Deconstructed: the Patek Philippe 1526

The story behind a landmark timepiece first issued in 1941 — of which only 210 examples were ever made — offered in our online Time for Spring auction, 7-14 March

The effective design of complicated movements demands not only that watchmakers have perfected their craft, but also that they possess the foresight to ensure a movement’s accuracy and dependability for a very long time to come. To produce a perpetual calendar-equipped wristwatch is no small task, and when Patek Philippe did so for the first time in a series, it was a significant achievement. This example of the reference 1526 in 18k yellow gold represents a remarkable first in Patek Philippe’s history, demonstrating the manufacturer’s distinctive mastery of complications.

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  • Patek’s first serially produced perpetual calendar wristwatches

Patek Philippe reference 1526. 18k gold; diameter 34 mm. Estimate $80,000-100,000. This lot is offered in Christie’s Watches Online Time for Spring, 7-14 March
Patek Philippe reference 1526. 18k gold; diameter 34 mm. Estimate: $80,000-100,000. This lot is offered in Christie’s Watches Online: Time for Spring, 7-14 March

Production of the reference 1526 and its horological sibling, the reference 1518, began in 1941. They were Patek Philippe’s first serially produced perpetual calendar wristwatches. The 1518 included the addition of a chronograph, while the 1526 had a more streamlined look, displaying just the time and the perpetual calendar. The reference 1526 was not only tremendously important in the company’s history, but also highly important in horological history.

The movement found within the reference 1526’s case, the Cal. 12”-120 QP, is one of the many marvels responsible for the unrivalled reputation that Patek Philippe now holds. Based on the Cal. 12”-120 of 1935, the 18-jewel 12”-120 QP is considered a rare and prestigious gem of the Swiss watchmaker’s golden age.

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  • A watch seldom offered for sale

Patek Philippe reference 1526. 18k gold; diameter 34 mm. Estimate $80,000-100,000. This lot is offered in Christie’s Watches Online Time for Spring, 7-14 March
Patek Philippe reference 1526. 18k gold; diameter 34 mm. Estimate: $80,000-100,000. This lot is offered in Christie’s Watches Online: Time for Spring, 7-14 March

Rarity is one of the most influential factors that separate great from world-class vintage watches. In the case of the 1526, just 210 examples were manufactured over the course of the reference’s 12-year production run. This is a watch that is seldom offered for sale, and is pursued ceaselessly by discerning, seasoned collectors.

Nevertheless, a rare and important watch is only as good as how well it has been maintained. Luckily, this example has been visibly cherished and cared for over the years, as evidenced by the overall pristine condition.

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  • A design of enduring elegance

Patek Philippe reference 1526. 18k gold; diameter 34 mm. Estimate $80,000-100,000. This lot is offered in Christie’s Watches Online Time for Spring, 7-14 March
Patek Philippe reference 1526. 18k gold; diameter 34 mm. Estimate: $80,000-100,000. This lot is offered in Christie’s Watches Online: Time for Spring, 7-14 March

At 34 millimetres in diameter excluding crown, we are reminded of how far back this watch dates. Yet any feelings of old age are quickly dispelled by the enduring elegance of the design, with the applied Arabic numerals and dot indexes to mark the hours contributing to a contemporary appearance.

The yellow gold example in question is arguably the most iconic variant of the reference 1526, and is celebrated by scholars of Patek Philippe for its timeless charm. Furthermore, the polished leaf-shaped hands play a large role in defining the reference 1526’s aesthetic, filling space effectively without crowding the symmetrically proportioned dial. These are found both on the main stack to indicate hours and minutes, and in the subsidiary dial to indicate the date and elapsed seconds. The reference 1526 remains as important and beautiful today as it was when it was introduced 76 years ago.