PATEK PHILIPPE. A HISTORICALLY VERY IMPORTANT 18K GOLD PERPETUAL CALENDAR CHRONOGRAPH WRISTWATCH WITH CHARLES STERN'S UNIQUE SPECIAL REQUEST DIAL WITH CABOCHON RUBY HOUR MARKERS AND 3-MINUTE PHONECALL COUNTDOWN FEATURE
PATEK PHILIPPE. A HISTORICALLY VERY IMPORTANT 18K GOLD PERPETUAL CALENDAR CHRONOGRAPH WRISTWATCH WITH CHARLES STERN'S UNIQUE SPECIAL REQUEST DIAL WITH CABOCHON RUBY HOUR MARKERS AND 3-MINUTE PHONECALL COUNTDOWN FEATURE
PATEK PHILIPPE. A HISTORICALLY VERY IMPORTANT 18K GOLD PERPETUAL CALENDAR CHRONOGRAPH WRISTWATCH WITH CHARLES STERN'S UNIQUE SPECIAL REQUEST DIAL WITH CABOCHON RUBY HOUR MARKERS AND 3-MINUTE PHONECALL COUNTDOWN FEATURE
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PATEK PHILIPPE. A HISTORICALLY VERY IMPORTANT 18K GOLD PERPETUAL CALENDAR CHRONOGRAPH WRISTWATCH WITH CHARLES STERN'S UNIQUE SPECIAL REQUEST DIAL WITH CABOCHON RUBY HOUR MARKERS AND 3-MINUTE PHONECALL COUNTDOWN FEATURE
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PATEK PHILIPPE. A HISTORICALLY VERY IMPORTANT 18K GOLD PERPETUAL CALENDAR CHRONOGRAPH WRISTWATCH WITH CHARLES STERN'S UNIQUE SPECIAL REQUEST DIAL WITH CABOCHON RUBY HOUR MARKERS AND 3-MINUTE PHONECALL COUNTDOWN FEATURE

REF. 1518, MANUFACTURED IN 1945

Details
PATEK PHILIPPE. A HISTORICALLY VERY IMPORTANT 18K GOLD PERPETUAL CALENDAR CHRONOGRAPH WRISTWATCH WITH CHARLES STERN'S UNIQUE SPECIAL REQUEST DIAL WITH CABOCHON RUBY HOUR MARKERS AND 3-MINUTE PHONECALL COUNTDOWN FEATURE
REF. 1518, MANUFACTURED IN 1945
Movement: Manual
Dial: Charles-Stern’s unique special request dial with cabochon ruby hour markers and 3-minute phonecall countdown feature
Case: 35 mm. diam.
With: Patek Philippe Extract from the Archives
Remark: The only one

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Alexandre Bigler
Alexandre Bigler

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Lot Essay

Charles Stern’s Dial

With this thrilling landmark rediscovery of one of Patek Philippe’s ‘crown jewels’, Christie’s is highly honoured to be able to offer to collectors the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire one of the most personal and legendary wristwatch dials ever made by the company.

Unique in every way, and of immense historic importance, it was created to the specific request of Patek Philippe’s co-owner Charles Stern for his personal wristwatch – a unique oversized chronograph. It was, furthermore, worn by his son, Henri Stern, the President of Patek Philippe, as his personal watch with this dial for around three years until 1946.

Now a prized and much admired exhibit in the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva, that watch, an object of pilgrimage for Patek Philippe Connoisseurs and regarded by scholars as the most important historic watch made by the company since World War II was designed and conceived to bear the very dial offered here, made to Charles Stern’s exact specifications with its ruby hour markers and 3-minute telephone call timer scale. It would be the purist’s dream come true that perhaps one day these two parts, the unique watch and its original dial could once again be reunited after a separation of over 70 years.

Today, as it is offered here, Charles Stern’s unique dial is fitted perfectly and appropriately to a superb example of one of Patek Philippe’s most legendary models, an early second series reference 1518 in yellow gold.

The Story of Charles Stern’s Dial

This precious rarity, quite unlike any other reference 1518 dial, has a history which is both fascinating and fully documented.

At Christie’s in Geneva in 2010, the original reference 1527 chronograph watch (no. 863’247) for which the present dial was commissioned, was sold for the record amount of 6.259.000 Swiss Francs, at that time becoming the most expensive wristwatch ever sold.

Now in the collection of the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva, the Museum’s catalogue entry (2014 edition, volume 2, page 304) states:

“Sold on November 1, 1944 to Charles Stern. This watch originally had a dial with red indexes (the dial offered at auction here); it was replaced by the present dial (as now displayed in the museum) on June 20th, 1946. In a sense a reference 1518 housed in a reference 1527 case, (approximately two millimetres wider and high enough to accommodate the perpetual calendar plate, chronograph mechanism and longer lugs). This watch appears to be the only one made by Patek Philippe with this reference and these horological complications.”

