Patek Philippe. An exceptionally rare and highly important 18K gold two crown world time wristwatch with 24 hours indication and blue enamel dial
Prospective purchasers are advised that several co… Read more The Property from an Important Collector The Genius of Louis Cottier and the Heures Universelles With increased mobility in the late 19th century, travelers 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 centers 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 (see lots 55 and 64 in this auction), followed by the "Travel Time" wristwatches with either two or three hands (see lot 69 in this auction). Made in exceedingly small series, these timepieces are today highly sought after collectors' watches. Different examples of Patek Philippe's "World Time" pocket and wristwatches are illustrated and described in Patek Philippe Museum - Patek Philippe Watches - Volume II, p. 334-353, chapter "World Time and Jump Hour Watches and Louis Cottier Prototypes". Louis Cottier (1884-1966) Born in 1894 in Carouge, Geneva, Cottier inherited the talents of his father Emmanuel, a renowned maker of watches and automata. Emmanuel invented a World Time system in 1885 which he presented to the Société des Arts and which, some forty years later, served as inspiration to his son. Louis studied watchmaking at Geneva's horological school and distinguished himself as a highly talented student. At a very young age Louis Cottier received several prizes, including two from Patek Philippe. Following his studies, he worked as a watchmaker for Jaeger's Geneva branch before opening his own business. Cottier's career started in the back room of his wife's book and stationary shop at Carouge's 45 rue Vautier where, during 13 years, he manufactured fine desk clocks, pocket watches, wristwatches and prototypes. In 1931, he introduced his highly practical and elegant invention "heures universelles", featuring a central local time with hour and minute hands, linked to a rotating 24 hour ring, and bordered by either an independently revolving time zone bezel or outer dial ring (both manually adjusted). By aligning the local time zone with the 12 o'clock point of the local time dial, the watch would display the correct time in both hours and minutes, night and day, for every time zone in the world simultaneously, all on a single dial and while allowing easy accurate reading of local time. Following the success of this ingenious system, Cottier specialized in complicated world time watches and invented models of remarkably pure design for the most prestigious Geneva brands, notably Patek Philippe. In 1950, he invented the World Time system with two crowns, regarded by many one of the most practical innovations of 20th century watchmaking. In addition to a greater security and precision in the choice and maintenance of the city of reference, it offered greater protection against shocks and wear on the bezel bearing the city names. The ability to print the city names rather than incising them, thanks to the protective glass, resulted in greater legibility. Patek Philippe entrusted Cottier with the development and fabrication of the greatest number of complicated watches, resulting in the invention and production the celebrated "dual time" wristwatch in 1954 featuring a single movement. This solved the problem of synchronizing the minute hand, a problem often found in twin movement watches by other manufacturers. This Two Time Zone movement with two or three hands, developed in collaboration with Patek Philippe's specialists, is amongst his most successful inventions. Finished in 1957, the prototype was patented by the firm in 1959 (no. 340191). Louis Cottier was one of the organizers of the famous annual exhibition "Montres & Bijoux", which each year presented new creations. Even though he was considered a living legend and despite his incredible reputation he had earned in the world of horology, the ever active and brilliant Louis Cottier remained a modest and humble man. He would certainly have been surprised to know that, after his death in 1966, his workshop was given to Geneva's Musée d'Horlogerie et d'Emaillerie where it can still be seen today. A similar tribute was made following his death when the citizens of Carouge paid homage to the man and his contributions by naming a square after him. Today, Louis Cottier's timeless design are the standard used for mechanical world time watches.
Patek Philippe. An exceptionally rare and highly important 18K gold two crown world time wristwatch with 24 hours indication and blue enamel dial


