With Patek Philippe Extract from the Archives confirming production of the present watch with silvery grey dial and raised steel hour markers in 1939 and its subsequent sale on 28 October 1939.
A spectacular discovery, fresh to the market and previously unknown from literature, the present reference 530 occupies a very special position in the family of these chronographs: made and sold in 1939, it is believed to be the very first example of a reference 530 in stainless steel to have left the factory, making it also an important witness in Patek Philippe's history of complicated steel watches.
In fact, research has revealed almost certainly that this is the very first reference 530 chronograph in stainless steel ever made. Previously, an early reference 530 chronograph in stainless steel bears movement no. 506'554 and case no. 862'323, made in 1939 and sold in 1940 - rendering the present, movement no. 506'552 and case no. 862'265, the earliest and, most importantly, almost certainly the very first reference 530 chronograph in steel ever made: if features not only earlier movement and case numbers but more importantly the stamped number "1" underneath the case number in the case back, a numbering system employed by Patek Philippe particularly in their stainless steel cases, irrevocable proof that it is indeed the very first reference 530 manufactured by Patek Philippe. This assumption is further underlined by the fact that the inside case of no. 862'323 is stamped "3" (see the illustration in Patek Philippe Steel Watches by John Goldberger, p. 248), thus possibly the third stainless steel ref. 530 made.
Close inspection reveals another important element for the present stainless steel version and its successor no. 506'554: the shape of the lugs and the width between them. Whereas the latter two show a curved lug design and a gauge of 19 mm, cases of later reference 530 steel versions feature straight lugs and a wider gauge of 21.5 mm, rendering this watch and its "sibling" a very unique, more elegant appearance.
Little is known about the past of the present reference 530 but considering the epoch of its manufacture one can assume that it must have been rather turbulent. The trained eye however cannot but admire its very original and honest "barn find" condition, term normally used for vintage cars discovered in unrestored state, very popular among collectors eager to acquire an unspoiled treasure to have it professionally renovated - hence a designation perfectly appropriate for the present reference 530.
A most notable feature is undeniably its highly attractive sector or "Aviator"-style dial design with the very architectural hour markers, a superb feature on this masterpiece of 1930s watch design, confirmed by the Extract from the Archives. Supplied by Stern Frères in Geneva, it combines brushed and "opalin" or matte surfaces with hand-engraved and enamelled inscriptions and scales, the perfect case study for one of the celebrated maker's type "T" for "Tachymètre" dials. Even if the passage through nearly eight decades have left some imperfections, one cannot but admire the layout typical for the late 1930s: the outermost tachymeter scale is aligned with the inner rim of the bezel as opposed to the slightly recessed variant of later examples (see op.cit, pp. 248 & 249). Its impressive case, supplied by Georges Croisier, one of Patek Philippe's best suppliers particularly for steel cases, has survived its nearly 80 years of existence in astoundingly well-preserved condition, the full proportions showing that it has not been subject to careless polishing. And last but not least one should mention the bezel, bearing the scratched number "552", last three digits of the movement number, to its inside.
The much sought after sector or aviator dial combined with the large case are characteristics generally found in military timepieces, leading to the conclusion that this was indeed the original purpose of this reference 530. Interestingly, Patek Philippe often referred to their sector dials as "tachometer dials", logical designation considering the importance of this scale used to calculate a speed based on travel time or measure distance based on speed - both particularly useful for pilots of the period.
In superbly original condition and fresh to the market, the present watch is an exceptional trophy for the connoisseur wishing to add one of the exceedingly few steel reference 530 chronographs to their collection.
Another stainless steel chronograph reference 530, however with a standard dial version, is illustrated and described in Patek Philippe Museum - Patek Philippe Watches - Volume II, p. 265, Inv. P-1580.
The virtues of stainless steel, durability, resistance to corrosion and staining, low maintenance and its radiant shine, make it an ideal base material for a multitude of commercial items. Steel has been used since ancient days but a process for producing stainless steel was only developed in the late 19th and early 20th century. Harder to work than its precious metal peers, the production of stainless steel cases is much more complex and costly than for the latter.
Particularly in vogue during the Art Deco period, stainless steel was the favourite metal of many renowned watchmakers and jewellers and embellished their most beautiful pieces. It was also used for the interior and exterior decoration of houses, the most famous example being the spire of the Chrysler Building in New York. During the economic boom following World War II, when the production of watches and jewellery was nearly halted due to the rationing of metals, stainless steel had lost its appeal. Considered the "poor man's material", it was replaced by the more apparent yellow and pink gold, demonstrating the wearer's wealth. Consequently, production of stainless steel watch cases by the most prestigious makers was reduced drastically and only few examples of these small series produced in the 1940s - 1950s have survived to date.
Reference 530 was introduced to the market in 1937 and is one of Patek Philippe's rarest chronograph models. Predominantly known to have been cased in either yellow or rose (pink) gold, the stainless steel version is amongst the scarce specialties amongst collectors of complicated Patek Philippe wristwatches. Whereas the gold version is known to have been in production during at least two decades until the mid-1950s, it appears that the stainless steel version was only available during a short period of time, mainly in the early 1940s. One may safely assume that at this epoch, especially during World War II and the years immediately afterwards, stainless steel was the more accessible case material - not limited to watch manufacturers and without regulations imposed by customs.
Reference 530 is the larger version of the better known reference 130, Patek Philippe's classic chronograph retaining the timeless Calatrava design. However, reference 530 stands out by its impressive diameter overshadowing its smaller "sister model" by a substantial 4 mm.
The model is also illustrated in Patek Philippe Wristwatches by Martin Huber & Alan Banbery, second edition, p. 265.