With Patek Philippe Extract from the Archives confirming production of the present watch with white gold cushion-shaped case, silvered dial and applied gold Breguet numerals in 1928 and its subsequent sale on 21 November 1931.
The Great Depression was an economic slump in North America, Europe, and other industrialized areas of the world that began with a catastrophic collapse of stock-market prices on the New York Stock Exchange in October 1929 and lasted until about 1939. It was the longest and most severe depression ever experienced by the industrialized Western world.
During the Great Depression, Swiss watch manufacturers were equally affected by a reduced demand as all the other industries and their production plummeted to a portion of the pre-crisis output. It was rather the regular and lower-end production which suffered, whereas their usually very limited high-end line enjoyed not only a greater demand, but actually saved many of the traditional manufacturers from bankruptcy. While the order books weren't full, avid and demanding collectors had an increasing appetite for unique, super-complicated and made-to-measure watches. Consequently, in the eyes of today's amateurs of horology, it is "thanks" to the Great Depression that Switzerland's most capable watch manufacturers and in particular Patek Philippe produced their technically most ingenious and beautiful masterpieces during the late 1920's and the late 1930's.
The unique white gold cushion-shaped single-button chronograph wristwatch by Patek Philippe started in 1928 and sold on 21 November 1931, in the midst of the crisis, is a perfect example of the anachronism caused by the Great Depression. Most certainly made upon special request by one of Patek Philippe's most important patron's, it is the only example of a single-button chronograph by Patek Philippe cased in white gold. The single-button chronograph mechanism allows its wearer to operate all stop-watch functions via the crown - enabling the designers to achieve a most elegant and smooth line. Combining the state-of-the-art chronograph movement with the latest design of that period, it is one of the most important wristwatches ever to come at auction.
Cushion-shaped single-button chronographs by Patek Philippe are exceedingly rare. Not only due to most limited production during the late 1920's, but even more as several of the so-called "Chronographes Coussin-Tortue" have not found a buyer but remained unsold until, in a second attempt to market these exclusivities, Patek Philippe re-cased them. In order to lend them a more modern look mostly the well-known reference 130 "Calatrava-style" case design was used. In fact, two such cushion-shaped chronographs are known to no longer exist in their original shapes, numbers 198'102 and 198'241, both illustrated with black and white archival images and described in Patek Philippe Wristwatches by Martin Huber & Alan Banbery, second edition, p. 258.
Two examples of such cushion-shaped single button chronographs by Patek Philippe to have survived are illustrated and described in Patek Philippe Wristwatches by Martin Huber & Alan Banbery, second edition, p. 260 & 261, and are on permanent exhibit at Patek Philippe's own Museum in Geneva. These two watches are fitted with yellow gold cases further underlining the rarity and importance of the watch offered here for sale. It is also interesting to note that the present watch is the only known "coussin-tortue" shaped single button chronograph wristwatch by Patek Philippe with applied Breguet numerals - all the other examples known to have survived are fitted with black painted Breguet numerals.
It does not come as a surprise that, in 2010, Patek Philippe chose to take this very design for their latest and much acclaimed creation of their split-second chronograph model. In fact, the newly launched reference 5950A is a perfect renaissance of the unmistakable late 1920's style displayed by this dream single-button chronograph. The cushion-shaped case with the Breguet numerals, the symmetric decoration in the corners of the dial and the classic font of the numerals inside the subsidiary dials - all elements used some 80 years earlier can be found again in the youngest member of Patek Philippe's exclusive family of split-seconds chronographs.
The present watch was always a dream to collectors. Now it has become a cult.