It took a very rich and determined individual over 20 years and millions of dollars to pull off one of the greatest feats in watch collecting—assembling a full set of four Patek Philippe perpetual calendar ref. 2499 series chronographs, dating from the 1950s through the 1980s. And this season the world’s top horological auction house, Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo, is set to sell them to the highest bidder in one of the most important watch collecting events ever staged.
The four impossible-to-obtain Pateks will lead Phillips’ The Geneva Watch Auction XIII at Hôtel La Réserve on May 8–9, marking the first time in nearly 20 years that all four series of the ref. 2499 are being offered in a single sale.
Aurel Bacs, Phillips’ Senior Consultant, and Alex Ghotbi, Head of Watches, Continental Europe & Middle East, are calling it a “once in a generation event,” noting that the ref. 2499, “in any dial or case combination, is considered one of, if not the most, iconic and desirable trophy watches to crown any collection.”
Only 349 examples of ref. 2499 series watches are known to have been made, they point out, hence it “hails as one of the rarest collectible items in the world, on the same level as a Jackson Pollock painting or a vintage Ferrari sports car. There are collectible wristwatches, then there are watches woven from the fabric of dreams, and the reference 2499 is of the latter. It is an endgame.”
The world record auction price for a first series ref. 2499 alone is $3.88 million, set in November 2018. The Phillips sale includes a first series in 18 karat yellow gold, one of only 23 made, manufactured in 1953; a second series in 18 karat pink gold, one of only nine made, manufactured in 1957; a third series in 18 karat yellow gold, one of the earliest known examples, manufactured in 1964; and a fourth series in 18 karat yellow gold, from the ref. 2499’s final year of production, manufactured in 1985.
In addition, at its upcoming Hong Kong Watch Auction: XII, Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo will offer the 2499’s more modern counterpart, a ref. 3974 manufactured in 1992, one of only five ever made, which also carries a world auction record of well over $1 million.
The ref. 2499, as Phillips says, is “one of, if not the, most influential and relevant horological references of the second half of the 20th century.” Acquiring all four series will make the new owner an instant celebrity among watch collectors, to say the very least.
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2021 issue of Maxim