With Patek Philippe Extract from the Archives confirming production of the present watch with guilloché dial in 1965 and its subsequent sale on 23 January 1973.
The two crown world time ref. 2523/1 offered here for sale is a true “only two owners since new” wristwatch. It was purchased by its actual owner in Christie’s London 18 March 1998 Important Wrist and Pocketwatches auction, lot 213, and has been the cherished centre piece of his collection until its consignment to this sale in January 2016. The respectful treatment is shown by the impressive overall condition of the watch, the superbly sharp edges and crisp hallmarks to the case which over time has accumulated subtle traces of oxidation, another sign that it has not been used in a long time. The highly attractive guilloché pattern of the original dial impresses with its crispness and displays a great shine, the hard enamel signature, city names and numerals are as full and raised as the connoisseur would expect. It is important to note that the dial plate is punched "LC" for Louis Cottier and "314", the last three digits of the movement number (724'314), emphasizing that it was indeed made for the present "World Time" watch. According to the Archives of Louis Cottier, it was part of the very last batch of such plates delivered to Patek Philippe in 1962.
This spectacular timepiece combining the key characteristics of a true collectors watch, extraordinary rarity, condition and provenance, is destined to become the centre piece of another important collection.
This watch, reference 2523/1, is part of an exceedingly small series of dual crown world time wristwatches introduced into the market around 1957. According to research, to date a total of only six examples of reference 2523/1 in yellow gold with silvered engine-turned dials are known to have survived.
While resembling its predecessor, reference 2523 (launched in 1953), there are subtle differences in design. Examining the side view of reference 2523, one notices that the lugs rise higher than the bezel and sharply angle down. The side view of the present lot, reference 2523/1, details lugs that are slightly lower than the bezel with less of an angle. This modification contributed towards a slender, more elegant appearance.
References 2523 and 2523/1 were furthermore fitted with differing dial versions: whereas reference 2523/1 was available with the traditional silvered or gilt dials, reference 2523 existed also with different enamelled versions.
The world time mechanism is a functional complication simple to calibrate. One must first set the local or meantime by the crown at 3 o'clock (the 24 hour ring will revolve in the opposite direction of the hands). Then the outer ring is adjusted by turning the crown at 9 o'clock until one's current global location is indicated at the 12 o'clock position. Once this is calibrated, the relative time of each world location is set. The two-tone 24-hour ring indicates world locations that are in night-time by the grey section and daytime by the silvered section.
The Genius of Louis Cottier and the Heures Universelles
With increased mobility in the late 19th century, travellers were confronted with the dilemma that each region had its own local time. Sandford Fleming (1827-1915) solved this problem. In 1876, the Canadian railway engineer recommended a universal time system in which the globe was divided into 24 time zones.
During the International Meridian Conference in Washington D.C. on 1st November 1884, it was agreed to establish international zones according to his system. GMT, Greenwich Mean Time, was considered "time zero" and twenty-four standard meridians marked the centres of the zones. The International Dateline was placed along the 180-degree meridian in the Pacific Ocean. Around the world, clocks were reset to adapt to this new system of timekeeping.
This challenging problem for watchmakers was solved by Louis Cottier, who in the early 1930s, invented an ingenious system for universal or world time indication. Patek Philippe immediately commissioned Cottier with the development and production of a series of "World Time" watches, using the celebrated "HU" or "heures universelles" calibres (see lot 113 in this auction), followed by the "Travel Time" wristwatches with either two or three hands (see lots 172 to 175 in this auction). Made in exceedingly small series, these timepieces are today highly sought after collectors' watches.
Different examples of Patek Philippe's "World Time" pocket and wristwatches are illustrated and described in Patek Philippe Museum - Patek Philippe Watches - Volume II, p. 334-353, chapter "World Time and Jump Hour Watches and Louis Cottier Prototypes".