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Time After Time: Patek Phillipe Watches

At Patek Philippe's new workshops, age-old craftsmanship meets state-of-the-art technology
Nancy Wolfson
From the Print Edition:
Vince McMahon, Nov/Dec 99

(continued from page 3)

Banbery's office is lined with shelves filled with quirky collectibles, such as an antique one-of-a-kind opium pipe made from the branch of a Chinese lemon tree and a glazed earthenware smoker's pillow, a white marble bust of company co-founder Count Antoine Norbert de Patek, and photographs of Banbery's prize-winning Labrador Retrievers.  

Wearing his "favorite, first-ever Patek Philippe," a self-winding Calatrava wristwatch with a slate dial with Roman numerals that he purchased in 1965, the year he joined the company, Banbery removes from his safe the first volume (of more than 800) in the Patek Philippe watch record archive. The numbered, entries contain the individual serial number and description of every Patek watch ever made, beginning on December 3, 1839.  

Well, almost every one. For what remains a mystery to even Banbery, the records commence with number 63.  

It seems fitting that this curious, unique man should be connected with these exceptional, rare timepieces. He takes a tray of treasures out of the large safe in his office. On the tray are two wristwatches that fetched record-breaking prices at auction. They are both, of course, Pateks, bought back by the firm, represented by Banbery, at auctions held by Antiquorum, the Geneva-based auction house specializing in watches.  

The first is a 1939 one-of-a-kind Calatrava, the classic round wristwatch named after the company symbol, originally designed in 1932 and now the company's best-selling design. It is an astronomic, minute-repeating gentleman's wristwatch with perpetual calendar and moon-phase indication, with a platinum bracelet and case. Included in the 1998 edition of the Guinness Book of Records as the wristwatch that has fetched the highest price ever paid at auction, it was acquired in 1996 for $1,715,000.  

The other watch, bought in 1998 for $950,000, is a 1953 18-karat pink-gold World Time wristwatch with two crowns and a cloisonné enamel dial representing a map of North America. The outer dial lists 41 major cities. This record was topped this past April, when a 1953 yellow-gold World Time wristwatch with a map of Europe on a cloisonné enamel dial was auctioned for $1,005,743.   --NW


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