One of Patek Philippe's the most remarkable time-only watches ever made, this recently discovered and only second known example of “The Pearl of Bahrain” is not only fresh to the market but has been carefully preserved, unworn, by the original recipient and his descendant for well over fifty years.
The recipient of the present watch was John Eardley Allcard, it was presented to him by His Highness Emir Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa I in recognition of their close working relationship.
John Eardley Allcard was a British businessman who spent most of his working life in the Middle East. His involvement in advising on and the development of infrastructure in Bahrain in the 1950s, including the Bahrain Slipway Company under the 3rd Earl of Inchcape (later chairman of P & O and chairman of the committee for Middle Eastern trade), brought him into direct contact with His Highness Emir Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa I. The black and white image published in this catalogue shows the latter three during the opening of the Slipway on Muharraq Causeway (Bahrain) on 1 April 1954.
Until 2015 when the first reference 2573 “Pearl of Bahrain” was discovered by Christie’s specialists (sold Christie’s New York, 16th December 2015, lot 62), it was known to exist only from the original black and white Stern Frères archive image and had attained an almost mythical status amongst experts. Nobody knew until 2015 what the model actually looked like “in the flesh” nor for whom it was ordered or if indeed it still existed at all.
The beauty and appeal of these extraordinary Patek Philippe reference 2573s in rose gold with natural seed pearl hour markers on a pink starburst dial is beyond question and with the emergence of the present watch their history can be both reinforced and added to. Both known watches have consecutive case numbers: the present watch no. 425’441 and the other no. 425’442, both were sold on the same day – 26th June 1959 and both were presented to their recipients by His Highness Emir Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa I of Bahrain (1894-1961). It can therefore be concluded that the reference 2573 “Pearl of Bahrain” watches were indeed ultra-exclusive presentation pieces commissioned from Patek Philippe by the Emir himself.
A further highly important aspect of the “Pearl of Bahrain” reference 2573 is that it has remarkable bespoke case construction or “architecture” necessary to accommodate the natural seed pearl hour markers. Firstly, the hour and minute hands are on a post much higher than on other watches so that they can clear the height of the pearl hour markers. Secondly, the bezel seems to be much taller than on other examples of the reference 2573. This steep bezel combined with the domed crystal provides remarkable three-dimensional viewing of the pearl hour markers from a side angle and gives the watch incredible visual interest.
The reference 2573 “Pearl of Bahrain” is not only an unusual watch, but a watch of exalted royal provenance, bespoke design, visual magnetism and superb pristine condition. The present example joins its sibling as one of the most compelling and important time-only Patek Philippe wristwatches to ever be offered at auction.
Natural pearls have long been a source of national pride and commerce for Bahrain. In fact, natural pearls are such an important part of Bahraini culture that the government makes it illegal to import or sell cultured pearls in the country.
According to a 2010 article in the Wall Street Journal by Katherine Bergen: “The allure of the pearl has captivated the Queen of Sheba, Elizabeth I and Catherine the Great, all of whom are said to have worn Bahraini pearls. Their fabulous luster is to do with the combination of the sea's freshwater springs that give the island kingdom its name -- Bahrain means ‘two seas’ in Arabic -- and its warm, shallow, highly saline water. Whatever rare alchemy creates these lustrous objects, then as now Bahraini pearls are widely believed to be the best in the world. Legend recounts that almost 5,000 years ago, Gilgamesh, the epic hero, landed here in search of paradise, where he is said to have found the flower of eternity, the pearl, along the shores of ancient Dilmun, now modern Bahrain. An Assyrian inscription from around 2,000 B.C. mentions ‘fish eyes,’ or pearls, from Dilmun, and Tylos, the classical name for Bahrain, was stated by Roman naturalist Pliny to be ‘famous for the vast number of its pearls.’”
The Behbehani Family: Patek Philippe’s Door to the Kingdom of Bahrain
The Behbehani family consists of 5 brothers who founded various distribution companies in the mid-1930’s. Beginning in general trading, business soon diversified for the family to include insurance, tourism, and real estate, automotive and luxury with new ventures and interests continuing to evolve until today.
One of the first retailers of fine watchmaking in the Middle East, the family is well respected, known to have begun with humble beginnings but striving through changing times to build a financially sound empire that continuously values integrity, quality and service.
The Behbehani family were at the time of the delivery of both the known “Pearl of Bahrain” watches the sole distributor of Patek Philippe in Kuwait as well as in the Kingdom of Bahrain through their retail operations.
Special thanks to the family for assistance in originally researching the first timepiece discovered, and in particular Abbas Behbehani who is an imminent and passionate Middle Eastern watch collector.