• Important Watches auction at Christies

    Sale 2713

    Important Watches

    11 June 2013, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 71

    An Exceptionally Fine and Highly Important 18k Pink Gold Openface Minute Repeating Perpetual Calendar Split-Seconds Chronograph Clockwatch with Grande and Petite Sonnerie, Moon Phases, and Accompanied by Original Certificate, Invoice Dated 1900, and Presentation Box


    Price Realised  


    An Exceptionally Fine and Highly Important 18k Pink Gold Openface Minute Repeating Perpetual Calendar Split-Seconds Chronograph Clockwatch with Grande and Petite Sonnerie, Moon Phases, and Accompanied by Original Certificate, Invoice Dated 1900, and Presentation Box
    Signed Patek Philippe & Cie, Genève, Movement No. 97'912, Case No. 222'569, Manufactured in 1898, Sold to Stephen S. Palmer October 3, 1900
    Cal. 19''', nickel-finished two-train jewelled lever movement wound by turning the crown to either side, bi-metallic compensation balance, minute repeating and grande/petite sonnerie striking on two polished steel hammers onto two gongs, activated by a slide in the band at 5 o'clock, pink gold cuvette, white enamel dial, Roman numerals, blued steel hands, four subsidiary dials for constant seconds combined with date, day, month and 30 minute register combined with phases and ages of the moon, heavy pink gold polished case, monogram SSP to the back, chronograph button in the crown, split-second mechanism operated by a button in the band at 11 o'clock along with the slide to lock the chronograph, slides for Strike/Silent function between 8 and 9 o'clock and Grande/Petite Sonnerie between 3 and 4 o'clock, case, cuvette, dial, and movement signed
    59mm diam.

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    With Patek Philippe Extract from the Archives confirming production of the present watch in 1898 and its subsequent sale on October 3rd, 1900. Further accompanied by original Certificate of Origin & Warranty dated Geneva, October 3rd, 1900, wooden presentation box with two additional mainsprings and crystal, original Patek Philippe Hotel Beau Rivage invoice showing the purchase price of 6000 Swiss Francs, further confirming the monogram SSP. Additionally accompanied by the owner's typed operating instructions.

    To the best of our knowledge this watch has never before been offered in public.

    Patek Philippe is broadly acknowledged as the gold standard in crafting the world's finest and most complicated watches today. This reputation is based on a nearly 175 year long tradition of serving the world's most demanding collectors and patrons of fine watchmaking. Most notably, this reputation has been further propelled by notable collectors such as James W. Packard, the automobile manufacturer from Ohio, and Henry Graves Jr., the distinguished private banker from New York.

    The tradition of ordering complicated pieces from Patek Philippe continued after the War World II with collectors such as Esmond Bradley Martin into the second half of the 20th century.

    Until the appearance of the present watch it was broadly accepted that Patek Philippe did not make its first Grand Complication until about 1910 and that the second ever made example was reserved shortly before World War I for James W. Packard, watch number 174'129, in 1916.
    The discovery of this Grand Complication is a spectacular addition to scholarship surrounding Patek Philippe and Grand Complications in general.

    The watch is monogrammed SSP and the original certificate, still present to this day, confirms that the engraved monogram was indeed applied at Patek Philippe's own Geneva workshops. It is only thanks to the original invoice that the world today knows who the owner of the SPP monogram in fact is: Stephen Squires Palmer.
    Stephen S. Palmer was one of America's most prominent and successful businessmen at the turn of the 20th century and can be considered in the same league as a Packard or Graves to have been a distinguished client of Patek Philippe for such an historical timepiece. The original invoice confirms that Stephen S. Palmer came to Geneva in October 1900 to personally collect his treasured Grand Complication but also confirms that he picked up at the same time two other complicated timepieces, one of them also carrying his initials. Furthermore, at the time of the purchase of the watch, he also traded one complicated watch in exchange. This leaves little doubt that Mr. Palmer was not the occasional watch buyer but an avid connoisseur knowing precisely what he was looking for and what he was going to be receiving when signing a check issued to Patek Philippe for the impressive amount of SFR 6,550 featured on the invoice. The fact that he was already a client of Patek Philippe and returned to Geneva to pick up what in 1900 was the so far most complicated watch ever finished in Patek Philippe's Archives means that he must have been one of the firm's top clients and that he must today be named in the same ranks of a Packard and Graves as having further pushed Patek Philippe to excel at their highest levels.

    Today, the present Grand Complication rewrites history by anticipating it by a decade making the present watch number 97'912 become the first ever publicly seen or described Grand Complication made by the Geneva firm, which is coming for the first time ever to the market. It is probably the most complete and crispest example of all Grand Complications known today; furthermore, it is the only example known to have been cased in pink gold whereas all the sequent pieces were cased in the more typical yellow gold according to the 1910', 20' and 30's style. Pink gold, on the other hand, was the first choice for most pocket watches in the late 19th century and so it is not surprising that the present example is cased in the warmer rose tone.

    Stephen S. Palmer (1853-1913)

    A prominent industrialist, Palmer thrived during the Gilded Age when America's economy was booming, expanding into such areas as factory production, railways, mining and applied technology. In 1897, Palmer, then director of the National City Bank of New York, was elected President of the newly formed New Jersey Zinc Company. He chose a place in Pennsylvania to locate the new town, supervising its design. Named in Palmer's honor, Palmerton grew to a population of more than 5,000 in less than six years due to the New Jersey Zinc Company's commitment to and treatment of its workers.

