‘One of the most exciting things about working in the watch auction industry is the opportunity to take part in remarkable discoveries,’ explains Eric Wind, Senior Specialist at Christie's Watch Department, ‘and ‘The Pearl of Bahrain’, an extraordinary Patek Philippe reference 2573 in rose gold with natural seed pearl hour markers on a pink starburst dial, is one of those beyond-exciting moments.’
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Blending extraordinary and never-before seen design attributes, royal provenance, and mint condition, and accompanied by a Patek Philippe Extract from the Archives confirming production of the watch with pearl hour markers in 1958 and its subsequent sale on 26 June the following year, the ‘The Pearl of Bahrain’ is fresh to the market.
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.
Patek Philippe. An exceptional and possibly unique 18k pink gold wristwatch with natural seed pearl hour markers. Signed Patek Philippe, Genève, ref. 2573, movement no. 749’608, case no. 425’442. Manufactured in 1958. Estimate: $10,000-15,000. This watch is offered in the Rare Watches & Important Discoveries sale on 16 December at Christie’s New York
According to the consignor, it was a gift presented by Emir Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa I of Bahrain to an American advisor, businessman and close friend who had enjoyed a celebrated career in the Middle East spanning decades. The gentleman, who is still living, is 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, a fact confirmed by the Extract from the Archives 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 steep bezel combined with the domed crystal provide superb visibility of the pearl hour markers from a side angle
The watch has remarkable architecture to account for these unique 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 pearls, the bezel seems to be much taller than on other examples of the reference 2573. The steep bezel combined with the domed crystal combine to provide superb visibility of the pearl hour markers from a side angle, giving the watch an added element of visual interest.
Natural pearls have long been a source of national pride and commerce for Bahrain, and are widely believed to be the best in the world. Indeed, 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.
‘The ‘Pearl of Bahrain’ is more than an interesting and unusual watch,’ says Eric Wind, ‘it is quite simply one of the most exciting and important time-only Patek Philippe wristwatches to ever come to market.’
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