As one of the most desirable timepieces in the industry, Patek Philippe’s perpetual calendar chronographs have throughout the years been perceived as firm favorites of the most astute collectors. With a rich heritage originating from 1941 with the Reference 1518, the first perpetual calendar chronograph produced in series by any maker, the family has been widely recognized as the signature watches of Patek Philippe, incorporating some of the most celebrated references of the prestigious Swiss manufacture.
With an ongoing 77-year production period, Patek Philippe’s perpetual calendar chronographs benefited from technical enhancements as well as diverging case and dial designs, while staying true to their origin and highly recognizable aesthetics. Reference 2499, successor of the celebrated Reference 1518, encountered unparalleled success among elite collectors and was followed by the 3970 in 1989. The Reference 5970 was then in production from 2004 until 2010; the youngest heir, Reference 5270, is still in production today.
Through its restrained availability, examples of Reference 2499 have performed extremely well at auction, with highly scrutinized results pointing toward an increase in value over the years. Reference 2499 was produced from 1950 to 1985 and is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s greatest wristwatches. With timeless aesthetics, the timepiece was made different from its predecessors through its larger diameter and telltale ridged lugs.
Allying a perpetual calendar, chronograph and moon-phase display, the reference has exerted a strong influence on some of the most renowned watchmakers and left an unparalleled mark in the world of Patek Philippe watch collecting. Produced over 35 years at an average rate of nine examples per year, for a total production, according to literature, of 349 pieces, the model can be divided in four series, the majority cased in yellow gold.
First Series: Distinguished by Square Chronograph Buttons, Applied Arabic Numerals and Tachymeter Scale
The first series of the 2499 was available until 1960 and today it is considered particularly collectible due to its extremely scarce production, estimated at less than four dozen. With a case featuring highly recognizable square chronograph pushers, the timepiece can be considered a transitional series, as it was the only one to feature this trait, reminiscent of the Reference 1518.
Best known in yellow gold, with an extremely scarce amount of rose-gold examples having resurfaced at auction, the first series is regarded as a particularly large watch for its time, featuring carved lugs perfectly integrated with the case design. Throughout its production, the first series of the 2499 can be separated in two, with the first examples assembled with cases made by Vichet with a diameter of 36.2 mm and featuring a flat caseback as well as more rounded lugs. From 1954, cases were made by Wenger and were produced with a rounded caseback and heavier, more parallel lugs. The case was now a more impactful 37.8 mm in diameter.
Second Series: Round Chronograph Pushers, Either Applied Baton or Applied Arabic Numerals and Tachymeter Scale
Beautifully combining complications, rarity and wearability, the second series of the Reference 2499 featured a 37-mm case highlighted by round chronograph pushers. Highly praised by collectors, the dial of this series also displays a tachymeter scale, which is exclusive to the first and second series, signatures and scales printed in raised hard enamel. This technique was used on dials of the reference only during the first 20 years of production, providing them with a highly attractive vintage feel often reserved to watches of the 1950s.
Third Series: Round Chronograph Pushers, Applied Baton Numerals, Outer Seconds Divisions
The third series of the 2499 reference is the first of the series omitting the tachymeter scale. The case size was slightly reduced in comparison to its predecessors but kept the iconic design of the original models. It was produced at a higher scale than its counterparts and sold until 1978, the majority cased in yellow gold, fewer in rose gold and a handful in white gold.
Fourth Series: Round Chronograph Pushers, Applied Baton Numerals, Outer Seconds Divisions and Sapphire Crystal
The fourth series of the 2499 was launched following the end of production of the third series in 1978 and was produced until 1985. It differed from the third series through its sapphire crystal. Same as the third series, the majority were cased in yellow gold, with examples in rose gold and fewer in white gold. From this production, two examples are known with platinum cases, one of which sold at Christie’s from the collection of Eric Clapton in 2012 for CHF3,443,000 (approximately $3,635,808).
An extremely rare and coveted reference, the 2499 is a true guardian of Patek Philippe’s identity. Throughout the years, its contemporary size, timeless design and rarity have rendered it one of the most coveted watches at auctions and a watch of paramount importance for collectors of modern and vintage alike.
Predominant at watch auctions worldwide, the 2499 has always been actively observed by collectors. By comparing results of examples of the third series in yellow gold, it is noticeable through the analysis of the graph at right that the rarified nature of the model and strong interest from collectors resulted in a gradual growth in value. In order to enable a comparison in results, similar timepieces were chosen within the series of the reference with the highest number of selling prices.
The comparison therefore focused on examples of the third series and excluded examples with special attributes, such as the 2499 third series in yellow gold retailed by Cartier and sold by Christie’s in 2013 for CHF941,000, or examples with cases other than yellow gold. With a market always driven by condition, quality examples have proven to perform very well in the past decade with strong results occurring past 2010.
With a median of CHF353,000, the graph highlights an increase in value, which can be explained by the increasing knowledge of collectors and their focus to acquire timepieces of the highest rarity and quality. With the growing reach of international auctions and number of timepieces discovered, the future of the 2499 should prove to be bright as more collectors join the market and compete for such an iconic and rarified reference.
Remi Guillemin is a Watch Specialist at Christie's and is based in Geneva.