    As President of the New Jersey Zinc Company, Palmer took his responsibility for the incoming employees very seriously. In addition to founding the Palmerton hospital, the first in Carbon County, he created the Mutual Relief Association, which financially assisted employees and families in case of medical issues and accidental death. The company also brought in several professionals including a visiting nurse, librarian, surgeon, kindergarten teacher and sociologist to assist the families.

    Palmer was committed to the comfortable integration of his workers, building stores and homes and encouraging competition and ownership. A proponent of education, Palmer also was involved in building schools and encouraging the education of his workers, especially in their new language English. In memory of his wife, he financed St. John's Episcopal Church, erected in 1905-1906. Due to Palmer's progressive vision, the community is now in the process of being accepted as a National Historic District.

    Palmer was a generous benefactor and through the New Jersey Zinc Company provided the U.S. government with zinc during World War I. He was officially recognized with an award for distinguished service for his contribution to America's success. Other contributions included the donation of the choir and parish house of All Angel's Church, New York, and $500,000 to his alma mater, Princeton (where he served as Trustee from 1908-1913), for the construction of a Physical Laboratory that is in his name. The architect of the Waldorf Astoria hotel, Henry J. Hardenbergh, built both the church and laboratory.

    He and Cornelius Vanderbilt were Directors of Lackawanna Steel Company. Both men were instrumental along with Stuyvesant Fish in backing and financing the moving platforms system connecting the Williamsburg Bridge with the Brooklyn Bridge and South Ferry. Recognized for his influence and knowledge he additionally was a director in more than 30 companies including New York Edison Company, National City Bank of New York, Colonia Assurance Company, Valley Railroad Company, St. Louis & Hannibal Railway, Fort Wayne & Jackson Railroad and Consolidated Gas Company.

    For most of his life, Palmer lived in New York at 12 East 81st Street but retired to Princeton, New Jersey.

    Edgar M. Palmer (1881-1943)

    Edgar M. Palmer, the son of Stephen S. Palmer, was president of the New Jersey Zinc Company from 1912 to 1927 before becoming chairman. The company remained within the Palmer family until his death in 1943, when it was sold to pay inheritance taxes.

    Not only is Edgar M. Palmer remembered as a zinc magnate, but notably as a prominent Princeton benefactor and philantropist of both the town and the university, where he graduated in 1903 and eventually became a trustee, like his father, and one of the first members of the Princeton Alumni Association of Southern New York and Connecticut, formed with the aim of spreading Princeton literarure and spirit. He donated a stadium to Princeton in memory of his father ("Palmer Memorial Stadium") to show his appreciation and devotion to his alma mater. Opened on October 1914 and built in only six months, Palmer stadium was the second-oldest football stadium in the Nation. Like Harvard Stadium, Princeton's followed the U-shape of ancient Greek stadiums, but was wider and held up to 52,000 people at its peak.

    During his prosperous career of financier in realty, railroads, insurance and public utilities, Edgar M. Palmer proved again his benevolence to Princeton envisioning a "new municipal center", named Palmer Square, in his honour, and where an inscription still reads: "In memory of Edgar Palmer whose vision and generosity built this square for Princeton which he loved. Erected by his friends, 1944". The square, built as the town's complement to Princeton University, is an example of fine Colonial Revival architecture and has many parallelysms with the coeval Rockefeller Plaza, both built during the Thirties and conceived to turn the commercial traffic in from a major road. Palmer Square was also provided with a modern tunnel system still in use today and with a movie theater, as Rockefeller Plaza should have been according to an original project. In Edgar's vision, Palmer Square was an exclusive urban area set amid a quasi-metropolitan downtown.

    In 1910 Edgar married Zilph Hayes, and in 1911 they acquired the waterfront property John Jay Homestead in Rye, New York, which would stay in his family through the 1960s. Edgar owned two famous three-masted schooners both named Guinevere, which he donated to the U.S. Navy in wartime, the first in World War I and the second in World War II, to help detect enemy activity, proving his aid to the Country. The second Guinevere was the largest American yacht of the period, a pleasure boat equipped with many comforts, the first ever fitted with diesel engines. It was built as a duplicate of the first Guinevere to participate in a trans-Atlantic race sponsored by the King of Spain.

    Like her husband, Zilph was a proficient sailor. During World War I, Edgar and Zilph Palmer raised funds for the Red Cross in Rye and in the county; Edgar also served as the Chairman of the Westchester County War Fund Committee.
    In 1923 Edgar M. Palmer acquired the "Palmer House" located on the Princeton campus, which was originally owned by Commodore Robert Stockton (1795-1866), a U.S. Naval Commodore, first Military Governor of California, U.S. Senator from New Jersey, and a grandson of the signer of the Declaration of Independence. Mrs. Zilph Hayes Palmer, Edgar's widow, bequeathed Palmer House to Princeton University in 1968 and two years later the House became a guesthouse for the University.

    Edgar and Zilph had a daughter, Zilph Palmer Devereux (1912-1981), who in 1935 inherited John Jay Homestead. A philanthropist like her father, in 1966 she donated a portion of her land to a center for cancer research, to the Rye Neck School District and to the City of Rye. She also gifted 120 acres to the County of Westchester for conservation purpose, wishing for her land to be preserved. One year later she gave the house, its outbuildings and 23 acres to the United Methodist Church. The Jay Heritage Center is now a national historic landmark.

    Pre-Lot Text

    The Stephen S. Palmer Patek Philippe Grand Complication Clock Watch