Several timepieces with a Middle Eastern résonance will be on display at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) from 12 to 26 October 2022 on the occasion of Christie’s Watches Online: The Dubai Edit.
Among them, one of Patek Philippe’s most remarkable time-only watches ever made: a sublime18k yellow gold Patek Philippe ref. 2573 ‘Pearl of the Arabian Gulf’ of 1958, with a gilt dial and seed pearl hour markers between the cardinal indices, on an 18k gold bracelet made exclusively for this watch by Gay Frères, purveyors of finest bracelet creations.
The present watch is one of the only three Patek Philippe Calatrava ref. 2573 to ever feature eight seed pearls as hour markers between the cardinal indices. Whereas the other two were made in rose gold, this one, in yellow gold, is all the more stunning for the solid yellow gold bracelet created especially for this watch by Gay Frères.
Manufactured in 1958, its case and movement numbers indicate it was also the very first of the three special commissions to be manufactured, preceding the two rose gold models by a few months at most.
For decades, only one thing was certain: at least one ref. 2573 with seed pearls marking the hours between the cardinal indices was known to have been made; it was the image published by Patek Philippe as a “Creation 1959” which led to giving the legend a name: Pearl of Bahrain. What the watch looked like in the flesh, or by whom precisely it had been commissioned, nobody knew. If it even still existed at all, was a mystery, too.
Then, on 16 December 2015, Christie’s New York sold a Patek Philippe with seed pearl hour markers, a time-only Calatrava ref. 2573 in rose gold – movement no. 749608, case no. 425442, manufactured in 1958 – with a rose gold dial (lot 62): for the first time, a Pearl of Bahrain was offered at auction.
The consignor, an American businessman with an extensive career in the Middle East had received it as a gift from Emir Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, to whom he had served as an advisor and with whom he had become friends. Estimated at US$10,000 to 15,000, the watch sold for the staggering sum of US$437,000.
A mere three years later, on 14 May 2018, Christie’s Geneva proposed the second ref. 2573 in rose gold with seed pearl dial known to have been made, this one slightly less well preserved, at auction.
This one, too, with a confirmed Extract from the Archives, had been gifted to a British businessman who had earned the trust and friendship of the Emir working on a number of key infrastructure projects in Bahrain. This watch, also from 1958 (with movement no. 749594 and the case no. 425441) had been estimated CHF100,000 and 200,000, and sold above estimate for CHF250,000.
The present Patek Philippe Calatrava ref. 2573 Christie’s Dubai will offer at its open for bidding auction until 26 October 2022is the only known example in yellow gold and stands out as one of the most compelling and important time-only Patek Philippe wristwatches to be offered at auction in recent years.
Although it predates the two rose gold Pearl of Bahrain watches in existence, which feature the exact same architecture and construction, its provenance as having also been commissioned by the Emir of Bahrain cannot be determined with absolute certainty.
The bespoke bracelet in 18k gold created specifically by Gay Frères, purveyors of the finest bracelets to Patek Philippe is stamped 2 58 referring to the second quarter of 1958 and is confirmed on the extract from the archive. Manufactured in 1958, this watch bears the movement no. 748659 and the case no. 425302.
Considering the ref. 2573 was well into series production, this model of 1958 was most probably manufactured only months if not weeks prior to the two models in rose gold.
Based on the legendary Calatrava ref. 2573 that was launched in 1956 (and manufactured until ca. 1971), the bespoke case construction or ‘architecture’ necessary to accommodate the natural seed pearl hour markers is in itself extraordinary.
The hour and minute hands are on a raised post to enable them to clear the pearl hour markers. The bezel is thus taller and steeper than on the other examples of the reference 2573. Combined with the domed crystal, the sheer slope of the bezel provides remarkable three-dimensional viewing of the pearl hour markers from a side angle, creating incredible visual interest.