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Movement: Cal. 12'''120 HU, manual
Dial: Matte silver with applied platinum Arabic numerals, revolving 24-hour ring for the nocturnal and diurnal hours
Case: Snap on back, hand-engraved revolving reeded bezel bearing the names of 41 world cities, 31 mm. diam.
With: Platinum Patek Philippe buckle, Patek Philippe Extract from the Archives and presentation box
Remark: Legendary watch, case by Wenger
Special notice
Lot incorporates material from endangered species that is not for sale and is shown for display purposes only. The endangered species strap shown with the Lot is for display purposes only and is not for sale.Upon sale, the watch will not be supplied to a buyer outside Hong Kong with any watch strap.

Brought to you by

Alexandre Bigler
Alexandre Bigler SVP, Head of Watches, Asia Pacific

Lot Essay

There is only one platinum reference 1415 HU in the world…..a superstar wristwatch returns to auction

This unique platinum reference 1415 HU needs almost no introduction, in 2002 it caused a sensation when it became the most expensive wristwatch ever sold at auction, realizing an astonishing 6,603,500 Swiss Francs, a record that remained unbroken for some years after. Unseen in public since that momentous day in 2002, in the intervening almost two decades, it has gained something approaching mythical status. In the annals of Patek Philippe collecting, this one-of-a-kind masterpiece has passed into legend as one of the most unobtainable and elite of all vintage Patek Philippe wristwatches. It is Christie’s immense honour and pleasure to be able to offer this historic and world-famous Patek Philippe platinum World Time wristwatch at auction. A once in a generation event, it gives collectors and those who search for objects with uniqueness and unsurpassed quality, the opportunity to become the only person in the world to possess a platinum reference 1415 HU.
It is almost certain that this unique platinum watch was made upon special request. Sold at the very dawn of the 1950s, it was without question intended as a bold and dramatic statement piece. Indeed, the platinum case lends an entirely individual aesthetic to the watch, with silver dial and Extract-confirmed platinum numerals, the contrast with the night-time hour sector and engraved city names bestows a ‘black and white’ monochromatic beauty to its overall presence. The dial itself with a silvered plate with platinum Arabic numerals is, to the best of our knowledge, of unique design. Not only unique with platinum numerals but also in having all Arabic numerals for all 12 numerals instead of the Roman and baton numerals found on other examples of reference 1415 HU.
The beauty of its design is matched only by the ingenuity of the movement. The world time mechanism is a functional complication simple to calibrate. One must first set the local or mean time through the crown (the 24 hour ring will revolve in the opposite direction of the hands). Then the outer ring is adjusted by rotating it 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.

The Dial
Marked with serial number 929’693, made 1949-50 by Stern Frères and under dial mechanism by Stern Frères in coordination with Cottier’s workshop. In very good condition, it has been cleaned perhaps only once by Stern Frères themselves during a service at Patek Philippe. Displaying beautifully cut original platinum numerals, the engraved enamelled early font short signature is fully original and well preserved. Original platinum hands. The 24-hour dial is evenly aged and perfectly matching the centre dial, also boasting original engraved enamel numerals and fully decorated platinum two suns, one shining and one darker, applied respectively at 12 and 18 hours.

The Case
Serial 656’462, made in 1949-1950 by Wenger, Geneva Master case
Maker’s mark of number 1 in a key, three-piece, snapped bezel and back, soldered lugs. Amazingly well preserved with sharp edges and full proportions, clear hallmarks, the platinum bezel engraved with 41 cities in English retains its original enamel infill and the toothed edge is crisp and sharp. The underside of the bezel is correctly marked with the last three digits of the case serial number. Original platinum winding crown attributed to Boninchi Frères of Geneva, original raised crystal.

The Movement
Serial 929’693, made in 1946 and finished in 1949-1950. The Calibre 12 120 HU (Heures Universelles), was modified from a calibre 12 120 base by adding Cottier’s device. Calibre 12 120, launched in 1932 was the best “time-only” 12’’’ calibre with subsidiary seconds of its time, later replaced by the calibre 12 400. The caliber has 18 jewels, with 18’000 oscillations. The present movement is the type marked didactically with the maker’s signature, the serial number and the movement characteristics.

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

The Genius of Louis Cottier and the Heures Universelles
With increased mobility in the late 19th century, travellers were confronted with the dilemma that each region had its own local time. Sandford Fleming (1827-1915) solved this problem. In 1876, the Canadian railway engineer recommended a universal time system in which the globe was divided into 24 time zones.

