On November 13, 2016, a stainless steel Patek Philippe reference 1518 (perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch with moon phase) established a new World Record for the highest priced paid for any wristwatch at auction. After a bidding war that carried on for 13 minutes, the steel Patek 1518 sold for an unprecedented king’s ransom of $11,112,020 (CHF 11,002,000/€10,231,860). The stainless steel Patek 1518 was auctioned by Phillips auction house and was a part of a “trilogy” of Patek Philippe 1518s sold at the auction. And although they are huge and impressive prices paid and would headline almost any other auction, the pink gold and yellow gold models sold for a fraction of the price of the steel model — CHF 1,474,000 and CHF 598,000 respectively.
For many experienced collectors, a stainless steel Patek 1518 is the pinnacle
The rare 1518 in steel is one of only four examples known and was made in 1943. Of the four, three have at some point appeared at auction, with the last one selling over a decade ago. On February 22, 1944 this particular watch was sold to Joseph Lang of Budapest Hungary. In 1944 when this watch was purchased, the retail price for a reference 1518 in stainless steel was 2,265 Swiss Francs – only 500 Swiss Francs less than the gold version of this model. Most remarkably, also the 2nd example of reference 1518 in stainless steel was delivered to Lang on the same day. It is a mystery for whom these two watches were destined. However, both watches resurfaced in Hungary between the mid-1990’s and 2000’s.
The case maker Georges Croisier, later recognized as ‘Genevor SA’, manufactured the three stainless steel references made during the 1518s first production series. The inner casebook is stamped with the serial number 508’473 and underneath the number ‘1’, indicating that this particular watch was the first reference 1518 in stainless steel ever made. Another interesting detail is the last three digits of the case, ‘473’, are engraved on the inner side of the stainless steel bezel.
The dial is spectacular, free of damage or harsh restoration, manufactured by Fabrique de Cadrans Stern Frères. It is engraved on the back with the last four digits of the movement number. To take it even one step further, on the back of the weekday wheel and the month wheel, the undersides of the discs are engraved on the back with the entire movement number, ‘863’193’ – all of which was done by hand. The dial is breathtaking in its beauty, and superbly preserved for a watch of its age. The raised black hard enamel signature and scales are all crisp, well-defined, and in remarkable condition.
Did You Know?
Produced from 1941 to the early 1950s, reference 1518 was the breakthrough model that defined the state-of-the-art when it was introduced. Reference 1518 was the company’s Renaissance, a rebirth of its founding principles of innovation married to tradition. The ‘innovation’ aspect of course being that reference 1518 became the world’s first perpetual chronograph wristwatch to ever be produced in a series by any manufacturer. Of the 281 pieces made, the majority of reference 1518 was encased in yellow gold, while approximately 20% were cased in pink gold. Scholarship has shown that during the reference’s 14-year production run, a total of only four 1518s are publicly known today to have been completed and to exist today in stainless steel. Stainless steel is by far the rarest case material that Patek Philippe chose to use during the mid-20th century for their complicated watches, considering the extremely high value of their movements. It is this utter scarcity, that today, some of the firm’s most important and valuable historic watches are those encased in steel. Steel complicated watches, for many, are the ultimate in distinction to collect. source: Philips