An 18-karat gold Patek Philippe watch once owned by King Farouk, the penultimate King of Egypt and Sudan, will be sold by Christie’s as part of their Important Watches auction in Dubai on March 23. The watch is the rare and the much sought-after Ref. 1518 and is likely to surpass the record for the most expensive wristwatch ever sold in the Middle East.
It may be recalled that last year, a rare Patek Philippe Ref. 2499/100 sold for $499,500 at the Christie’s Important Watches Auction in March, a record for the most expensive wristwatch sold in the region.
Ref. 1518 is the first perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch produced in series by any watch company. First unveiled in 1941 at the Swiss Watch Fair Basel (now known as Baselworld), this perpetual calendar chronograph was a show of strength from the Swiss brand amidst a very turbulent time in Europe. Combining a perpetual calendar and a chronograph is a mark of technical ingenuity that very few watchmakers have mastered and no other brand has the kind of history (or success) that Patek has had in selling them.
Ref. 1518 is historically important in the sense that it would set the template for all perpetual calendar chronographs that Patek Philippe would produce from there on. The 1518 was succeeded by Ref. 2499 in 1950. This was followed by the 3970, 5970 and the present day 5270 but the 1518 remains the absolute big daddy of Patek’s perpetual calendar line-up.
Understandably, Ref. 1518 is a much sought-after timepiece in the vintage market. It is believed that Patek Philippe only made 281 of them – while the majority were in yellow gold, 55 were made in rose gold and there are only four known examples in stainless steel. In November 2016, a stainless steel Ref. 1518 was sold for $11.1 million (including buyer’s premium) at a Phillips auction in Geneva.
The slim 35 mm case and slender bezel and square push buttons may seem diminutive now but back in the 1940s, this was a very masculine size. The watch has a highly legible layout with day and month apertures at the 12 o'clock position, two subsidiary dials for the 30-minute counter at 3 o’ clock and running seconds at 9. An oversized moon phase indicator combined with date indication sits at 6 o'clock and the outer edge of the dial features a raised tachymeter scale.
The watch is powered by the manual-winding Caliber 13'''130 Q which is based on a Valjoux caliber 13Q. A 13-ligne (30 mm) wide movement, it beats at 2.5 Hz, has a power reserve of 42 hours and uses a column wheel system for the chronograph. It’s interesting to note that the watch is signed Patek Philippe & Co., something that the brand shortened to just Patek Philippe after World War II. An extract from the Patek Philippe archives confirms its production in 1944 and subsequent sale on November 7, 1945.
The caseback has an engraved monogram of the King with the Royal Crown of Egypt. King Farouk ruled Egypt from 1936 to 1952 before he was overthrown in a military coup led by Muhammad Naguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser, both of whom would govern the country in the 1950s. King Farouk was known for his flamboyant lifestyle and was a real connoisseur of horology. Forced into exile in Monaco and Italy following the coup, the king died in Rome in 1965.
This Ref. 1518 was first sold by Christie’s at its 175 Anniversary Sale in Geneva in 2014. It was sold for $438,871 (including buyer’s premium). The timepiece goes into the Dubai auction with a low estimate of $400,000 and a high of $800,000.