A Fresh to Market Unrestored Treasure
On March 27, 1956, the original purchaser of this first series 2499 paid 1800 USD for this miniature technical marvel. As the only perpetual calendar chronograph on the market at the time from any maker, this Patek Philippe watch was purchased not only as a useful tool watch but also as the most luxurious and one of the most expensive watches of its era. With less than 38 first series examples ever made, this watch was the pinnacle of watchmaking over 60 years ago, and remains the pinnacle of watch collecting today.
The rediscovery of this fresh to market treasure after 6 decades in private hands is truly monumental in the watch world. Made by hand by the finest watchmakers of the time, this watch was meant to be used and preserved for generations. This example survived the test of time, was cared for and used for decades, and now offers a new owner the opportunity to obtain a watch that has been carefully maintained by Patek Philippe for generations.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect about this watch is that it is truly unrestored. It has been serviced numerous times by Patek Philippe over the generations but it has not been restored to its original aesthetic in modern times. The patina of the case, the exquisite aged beauty of the dial, and the unrelenting dependability of the movement, all add up to equal originality that defines a fresh to market watch that has not been modified and exclusively serviced by the Patek Philippe factory. The caseback of this 2499 was fully made by Patek Philippe and replaced the Wenger caseback during one of these services, most likely in order to replace a heavily engraved or damaged caseback. Also, the winding crown now bearing a Patek Philippe calatrava logo was exchanged by Patek Philippe during a service.
The dial, originally made by Stern Frères, is a first series dial of note and quite unique in a number of ways. The Arabic numbers combined with the tachometer are the first to catch the eye, then a more careful study shows the omission of the sector around the dates and moonphase aperture, a variation rarely seen on first series dials. Most notably, this dial features another variant only seen once before, the sub seconds and 30 minute chronograph registers are in raised enamel but not in sunken registers. These original flat registers are in fact larger than the more typical sunken registers and give the dial and overall bolder presence while making it easier to see the functions.
The case is also bold in its vintage presence. Patek Philippe commissioned no other than Wenger to make this case and it boasts a relatively massive 37.7 mm diameter larger than the earlier first series 2499s with cases made by Vichet with only 36.2 mm diameter. The size of case of case is only underlined by the fact that the case bezel and lugs have not been detailed or restored in any way and have been aged to perfect with a warm and even patina over the decades.
As an interesting side note, the movement and case numbers of the presently offered 2499J (M: 868347 C: 687763) are only one digit off from the famous 2499J originally retailed by Asprey (M: 868346 C: 687762) that sold for 2.2M CHF at Sotheby’s Geneva, November 14, 2006.
When the caseback is opened, the movement is revealed as a literal time capsule containing original parts from the 1950s. Overhauled in the past by Patek Philippe, the 13 lignes caliber continues to run dependably and confidently, a masterpiece of mid-century design and technology.
For the collector looking to own a piece of Patek Philippe’s history at the highest level, this 2499 entices and informs in its originality, character, and vintage charm.
The First Series 2499
When watch collectors think of Patek Philippe, they generally think of the round perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch. This combination of complications has grown to define Patek Philippe as a brand, and the watches under this umbrella are at the heart of the horological legend. These timepieces have become icons of watch-investing and are now widely considered to be wearable works of art — the ‘holy grail’ for any collector of wristwatches.
Widely acknowledged as one of the world’s greatest-ever vintage watch models, the 2499 has exerted a strong influence on the designs of many of the most renowned watchmakers. Over a period of 35 years, the 2499 was made in four separate series in a total production of only 349 pieces, the majority cased in yellow gold. The rarity of this model becomes evident when considering that an average of only nine watches left Patek Philippe’s workshops annually. A 2499 is considered the ultimate statement watch today, instantly recognizable and coveted by collectors of modern and vintage alike.
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 chronograph. 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 since its introduction in 2011.
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 tachometer 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 tachometer 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 in yellow and pink gold) 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.
Other examples of reference 2499 are illustrated and described in Patek Philippe Museum - Patek Philippe Watches, Volume II, pp. 306-307.