An extremely rare Patek Philippe timepiece is going to be auctioned during The Geneva Watch Auction: XII in November. The reference 2523/1 in rose gold with guilloché dial is one of only four known today and features a world time complication. The timepiece is so extraordinary that it is being compared to another Patek Philippe rarity—a stainless steel reference 1518 that currently holds the record for the second most expensive watch ever sold after selling for $11 million in 2016.
The creation of this timepiece was inspired by the adoption of coordinated universal time in 1884. According to a legend, Scottish railroad engineer Stanford Fleming began to look for a way to standardize time after missing a train in Ireland several years earlier. Fleming then began to advocate for the division of the Earth into 24 time zones of 15° each, one hour apart with a universal time for each individual zone. While, initially, his proposal was met with skepticism, it was finally adopted at the International Meridian Conference in Washington D.C.
But it took watchmakers several decades to come up with a movement capable of showing the time in all 24 zones simultaneously. The pioneer was Swiss horologist Louis Cottier who invented a rotating ring that was bordered by a fixed outer dial ring with the names of different cities inscribed on it. As air travel and phone communication were starting to take off, big watchmaking companies such as Rolex, Vacheron Constantin, and, of course, Patek Philippe saw the potential of Cottier’s invention and began using it in their own timepieces.
That’s how in 1953, Patek Philippe introduced two versions of reference 2523— one was fitted with slightly larger lugs above the bezel and another one, reference 2523/1, with a larger diameter and thinner lugs that were no longer sitting above the bezel. Because the watch wasn’t really a commercial success at the time, only a few pieces were ever produced.
The timepiece that is being auctioned later this year is one of them. It features a double-crown and a dial with a guilloché pattern. Of the four known reference 2523/1 pieces, one is displayed at the Patek Philippe museum in Geneva and private collectors in Europe own the other two.
The upcoming auction, organized by Phillips in Association with Bacs and Russo, is hailed as “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the collector of such Holy Grail watches.” The auction house estimates that the timepiece will fetch between CHF 2,000,000 and CHF 4,000,000 (or about $2,152,870 and 4,305,740).