During the International Meridian Conference in Washington D.C. on 1st November 1884, it was agreed to establish international zones according to his system. GMT, Greenwich Mean Time, was considered ‘time zero’ and twenty-four standard meridians marked the centres of the zones. The International Dateline was placed along the 180-degree meridian in the Pacific Ocean. Around the world, clocks were reset to adapt to this new system of timekeeping.

This challenging problem for watchmakers was solved by Louis Cottier, who in the early 1930s, invented an ingenious system for universal or world time indication. Patek Philippe immediately commissioned Cottier with the development and production of a series of ‘World Time’ watches, using the celebrated ‘HU’ or ‘Heures Universelles’ calibres, followed by the ‘Travel Time’ wristwatches with either two or three hands. Made in exceedingly small series, all versions of these timepieces are today highly sought after collectors' watches.

Louis-Vincent Cottier
Born in Carouge on September 28, 1894, was the son of Carouge watchmaker and inventor Emmanuel Cottier. Louis Cottier became a watchmaker working for several horological firms until the economic recession, in 1931, when he invented the “Heure Universelle” (World Time in English) mechanisms and worked then on his own, making
complicated timepieces as jump hours, automaton scenes, jacquemarts, angle (aviator) watches, linear or digital display features, etc. The world time watches, which mechanisms he produced for Agassiz, Patek Philippe, Rolex and Vacheron Contantin, became his speciality. Louis Cottier registered several patents for his inventions from which the jump hour, the world time and the time-zone devices. Among them, Swiss patents no. 270085, no. 273141 and no. 285376. Hans Wilsdorf, the Rolex president,
chose Louis Cottier as curator for his collection which he kept restoring and maintaining until the end of his life. At the end of WW2, some of his production was already ending in very famous pockets, around very important wrists or on very celebrated desks such as Winston Churchill, Harry Truman, Joseph Stalin, De Gaulle, Franklin Roosevelt’s widow, etc.
In addition to being a talented painter and draughtsman, Louis Cottier was also an historian of the city of Carouge, where he lived all his life. His workshop, transferred to the Musée de l’horlogerie et de l’émaillerie de Genève, is now part of the collection of the Geneva Musée d’art et d’histoire. Until his death, in 1966, Louis Cottier developed several novelties for Patek Philippe, some remained prototypes, others were produced in more or less important series. From 1937 to 1965, Cottier delivered a total of around 380 movements to Patek Philippe, most of them with the ‘Heures Universelles’ feature and only 7 of them with the twin dials feature. All of them made on stock calibres.

Reference 1415
Reference 1415 was introduced in 1939 and remained in production until 1954 approximately. Its movement was based on the established Patek Philippe in-house caliber 12'''-120. Some 115 movements were upgraded for this model with the ingenious, patented world time mechanism invented by Louis Cottier, the celebrated Geneva watchmaker. Reference 1415 HU (for Heure Universelle or World Time) was either cased in yellow or pink gold, cases made by Wenger, Geneva Master case maker, mark number 1 in a key. Only one example in platinum is known to date (the present watch).
Until 1948, reference 1415 HU was only available with the classic metal dial, either silvered or more exclusively rose. During the very last years of production, this model was also available in very few pieces only with cloisonné enamel dial. The hand-engraved bezel would show international cities around the world. Whereas earlier examples of reference 1415 HU would only list 28 cities, the latest generation would account for 42 international locations.


1950 original owner;
1988 Sotheby’s New York;
1989 Sotheby’s Geneva.
An Italian collection and another Italian collection.
2002 Antiquorum Geneva, 13th April, lot 608, where purchased by the present owner for 6,603,500 Swiss Francs.

Examples of reference 1415 HU, both with metal and enamel dials, are illustrated in : ‘Patek Philippe Wristwatches’ Martin Huber & Alan Banbery, second edition, pp. 243 - 247.
Different examples of Patek Philippe's ’World Time’ pocket and wristwatches are illustrated and described in ‘Patek Philippe Watches’ - Volume II, : Patek Philippe Museum, p. 334-353, chapter ‘World Time and Jump Hour Watches and Louis Cottier Prototypes’.
Ref. 1415 is illustrated in the ‘Blue Book 2’ by Eric Tortella, 2018 edition, pages 290 to 333; a note on World-timers, Louis Cottier and his workshop is published in the same book pages 191 to 210.

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