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Patek Philippe. A fine and extremely rare rectangular 18K yellow and white gold reversible wristwatch


Patek Philippe. A fine and extremely rare rectangular 18K yellow and white gold reversible wristwatch
Signed Patek Philippe & Co., Geneve, retailed by E. Gübelin, ref. 106, movement no. 823'422, case no. 609'483, manufactured in 1930
Cal. 9''' nickel-finished lever movement, 15 jewels, bimetallic compensation balance, silvered matte dial, applied gold dot and Roman numerals, outer minute divisions, subsidiary seconds, yellow gold rectangular case, striped ends, back centred by black enamel monogram AB, all pivoting within the plain white gold backplate, 18K gold Patek Philippe buckle, case and movement signed by maker, dial signed by maker and retailer
23 mm. wide. & 36.5 mm. overall length
Special notice
Prospective purchasers are advised that several countries prohibit the importation of property containing materials from endangered species, including but not limited to coral, ivory and tortoiseshell. Accordingly, prospective purchasers should familiarize themselves with relevant customs regulations prior to bidding if they intend to import this lot into another country.

Brought to you by

Dr. Nathalie Monbaron
Dr. Nathalie Monbaron

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Lot Essay

With Patek Philippe Extract from the Archives confirming production of the present watch in 1930 and its subsequent sale on 29 June 1932.

A milestone in 20th century watchmaking, the celebrated "reversible" wristwatch is commonly associated with Jaeger-LeCoultre's "Reverso", patented and launched in 1931. It is however a much lesser known fact that Patek Philippe produced an exceedingly small series of only eight examples of such swiveling watches between 1931 and 1932, with the permission of César de Trey and Jacques-David LeCoultre, at the time administrator of Patek Philippe.

The history of the model's development commences with the Swiss businessman César de Trey (1876-1953) who, during a stay in India, was challenged by the British officers with whom he was playing polo to design a watch that would resist the rough treatment inflicted on it during the practice of their favourite sport.

Upon his return to Europe, de Trey discussed the project with Jacques-David LeCoultre, director of the renowned watch manufacture LeCoultre & Cie in Le Sentier, Switzerland. In collaboration with the Parisian firm Jaeger, founded in 1880 by Edmond Jaeger, the "Reverso" was created.

The case was designed by the French engineer René-Alfred Chauvot and was patented on 4 March 1931, Patent No. 712'868. It was reversible, the movement was housed in a mobile section pivoting within a frame to which the bracelet was fixed. This ingenious design allowed the face of the watch to be rotated, or reversed, thus protecting the glass.

In December 1931, César de Trey, who had bought the rights of Chauvot's patent, and Jacques-David LeCoultre founded a distribution firm called Spécialités Horlogères (first in Lausanne and then in Geneva), used for the sale of the Reverso as well as the other watches made by LeCoultre & Cie and Jaeger, Paris. The patent for the Reverso was purchased by Spécialités Horlogères and in 1937, the company was renamed to Jaeger-LeCoultre.

In 1931, the celebrated case maker firm Wenger of Geneva had been entrusted with the production of the cases. While LeCoultre & Cie was developing several calibres destined for ladies' and men's Reverso watches, Spécialités Horlogères used a series of movements produced by the Tavannes Watch Co. Many of these watches were sold by E. Gübelin in Lucerne.

The Patek Philippe Reverso
With the authorisation of César de Trey who had already registered the brand name Reverso, and Jacques-David LeCoultre, administrator of Patek Philippe at the time, eight of these Wenger cases including four in white gold and four in yellow and white gold were delivered to Patek Philippe between December 1931 and April 1932. The cases were fitted with different dial styles and layouts, the circular movements based on ébauches by LeCoultre, and eight Patek Philippe Reverso wristwatches, including one lady's watch, were sold under reference 106. The model did not meet the commercial expectations and production never went beyond these eight examples. Until to date, only the following five examples have appeared in public:

-white and yellow gold case no. 609'483, the present watch
-white and yellow gold cases nos. 609'429 and 609'482 as well as the lady's model in white gold case no. 609'431, all in Patek Philippe's prestigious Museum in Geneva
-white gold case no. 609'481, property of an important private collector

The remaining three watches fitted with white gold cases nos. 609'430 and 609'480 and white and yellow gold case no. 609'472 have never appeared in public.

The present Reverso wristwatch bears the last case number of the series of eight and was sold to one of Patek Philippe's oldest retailers, E. Gübelin in Lucerne, on 29 June 1932.

One of the exceedingly rare "survivors" of Patek Philippe's reversible wristwatches, its rarity is furthermore enhanced by the engraved retailer signature E. Gübelin on the back of the white gold case back, a highly unusual feature. It is interesting to note that the present watch as well as watch no. 609'481 in white gold were both sold to E. Gübelin in Lucerne on 29 June 1932. Intriguingly, both backs of the inner cases were personalized with monograms on black enamel background: the present featuring the initials AB, those of its white gold peer read Db, possibly two relatives with the family name starting with the letter "B".

Preserved in very attractive overall condition, this rare find is an important witness for Patek Philippe's avant-garde spirit.

For "Reverso" no. 609'482 also in white and yellow gold case, silvered dial with gold dot and Roman numerals see Patek Philippe Wristwatches by Martin Huber & Alan Banbery, second edition, p. 111, pl. 129 a-c.

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