With Patek Philippe Extract from the Archives confirming production of the present watch in 1987 and its subsequent sale on 7 April 1989.
One should always be cautious with the use of superlatives when discussing and describing collector's wristwatches. However, for an extremely small handful of "all-time myths", one cannot help but using adjectives such as superb, spectacular and similar praises. Such is the case when discussing the only Patek Philippe reference 2499 in the world which is not cased in either yellow or pink gold and is not in a museum's collection, hence unavailable to any private collector.
To so many long time aficionados of vintage and contemporary wristwatches, it is the legendary reference 2499 by Patek Philippe which displays the most perfect combination of mechanical complexity, dial design and case proportions. And the one and only ever released example in platinum is the holy grail per se to a large community of collectors.
Reference 2499 was launched in 1951, replacing the legendary ref. 1518, and was in production for nearly three and a half decades. Over these 35 years, four different series were manufactured and, according to literature, a total of only 349 watches were ever made. The majority of reference 2499 was cased in yellow gold and regardless to which of the four series they belong, any of these watches will always enjoy a prominent position in any private watch collection. When examples of this famous model are offered publicly, they rank often amongst the "top lots" and are, consequently, often adorning the front cover of the auction catalogue.
Probably, just some 10 of the total production of this reference was cased in pink gold and examples of this elite case version are generally associated with hammer prices in the seven-digit US dollar price range and good for press headlines, often causing the fiercest battles amongst collectors and eventually finding their way into one of the world's most important private collections.
Vintage wristwatches by Patek Philippe with complications cased in "white metals" are by far the rarest species and the more complicated the movement, the rarer they become. It goes without saying that platinum is the rarest of all case versions, all complicated references combined. Looking at all the different complications of vintage Patek Philippe wristwatches known to have survived, one is struggling to count more than 25 watches in total, an astonishingly small number. We can count just over a handful of minute repeaters, pre- and post-war production combined, an equally limited number of chronographs (including a pre-war single-button and three examples of the famous reference 1579, one of them offered in this auction as lot 188), one world-timer reference 1415, one tonneau-shaped wristwatch with jumping hours, 5 pre-war triple-calendars and a four perpetual calendars (references 2497 and 3448, two each). Not to forget the one and only J.B. Champion reference 2458 with Guillaume balance (lot 88 in this auction) and, lastly, the two examples of the landmark reference 2499/100 in platinum of which the present example is the only one in private hands. In fact, about half of these platinum complications by Patek Philippe are today owned by and exhibited at Patek Philippe's own museum - making it even more challenging for collectors to own one of these mythical timepieces.
There is no official statement issued by Patek Philippe in regards to the birth of these only two references 2499 ever cased in platinum. Most likely they were never intended for sale but rather requested by Mr. Philippe Stern for himself as the final and crowning edition to celebrate the 35 year long run of the firm's so far most iconic complicated model ever made. In fact, the firm's archives state that it was not until 1987 that these watches were completed, over a year after the last yellow gold example had been manufactured. The rather private and exclusive origins of these two watches are underlined by the fact that the first and only time a platinum 2499 was
ever offered for sale was in 1989 when the firm was celebrating its 150th anniversary. Instead of choosing the traditional route of offering this watch through its network of retailers or, even more appropriately, via their flagship store in Geneva, Mr. Stern made this watch available to the community of collectors by consigning it to the legendary "The Art of Patek Philippe" auction, held in Geneva on April 9, 1989. Fascinatingly, the archives of Patek Philippe list the date of sale of the present watch as April 7, 1989, the last working day prior to the auction which was held on a Sunday. Furthermore, the cataloguing and footnote at the time clearly state that only two examples of this reference were ever made in platinum and that the watch comes directly from Patek Philippe's own museum.
Another blessing of this super-watch is its well-known and uninterrupted provenance. Acquired at the above auction in 1989 by one of Europe's most prominent collectors in the field of vintage Patek Philippe wristwatches, it then changed hands during the second half of the 1990s to enter one of Europe's most important private collections of wristwatches. Some ten years ago, it was acquired by Eric Clapton. Consequently, it is now offered for sale by its third owner since originally sold by Patek Philippe for the first time. It is important to underline that this "twenty-four-ninety-nine" becomes now available at auction for the first time only since its original auction sale nearly a quarter century ago.
The other example, with consecutive numbers (movement number 869'309 and case number 2'817'877), has been kept back by the firm and is now one of the center pieces of the wristwatch section of its celebrated museum. This renders the present watch the only platinum ref. 2499 most certainly ever becoming available for any private collector in the world seeking to acquire a white metal example of this landmark model.
Research reveals that the last two references 2499/100 ever made are in fact these two examples cased in platinum. Interestingly, the last example ever made with a yellow gold case is also offered in this auction as lot 235. A most interesting discovery is the fact that the yellow gold example features a movement number (869'307) preceding the two watches in platinum.
We understand that Mr. Clapton has recently sent his beloved "platinum 2499" to Patek Philippe for a full service and we can confirm that in all its elements it is excellently well-preserved. There are no irregularities or stains to the dial and the case, despite very occasional wear by its previous three gentleman collectors, has retained all its beauty and subtle proportions. The definition to the fluting of the lugs is well defined and so are all the hallmarks. It goes without saying that, following the professional service at Patek Philippe's workshops, the movement is flawless.
Many of today's most active, most educated and most demanding collectors of vintage Patek Philippe wristwatches have, some nearly one quarter century ago, not participated at the 1989 "Art of Patek Philippe" auction - in many instances due their then "mild age". Some other collectors have been there and remember this auction as if it took place yesterday - so strong their memories and so overwhelming their emotions on this day - but they weren't given the opportunity to buy this incredibly important wristwatch at the time. One thing which combines the two groups is that many of them have regretted for years that they couldn't turn back the wheel of time and attempt once again to secure the one and only reference 2499 in platinum. Both are now, for a second time, given a second opportunity.
Only an exceedingly small number of wristwatches in the world are so famous, important, beautiful and desirable that one doesn't need to do further explaining. They enjoy the status of celebrities and their name or designation is enough of an introduction. Such is the case with the platinum reference 2499 - no additional comments are required.