With Patek Philippe Extract from the Archives confirming production of the present watch in 1951 and its subsequent sale on 17 April 1956. Furthermore delivered with a Patek Philippe presentation box.
There are, in the history of watch collecting, some wristwatch models that have risen in the hearts and minds of collectors to the point that they are considered ultimate goals in the field; timepieces that combine in one case all the features that appeal to the watch connoisseur: astounding technical complexity, unparalleled aesthetical appeal and a legendary level of rarity. These are works of industrial art that already are, only a few decades after the beginning of a proper vintage wristwatch market, worldwide recognized as landmark achievements of the field, and undisputed "holy grails" for any collector. Such timepieces are so rare that, even combining all the models from all the brands that can be included into this stellar category, the total number of pieces probably would not exceed a few dozen: truly the stuff of legend. We are talking about watches such as the Patek Philippe steel 1518, the Rolex split-second, or the present lot: the legendary Patek Philippe pink gold 2499 first series.
In order to fully understand the gravity of this wristwatch, it is necessary to examine its role and importance in the history of Patek Philippe.
Reference 2499 is a perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch with moonphases. This set of complications is the "signature watch" by Patek Philippe. Many other sets of complications have starred in a Patek Philippe model at some point in time, but perpetual chronograph are the only line of watches that not only has always been present in Patek's catalogue since its first appearance on the market in 1941, but which kept a very recognizable style. In a way, one could say these models are the true custodians of Patek Philippe DNA and identity.
As mentioned, this line of wristwatches saw the light of day in 1941, with the presentation of reference 1518, the first serially produced perpetual chronograph by any brand. Its three subcounters dial is such an achievement of design that it will be kept virtually unchanged through all the different incarnations of the perpetual chrono. The heir to the 1518 is reference 2499, followed by 3970 in 1989. From 2004 to 2010 the torch was passed on to reference 5970, and the youngest heir is 5270, in production today.
All these references, and especially the first two models, 1518 and 2499, are well known for having frustrated countless of Patek Philippe clients because of their limited availability. For example, reference 2499 was in production for 35 years. The total output was, however, a meager 349 pieces, all series and all metals combined. This means less than one watch a month. It is indeed a model reserved for the true Patek Philippe conoisseurs.
Reference 2499 is divided into four different series, with slightly different case and dial details.
- The first series, exemplified by the watch offered here, features square pushers and a traditional tachometre dial layout with outer railway fifth of a second divisions.
- The second series keeps the same dial layout of the first series, but utilizes round pushers.
- The third series has a cleaner dial layout, without tachymetre scale, and round pushers
- The fourth series, also known as reference 2499/100, is the same as the third series, but with a glazed display case back.
The first series was available until 1960, and it is considered particularly collectible not only for the limited production (a total of less than four dozen) but also because it is the only series of 2499 to feature the very recognizable and attractive square pushers. Intriguingly, this can be considered a transitional series, as the square pushers are typical of reference 1518. Their appeal is so undeniable that recently Patek Philippe reintroduced it in the two latest versions of their perpetual chronos: reference 5970 and 5270.
The first series can be further divided into two groups, according to the kind of case back used: the very first examples (from 1950 and 1951) feature cases made by famed case maker Emile Vichet, with a flat case back. This style was successively abandoned in favor of a round case back. Obviously, flat case backs can be considered more appealing in virtue of their rarity, and the fact that they are the original incarnation of reference 2499, the way it was originally conceived by Patek Philippe's designers, without adulterations induced by market feedback. The present watch is a wonderful occasion to admire such design in one of its most pristine iterations.
First series 2499 are known in both yellow and pink gold. However, out of the less than 50 watches belonging ^tothis group, only 4 are known in pink gold from the market, and it is an educated guess that the overall production is not much higher than that, thus making the pink 2499 first series one of the scarcest watches in history. The four known watches bear the following movement numbers: 868'248, 868'249 (the present lot), 868'250, 868'338. Consequently, the present watch may be the second pink 2499 ever produced.
Another aspect of this model that fascinates collectors worldwide is its incredible looks. Cased in generous 36 or 37 mm. cases (depending on the case supplier), it is a remarkably large watch for its time. Considered the penchant of modern fashion for large timepieces, this model is one of those exceedingly rare occasions when both modern looks and vintage style manage to cohabitate under in perfect harmony.
The signature feature of reference 2499, however, is its lugs. It is hardly believable that such a small detail can claim the title of masterpiece of sculpture, but it is true nonetheless. There is something exquisitely flamboyant and at the same time strong and masculine, in the lug design. They are massive but they narrow at the end, so instead of feeling encumbering they manage to transmit an impression of solid levity. What is unanimously recognized as a genius intuition is the carved groove to their outer side, which renders them true miniature sculptures and perfectly integrates with the overall case design, which is all a game of contrasting curves, mainly exemplified by the concave bezel turning into the convex band. This case design has been so much appreciated that identical or similar versions are used in other Patek models, such as reference 2497 (see lot 63) and the modern reference 5016.
Unfortunately, there is a downside to mounting such elaborated lugs: they are extremely sensitive to polishing. There are countless examples of 2499s where the lugs are no more than mere shadows of what they used to be with the groove reduced to little more than an impression and the sharp corners rounded ghosts of their former selves. Fortunately, this incredible specimen was obviously properly cared for throughout its life: the case is pristine, the lugs perfectly preserved in all of their glory. Unsurprisingly so as the provenance of this watch is absolutely distinguished: it was last seen at auction in November 2008, in Geneva, offered by an important Italian collector. The current owner preserved it as a cherished treasure all this time, and the condition is as fabulous as it was last time the market had the opportunity to admire this masterpiece.
Last, but not least, a layer of historical interest is imparted to the watch by its British importation hallmarks, which make it possibly the only known pink first series 2499 destined to the British market. As a matter of fact another first series 2499 for the British market is known, but this one is in yellow gold, retailed by Asprey, and was one of the highlights of the fall 2006 sale season, selling for 2.2 million chf.
Other examples of reference 2499 are illustrated and described in Patek Philippe Museum - Patek Philippe Watches, Volume II, pp. 306-307.