Old ways won’t open new doors. This simple truth applies to every one- from people’s aspirations to corporate dreams. One may think that historically successful brands would not need such mantras to pursuit their ongoing success, probably because they set their own rules and wait for others to follow. So what happens when the king of haute horlogerie, Patek Philippe, decides to open a new door and apply a mix of modern design codes with traditional style? For the first time, in the beginning of the 50s, a historical timepiece, no other than the 2499, is born.
Patek Philippe “The Third Series 18k yellow gold 2499”
Most of collection timepieces, have wonderful stories to tell, stories that may begin with the mark of a war or simply inspired by each of the important personalities wearing them. In the case of the 2499, the story lies mostly behind its production and how the 4 series produced in a time period of 35 years, capture the changing taste and elegance of this time. To begin with, it is important to mention that the beginning of its production is not clearly stated among different sources but from our knowledge, the first examples of the 2499 were produced in 1950, overlapping the production of the 1518 for 4 years. Overall, the 2499 was produced from 1950 until 1985 accounting for a total of 349 examples, meaning almost 10 watches per year. Moreover, it is probably the most sought series of perpetual calendar chronographs, ever produced by Patek Philippe, combining a classy aesthetic cased in a 36-37 mm dial, a quite modern twist at the time.
Patek Philippe ref. 2499 First Series in pink gold, 1951. Sold by Christie’s in November 2014 for CHF 2,629,000 (approx. 2,437,000€). Discover more at christies.com
The first series, available until 1960, is quite distinctive and easily recognizable compared to the rest. It features square pushers, applied Arabic numerals and a tachymeter scale on the border of the dial. As previously mentioned, the first series had a parallel production with the 1518, a detail that explains the similarities found on the two timepieces, from the characteristic square pushers to the dial and the overall essence of the style. Moreover, the first series can be divided into two subcategories based on the case back. The very first examples produced between 1950 to 1951, would feature a flat case back, manufactured by the known case maker Emile Vichet. These examples represent the actual inception of the design of this legendary timepiece, making them the most coveted and appealing findings. From a totality of 50 watches composing the family of first series, only four were cased in pink gold, increasing their scarcity and if possible, their appeal.
Patek Philippe 2499 Second Series, featuring a tachymeter scale and baton hour markers.
The second series, produced from 1954 and after, mark the real change of design. Square pushers are replaced by round ones while you may find examples with either Arabic numerals or batons again with a tachymeter scale. For the third and fourth series, Patek Philippe established a definite look displaying round pushers and applied baton markets while completely eliminating the tachymeter scale, featuring outer seconds divisions.
“Patek Philippe 2499 retailed by Gobbi” Third Series.
An interesting question arises when asked how to identify each series and the easiest way, is as always, noticing the details. For example, if a 2499 has square pushers, then we are dealing with a first series. If there are round pushers and Arabic numerals with tachymeter scale on the dial, we have a second series and last, an example with baton markers and no tachymeter, leads to the third or fourth series. To make things more complicated, there are also two known examples of a so-called “two and a half series” featuring round pushers, Arabic numerals but no tachymeter scale. Lastly, the smallest and maybe unnoticeable difference lays between the third and fourth series: the latter, features sapphire crystal.
When analyzing such reference, it is important to mention that the 2499 is undoubtedly one of the “holy grails” for the vintage watch market and that, because it balances perfectly the three most coveted elements in a timepiece: rare complication, unique design and of course, scarcity of examples. The most important feature though on this reference lies in a small detail for Patek Philippe but great for humanity, at least for vintage aficionados: the lugs. If you ever happen to see an unpolished and carefully maintained 2499, you will notice that the lugs represent miniscule sculptures, ready to support the beauty of the watch and even elevate it. For the first time after the 1518 Patek Philippe shapes the lugs in such way, like an art piece of its own.
Picture of the exceptional lugs of the 2499 First Series as published in the catalogue “Patek Philippe 175” November 9th, 2014, by Christie’s.
In terms of material, the 2499 was produced only in fine metals, with the majority being in yellow gold and fewer pieces in pink gold. For instance, there are in total four pink gold first series even appeared in auction followed by the third series with six known examples. The most interesting timepieces though come in Platinum, with only two references ever ordered and produced, both by the Stern family. One of them, is hosted in the Patek Philippe museum in Geneva. The second one, had a reference 2499/100 marking the last references of the fourth series and was lastly sold on November 12th 2012 in Geneva, for the astonishing amount of 3,6 million dollars. One of the rare times that one cannot be sure who was more famous, the owner, the reference or the auction result. Of course, we are talking for no other owner than Eric Clapton.
Patek Philippe ref. 2499/100 Fourth Series in platinum, 1987. Sold by Christie’s in November 2012 for CHF 3,443,000 (approx. 3,191,000€). Discover more at christies.com
Maybe it is the beauty of the Patek Philippe perpetual calendars and the fascinating complications of movements. The distinctive characteristics that evoke passion in finding the one, perfect example or simply the careful balance of old and new style in the 2499 that makes it so unique and wanted. In any way, we love this reference as is.
Author: Luca Balella