There is a reason why certain vintage watches command such a strong appeal from collectors, more so than others. While there are many different factors such as brand heritage, aesthetics and quality that contribute to why some brands or models take off, I do think there is one universal principle that makes what we do so much fun: Variability.
For instance, vintage Rolex. High quality, strong brand heritage, good looks and variability – lots of it. The amount of different variations in Daytonas, Submariners etc. is crazy, from something as obvious as different iterations from different periods to the borderline pedantic underlines and double Swiss dials and chapter rings and pointed crown guards – you get the point.
It doesn’t always have to have all those qualities though – look at the Yema chronographs which have taken off in the last 12 months. In my opinion, I don’t particularly think they are very high quality watches, relative to the prices paid for them. Often, they were equipped with workhorse Valjoux 77s, but the one thing these Yema’s have, be it the Rallygraf or Yachtingraf – is variability. From patent pending dials to different Yachting sub dials – this encapsulates the definition of collecting.
Right at the top of what I’ve been discussing, on an esoteric galaxy far, far away – are Patek Philippe chronographs, and there isn’t a better time to write about this than during auction season. This week we take a look at three Patek Philippe chronographs, all made within a 4-year period, all offered by Phillips in May and all using the same Cal. 13-130. That being said, as mentioned previously, all with variations that would make one want to collect all three.
LOT 31: PATEK PHILIPPE REF. 1463 “TASTI TONDI”
One of my favourites has to be the Ref. 1463 and I know I’m not alone in this. It’s always been said that any nickname for a watch sounds pretty epic in a European language, but translated to English, well, sounds pretty lame. For example, the Rolex ‘Padellone’ literally translates from Italian to the Rolex Frying Pan, and the Vacheron Constantin “Cornes Des Vaches” becomes the Vacheron Constantin Cow Horns. For this ‘Tasti Tondi’, it’s no different – let’s dive into the Patek Phillipe Round Buttons.
What makes the 1463 quite unique in Patek’s line-up from the 40/50s is the fact that it is only one of two chronograph references that had a screw back waterproof case. Furthermore, with its 35mm Borgel case that features the characteristic round sunburst pushers, it is just downright pretty.
This particular example, made in 1953, is a second series 1463 and what is a little more special about it is the fact that it was delivered with a pulsations dial – making it a rarer variant of the reference. With two sharp hallmarks on the case showing the strength of the case and what seems to be an impeccable two-tone dial, this is certainly of collector quality.
LOT 37: PATEK PHILIPPE REF. 530
This Ref. 530, made four years before the aforementioned Ref. 1463 is another that is a favourite amongst collectors due to its oversized 36.5mm case. Moreover, it has a great proportionality between the thick lugs, large size and concave bezel.
This example has a somewhat patinated dial towards the right as it has discoloured to a warmer champagne tone, a tone Phillips describes as a ‘pleasing vanilla’. This does make some sense to me as wearing the watch on your right wrist, the left side of the dial tends to be covered by your sleeve most of the time leaving the heavy patina to the part that is constantly exposed to the environment.
With all that said though, what is unique about this piece is that Phillips claims it is the only known Ref. 530 that features Breguet numerals in a yellow gold case. This is when hard-core collectors start drooling, as mentioned previously, collecting is all about having that unique variation that no one else can attain.
LOT 116: PATEK 1579 “SERPICO Y LAINO”
Finally, we come to what is perhaps the quirkiest of today’s highlights: the Ref. 1579 from 1950. At first glance, it is obvious what makes it so, with those undeniable angular spider lugs. I must say, ordinarily I am not a fan of exotic lugs, they are usually disproportionate and loud but these are just so elegant and harmonious to the overall aesthetic that I would happily make an exception.
Another difference this Ref. 1579 holds, is the fact that is was made in pink gold. Patek predominantly cased watches in yellow gold so barring white metals aside, to find a variant in pink gold does require you to pay quite a bit more for it. Not to mention that this was retailed by the famous Venezuelan retailer Serpico Y Laino – with matching hallmarks to corroborate that it was indeed shipped to South America. It even comes with its original pink gold Gay Freres bracelet stamped ‘SYL’ by Serpico and even though the stamp of the bracelet is from 1954, Phillips mention that it can be assumed that the client specially ordered this bracelet when it was purchased.
Wait, I’m not finished yet. To top this off, the condition of this Ref. 1579 is stunning. The Ref. 1579 is one of the easiest to tell if it has been over polished due to the nature of the angular lugs. It is very difficult to do a good job polishing due to the complexity of its structure, and this example has very, very sharp lugs and bevels. Furthermore, the two-tone dial looks impeccable with the warm rose gold handset.
So, there you have it, three very similar Patek Philippe chronographs which are in fact, very different. I do suppose this is appropriate, after my article two weeks ago regarding the problems I thought the newly released Ref. 5320G perpetual calendar had – which I pointed out tried to fit in too many details into one watch. The joy of collecting these as mentioned is the variability – where’s the fun if you can buy one watch with spider lugs, Breguet numerals, a waterproof case with sunburst pushers and a two-tone dial with both pulsations and a tachymeter scale?
For more lot information on The Phillips Geneva Watch Auction: Five that will take place on the weekend of the 13th & 14th of May at La Reserve Hotel, Geneva, visit the official Phillips Watches website to view the entire catalogue.