With Patek Philippe Extract from the Archives confirming production of this watch in 1953 and its subsequent sale on 17 February 1954.
When Patek Philippe launched with enormous success reference 2499 in the early 1950s, they soon followed such acclaim with the release of another wristwatch. A cleaner model, both in case and dial, which traded off the chronograph feature in exchange for sweep centre seconds. In Patek's catalogues from 1951 to 1963, this model was produced in even less examples than its cousin reference 2499. We are of course talking of the present lot: reference 2497.
The Patek Philippe enthusiast will immediately recognize the many similarities between the two references. The case is virtually the same as that of reference 2499, the only difference being, obviously, the disappearance of the chronograph buttons in the band. The bezel, case main body and, especially, the famous shaped lugs are all details that the two models share. So similar is the genesis of the case for the two references that in fact reference 2497, like reference 2499, may present two different kinds of case backs: flat in the earliest models and rounded in later examples.
Moving onto the dial, however, the differences are more important: the elimination of the chronographic function prompted a minor revolution of the dial design. The most apparent divergence between the two models is indeed centered upon the two subsidiary dials at 3 and 9, which in reference 2499 display the 30 minutes register and the constant seconds. There is now no need for a minutes register, as this reference is not a chronograph, and the constant seconds have become sweep centre seconds. The lack of chronographic functions prompted another dial modification, more subtle but with an equally momentous aesthetic impact: the outer railway fifth of a second divisions, a detail that is often found on chronometers from the 1940s, are now much smaller, without the railway style. Interestingly, this makes the dial more airy and clean, and actually predates by a decade a trend that will, in time, bring to the public absolutely sparse dials, typical of the 1970s. This evolution can be noticed in the 3rd series 2499s, first seen around the year 1960 bearing a dial layout very similar to the one of reference 2497, and in its final phase: reference 3448, which pushes the boundaries of dial minimalism to the limit.
Incorporating a massive case with an exquisitely 1940s design, elements typical of later fashions - such as the size of the case and the cleaner dial layout - and the extremely useful perpetual calendar function, it is unsurprising that this model is nowadays a collector's favorite, even for day-to-day use. One of the details that most fascinates scholars, collectors and laymen alike is probably the most subtle of all horological complications: the sweep centre seconds. Modern horology, and the advent of quartz watches, numbed the public's feeling toward this feature, considered somewhat common or obvious. The true connoisseur knows differently: the constant friction that a sweep centre seconds pinion withstands calls for formidable technical solutions, especially in watches conceived more than half a century ago. It is not by chance that most of the vintage models do not feature such a complication. Patek Philippe itself, after the discontinuation of reference 2497, will not create another perpetual calendar wristwatch with sweep centre seconds until the end of the century, when reference 5050 is released. The constant motion of the hand around the dial is doubtlessly aesthetically extremely pleasing, as it makes the dial "alive". For the real watch lover, however, it has a nearly hypnotic charm and a deeper meaning: it is a subtle reminder of the incredibly intricate array of gears and escapements that, hidden under the dial, quietly breathes life into the watch.
Reference 2497 is powered by a modified version of the revered 27SC calibre upgraded with the perpetual calendar module. The extreme rarity of this reference has already been mentioned, but in order to grasp its true extent one should consider that only around 180 modified 27SC calibres were delivered to Patek Philippe. Not all of them, however, found their new home in a 2497. Some were destined to the 2497's waterproof sister reference (2438-1, identical in everything but with a screw back) and a minority in the less known reference 2498. Educated estimates put the total number of movements cased in a 2497 case at little more than 100. This number, however, covers all variations of reference 2497, which is known in yellow, pink and white gold as well as in platinum.
The vast majority of these watches were cased in yellow gold cases, and a couple dozen examples in pink gold cases. With the platinum and white gold versions, however, we venture into the uncharted territories that are home to the most outrageously rare wristwatches ever made. Only two platinum 2497s are known to the market, one with painted breguet numerals (sold by Christie's in May 2008 for 2.2 million francs), the other with diamond indexes, pink gold hands and bracelet. Until today, that was true for the white gold version as well, with only two other examples known.
It is with pride that Christie's rewrites history with the introduction to the public of this previously unknown treasure: the third publicly known white gold reference 2497, consigned by descendants of the original owner. In effect, confirming the extreme rarity of this reference in white gold, our research indicates that this watch was part of a batch of 20 pieces. All of them, except the present one, in yellow gold. Furthermore this example, unlike its two other white gold peers, features a white gold bracelet. While originally sold with a leather strap, shortly after the purchase the owner went back to Patek Philippe and demanded a white gold bracelet. In one of the very rare instances in which Patek Philippe agrees to a client's modification request, the watch was fitted with a bracelet by legendary jeweler Gay Frères. Indeed the bracelet clasp is stamped 2 53, which indicates a production date in the second quarter of 1953, thus a delivery to Patek Philippe sometime in late 1953, just in time to be fitted onto this watch in 1954.
Examples of reference 2497 are prominently illustrated and described in Patek Philippe Museum - Patek Philippe Watches Vol. II, pp. 295