1518 Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Chronograph in Pink Gold
If you collect vintage long enough, you’ll hear an aphorism oft repeated, ‘All roads lead to Patek Philippe.’ Now, I would argue this is a bit reductive, personal tastes can lead elsewhere and there are exceptional collectors who specialize in other disciplines with equal scholarship. But if you’re the sort of person that studies mechanical exceptionalism, as GPHG would put it, it’s hard to make an argument elsewhere. And in vintage Patek, most roads lead to 1518 (or 2499, but let’s save that debate for later). Patek Philippe have nearly as many firsts to their name as Breguet, including the first perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch in 1925 (ref. 97975). They have owned the complication since, unimpeachably. If modern Patek’s philosophy in the modern era is best encapsulated by the 3940, and it is, vintage Patek, and the arc of its significance being understood, may arguably be best described by the 1518, Patek’s first serially produced perpetual calendar chronograph. And this one, in pink gold, is hammering today.
When I say serially produced, that still just means 281 examples. Most are in yellow gold, a fraction in pink gold, and 4 in steel. Remember, the 1518 appeared as Basel in 1941, right in the throes of WWII. It must have seemed a spaceship. In the same way we look at say many wild independents today, this was ahead of the cutting edge of what was possible: equal parts art and alien in its advancement. Its success, and it was successful, set the foundation of the brand’s course of evolving complication and handcraft ever since. Even back then, this was only for Patek’s VIP clients. There is a harmony about its dial which echoed has through the latter 2499, 3970, 5270, and even 5004, amongst others, since.
In the 1518, condition is what makes the difference between a mere 1M USD watch and a 5M watch, or in steel 11M (way back in 2016, today it would be far more). Pink gold is more desirable, but the sharpness of this case is what makes this example. 1518 dials are a tricky beast, the vast majority have had some type of restoration or at minimum cleaning. Clean one time too many, and you begin to lose the raised black enamel print. This dial has almost certainly been cleaned, but not to the point of losing a signature or numeral anywhere. Also loupe around the numerals. Repeated removals to clean will often leave tells. This is a watch that is elusive to nearly all, but nonetheless worth studying as the roots of what the brand has come to stand for: complication with cleverly thought-through mechanics, handcraft, harmonious design, and modest proportions. Oh and reserving the very best for the VIP client list as a means of bribery, that too. My road in vintage hasn’t yet pulled me to the 1518, I’m too much of a pleb, but I feel its gravity nonetheless.
The only nitpick I’ll add in the condition commentary is that I’d want to loupe the dial. The sections around four and at the bottom of 8 could just be spotting, but if there’s any depressions near then that will indicate a removal and commensurate value adjustment. I will say for once I agree with Phillips on condition commentary, the case is fantastic. Hallmark edges are excellent, lug profile full. And that calibre looks 7 years old, not 70. Will be a fun auction to watch.