Patek Philippe’s First Automatic Watch to be Auctioned

Patek Philippe’s first automatic wristwatch, a first-series Ref. Patek 2526, is set to be auctioned at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong on April 7. This 36 mm 18-karat gold timepiece, with its white enamel dial, is anticipated to command a price between $384,000 and $770,000 (HK$3,000,000 to HK$6,000,000). Its value is partly attributed to its illustrious history.

The watch, bearing the serial number 760000, came with a letter dated June 27, 1953, from Werner Sonn, the then-president of the Henri Stern Watch Agency in New York City, which is Patek Philippe’s American subsidiary. This letter not only confirms the provenance of the watch but also verifies that it is indeed the company’s first self-winding wristwatch.

Champion had ordered the reference 2526 with a mesh/woven yellow gold bracelet. The watch has changed hands a couple of times since Champion’s ownership. It was first sold by Antiquorum in Geneva in 1991 for 32,200 CHF. Later, it was again sold by Antiquorum in New York in 1998 for $57,500. The current owner, who purchased it at this auction, replaced the bracelet with the one that is now seen on the model, according to Luk. The watch has been a part of his collection for the past 26 years. This adds another layer of history to this already significant timepiece.

The reference 2526 was first introduced by Patek Philippe at the Basel Fair in Switzerland in the spring of 1953. The brand then patiently waited a few months to gauge the market’s reception of the watch.

In the summer of 1953, the watch found its way to Joe Ben (J.B.) Champion, Jr., a criminal defense attorney based in Texas. Champion’s mid-century collection of Patek Philippe watches has captivated collectors in recent times. Over the past three decades, only three of his specially made watches have appeared on the market. These include the reference 2526, a record-breaking platinum observatory watch auctioned by Christie’s in November 2012 for 3.8 million Swiss francs, and a chronometer-tested open-face watch sold at Christie’s in Geneva in 2004.

The live sale at Sotheby’s Hong Kong starts on April 7 at 10 a.m. HKT (April 7 at 3 a.m. GMT).