Lot 169 of the upcoming Geneva Watch Auction Two by Phillips Watches is something special, highly special. You know, when it comes to important auctions, we also tend to be realistic and not only we do introduce to you the highlights (see them here), but we also try to have a strong focus on some more accessible, yet interesting watches (what we’ve been doing here). However, handling a watch like the Steel Patek Philippe 1436 Split Seconds Chronograph only happens once in a lifetime. It’s the kind of grail watch that you only see printed on catalogues or on the cover of books. We had the chance to see, observe and feel this watch and here are our thoughts and explanations about the Patek Philippe 1436 Split Seconds Chronograph Steel from Phillips Auction. UPDATE: The watch has reached 3.3M CHF (inc. buyer’s premium).
Before going on the present example, we should have a close look at what is a Patek Philippe 1436 Split Seconds Chronograph and try to understand why a steel case makes it even more stunning. The reference 1436 is one of the two vintage split-seconds chronographs with two pushers made by Patek Philippe, together with the reference 1563 (you can see one here). There’s others split-seconds chronographs made by Patek Philippe but we’re talking about mono-pushers here, like for instance the reference 130 ex-Boeing you can see here. When it comes to classical two-pusher rattrapante chronographs, there are only two vintage references on board: 1436 and 1563 – and one modern watch, introduced this year, the reference 5370p (that is actually greatly inspired by the 1436). Thus, considering the low amount of references and the importance of the complication itself, that’s already an interesting story to come.
So, what is the reference 1436? Basically, we’re talking about a more simple reference 130 with an extra split-seconds / rattrapante module. This watch was first introduced in 1938 as a racing tool for gentlemen wanted to time car or horse races. The majority of the split-seconds chronograph wristwatches of reference 1436 were made in yellow gold. Rarely, they are found in pink gold (less than 10). No examples are known to date in white gold or platinum. It has been produced over 30 years and discontinued in the early 1970s. Over its long life, the Patek Philippe reference 1436 has seen two different constructions in regard to how the chronograph seconds hand would be split. On the first generation, the crown itself serves as a button to split and reunite the two seconds hand. On the second generation, the 1436 was fitted with a more classical co-axial button within the crown (a more reliable construction).
Now comes the BIG question of the stainless steel case. It’s actually a simple subject as there so few examples known that they are extremely easy to trace (well, expect if there are some more not known on the market to date, but that’s another subject). In fact, there are four examples of Patek Philippe reference 1436 Split Seconds Chronograph in steel known. However, we’re in fact talking about three watches that are still alive in their steel form, as one of the 4 watches was re-cased in yellow gold – an example made and completed in 1941 (case no. 626223), and sold to an Italian retailer in September of 1942 where it remained unsold for 8 years. The buyer of this watch asked for a yellow gold case and the steel case was lost, without any possibilities to find its traces now.
Thus, the subject now focuses on three watches, only 3 Patek Philippe 1436 Split Seconds Chronograph in steel. A first example is the “Astrua”, which is in fact the exact same watch as the example that Phillips is about to auction but with a dial stamped with this retailer’s name. It’s also a first edition with the crown serving as pusher. It boasts the case number 626222 and the movement number 862534. It has been seen for the last time at Geneva, April 10, 1994 auction by Antiquorum and remains now in the private ownership of one of the world’s most important collectors with very low chance to see it on the market soon. The second of these three watches is a bit different as we’re talking about a second generation (made in 1952) with a co-axial pusher inserted in the crown. Another difference can be seen in the indexes, as it comes with baton at 12 and 6 (instead of Roman numerals) and on the dial, as it features a pulsometer scale instead of the usual tachymeter scale. It was last sold by Antiquorum in Geneva on April 23, 1995. The watch has the movement number 862321. Funny thing is that this watch is now listed on Chrono24 here and offered by a dealer in Gibraltar for 1,250,000 Euros.
