1579 ‘Spider Lug’ Patek Philippe Chronograph in Pink Gold
Lug design counts for at least half of the way a watch wears, its importance cannot be overstated. Assuming a case is reasonably proportioned, which is a tall order for some brands, the lug makes or breaks it. In car design, brands carefully construct a wheel & tire package with a balanced harmony of width, offset, and camber in order to create what designers call ‘stance’. If it doesn’t sit right, it can’t be beautiful. Similarly, I can list innumerable watches, mostly from upstart microbrands, that look as fucked up as a GT3 on space savers because they didn’t nail the lug in some sense, whether proportion, shape, or angle. Characteristically, Patek considered all of this thoroughly before any of us were born. This is the ref. 1579 chronograph, nicknamed the ‘Spider Lug’, and it has whatever the watch equivalent stance is in spades. It’s one of few cases that deserves the adjective sexy.
The 1579 was introduced in the middle of WWII and was a departure from every other Patek Philippe chronograph in both size and shape. At 36mm, it was the largest chronograph Patek had offered then, influenced by new aviator’s chronographs. The lugs are multi-bevelled, deep, just the right length, and aggressively downturned. But then its enamel dial also has some quite distinct touches like squared pyramid indices mixed with Arabics and blued steel chronograph hands. The size and design were wildly advanced for its time.
It was made in two series, the first until ’49 with baton indices and Roman numerals, then ’50-64 with these square pyramids and Arabics. All second series had feuille hands, first series mixed feuille and baton hands. It is thought that approximately 470 examples were made from 1943 until 1964, of which only 185 were in this pink gold. Only 200 or so in total are thought to survive today. To date, 87 in this pink gold are known.
So ahead of its time was the Spider Lug, in fact, that—and here’s your fun fact for the day—in 1989 Formula 1 driver Alessandro Nannini celebrated his first win at Suzuka by buying himself one in pink gold just like this. We only know this because it sold at auction from his son. That one hammered at 142K USD, despite a Hausmann-signed dial the condition was less strong. In 2018 a great example with no such provenance hammered at Phillips for 211K. Then in 2021 Christies hammered a similar one at 207K. They’re highly collected in pink gold so results are few, but quite stable. Off wrist, the lug shape means the case levitates, never touching a flat surface and supported entirely by the lug; hence, the ‘Spider’. On wrist, very little is as seductive.
This example has a full case, with deep hallmarks and a lovely patina developing on some sections on its pink gold, indicating that it’s very unlikely to have been touched. The dial is in overall good condition, though there’s a small hairline to the right of 12 and smudge around the Patek signature. These things should be expected in true vintage. It’s a lovely example of a very important and attractive early Patek chronograph, one we don’t get to cover often. It comes from a well-regarded California retailer.