With Patek Philippe Extract from the Archives confirming production of the present watch in 1938 in steel and its subsequent sale on 22 February 1939.
The discovery of this spectacular and probably unique watch, entirely fresh to the market having been in the same private collection for over 40 years, previously unknown and unpublished, rewrites the textbooks for the reference 530.
Offered here for the first time at auction, this Astrua-retailed watch is one of the most impressive oversized chronographs ever made by Patek Philippe, immediately capturing the attention of any collector with a strong sense for quality, esthetics and rarity. It now takes its place as the earliest and best preserved reference 530 in stainless steel to be discovered so far – a very exciting and important find. Furthermore, it is one of a total of only three known examples in stainless steel with sector dial, even more exceptionally it is the only example amongst this rarified group to have been bestowed with the signature of the famous retailer Astrua of Torino. In this respect it is quite probably unique.
Acquired privately in the Turin area by the present owner in the 1970s, the watch has never until now moved far from the original point of sale.
The three known steel reference 530 watches with sector dials, as one would expect, have movement and case numbers that are relatively close to each other. The chronology is as follows:
No. 862’169, case No. 504’923 – made in 1938, sold 22 February 1939 – the present watch.
No. 862’265, case No. 506’552 – made in 1939, sold 28 October 1939 – sold Christie’s, Geneva, Patek Philippe 175, 9 November 2014, lot 42.
No. 862’323, case No. 506’554 – made in 1939, sold 24 February 1940 – sold Sotheby’s, Geneva, 11 May 2008, lot 167. Published in: Patek Philippe Steel Watches, John Goldberger, pp. 248-249.
Dial – design and construction
Made of solid silver with friction fitting, this is by far the best preserved and most original dial of the three known surviving examples. Although sector dials were introduced around 1935, the particular design of the dial exhibited on the present watch dates from 1938, the very same year as the watch was made. According to collectors, this elegant and well proportioned configuration is regarded as the most desirable. Under magnification it can be seen that much of the original inlaid black enamel numerals and timing scale details survive, this is particularly illustrated by the 12 numeral which retains the delicate and distinctive serifs and the accented è in Genève. Areas of the outer scale have undergone restoration in the past and some rubbing has occurred to these areas over time which is quite evident to the naked eye. However, the engraved footprint still survives beneath. Uniquely of the three known steel reference 530s, this dial is signed Astrua Torino, the firm of Astrua were and continue to be, one of the most prestigious watch stores in Italy, situated on the Via Roma in Turin. Their signature is found on some of the 20th century’s most desirable timepieces and its presence is a further endorsement of rarity and quality. Interestingly, the signature Astrua Torino on the present watch is written in one line instead of the more usual two line signature, this is more aesthetically pleasing and balances the Patek Philippe signature perfectly.
According to research, the 36.5 mm oversized case is only found on the three known steel reference 530 watches with sector dials, all other known reference 530s are 36 mm in diameter.
Both the yellow gold and the stainless steel versions were made with two different bracelet widths between the lugs, 19 mm. or 21.5 mm., interestingly and adding further rarity, of all the publically known stainless steel versions only the three sector dial watches have 19 mm width lugs, all other steel versions have the wider 21.5 mm lugs.
In addition to the case number, the inside of the back is further punched with the number “3” to denote that this watch was the third piece of that particular batch to be made. This proves that an earlier batch existed than was previously thought and that the present watch must in fact be the third steel reference 530 ever made and the earliest yet discovered. The last three digits of the case number, 923, are scratched on the underside of the bezel.
Made of staybrite, a steel alloy containing 0.2% carbon, 18% chromium and 8% nickel. This form of stainless steel can be finely polished therefore proving an excellent material for making watch cases.
Fitted with the Patek Philippe caliber 13’’’130 movement, the ébauche by Valjoux with 23 jewels and eight timing adjustments. It is recognized by serious collectors as perhaps the best manually wound chronograph movement made in the mid-20th century. The present watch is fitted with the early version without precision adjustment on the balance bridge.