Finally, there’s the present Patek Philippe 1436 Split Seconds Chronograph in steel that Phillips Watches is about to auction. This watch is certainly the most famous of the 3. It has case number 630772 and movement number 863056. It was manufactured in 1945 and first sold in May 11th, 1949 (originally sold to the Henry Stern Watch Agency, exclusive importers of Patek Philippe watches to the USA, clearly denoted by the stamped HOX denomination on the balance bridge). This watch remains in the hands on a single owner until 2009, when Antiquorum auctioned it (you can find the watch listed here, lot 161 of the Geneva, 10th May 2009 auction). At that time, it reached an impressive 1,250,000 Swiss Francs (keep in mind that prices in auction increased A LOT since 2 or 3 years).
The watch was bought by the famous Alfredo Paramico, certainly one of the most eminent collectors of the last 20 to 25 years. He owned and still owns some of the rarest watches made by Rolex and Patek Philippe (and some more), including the present Patek Philippe 1436 Split Seconds Chronograph in Steel. However, Paramico sold it a few years later to another collector that now commissions Phillips Watches and Aurel Bacs, with the idea to have one of the most expensive watches ever sold – just imagine that this watch has only seen 3 owners in its 70 years life, including two in the last 6 years – and two of them had certainly take extreme care of it. Finally, this watch became even more famous when John Goldberger (yet another super-collector and writer) dedicated 4 pages to this actual watch in its book, Patek Philippe Steel watches.
Now that we know approximately all the story about the Patek Philippe 1436 in general, about the steel examples and about the pedigree of this present example, it’s now time to give our thoughts about the watch itself. The first word that comes in our minds in sharp, extremely sharp. The 33mm case is virtually untouched (or underwent only one case polishing in over 65 years of life), retaining its original brushing on the lugs and sharp angles everywhere. Same goes for the crown, the pushers or the bezel. All of the parts are like new, sharp, net… it’s just superb. Then, from the words of Phillips Watches, it seems that the watch could potentially be untouched inside too – “Inside the case back there are no traces of any watchmaker’s interventions, and it is possible, given the extraordinary condition of the movement that it has never been dismantled or worked on since leaving Patek Philippe’s workshops in 1949“.
The same comments can be made for the dial and the hands. There are no or nearly no traces of age or oxidation of the indexes or the hands. The two split-seconds hands are still featuring their stupendous blue colour and the black enamel inscriptions are still perfectly visible and clean. The white base of the dial still retains its bright white colour, with no traces or cracks. Well, it has to be said, the Patek Philippe 1436 Split Seconds Chronograph in Steel offered by Phillips Watches is almost like new.
This watch is remarkable in every way. It’s extremely rare, it’s in steel, it’s super-important, it’s famous, it has an ultra-clear pedigree and it comes in stupendous condition. It is the perfect definition of a grail watch, a watch that is a must-have for the hard-core (and wealthy) Patek Philippe collectors, so to say, one of the ultimate watch on the market nowadays. It could potentially break the 4,645,000 Swiss Francs achieved by another Patek Philippe offered recently by Phillips Watches, the single pusher reference 130 chronograph with sector dial (remember that this watch had an estimation of 1,000,000 Swiss Francs – 2,000,000 Swiss Francs). The present Patek Philippe 1436 Split Seconds Chronograph (Lot 169, listed here) has a estimation of 1,500,000 Swiss Francs – 3,000,000 Swiss Francs, illustrating how confident Bacs & Russo are about this watch. Well, we’ll see the result soon, as the hammer will talk on 7 and 8 November in Geneva, at Hotel La Reserve for the Geneva Watch Auction Two.
RESULTS: This one-of-two known Patek Philippe 1436 Split Seconds Chronograph in Steel reached an impressive 3,300,000 CHF (including buyer’s premium – 2.8M CHF without), which, on its own, is a mesmerizing price, obtained after a long fight between two collectors. We can’t deny the importance of such a price. However, we expected more. Why? First of all, the condition of the watch is superb – and in steel. Then, it’s rare, super-rare. Finally, it’s a split-seconds. Compared to the Ref. 130 Sector Dial sold in May, it’s a very strong package, if not a stronger package. The 130 reached 5,000,000 CHF but the 1436 “failed” to fetch such a price. Thus, if the hammer price remains strong, we’ve expected a stronger one – relatively speaking of course. The ins and outs of auctions are sometimes difficult to estimate. It doesn’t prevent this watch to enter in the top 15 of the most expensive wristwatches ever sold, with all due respect…