Fresh to the market, after being hidden away from the world for over a century, this horological treasure is filled with mystery and aesthetic beauty. For the Patek Philippe collector, it represents one of the earliest known digital perpetual calendars known to exist. For the Tiffany & Co collector, it represents the beauty and design of the jewelry house's close collaboration with Patek Philippe. For the historian, it shows the importance of the prominent Gibson family. Most mysteriously, the watch represents the love between a mother and a son, a Memento Mori shrouded in the secrecy of mystical signs of the Zodiac seen on the dial.
Custom-made by Patek Philippe for Tiffany & Co. and Mr. Gibson, this watch was meant to be a family treasure to honor the memory of Mr. Gibson’s mother. Taking over a year to produce, Patek Philippe spared no expense in its production and the hand painted miniature signs of the Zodiac. The dial is attributable to Pierre Reymond, one the best dial makers of his time in Switzerland who Patek Philippe commissioned to make the enamel dials of some of their most outstanding watches.
The cuvette is engraved: Peter Gibson, In memory of his Mother, 9 July 1831 - 10 February 1907.
The miniature enamel crest featured on the back of the case may curiously derive its origin from Scottish heraldry. The phrase “Pandite Coeleste Portae” which translates to “Open Ye Heavenly Gates” is believed to be associated with the Scottish clan, Gibbs – onomastic root of surnames such as Gibson. The bird, a symbol known as ‘the pelican in her piety’, is also widely associated with the Gibson clan. The pelican of heraldic imagery is more similar in like and lore to mythical beasts such as a phoenix, than the familiar pouch-billed water fowl. Appreciated as a symbol of Christ and sacrifice, the pelican is well suited in combination with the pair of seraphs that flank either side of the crest.
This unique pocket watch is intriguing for a number of reasons. We have discussed the Coat of Arms to the case back which raises the possibility that this watch was made as a special request by the initial owner. However, to the dial there are other impressive details. The clean white enamel dial hosts cherry-red enamel signs of the zodiac in-between the Roman numerals. Large and prominent with exquisite detail, the various symbols for Aries, Taurus, Gemini, etc. seem to come alive on the dial with a playful representation. This raises more questions. Did the original owner value astrological phenomena so much so that he commissioned Patek Philippe to produce this watch only for him? This becomes a strong possibility when one considers that in 1907, astrology was not considered a pseudoscience as it is today but was valued for its ancient scholarly tradition, considered another facet of astronomy useful for forecasting earthly events. The enduring presence of astrology in new age spiritual traditions and even popular newspaper columns demonstrates its powerful and enduring appeal within the greater societal psyche.
Furthermore, one cannot fail to notice the digital display for the perpetual calendar, above the aperture for phases of the moon. With a window for the day, date and month, the calendar also takes into consideration leap years. It is almost certain that upon commission of the zodiac symbols that the digital display was requested as well. Firstly, this digital display is so rarely seen in a pocket watch from this era but secondly, when the leap year falls every four years this is commonly thought to intercept the natural behaviors of humans, according to their sign. Although we have not seen a watch quite like his one before, astrology and astronomy has been favored on watches and clocks in the past. A very famous example is the clock which resides at the top of St. Marks Clock tower in Venice, Italy, which dates to 1499.