PATEK PHILIPPE. AN EXCEPTIONAL, HISTORICALLY AND HIGHLY IMPORTANT 18K GOLD TWO-CROWN WORLD TIME WRISTWATCH WITH 24 HOUR INDICATION AND CLOISONNÉ ENAMEL DIAL DEPICTING THE NORTH AMERICAN MAP
PATEK PHILIPPE. AN EXCEPTIONAL, HISTORICALLY AND HIGHLY IMPORTANT 18K GOLD TWO-CROWN WORLD TIME WRISTWATCH WITH 24 HOUR INDICATION AND CLOISONNÉ ENAMEL DIAL DEPICTING THE NORTH AMERICAN MAP
PATEK PHILIPPE. AN EXCEPTIONAL, HISTORICALLY AND HIGHLY IMPORTANT 18K GOLD TWO-CROWN WORLD TIME WRISTWATCH WITH 24 HOUR INDICATION AND CLOISONNÉ ENAMEL DIAL DEPICTING THE NORTH AMERICAN MAP
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PATEK PHILIPPE. AN EXCEPTIONAL, HISTORICALLY AND HIGHLY IMPORTANT 18K GOLD TWO-CROWN WORLD TIME WRISTWATCH WITH 24 HOUR INDICATION AND CLOISONNÉ ENAMEL DIAL DEPICTING THE NORTH AMERICAN MAP
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Where Christie’s has provided a Minimum Price Guar… Read more
PATEK PHILIPPE. AN EXCEPTIONAL, HISTORICALLY AND HIGHLY IMPORTANT 18K GOLD TWO-CROWN WORLD TIME WRISTWATCH WITH 24 HOUR INDICATION AND CLOISONNÉ ENAMEL DIAL DEPICTING THE NORTH AMERICAN MAP

REF. 2523J, MANUFACTURED IN 1955

Details
PATEK PHILIPPE. AN EXCEPTIONAL, HISTORICALLY AND HIGHLY IMPORTANT 18K GOLD TWO-CROWN WORLD TIME WRISTWATCH WITH 24 HOUR INDICATION AND CLOISONNÉ ENAMEL DIAL DEPICTING THE NORTH AMERICAN MAP
REF. 2523J, MANUFACTURED IN 1955
Movement: Manual
Dial: Cloisonné enamel depicting North American map
Case: 35.6 mm.
With: 18k gold Patek Philippe buckle, Patek Philippe Extract from Archives and a comprehensive study by Tortella & Sons
Remark: A masterpiece in exceptional condition. Only 3 examples known with the North American map cased in yellow gold
Note: Serial numbers are available upon request

THIS LOT WILL BE OFFERED ON SUNDAY 28TH OF MAY IN THE 20TH / 21ST CENTURY ART EVENING SALE
Special notice
Where Christie’s has provided a Minimum Price Guarantee it is at risk of making a loss, which can be significant, if the lot fails to sell. Christie’s therefore sometimes chooses to share that risk with a third party who agrees prior to the auction to place an irrevocable written bid on the lot. If there are no other higher bids, the third party commits to buy the lot at the level of their irrevocable written bid. In doing so, the third party takes on all or part of the risk of the lot not being sold. Christie's compensates the third party in exchange for accepting this risk provided that the third party is not the successful bidder. The remuneration to the third party may either be based on a fixed fee or an amount calculated against the final hammer price. The third party may also bid for the lot above the irrevocable written bid. Where the third party is the successful bidder, the third party is required to pay the hammer price and the buyer's premium in full.

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Lot Essay

Today, most of the finest and rarest of vintage Patek Philippe wristwatches are held by world-renowned international collectors and museums, each year fewer and fewer of the great vintage references of the mid-20th century reach the open market. It is therefore an event of major significance when a truly stellar Patek Philippe legend returns to auction after long residing in a private collection. This awe-inspiring two-crown world time wristwatch is one of only four Patek Philippe reference 2523 HU DE to be made in yellow gold with a cloisonné enamel map dial depicting North America and one of only three examples known to still exist today. One of the undisputed greats among all vintage Patek Philippe complicated wristwatches, this historic world time watch has an immense status even amongst the ultra-rare two crown world time model. Christie’s is incredibly honoured to be able to offer this masterwork here at auction for the first time in over a decade since its last appearance in 2012. One of the highlights of a highly esteemed private collection since that time, its ultra exclusivity and desirability is further enhanced by the spectacular overall condition.

The cloisonné dial two-crown reference 2523 is one of the ultimate world-class rarities, sitting alongside the other Patek Philippe wristwatch legends such as the steel reference 1518 and the first series 2499. Combining the highest degree of scarcity with the beauty and permanence of grand feu enamel artistry and the confident simplicity of 1950s design, the present reference 2523 ‘North America’ with Extract-confirmed cloisonné enamel dial is the earliest known surviving example and represents perhaps the only chance for decades to come to obtain one of these elusive masterworks from the ‘golden age’ of Patek Philippe wristwatches.
The reference 2523 was made in very small numbers indeed, a total of only 26 examples were ever made in either yellow or pink gold and one example in white gold.

