Regal watches under hammer

In an opportunity of a lifetime for watch collectors, two rare Patek Philippe wristwatches will go under the hammer at a Christie's auction in Geneva on May 12.

The watches, said to be two of the 10 most important watches by the acclaimed Swiss manufacturer, are expected to fetch Dh5.5 million to Dh9m each at auction.

Patek Philippe watches have enjoyed great demand over the ages and the list of people who wore them reads like the Who's Who of the world's history.

People such as Albert Einstein, Pope Pius IX, Denmark's King Christian IX and Queen Louise, Victor-Emanuel III, King of Italy and Duke of Savoy, and Hussein Kamal, Prince of Egypt from 1914 to 1917, were among the people whose wrists have been graced by watches from Patek Philippe.

It all started when Polish-born Antoni Patek, along with friend Franciszek Czapek, started making pocket watches in Geneva. In 1844, the two parted ways but a year later, Patek met French watchmaker Adrien Philippe who had invented the keyless winding mechanism.

The duo began working together and in 1851 Patek Philippe & Co was founded. Soon Patek Philippe became a name to reckon with in the world of watchmaking. Later that year, Patek Philippe was appointed to supply watches to Queen Victoria and soon the timepieces were in demand in most of the royal courts of Europe.

Queen Victoria owned two watches by Patek Philippe. The first was a key-wound watch created in a pendant style and the other was an exclusive piece worn pinned to clothing. The watch was suspended from a diamond and enamel brooch.

Now, two of the 10 most sought after wristwatches by Patek Philippe are part of Christies' Important Watches auction where 380 other timepieces will also come under the hammer.

The first is a previously unknown example of Patek Philippe, reference 2497, dated 1954 and cased in platinum. It will be offered for sale in Geneva for the first time since its original purchase.

The reference 2497 is preserved in the best original condition possible for a watch of such age and shows no signs of restoration.

Sabine Kegel, senior watch specialist at Christie's, told Emirates Business: "Reference 2497 is one of only two examples of its kind known to exist with a platinum case. But its most unique feature is the silvered dial with the highly sought after Breguet numerals in black hard enamel – virtually unknown to any other perpetual calendar wristwatch by Patek Philippe of this period – that gives it an extremely elegant, avant-garde look."

The combination of the platinum case, the distinguished perpetual calendar movement, the exclusive dial design and its total freshness to the market makes this masterpiece a prime candidate for Patek Philippe's hall-of-fame of the most perfect vintage wristwatches ever seen in the market.

According to Kegel: "The second watch is the only example of the reference 1526 model known to exist in a stainless steel case. It formerly belonged to the famous American car racer Briggs Swift Cunningham II.

"The unique features of the reference 1526 are its stainless steel case and the unusual, painted black Arabic numerals on the dial."

Aurel Bacs, international co-head of the Watch Department, Christies, said: "Considering that many of the all-time stars of collectable wristwatches are no longer in private hands and extremely rarely appear on the market, it is a sensation that the auction offers two Patek Philippe masterpieces. These two rank among the top-ten of the world's most desirable watches."