With Patek Philippe Extract from the Archives confirming production of the present watch with silvered dial, raised Breguet numerals in gold in 1930 and its subsequent sale on 9 June 1939.
This unique round single button split-seconds chronograph wristwatch by Patek Philippe is important not only for its exceptional provenance, but also for its absolute rarity in terms of Patek Philippe's production. Only a handful of early split-seconds chronographs are known and the discovery of this watch is exciting for both the watch world and the aeronautical world. This watch is a piece of history for both Americans and the Swiss and represents the ultimate height of technology of the watchmaking and race for air dominance in the early 20th century. No watch of this historical importance has ever been discovered before and no watch of this historical importance will ever be found again.
The split-seconds chronograph mechanism allows its wearer to time two independent events at the same time while operating the stop functions via the crown and the second button in the band.
Many of these split-second watches are actually only known through literature and archival images. Only nine other examples of single button split-seconds chronograph wristwatches by Patek Philippe are known to have survived, one of them is on permanent exhibit at Patek Philippe's own museum in Geneva. Of the nine known early splits, only three are in round reference 130 style cases and the discovery of the Boeing watch is the 10th known early split-seconds and the 4th known cased in a reference 130.
Of these four watches, only one other has a Cartier signature and no others are made with Breguet numerals without tachymeter scale. Furthermore, Patek Philippe watches by Cartier New York are exceptionally rare. Cartier had a unique relationship with Henri Stern Agency (Patek Philippe USA) from the 1930s until the late 1950s when the relationship ended. Finding a timepiece with a Cartier and Patek Philippe signature is especially rare on complicated wristwatches and rarely seen today.
The Cartier numbers under the top left lug are an exquisite detail that further confirms the Cartier provenance of the watch. These numbers were applied by Cartier in order to be able to track down the details of the item in stock, such as location, year and origin. There are examples of such numbers either hand engraved or, such as in this instance, stamped. It is conceivable that the numbers were stamped, a more complex procedure but yielding better and longer lasting results, only on important pieces.
It is interesting to note that on 13 November 2001, Christie's Geneva sold a similar watch with a case number only one digit away from the Boeing for CHF999.750. Previously, this same watch sold as lot 234 in The Art of Patek Philippe, Antiquorum, Geneva, 9 April 1989. This timepiece has the movement number 198'405, case number 617'297, and the Cartier reference number 8703, and was made in 1930, as the present lot, and sold in 1938.
The case of the present timepiece was realized by Emile Vichet, as can be deduced by the stamp of a key with inscribed the number 9. This is the unique identification stamp of Vichet, the key meaning it is a Genève based case maker (other location had different symbols, such as the hammer for the Neuchatel canton). Vichet was one of the most appreciated case makers of the first half of the century. Specialized in extremely high end jobs, his relationship with Patek is profound, and his genius is behind many of the most beloved Patek Philippe vintage references such as, of course, reference 130, but also references 1518 and 1526, to name two well-known examples, and many others as well.
The ébauche (the base movement of a watch before it is assembled and properly finished) of the offered lot was made by Victorin Piguet & Co. of Le Sentier. During the 1920s the company made most of the èbauches for complicated movements, including single button and split seconds chronographs, mainly for prestigious firms like Patek Philippe.
The minute hand of this watch has the unique feature of having three parallel red stripes painted on it. Based on our research, there are a number of possible theories on why these stripes were placed on this hand at Mr. Boeing's request. In all likelihood, these stripes were added in New York by Cartier at the same time the Cartier signature was added to the watch.
Considered that among Mr. Boeing many interests there was also horse racing, scholars have formulated the hypothesis that this watch was intended to assist the owner in this passion of his. After all, horse and car racing are the main reasons that prompted the realization of the split second complication. Furthermore, Patek Philippe is no stranger to the world of horse racing, having realized another unique split second wristwatch reference 1436 (movement no. 862'274) for one of the most successful jockey of the time: Wendall Eads. That timepiece was sold by Christie's New York in December 2012.
- The three stripes could refer to the airline pilot uniforms that were introduced in the early 1930s which had three stripes for first officers
- The red stripes may represent the American flag. The blue steel chronograph hands help to make up the nation's colors
- It is possible that the red stripes represent the Model 40 plane that Boeing built for US mail delivery. Red stripes are a key feature to the plane's top tier. The Boeing Model 40 A first flew on 20 May 1927
- The red stripes could represent Mr. Boeing's interest in nautical racing and yachting. The signal flag for starting a code at sea is a triangular white flag with three red stripes
- Most compelling of the theories is that the red stripes were added to celebrate the connection between Mr. Boeing's first factory, the famous Red Barn (formerly Heath's shipyard in Seattle, Washington). The Red Barn features prominently three red parallel stripes that represented the early branding of his new company
Boeing's perfectionism is paralleled in this unique Patek Philippe single button chronograph, manufactured in 1930. Chronographs were very popular with aviators as they allowed them to make rapid calculations and conduct precise timing. The demand for chronographs grew along with the aviation industry in the early part of the 20th century. The single-button chronograph mechanism remains among the most complex and sophisticated developments of time measurement. Whereas the standard chronograph is activated and reset through two buttons in the band, the single-button chronograph controls all of these functions solely through one button. According to current research, Patek Philippe produced single-button chronograph wristwatches between 1924 and the late 1930s in approximately only thirty examples, the majority encased in the timeless round "Calatrava"-style case like the present timepiece. The rarity and exclusivity of this watch is furthermore underlined by the fact that since production of single button chronographs ceased in the late 1930s, Patek Philippe has never resumed production. Single-button chronographs remain rare today as they are an archaic form within the world of mechanical chronographs. Patek Philippe's accessible work of interactive craftsmanship as well as that of William E. Boeing makes this watch perfectly suited to its original owner.
The case of the watch is engraved, 'W.E. BOEING, SEATTLE, WASH.' It was common to put one's name and city on a watch at this time, here pertaining to Boeings triumph in buying Heath's shipyard in Seattle on the Duwamish River, which later became his first airplane factory as well as Boeing becoming incorporated in Seattle in 1917.