Accompanied by a Patek Philippe Extract from the Archives confirming production of the present watch with pearl hour markers in 1958 and its subsequent sale on June 26th of the following year.
One of the most exciting things about working in the watch auction industry is the opportunity to take part in remarkable discoveries. The present watch offered is one of those beyond-exciting moments for it was no ordinary Patek Philippe reference 2573, but instead was a remarkable piece blending extraordinary and never-before-seen design attributes, royal provenance, and unbelievably mint condition.
“The Pearl of Bahrain” is an extraordinary Patek Philippe reference 2573 in rose gold with natural seed pearl hour markers on a pink starburst dial. An original Stern Frères archive image shows a 2573 in the same configuration - perhaps the exact same watch. The image had circulated among elite watch experts for many years, with corresponding speculation of who might have ordered the watch and where it may have resided.
The watch is fresh to market and was, according to the consignor, a gift presented by Emir Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa I of Bahrain to an American advisor, businessman and close friend, a gentleman that had a legendary career in the Middle East spanning decades. The gentleman is still living and thrilled to learn of the importance of the watch. He wore it only a few times in his life, and as a result, the watch is preserved in mint and original condition.
It was the consignor's understanding that the pearls are natural seed pearls harvested from off the coast of Bahrain and it was a moment of great joy when the Extract from the Archives arrived stating that this watch had “pearl hour markers”. In fact, our research suggests this is the first Patek Philippe to come to the market with original pearl hour markers and it is unknown to us if others were made and where they may reside.
The watch has remarkable architecture to account for the natural seed pearl hour markers. Beyond the fact that the hour and minute hands are on a post much higher than on other watches so that they can clear the natural seed pearl hour markers, the bezel seems to be much taller than on other examples of the reference 2573. The steep bezel combined with the domed crystal provides remarkable viewing of the pearl hour markers from a side angle and gives the watch incredible visual interest.
Natural pearls have long been a source of national pride and commerce for Bahrain. In fact, natural pearls are such an important part of Bahraini culture that the government makes it illegal to import or sell cultured pearls in the country.
According to a 2010 article in the Wall Street Journal by Katherine Bergen: “The allure of the pearl has captivated the Queen of Sheba, Elizabeth I and Catherine the Great, all of whom are said to have worn Bahraini pearls. Their fabulous luster is to do with the combination of the sea's freshwater springs that give the island kingdom its name -- Bahrain means ‘two seas’ in Arabic -- and its warm, shallow, highly saline water. Whatever rare alchemy creates these lustrous objects, then as now Bahraini pearls are widely believed to be the best in the world. Legend recounts that almost 5,000 years ago, Gilgamesh, the epic hero, landed here in search of paradise, where he is said to have found the flower of eternity, the pearl, along the shores of ancient Dilmun, now modern Bahrain. An Assyrian inscription from around 2,000 B.C. mentions ‘fish eyes,’ or pearls, from Dilmun, and Tylos, the classical name for Bahrain, was stated by Roman naturalist Pliny to be ‘famous for the vast number of its pearls.’”
The Pearl of Bahrain is simply more than an interesting and unusual watch, but due to its royal provenance, architectural design, aesthetic power, and mint condition, it is quite simply one of the most exciting and important time-only Patek Philippe wristwatches to ever come to market.
The Behbehani Family: Patek Philippe’s Door to the Kingdom of Bahrain
The Behbehani family consists of 5 brothers who founded various distribution companies in the mid-1930’s. Beginning in general trading, business soon diversified for the family to include insurance, tourism, and real estate, automotive and luxury with new ventures and interests continuing to evolve until today.
One of the first retailers of fine watchmaking in the Middle East, the family is well respected, known to have begun with humble beginnings but striving through changing times to build a financially sound empire that continuously values integrity, quality and service.
The Behbehani family were at the time of the delivery of the watch the sole distributor of Patek Philippe in Kuwait as well as in the Kingdom of Bahrain through their retail operations.
Special thanks to the family for assistance in researching this timepiece, and in particular Abbas Behbehani who is an imminent and passionate Middle Eastern watch collector.