A rare Patek Philippe perpetual calendar Ref. 2479 that one belonged to former Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie will be offered at the upcoming Christie’s Rare Watches Auction in Geneva on May 15.
It’s a watch whose provenance has been the subject of much debate and even a court case that pitted two prominent African families against each other. However, all legal disputes are now in the past and the time has come for this Patek Philippe to be sold to a suitable bidder. Christie's describes the watch as "one of the most captivating and important horological discoveries in recent years.”
According to the Christie’s, the watch was given to Selassie by an Italian entrepreneur, Frederico Bazzi, during a visit to Switzerland in November 1954, a month after the confirmed delivery of the watch by Patek Philippe. Back then, Bazzi was based in Asmara, Eritrea (which formed a federation with Ethiopia in 1952 and was fully annexed to Ethiopia in 1961).
Selassie, who was Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974, reportedly gifted this watch to an eminent African leader, widely believed to be former Sudanese president Ibrahim Abboud. Helassie’s family has disputed this fact saying that the watch was probably looted from Selassie’s palace following the coup d'état that deposed him in 1974. Selassie died a year later under house arrest at the age of 83.
The watch was initially offered by the new owner’s descendants (their identity has not been revealed) but pulled off the auction block in November 2015 following a court order in Geneva. This dispute was finally resolved in late December 2016 and the original consignor possesses all rights to offer the watch at auction this May. The Department of Ethiopian Studies of Addis Ababa University has confirmed that the Emperor used to make gifts of watches to high profile acquaintances.
Ref. 2497 was produced by Patek Philippe between 1950 and 1963. This perpetual calendar features an 18K gold case with an engraving of the monogram of His Majesty Haile Selassie on the caseback. The unique black luminous military-style dial features alpha hands, a center seconds hand and Arabic numerals alternating with gold cabochons to mark the hours. It has a moonphase display and twin apertures on the dial that show the day and month.
The watch is supposed to be in immaculate condition and is powered by the manual-winding caliber 27-SCQ. The pre-sale estimate of this watch is expected to be around CHF 500,000 -1 million (Approx. $500,000-$1 mn). It is widely believed that the watch will breach the million dollar mark. The sale is on May 15 in Geneva. You can view the entire catalogue here.
This timepiece is one of two watches with imperial provenance that is coming up for sale in May. A rare gold Rolex triple calendar with moonphase that belonged to Emperor Bao Dai, the last ruler of Vietnam, will be auctioned off by Philips in Geneva next month. You can read all about that Rolex here.