With Patek Philippe Extract from the Archives confirming production of the present watch with silvered dial, applied gold hour markers and tachometer scale in 1943 and its subsequent sale on 22 August 1946.
In a highly connected world where nearly every piece of information is a mouse click away, it is rare that some histories have not yet been written, yet published and hence unknown to the broader public. This is even more so the case when it comes to scholarship in the field of horology where in recent decades numerous scholars have published wonderful tomes listing every conceivable model of most of the world's noteworthy makers and manufacturers.
It must consequently be considered a spectacular addition to scholarship when a watch, barely known outside a small, inner circle of long time passionate watch collectors, comes to the market and for the first time is fully researched, understood and put into a historical context.
The present watch, known to collectors and scholars since exactly 20 years when offered last for the so far only time at auction, was always known as the "large size, one-off perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch". This designation was far from doing justice to this highly important master piece and historically most interesting forerunner of future generations of complicated Patek Philippe wristwatches.
Patek Philippe introduced at the 1941 Basel fair the today mythical reference, or model number, 1518 to the public. It was the world's first wristwatch, made in series, featuring a perpetual calendar, moon phases and chronograph. It is easily recognizable by its masculine yet classic case proportions with the lugs elegantly integrated into the main body of the case. The band (also known as sides) was straight lending the main body of the case a somewhat cylindrical appearance. The dial was clearly defined by the Arabic numerals and the outer scales for the chronograph. Reference 1518 remained in production for over a decade and was replaced in 1951 when reference 2499 was launched. The latter was a huge change in design, most notably to the beholder's eyes were the much more prominent lugs, now down-turned and highlighted by a step. It is probably not coincidental that at a time when car manufacturers were starting to compete against each other by adding ever growing tail fins to their latest creations that Patek Philippe decided to add some extra post-war extravaganza to their otherwise traditional top of the line model.
The present watch, however, completed in 1944, at the eve of World War II's end, was anything close to the well-behaved peers of the early 1940s production but stood out by its avant-garde case design and proportions - not seen in Patek Philippe's regular production for nearly another decade. The case body has more roundness than reference 1518 and the lugs have grown in length and are more curved - smoothly clinging around its wearer's wrist. Thanks to the much more generous use of natural roundings and less of architectural lines, the watch has not only grown in size compared to reference 1518 but also gained a much more sensual, even voluptuous appearance. In fact, with an impressive diameter of 37.6 mm. it exceeds its contemporary, reference 1518 (see the previous lot in this auction) by over 2.5 mm. - a noteworthy difference.
Interestingly, as of the mid 1950s one recognizes the same case and lug shape again in other models, most notably in the legendary reference 2526 (Patek Philippe's first automatic wristwatch fitted with enamel dial). The present watch was, consequently, some 10 years ahead in terms of case design and an important precursor to future model generations.
Most notably however is the fact that until recently the present watch was not classifiable since it did not only lack a model number but also was missing any relatives in Patek Philippe's 1940s production. During recent months, in-depths research was carried out in regards to this watch and thanks to the relentless studies of a series of scholars and archivists it came to light that the present watch is a reference 1527, a model number not known to have been attributed to any other complicated wristwatch at all until some 6 years ago. In fact, it was in 2004 when Patek Philippe added to their prestigious museum a perpetual calendar wristwatch which belonged to Henri Stern, father of Philippe Stern, honorary president and owner of Patek Philippe. That watch, designated in the show case as a special order by Charles Stern, is housed in the same case style, reference 1527, but does not have the chronograph mechanism as the present watch but "only" the perpetual calendar indication with moon phases. Consequently, the present watch is not only one of two ever made complicated references 1527 in the world, but is, like the second example in Patek Philippe's own museum, a unique wristwatch most certainly finished upon special request of a prominent customer. In 1944, upon Charles Stern's passing, the "Patek Philippe Museum reference 1527" was bequeathed to Henri Stern who himself enjoyed it throughout his life. Philippe Stern received the watch in 2002, the year of his father's passing, and decided to leave it to the firm's own museum for permanent exhibition.
During the 20th century, with the ever advancing industrialization of watchmaking, only for the benefit of reliability, service friendliness and cost effectiveness, sadly, individualism was gradually lost. The world's greatest watch collectors and patrons of the distinguished Geneva manufacturer of the pre-war era, such as Henry Graves Jr. and James Ward Packard, contributed through their patronage to the inventing, designing and creating of some of the greatest one-off masterpieces ever made. Since the 1940s, not only due to the changing of the political and consequently economical landscape of the world but also caused by the arrival of a new era in watch making, such exceptional orders were gradually disappearing or simply no longer entertainable. As a consequence, the present watch is, by all means, not only a significant milestone in Patek Philippe's history of complicated wristwatches, but without a doubt also one of the world's most beautiful and valuable wristwatches to have remained, until today, in private hands.