The Unique Reference 5103P
Christie’s is excited to be able to offer clients and collectors the opportunity to obtain a unique Patek Philippe Grand Complication – a modern legend and world-class timepiece.
One of the most important modern Patek Philippe Grand Complication watches in private hands, this platinum automatic semi-skeletonized minute repeating perpetual calendar wristwatch with retrograde date and moon phases is not only unique in design and construction but also has its own unique reference number – 5103P. It is truly exceptional that a unique Patek Philippe wristwatch is given its own separate reference number, this has only ever happened on a handful of occasions in the company’s history.
Made in 2004, incredibly, this remarkable watch was unknown publicly until a decade later when it was discovered in an important private collection. It had remained out of sight, sold by Patek Philippe to one of its best international clients, who had naturally remained entirely discreet about its acquisition. This extraordinary watch is offered here at auction for only the second time in its history, after several years in another highly distinguished collection.
It has been suggested that the present watch is a prototype for the similar but later reference 5104, launched in 2007, to which it is undoubtedly closely related but with distinct unique and significant differences:
1. The case of the reference 5103 is full platinum, the reference 5104 has pink gold decoration to the sides of the case and lugs. The engraved decoration is of a different design to the reference 5104.
2. The lugs of the reference 5103 are flared and shorter, more reminiscent of the Sky-Moon (launched 2001) and Celestial (launched 2002) lugs and quite different to the straight elongated curved lugs of the reference 5104.
3. The backplate and rotor of the present watch are hand-engraved with stylized leaves and flowers in contrast to the Geneva striping and ‘perlage’ of the reference 5104.
4. The hour and minute hands of the 5103 are of ‘plique à jour’ transparent enamel in the open framework of the hands, whereas the hands of the 5104 are fully open pierced with a single crossbar curving from one side to the other.
As the reference 5104 did not come into production until 2007, Patek Philippe evidently designed the present unique reference 5103 using a prototype, but as yet undesignated, semi-skeletonized movement with transparent dials, it is cased in a similar style to the Sky-Moon and Celestial which had already been launched for 3 and 2 years respectively when the present watch was made in 2004. Therefore this unique reference 5103 was fully realized at least 3 years before the launch of the fully developed reference 5104 in 2007. Although classified as a prototype, this watch is fully developed and designed as a finished piece, perhaps selected and completed to be offered to a specific favoured client as a dream piece that nobody else in the world would have.
Both the case and movement are exquisitely engraved with stylized leaves and flowers, and for the first time, a Grand Complication watch by Patek Philippe displays the movement through the dial and the back to view the mechanical marvels inside. A particularly beautiful and again unique feature of the present watch is the translucent enamelled hands, made using the ‘plique à jour’ technique where the enamel is applied in cells (formed by the outer frame of the hands, similar to cloisonné, but with no backing so light can shine through the translucent enamel. It is in effect a miniature version of stained glass and is considered very challenging technically.
One of the greatest challenges for the watchmakers was to legibly present on the transparent sapphire crystal dial, the subsidiary seconds, the moon’s age and the hours and minutes so that they did not obscure the view of the mechanisms beneath. This was achieved by making the subsidiary dials transparent, the retrograde date has a scale on the perimeter of the dial, the days of the week, months and leap-year indications are printed in white on rotating sapphire discs which move over a black panel in order to read the current calendar.
Highly important in being the very first of Patek Philippe’s Grande Complication watches with visible movement, this unique piece is among the most exclusive of all modern Patek complicated watches.