The story begins in 1943 when Charles Stern ordered for himself three reference 1527 cases directly from Emile Vichet, the master case maker who was working for the company at that time on, among others, the references 1518 and 1526. One was a regular case, another one was a slightly larger case to fit the perpetual calendar (essentially a reference 1526 in a different case (now in the Patek Philippe Museum) and the third, an oversized case to fit the reference 1518 movement.

Charles Stern was delivered the perpetual calendar watch but died just before the oversized chronograph was ready.

The present dial found at the Stern dial factory, was made on Charles Stern’s specific request and the first to be fitted on the special 1527 case /1518 movement watch.

Henri Stern, his son, first used it as his personal watch for about three years, travelling and using it as a working tool. Knowing how expensive telephone calls between the United States and Europe were, a special three minutes scale was included in the 30-minute register. Engraved and hard enamelled along with the other scales and signature, this unique feature was evidently part of the dial’s design at its very inception.

In 1946, the complete watch was given back to the Geneva factory to be refreshed and sold as a new watch, at this point, as noted in Patek Philippe’s archives, it was fitted with a new reference 1518 dial, quite likely that which can be seen on the watch as it is now in the museum. The present dial, the watch’s original and uniquely made first dial, was carefully preserved, it remains today in the same original condition as when it left Henri Stern’s reference 1527J, untouched since that time.

Maintaining a highly attractive silky cream silver “satiné-opalin” surface, all inscriptions are perfectly preserved outside the markers and in the auxiliary dials, also around the tachymeter, naturally there are small blemishes which lend the watch a highly attractive vintage look.

Technical Analysis of the Unique Charles Stern Dial and Comparison with the Regular Reference 1518 Dial

Made by Stern Frères in 1942-1943 on a gold plate base with silvery satiné opalin finish. Engraved-enamelled inscriptions, base 1000 tachymeter to the right (typical for early series), signature, auxiliary dials and 60 minutes scale; most importantly, the 3-minutes telephone call timer scale in the 30 minutes register is also engraved enamelled, yellow gold applied Roman hour 12 o’clock marker, seen for the first time here on a reference 1518 dial.

When compared to a regular reference 1518 dial of the same period it is evident that this dial was designed for a larger watch, with a larger bezel diameter, exactly corresponding to Charles Stern’s unique reference 1527 watch for which it was made.

The significant differences are:
1. Roman 12 numeral instead of the usual Arabic 12;
2. a larger diameter hour setting and minute scale opening;
3. larger registers despite the same moon phase and calendar opening;
4. left and right registers also have different sizes between them;
5. cabochon ruby hour markers;
6. 3-minute count down extra graduation for telephone calls (hard enamel);
7. minutes track without “railway”;
8. straight register scale instead of radial.

Each one of these differences is in itself the only known example of its type ever seen on a reference 1518 dial.

This particular watch is abundantly illustrated in: Blue Book 3 (a tribute to the ref. 1518), by Eric Tortella, 2019 edition, pages 454 to 471.

Reference 1518 no. 863’677 with Charles Stern’s Unique Dial

This very fine reference 1518 was chosen appropriately by the present owner to display the amazing Charles Stern unique dial to full advantage. Of the 215 yellow gold cases made in total for reference 1518, this belongs to the long signatures series (pre-1948), with a second series case, one of about 70 yellow gold cases made until then.
The case is in original and good condition, well preserved considering it is almost 75 years old, the bezel volumes and proportions are well preserved, the crown, the chronograph pushers and the date correctors are in 18K yellow gold and all original.


Reference 1518
Since its launch in 1941, the reference 1518 has always been one of the most desired of all Patek Philippe’s complicated wristwatches. The 1518 and its companion reference 1526 were the first ever perpetual calendar wristwatches to be made in series by any manufacturer.

For 45 years, the reference 1518 and reference 2499 were equipped with calibre 13 Q (13 130 Q) a Valjoux ébauche, first upgraded and finished to the highest standards for that time, in Patek’s workshop, then modified under the dial, by Victorin Piguet workshops, to receive the perpetual calendar function.

The gold cases were made by Emile Vichet. In the first years of production, the cases were flatter and the pusher holes where right in the band mid-high. Later the lugs were a bit more turned down and the pushers were drilled very low on the case band. After 1949 the crowns were oversized.

Demand has always outstripped supply of the reference 1518, any examples supplied to lucky official Patek Philippe agents tended to only be offered to their most important and exacting clients. According to research, only 281 examples were made until 1954, the majority cased in yellow gold. The model was later replaced by the equally legendary reference 2499, also a perpetual calendar chronograph, but with a wider diameter and fluted lugs.

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