If the sight of exceptionally valuable timepieces makes you weak at the knees, take a seat while you feast your eyes on the most expensive watch ever sold at auction.
The Patek Philippe Reference 1518, a stainless steel perpetual calendar chronograph produced by the blue riband Swiss watchmaker in 1943, fetched 11,002,000 Swiss Francs — more than US$11 million — at Phillips auction house in Geneva last November.
Collectors from around the globe flocked to Switzerland for a sale of 177 watches that yielded almost $30 million, including the ref. 1518, which was expected to sell for $3 million until eight cashed-up collectors fought out a 13-minute bidding war that drove the price into uncharted territory.
What made the timepiece so valuable? Most watches of this calibre come in precious metals (gold and silver), and the ref. 1518 is no exception — of the 281 manufactured more than 70 years ago, only four were stainless steel rather than rose or yellow gold. With the other three steel pieces locked away in permanent collections, the collectors went crazy once an ultra-rare steel wristwatch came on the market.
The Patek Philippe ref. 1518 was the first ever perpetual calendar chronograph, manufactured during World War II, with day and night apertures at the 12 o’clock position and the date and a moon phase indicator at 6 o’clock, and a tachymeter scale on the outer dial to measure speed.
The sale smashed the record already held by Patek Philippe when a stainless steel ref. 5016 went for more than $7 million in 2015, and makes the ref. 1518 the second most most expensive watch ever produced, behind only the Breguet Grande Complication Marie-Antoinette, a gold chronograph manufactured two centuries ago by legendary horologist Abraham-Louis Breguet for the French queen