PATEK PHILIPPE. A HISTORICALLY IMPORTANT AND EXCEEDINGLY EARLY 18K GOLD WORLD TIME WRISTWATCH, ONE OF ONLY TWO KNOWN WORLD TIME REFERENCE 96
PATEK PHILIPPE. A HISTORICALLY IMPORTANT AND EXCEEDINGLY EARLY 18K GOLD WORLD TIME WRISTWATCH, ONE OF ONLY TWO KNOWN WORLD TIME REFERENCE 96
PATEK PHILIPPE. A HISTORICALLY IMPORTANT AND EXCEEDINGLY EARLY 18K GOLD WORLD TIME WRISTWATCH, ONE OF ONLY TWO KNOWN WORLD TIME REFERENCE 96
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PATEK PHILIPPE. A HISTORICALLY IMPORTANT AND EXCEEDINGLY EARLY 18K GOLD WORLD TIME WRISTWATCH, ONE OF ONLY TWO KNOWN WORLD TIME REFERENCE 96
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PATEK PHILIPPEREF. 96J HU – ONE OF TWO KNOWN Formerly in the Private Collection of Jean-Claude Biver
PATEK PHILIPPE. A HISTORICALLY IMPORTANT AND EXCEEDINGLY EARLY 18K GOLD WORLD TIME WRISTWATCH, ONE OF ONLY TWO KNOWN WORLD TIME REFERENCE 96

SIGNED PATEK PHILIPPE & CIE, GENEVE, REF. 96J HU, MOVEMENT NO. 176’230, CASE NO. 294’861, COMPLETED IN 1937

Details
PATEK PHILIPPE. A HISTORICALLY IMPORTANT AND EXCEEDINGLY EARLY 18K GOLD WORLD TIME WRISTWATCH, ONE OF ONLY TWO KNOWN WORLD TIME REFERENCE 96
SIGNED PATEK PHILIPPE & CIE, GENEVE, REF. 96J HU, MOVEMENT NO. 176’230, CASE NO. 294’861, COMPLETED IN 1937
Movement: Manual
Dial: Silvered with the names of 29 cities in French
Case: 30.3 mm. diam.
With: 18k gold Patek Philippe buckle, Extract from the Archives confirming the 12’’’ movement with gold wheels made in 1913, completed and encased in 1937 and its subsequent sale on 24 September 1937, Passport from Eric Tortella
Remark: One of two known examples of world-time ref. 96
Provenance
1937 – Whereabouts unknown until sold, Sotheby’s New York, 6 December 2011, lot 386.
2011 - The Private Collection of Jean-Claude Biver.
2020 – Sold Phillips Geneva, 27-28 June 2020, lot 64.
Sale room notice
We are grateful to Eric and Gabriel Tortella for their assistance and study in researching this watch

Please note that the estimate for this lot has now changed.
Please note that this lot is now subject to a minimum price guarantee, which has been financed through a third party and who may be receiving a fee.
Please see the Conditions of Sale for further information.

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Remi Guillemin
Remi Guillemin Head of Watches, Europe and Americas

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Lot Essay

One of the very first of Patek Philippe’s world time wristwatches and a quite breathtaking rarity, this reference 96 is one of only two known to exist - the other is in the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva.

In the pantheon of world-class Patek Philippe vintage wristwatches, few can come close in terms of significance and beauty to this historic world time wristwatch. Indeed, it is such an early example and clearly exhibits experimental traits in its construction, that it can be considered a prototype or test piece for what would later become by the mid-20th century, one of the company’s most famous and enduring wristwatch complications. Christie’s is incredibly honoured to offer this highly important Patek Philippe world time, once in the now legendary private collection of Jean-Claude Biver, it has ever since been a significant highlight of the present highly important private collection. Moreover, its untouched, wonderfully original condition is simply spectacular.

