Christie's Watches Online Auction: The Dubai Edit

The pair of Pearl of Bahrain watches in rose gold commissioned by the Emir of Bahrain is among the star attractions in the online auction being held between October 12 and 26

by

Joydeep Sengupta

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Published: Wed 19 Oct 2022, 9:16 PM

Last updated: Tue 31 Jan 2023, 1:59 PM

Several timepieces with a Middle Eastern résonance are on display at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) from October 12 to 26 on the occasion of Christie’s Watches Online: The Dubai Edit.

Among them, one of Patek Philippe's most remarkable time-only watches ever made: a sublime 18k yellow gold Patek Philippe ref. 2573 Pearl of the Arabian Gulf of 1958, with a gilt dial and seed pearl hour markers between the cardinal indices, on an 18k gold bracelet made exclusively for this watch by Gay Frères, purveyors of finest bracelet creations. The estimated price of the watch is between $100,000-$200,000.


“This extraordinary Patek Philippe predates by only a few months the only other two ref. 2573’s ever made on special order with an identical architecture for the Emir of Bahrain. Both models in rose gold, which surfaced relatively recently, were entrusted to Christie’s New York and Christie’s Geneva, respectively, fetching record prices. It is an extraordinary privilege for Christie’s Dubai to present the elder sister in yellow gold, the most glamourous of the three Pearls, at our special online sale between October 12 and 26,” said Remy Julia, Head of Watches Christie’s Middle East, India & Africa.

The stuff dreams and legends are made of

The present watch is one of the only three Patek Philippe Calatrava ref. 2573 to ever feature eight seed pearls as hour markers between the cardinal indices. Whereas the other two were made in rose gold, this one, in yellow gold, is all the more stunning for the solid yellow gold bracelet created especially for this watch by Gay Frères. Manufactured in 1958, its case and movement numbers indicate it was also the very first of the three special commissions to be manufactured, preceding the two rose gold models by a few months at most.


A dormant rumour, awakened in 2015

For decades, only one thing was certain: at least one ref. 2573 with seed pearls marking the hours between the cardinal indices was known to have been made; it was the image published by Patek Philippe as a Creation 1959 which led to giving the legend a name: Pearl of Bahrain. What the watch looked like in the flesh, or by whom precisely it had been commissioned, nobody knew. If it even still existed at all, was a mystery, too.

The rose gold ref. 2573 Pearl of Bahrain gifted by Emir Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa I of Bahrain to British businessman John Eardley Allcard, case no. 425'441, sold by Christie’s in 2018.

On December 16, 2015, Christie’s New York sold a Patek Philippe with seed pearl hour markers, a time only Calatrava ref. 2573 in rose gold – movement no. 749 608, case no. 425 442, manufactured in 1958 – with a rose gold dial (lot 62): for the first time, a Pearl of Bahrain was offered at auction. The consignor, an American businessman with an extensive career in the Middle East, had received it as a gift from Emir Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, to whom he had served as an advisor and with whom he had become friends. Estimated at $10,000 to $15,000, the watch sold for a staggering sum of $437,000 — unsurprisingly underlining its rarity and provenance.

A mere three years later, on May 14, 2018, Christie’s Geneva proposed the second ref. 2573 in rose gold with seed pearl dial known to have been made, this one slightly less well preserved, at auction. This one, too, with a confirmed Extract from the Archives, had been gifted to a British businessman who had earned the trust and friendship of the Emir working on a number of key infrastructure projects in Bahrain. This watch, also from 1958 – note the movement no. 749 594 and especially the case no. 425 441 – had been estimated CHF100,000 (Dh369.49) and CHF200,000 (Dh738.076), and sold above estimate for CHF250,000 (Dh922,595).

A mere three years later, on May 14, 2018, Christie’s Geneva proposed the second ref. 2573 in rose gold with seed pearl dial known to have been made, this one slightly less well preserved, at auction. This one, too, with a confirmed Extract from the Archives, had been gifted to a British businessman who had earned the trust and friendship of the Emir working on a number of key infrastructure projects in Bahrain. This watch, also from 1958 – note the movement no. 749 594 and especially the case no. 425 441 – had been estimated CHF100,000 (Dh369.49) and CHF200,000 (Dh738.076), and sold above estimate for CHF250,000 (Dh922,595).

The Pearl of the Arabian Gulf completes the circle

The present Patek Philippe Calatrava ref. 2573 Christie’s Dubai will offer at its open for bidding auction until October 26 is the only known example in yellow gold and stands out as one of the most compelling and important time only Patek Philippe wristwatches to be offered at auction in recent years. Although it predates the two-rose gold Pearl of Bahrain watches in existence, which feature the exact same architecture and construction, its provenance as having also been commissioned by the Emir of Bahrain cannot be determined with absolute certainty.

One thing is quite certain, however: the legend begins with The Pearl of the Arabian Gulf.

It is not only an unusual watch, but a watch of taste and design with visual magnetism and offered in superb pristine condition. The bespoke bracelet in 18k gold created specifically by Gay Frères, purveyors of the finest bracelets to Patek Philippe is stamped 2 58 referring to the second quarter of 1958 and is confirmed on the extract from the archive. This watch, manufactured in 1958 bears the movement no. 748 659 and the case no. 425 302. Considering the ref. 2573 was well into series production, this model of 1958 was most probably manufactured only months if not weeks prior to the two models in rose gold. It is offered at Christie’s Watches Online: The Dubai Edit Est and will be on display in the showroom at the DIFC. The estimated price is between $100,000 – $200,000.

The bespoke ref. 2573 – a feat of watchmaking savoir-faire, optics and design

Based on the legendary Calatrava ref. 2573 that was launched in 1956 (and manufactured until 1971), the bespoke case construction or ‘architecture’ necessary to accommodate the natural seed pearl hour markers is in itself extraordinary. The hour and minute hands are on a raised post to enable them to clear the pearl hour markers. The bezel is thus taller and steeper than on the other examples of the reference 2573. Combined with the domed crystal, the sheer slope of the bezel provides remarkable three-dimensional viewing of the pearl hour markers from a side angle, creating incredible visual interest; rendered all the more fascinating by the perfect sense of balance achieved.

Natural pearls have long been a source of national pride for Bahrain. In fact, they are such an important part of Bahraini culture that the government makes it illegal to import or sell cultured pearls.

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