Patek Philippe. An exceptionally rare and highly important 18K gold two crown world time wristwatch with 24 hours indication and blue enamel dial
Signed Patek Philippe, Genève, ref. 2523, movement no. 722'704, case no. 306'209, manufactured in 1953
Cal. 12'''400 HU movement stamped twice with the Geneva seal, 18 jewels, gold baton and Roman numerals on engine-turned gold chapter ring, translucent Royal blue enamel centre, stylized gold hands, inner revolving ring calibrated for Arabic 24 hours divided into diurnal and nocturnal hours, outer silvered revolving ring with names of 41 cities from around the world and adjusted by the crown at 9, large circular case, faceted lugs, snap on back, 18K gold Patek Philippe buckle, case, dial and movement signed
35.5 mm. diam.
Special notice
Prospective purchasers are advised that several countries prohibit the importation of property containing materials from endangered species, including but not limited to coral, ivory and tortoiseshell. Accordingly, prospective purchasers should familiarize themselves with relevant customs regulations prior to bidding if they intend to import this lot into another country.

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John Reardon
John Reardon

Lot Essay

With Patek Philippe Extract from the Archives confirming production of the present watch with blue enamel to the centre, revolving ring with 41 cities and applied gold indexes in 1953 and its subsequent sale on 9 July 1956.

Certain wristwatch models are unanimously considered landmarks of horology: the first serially produced perpetual chronograph, Patek Philippe's reference 1518, is one example. Other examples are the two-crown models produced by Patek Philippe at the beginning of the second half of the last century, the celebrated World Time references 2523 and 2523/1, of which the timepiece here on offer is a remarkable specimen.
These wristwatches combine all the characteristics rendering a vintage watch attractive. First of all, their aesthetic appeal is simply stunning. At 35.5mm, the case is not excessively encumbering or ostentatious, and yet the concentric rings layout of the dial, coupled with the generous bezel, grant these timepieces a presence on the wrist far exceeding that of other watches of similar size. The second crown at 9 o' clock mirrors the usual one at 3 o' clock and imbues the overall look of the piece with balance and symmetry. The deep blue enamel is a feast for the eyes, its color constantly changing and dancing according to how the light strikes it.

The apparent beauty of the case and dial design is matched by the beauty and complexity of the inner workings of the watch, the revolutionary world time system - or Heures Universelles- designed and patented in the early 1930s by legendary watchmaker Louis Cottier.
Last but not least it is important to mention the extraordinary rarity of Patek Philippe's two crown world time wristwatches. Scholars assume that an exceedingly small series of calibre 12'''400 were upgraded by Cottier on behalf of Patek Philippe to become the revered 12'''400 HU (Heures Universelles) version used for reference 2523 (and later 2523/1), rendering the model one of the firm's rarest, if not the rarest, serially produced wristwatch. The watches were fitted with a variety of different types of dial centres, including engine-turned gold, cloisonné enamelled discs depicting maps or monochrome translucent blue, such as the present watch, in fact the rarest of all versions: as a matter of fact, only two other yellow 2523 are known with this dial configuration.

As it so often happens in the world of vintage watch collecting, such a limited production is due to the poor reception the model received when first launched. It took decades for the taste of the public to evolve and eventually appreciate these masterpieces, which are consequently as rare as they are sought after.

It is no surprise that on rare occasions examples of these ultra-rare timepieces appear at auction, they never fail to stir the market as well as the hearts of collectors. However, a specimen such as the present one is bound to capture the imagination of Patek Philippe lovers all over the world even as it is one of the best preserved examples to appear at auction in recent years. One of the "signature" characteristics of reference 2523 is its faceted lugs. A true masterpiece of design, the lugs present 3 facets: top, side and a third one inclined at 45 degrees, their sharp edges extremely sensitive to polishing. The present example however showcases angles in near mint condition, testimony of the care and reverence the watch has been treated with by its previous owner and a near impossible find for the true connoisseur looking for the ultimate gem for his or her vintage Patek Philippe collection. The fascinating dial does not show any signs of cosmetic enhancement, the royal blue colour beautifully harmonizing with the gold case material, further enhancing the incredible look of this unmatched timepiece.

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