Patek Philippe World Time Ref. 96J HU – An Appreciation and Analysis
Of the two known examples of world time reference 96 HU, the present watch was the earliest to be cased. This example and its ‘sister’ watch in the Patek Philippe Museum are historically very significant in the development of one of Patek Philippe’s most important complicated wristwatch models, the world timer. The present watch is one of the very earliest wristwatches to be fitted with Louis Cottier’s world time system invented in 1931, although not in its final form as used in reference 1415. Made under Cottier’s direct supervision, the two known reference 96 world time watches can be considered as prototypes or test pieces. The cases are classic reference 96 ‘Calatrava’ style and the movements, in the case of the present watch, is a LeCoultre base movement originally intended for Gondolo & Labouriau in Brazil and featuring the classic Gondolo gold wheel train and ‘moustache’ lever. It was made in 1913 and held in stock until it was chosen to be adapted by Louis Cottier to trial the world time system. The dial, made by Stern Frères is a beautiful creation and further underlines its trial or test status in being unsigned. The cities dial is engraved-enamelled with the names of 29 cities in French. Most significantly, the only moving part other than the hours and minutes is the 24-hour ring which is without day/night demarcation, unlike the fully developed world time caliber 12-120 HU, the cities dial cannot be adjusted by the user but is set by a watchmaker to the desired home city location.

The present watch and its sibling were the only two 12’’’ movements adapted by Cottier as prototypes for the 12-120 HU launched as reference 1415 in 1939. A such this fascinating and remarkable piece of Patek Philippe’s history is undoubtedly one of the greatest of all prizes for the collector today.

The Dial
Made in 1934-1937 by Stern Frères with Cottier’s collaboration. Solid gold base plate with pearled engraved minutes scale, larger at every five-minutes. Hand-cut applied yellow gold hour markers and Roman quarter-hour numerals. The dial is unsigned and almost certainly never was. The recessed gilt 24-hour ring is engraved-enamelled and without day/night indication, reassuringly the same as its sister watch in the Patek Philippe Museum. The silvered on gold outer dial ring for the cities is engraved-enamelled 29 cities around the World according to the time zone. Interestingly, it displays the old spelling for ‘Pekin’ and ‘Istanbul’ with an ‘M’, an error by Stern Frères. The hand-cut solid gold hands are different to other of Patek Philippe’s world time watches and their influence can be seen in later models. The hour hand a centrally divided circle and the minute hand is a bold arrow shape.

The Case
Serial no. 294’861, by Antoine Gerlach, master Genèva casemaker with mark of number 4 in a key, made in 1937, three-part with snapped bezel and back, solid yellow gold crown attributed to Boninchi Frères, Genève (BFG) is original Patek Philippe but perhaps a replacement. A retailer’s reference inscription is scratch-engraved under one of the lugs. Stamped with French owl or 'hibou' gold marks, it has been suggested that this watch was perhaps retailed by Guillermin in Paris.

The Movement
Serial no. 176’230, a 12’’’ Gondolo caliber made in 1913 with the distinctive moustache lever, three main train wheels made of gold and ‘snail’ type regulator. Cottier’s world time modification to the movement is simple yet ingenious and was completed in 1937, probably as a prototype or test piece in the development of caliber 12-120 HU. The number 5, relating to a LeCoultre reference pre-Patek, is found under the bridges along with the last digits of the serial number.

A Chronology of Early Patek Philippe World Time Wristwatches
Ref. 96J HU - Yellow gold 'Calatrava' cased 12''' movements adapted by Louis Cottier. Two known examples, completed in 1937. One in the Patek Philippe Museum, one the present watch.
Ref. 515 HU - Rectangular pink gold cased 10''' HU movements, 3 examples thought to have been made in 1937.
Ref. 542 HU - Round yellow or pink gold cased 10''' HU movements, made in 5 examples in 1937 and 1938.
Ref. 1416 HU - Round yellow gold cased 12''' HU movements, made in 1939.
Ref. 1415 HU - Round yellow or pink gold cased 12''' HU and later versions with 12-120 HU movements, made in 115 examples from 1939-1954.
Ref. 2523 HU and 2523-1 HU - Round yellow pink or white gold cased 12-400 caliber, two-crown model made from 1953-1973.

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