According to the Archives of Girard-Perregaux, the present watch was made in 1887. It can safely be assumed that this extremely fine and exceedingly rare example of a high quality watch made for an Ottoman dignitary, standing out by its unusual and most appealing combination of the platinum and pink gold case, is a unique piece. Its rarity is furthermore enhanced by the excellent overall condition and the provenance.
Based on the initials and the crown on the watch, it was made for HH Isma'il Pasha, known as Ismail the Magnificent (31 December 1830 - 2 March 1895). He was Khedive of Egypt and Sudan from 1863 until he was removed at the behest of the British in 1879. While in power he greatly modernized Egypt and Sudan, but also put the country heavily in debt. His philosophy can be glimpsed in a statement he made in 1879: "My country is no longer in Africa; we are now part of Europe. It is therefore natural for us to abandon our former ways and to adopt a new system adapted to our social conditions."
Ismail Pasha (1830-1895) was the charming but spendthrift pasha and khedive of Egypt during the decade prior to British occupation. He was born in Cairo, the grandson of Mohammed Ali and second son of Ibrahim Pasha. He completed their work in that he bought from the Ottoman sultan the right to the new title of khedive, father-to-son inheritance of the new title for his dynasty, administrative and commercial independence, and relaxation of military restrictions imposed upon Egypt by the European powers in 1841. But Ismail accomplished this at tremendous expense - and it was only the beginning of his financial adventures.
Ismail succeeded Mohammed Said as the ruler of Egypt in 1863, when the American Civil War increased the demand for Egyptian cotton and the expected profits from the soon to be completed Suez Canal made Egypt seem more prosperous than it actually was. In the euphoria of the 1860s Ismail dreamed of an Egyptian empire in northeast Africa and of Cairo as the Paris on the Nile. He borrowed heavily on Egypt's future and spent lavishly on explorations far up the Nile almost to Lake Victoria for the extension of Egyptian influence, on building many public works such as improved canals and new telegraph lines, and on the modernization of Cairo.
Ismail took a personal interest in the Suez Canal, the concession for which his predecessor had negotiated with a French company. He agreed to pay a huge indemnity equal to half the original capital of the company in order to eliminate the forced labour and other onerous requirements of the initial concession. For the grand opening of the canal in 1869, Ismail lavished over a million dollars on the entertainment of foreign dignitaries.
The close of the American Civil War ended the Egyptian cotton boom, and the Suez Canal did not, at first, earn the expected profits. Ismail resorted to huge loans at ruinous discounts to obtain the funds necessary for his dreams; he further pledged the revenues of the railroads, taxes, and royal lands. In 1875, in desperation, he sold his one remaining investment, his approximately 44 percent of the shares in the Suez Canal Company, to British prime minister Disraeli for 4 million.
Bankrupt in 1876 with a 14-fold debt increase to some one billion since his accession in 1863, Ismail had to accept Anglo-French financial supervision, called the Dual Control. The influx of foreigners during his reign, the special privileges they received via the capitulations, and their obviously increasing influence in Egypt led in the late 1870s to the development of an Egyptian national movement. When Ismail sought to shift the blame from himself to the foreigners for Egypt's financial debacle and when Bismarck threatened German intervention, Great Britain and France succeeded in having the Ottoman sultan depose Ismail in 1879 in favour of his son Tewfik Pasha. Ismail's vainglorious ambitions and gross extravagance had paved the way for the British occupation 3 years after his deposition.
The popularity of platinum, the "King of Metals and Metal of Kings", begins in ancient times and continues throughout time until today.
Revered by the ancient Egyptian and South American civilizations hundreds of years before Jesus Christ, it reached Europe in the 18th century and was immediately the metal of choice of Kings and Nobility. From the turn of the 19th century through to the Edwardian Era, Art Deco period and until the 1930s, platinum dominated the world of jewellery. During World War II its triumphal procession came to a halt; platinum was declared a strategic metal and banned from all non-military use.
Since these dark days, the popularity of platinum has never ceased. With its unique white lustre, the rarest of all precious metals has always been the favourite of many collectors.