Rare Steel Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 wristwatch

Melvyn Teillol-Foo

Patek Philippe 1518 at Phillips Auctions


Phillips Auction House announced its ‘Geneva Watch Auction: FOUR’ on 12 & 13 November 2016. You can guess that this is the 4th in the series of Phillips Geneva auctions.

The Featured Top Lot of ‘Geneva Watch Auction: FOUR’ is a Stainless Steel Patek Philippe ref. 1518, which ranks pretty high in the mythical Holy Grail List for watches.
Patek Philippe is probably the top performing brand at auctions with its reputation for high prices maintained by aggressive collection by it’s own Patek Philippe Museum in the past. However, this historical model produced from the 1940s to the 1950s, stands on its own reputation as the type that defined the state-of-the-art of its era. It was the first perpetual calendar, chronograph, wristwatch ever manufactured, in series production, by any brand.

Apart from normal time keeping, the watch had two complications or additional functions:

  1. The perpetual calendar function indicated the Date, Month, Day-of-the-week and Moonphase, as well as automatically adjusting the date for months with 28 – 31 days and Leap Days.
  2. The chronograph function essentially acted as a stop-watch for timing short periods, Up to 30 minutes long e.g. for a horse race or boiling your pasta.

Collectors dream of owning any example of this complicated watch, of which, a total of 281 were made – the vast majority in yellow gold. Far rarer, are examples in pink gold, owned by a fortunate few who consider them a trophy watch in their collections.

What about the rarest of all metals for complicated mid-20th century Patek Philippe watches – steel?

For many, steel complicated Patek Philippe watches are the ultimate in distinction to collect. This may be ironic since steel was used when gold was scarce during the austerity of War years!

World records continue to be achieved for such steel models, including:

  •  A stainless steel single-button chronograph, reference 130, sold by Phillips in May 2015 for US $4,987,000

Patek Philippe ref. 1436

  •  A stainless steel split seconds chronograph, reference 1436, sold by Phillips in November 2015 for US $3,301,000
  •  A stainless steel chronograph, ref. 1463, sold by Phillips in November 2015 for US $1.21 million

A stainless steel ref. 1518 is the ultimate Patek Philippe pinnacle piece to get.  Only four are known to exist. Of the four, three have at some point, appeared at auction; the last one selling over a decade ago. The fourth example has never appeared at a public auction, and this is the watch to be offered in November. This watch, since its rediscovery in the 1990s, has always and exclusively been held in private collections.

The auctioneer, Aurel Bacs states: “Throughout my career, I have been longing for the day when I would be entrusted with the sale of a Patek Philippe reference 1518 in steel. Many collectors have also long awaited this occasion, which for sure will be a day to remember in Geneva. I had the great privilege of selling the above watches, each of them achieving a world record price in their own category. The results clearly demonstrate that the highly sophisticated movements by Patek Philippe, housed in steel – the most discreet, subtle, robust, yet understated case material – are the rarest pearls that one can ever find in the sea of vintage watches.”

The three other examples remain in some of the world’s most important private collections, making this particular reference 1518 in steel a unique opportunity for anyone in the world to discover and admire this legendary timepiece.

Estimate is in excess of US$3Million; a conservative figure to draw the bidders in, no doubt!
Paradoxically, recent post-BrExit chaos in financial markets may drive canny investors to buy into the rare watch speculation business.

AlphaLuxe Notes: 

Patek Philippe ref. 1518 Steel

Patek Philippe ref. 1518 Steel

9 years ago, Milan banker Alfredo Paramico bought a steel Patek Philippe ref. 1518 through private sale in 2007. He had been stalking the previous owner, an Italian textile businessman, for four years. Countless meetings and dinners later, the private deal was sealed at Hotel des Bergues, Geneva. Paramico bought the watch for 2.2 million Euros, almost five times what the owner had paid in the early 1990s. That watch was made in 1943. We estimate it to be worth US$6Million, on a good day…..

What is the cost of true luxury?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *