunity to discover rare and sought-after wristwatches from the world-famous manufacturer. Among these is a group of perpetual calendar chronographs which all carry with them the ‘DNA’ of the brand: stunning examples of some of Patek’s most well-known and admired references.

Leading the group is an exceptional example of the reference 2499 (above) which, for many experts, perfectly combines the traditional charm of Patek Philippe with modern styling and practicality. Widely regarded as one of the manufacturer’s most important wristwatches, the 2499 followed the celebrated reference 1518, the world’s first perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch to be produced in series.

Fewer than ten watches per year were made with the reference 2499. Excitingly, this extremely handsome example has remained in the possession of the original owner since it was made in 1977, and is being offered at auction for the very first time (Lot 174, estimate CHF 300,000 – 500,000 / US$ 305,000 – 510,000).

Alongside this beautiful piece, the May auction will also feature several examples of perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatches which followed the iconic 2499: references 3970 and 3971. With a beautifully clear and well-balanced dial, this model featured for the first time the greatly-admired 2310 movement by Lemania. Two years later, Patek added a solid screw-back case, making it water proof: reference 3970E (from the French ‘étanche’). The May sale includes a reference 3970 in pink gold (estimate CHF 50,000 – 70,000 / US$ 51,000 – 71,000), as well as a reference 3971E, which features a sapphire screw back showing the movement of the watch (Lot 122, estimate CHF 50,000 – 70,000 / US$ 51,000 – 71,000).

Sotheby’s will present a very fine example of the reference 5270G – the first Patek Philippe perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch to use a movement which was 100% designed and manufactured in-house. Highly anticipated ahead of its release in 2011, the model is a direct descendent of the reference 1518, and shares the prestigious DNA of its predecessors - adding a new generation to this most important of watch families (Lot 121, estimate CHF 60,000 – 100,000 / US$ 61,000 – 102,000).

A wristwatch which combines a perpetual calendar complication with a split-seconds chronograph is an exciting prospect for any keen collector, and Patek Philippe’s reference 5004 delivers on the promise. The case, which favours beauty and efficiency, is the perfect foil for the complex mechanism within (Lot 123, estimate CHF 150,000 – 250,000 / US$ 153,000 – 254,000).

Patek Philippe’s reference 530 has presence: the oversize version of the brand’s chronograph wristwatch, it is significantly larger than its predecessor, reference 130. Just 15 examples of this generously proportioned watch in pink gold have ever been seen at auction and the present watch – made in 1953 - has never been offered before (Lot 120, estimate CHF 180,000 – 280,000 / US$ 183,000 – 284,000).

A highly covetable piece for avid collectors of vintage Rolex, the ‘Gabus’ chronograph was produced only in yellow gold and pink gold, and, it is thought, only in a very limited number. This rare model, made around 1945, is a perfect example of the reference’s square form and silvered dial, capturing its vintage elegance (Lot 61, estimate CHF 40,000 – 60,000 / US$ 40,600 – 61,000).

This captivating Rolex Day-Date wristwatch in white gold set with diamonds and sapphires was made in 1985 and offers collectors a touch of luxury. The dial is pave-set with diamonds and sapphires, and baguette diamonds highlight the bezel. The ‘President’ bracelet – introduced in 1965 and designed specifically for the Day-Date – is also set with diamonds (Lot 68, estimate CHF 20,000 – 30,000 / US$ 20,300 – 30,500).

In the 1950s, 60s and 70s, Rolex’s GMT Master timepieces were highly sought-after and praised for combining fashion and function, thanks to a wide variety of dial colours and bracelet types. They were also popular based on their ability to use a second hour hand to indicate a second time zone. This Rolex Oyster Perpetual GMT reference 6542 features a tropical brown coloured dial, as well as Mercedes hands (Lot 196, estimate CHF 15,000 – 20,000 / US$ 15,300 – 20,300).

Of illustrious royal provenance, this beautiful Art Nouveau ladies wristwatch in yellow gold set with sapphires was purchased in 1908 from Cartier by Prince Royal Eital Friedrich of Prussia (1883-1942), second son of Germany’s last Kaiser and King of Prussia, Wilhelm II (1849 – 1941).

It features a blue enameled bezel, blued steel moon hands and cabochon sapphires are set in its crown and lugs (Lot 82, estimate CHF 12,000 – 18,000 / US$ 12,200 – 18,300).

Among the selection of pocket watches to be offered on 14 May, two elegant examples in yellow gold from the first half of the 20th century stand out: the first is a rare perpetual calendar lever watch with moon phases by Patek Philippe, completed in 1918, whose four subsidiary dials show the date combined with constant seconds, month, day and finally the ages and phases of the moon (Lot 146, estimate CHF 15,000 – 25,000 / US$ 15,300 – 25,400).

The second is a pocket watch by Rolex – rather unusual in itself – with elegant design reflecting its production date, around 1930. Its two-tone dial stands out, along with the subsidiary dial for seconds (Lot 145, estimate CHF 5,000 – 6,000 / US$ 5,100 – 6,100).

Stand-out watches by independent watchmakers have performed well at auction in recent years, and this fascinating and rare prototype wristwatch by Greubel Forsey is sure to fascinate thanks to its highly unusual features. The watch, which was made in 2015, includes the brand’s now famous 24-second inclined tourbillon mechanism: inclined at a 25° angle, it performs a 24-second revolution, considerably faster than more traditional 1-minute tourbillons. Special high-density alloys (such as those used in the aeronautical industry) allow the tourbillon carriage to overcome the stress of high-velocity rotation. While the tourbillon cage alone is comprised of 87 parts, it weighs just 0.39 grams (Lot 127, estimate CHF 200,000 – 300,000 / US$ 203,000 – 305,000).

Legendary watchmaker and designer Louis Cartier was inspired by the military tanks of the First World War when he designed the house’s “Tank” watches. The visual design of a Tank watch is inspired by the shape of the vehicle when viewed from above: a square flanked by two shafts, representing the body of the machine and its tracks. A very fine example of the design will be offered on 14 May: this rare rectangular “Tank” bracelet watch by Cartier in platinum, made in 1930 (Lot 84, estimate CHF 20,000 – 40,000 / US$ 20,300 – 40,600).

With its steel case, octagonal bezel, ‘tapisserie’ style dial and integrated bracelet, Audemars Piguet’s “Royal Oak” broke with the prevailing codes in the early 1970s. This example, reference 5402 A-Series (number A792), from 1972, offers collectors a chance to own one of the first examples of this modern icon (Lot 53, estimate CHF 15,000 – 30,000 – US$ 15,300-30,500).

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