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Pink-on-pink Patek Philippe 1518 turns up at Sotheby’s New York with $4.5 million estimate

Forgotten in a dusty draw for 30 years, the single-owner watch is one of the rarest and earliest perpetual calendar chronographs ever made by the maison.

We all know the Only Fools and Horses storyline when Del Boy and Rodney finally become strike it rich after finding a John Harrison marine chronometer pocket watch grubbing around in their lock-up garage that sells at a Sotheby’s auction for £6.2 million and fulfils their dream that “this time next year they would be millionaires”.

A real-life version of that story has led to another ultra-rare timepiece emerging into the light from an individual who claims it was stuck in a draw untouched for 30 years after he originally bought it back in 1947.

The piece in question is a Patek Philippe Ref. 1518, one of the very first Patek Philppe perpetual calendar chronographs ever made by the maison.

Every 1518 is a coveted collectible, with only 281 thought to have been made at the time.

Sotheby’s is auctioning a previously undiscovered pink-on-pink gold example as the star lot at its Important Watches auction in New York on 9 June.

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Only 10 of 15 known all-pink 1518s have ever been offered for sale, which is why this never-before-sold piece is being offered with an estimate of $2.5 to 4.5 million.

That may prove conservative, even in the coolness of the current market.

Another Pink-on-Pink 1518, previously owned by Prince Tewfik Adil Toussoun of Egypt, was sold by Sotheby’s for $9.57 in December 2021, more than four times its estimate and the third highest price ever achieved for any vintage wristwatch sold at auction.

Proving that it pays to be a king, other known owners of a 1518 have included the former ruler of Romania, King Michael I, the King of Jordan, and Egypt’s penultimate ruler, King Farouk I.

“It is an honour and a privilege for Sotheby’s to be entrusted by the family of the original owner with the sale of their exceptionally rare and beautiful vintage Patek Philippe,” says Sotheby’s senior vice president & senior watch specialist Jonathon Burford. “To unearth a previously unknown, undiscovered and vintage watch from a single owner in such remarkable condition is the stuff of dreams for vintage Patek Philippe collectors, a ‘holy grail’ watch so to speak.”

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Only 58 1518s are believed to have been cased in pink gold, and a small fraction of those had salmon pink gold dials.

Sotheby’s experts were aware of 14 pink-on-pink examples. The piece going to auction in June makes it 15.

This extreme rarity gives the watch a strong chance of beating its top estimate, despite the auction market achieving considerably lower prices since a peak in the spring sales of 2022.

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The trick today is to offer fewer lots, focusing on rarity, provenance and the best possible condition.

The pink-on-pink 1518 with Sotheby’s ticks every box.

Delving into the finer details, collectors will note the full name Patek Philippe & Co on the dial, one of the last watches so signed because the company shortened its marque to Patek Philippe in 1948, the year after the watch was sold.

Sotheby’s says that only seven of the known pink-on-pink 1518s have this fuller signature.

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Another rarity is the calendar wheel, which is in French; a detail found only three times previously.

The salmon pink gold dial was made by Geneva’s Stern Frères and shows signs of patina and aging consistent with the watch’s age.

The case by Emile Vichet was made early in a production run that ran from 1946-1953, as indicated by its more tapered lugs, larger crown, and the lower position of the chronograph pushers.

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