The Known Yellow Gold Reference 2523 with Cloisonné Dial ‘North America’
Movement no. 722’706, case no. 306’205 – The Present Watch
Movement no. 722’708, case no. 306’210 – Private Collection
Movement no. 722’709, case no. 306’211 – Private Collection


A Detailed Study of the Present Watch

The Dial
Made circa 1952, by Stern Frères. The world time dial bears the names of 42 cities in French. The cloisonné enamel map can be
attributed to Marguerite Koch and represents the very best in artisan handcrafts of the time. The North American map is well defined, showing the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, Canada in red, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico in gold, USA in turquoise and Mexico and other Central America states in gold, the oceans, all around, being in a shaded blue to green, to the right, the eight-point compass rose. Every cloisonné enamel dial, even those of identical pattern or theme, such as the present North American continent are unique works of art, differing from one another because the enamel artist created each dial by eye and the enamel colours can also vary in tone due to the slight variations in temperature during firing, for instance some blues are more sparkling and yellows more intense.

The Case
No. 306’205, made in 1954-55, by Antoine Gerlach, Geneva master casemaker whose mark of a number 4 in a key is punched inside the caseback. Well preserved with clearly visible sharp hallmarks, the lugs maintain sharp edges, as does the bezel which is correctly numbered with the last three digits of the case number ‘205’. The satiné brushing to the band has been returned to its original delivery finish in recent years. The two crowns made of solid 18k gold, are original.

The Movement
No. 722’706, made in 1953, calibre 12 400 HU (Heures Universelles) with Cottier’s dial modification; monometallic balance, swan-neck micrometer regulator. The calibre 12 400, evolved from the calibre 12 120, it was made from 1950 and was numbered from 720’000 to 729’999. It was the best 12’’’ calibre with subsidiary seconds of its time with 18 jewels and 18’000 oscillations.


The World Time System
The revolutionary world time system - or ‘Heures Universelles’ was designed and patented in the early 1930s by legendary watchmaker Louis Cottier (1884-1966). Patek Philippe immediately saw its potential and commissioned Cottier with the development and production of a series of ‘World Time’ watches.
The world time mechanism of the reference 2523 is a functional complication that is simple to calibrate. One must first set the local or mean time 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.Patek Philippe’s reference 2523, the large version of this legendary “World Time” model, was launched in 1953; due to the expenditure involved in its production only an infinitely small number of this complex timepiece ever left the factory. To date, only twelve yellow gold examples have made their reappearance in public, including the present. Furthermore two in pink gold and only one in white gold, now prominently exhibited at the prestigious Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva, are known.

The watches were fitted with a variety of different types of dial centres, including engine-turned gold (two examples) and the celebrated cloisonné enamelled discs depicting maps. The North American theme is, for obvious reasons, highly desirable and besides the present watch only two further yellow gold references 2523 depicting this continent are publicly known. Considered milestones in Patek Philippe’s proud history to such an extent that in 2009, the firm launched a contemporary version, either in yellow gold or white gold, with enamelled maps centring the dial (references 5131J and 5131G).Patek Philippe’s reference 2523, the large version of this legendary “World Time” model, was launched in 1953; due to the expenditure involved in its production only an infinitely small number of this complex timepiece ever left the factory. To date, only twelve yellow gold examples have made their reappearance in public, including the present. Furthermore two in pink gold and only one in white gold, now prominently exhibited at the prestigious Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva, are known.

The watches were fitted with a variety of different types of dial centres, including engine-turned gold (two examples) and the celebrated cloisonné enamelled discs depicting maps. The North American theme is, for obvious reasons, highly desirable and besides the present watch only two further yellow gold references 2523 depicting this continent are publicly known. Considered milestones in Patek Philippe’s proud history to such an extent that in 2009, the firm launched a contemporary version, either in yellow gold or white gold, with enamelled maps centring the dial (references 5131J and 5131G).


History of the Reference 2523 HU, 1953-1957
Ref. 2523 HU (Heures Universelles) was launched in 1953, produced in replacement of the former ref. 1415 HU (1939-1954).

Louis Cottier, a Geneva watchmaker who invented the ‘World Time’ system in the mid 1930s, delivered around 45 modified caliber “12 400” movements to Patek Philippe gradually from 1953 until 1965; the calibre 12 400, becoming 12 400 HU with Cottier’s modification. It is thought that in total only 26 watches were cased with ref. 2523, 18 in yellow gold, 7 in pink gold, 1 white gold. Even though ref. 2523 was listed and sold until the mid-1960’s, the 25 yellow or pink gold cases were ordered between 1953 and 1954 and the only white gold known in 1955. The yellow and pink cases were gradually delivered to Patek until 1957. After 1957, 20 more ref. 2523-1, with less prominent lugs, were made, about the same case distribution ratio. The tree-piece cases of the ref 2523 and 2523-1 (35.5mm diam.) were all made by Antoine Gerlach. The dials were made by Stern Frères, in particular the outer world time ring, and the decorated centre of the dial by superb enamel artists such as Nelly Richard or Marguerite Koch, both working almost exclusively for the Stern dial company. The ref. 2523 was usually produced with enamel dial decoration, translucent or cloisonné, or with a metal dial. Oppositely, ref. 2523-1 was made only with a metal dial.

We are grateful to Eric Tortella for his assistance and study in researching this watch.

PROVENANCE
1955: The original owner.
1989: Habsburg Feldman, Geneva, ‘The Art of Patek
Philippe’, 9 April 1989, illustrated on the front cover.
2012: Christie’s Geneva, 14 May 2012, Lot 88.

Literature:
Four ref. 2523 are displayed in the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva.
Ref. 2523 watches are illustrated in: Patek Philippe Wristwatches, Martin Huber and Alan Banbery, 1998 edition, pp. 240 to 242.
Other examples are illustrated in: Patek Philippe Museum book, 2014 edition, Volume 2, pp.345 & 346.
Ref. 2523 watches are illustrated in: Blue Book 2, Eric Tortella, 2019 edition, pp. 354 to 399.

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