A Questionable Patek Philippe 2481 At Christie’s Hong Kong, Hidden Case Numbers And The Bigler Picture – Vintage Panerai and other iconic timepieces under the loupe at Perezcope

Hiding and/or obscuring the case numbers of watches at public sale is unacceptable. Not solely am I completely allergic to this observe, it’s also the overall consensus amongst respected classic watch specialists it shouldn’t be completed. Personally, I might go one step additional and ask the identical from non-public sellers who’re nonetheless doing this to maintain themselves out of all types of bother. In late 2020, this ‘malpractice’ metastasized into Christie’s Hong Kong. Some say it began to stop watch manufacturers from determining the identities of flippers, others consider the reason being a a lot darker one. Whatever the rationale, the story you’re about to learn will present you the way a Patek Philippe Ref. 2481 was introduced as one thing traditionally necessary and distinctive when in actuality it’s nothing however a watch with a later alternative dial of questionable provenance. Since the watch was offered in Christie’s transition part from not writing down the serials (however nonetheless seen in sure photos) to completely obscuring every thing, it was doable to google the case quantity and study the identical watch had been auctioned 5 years earlier by Antiquorum for – brace your self – TEN TIMES LESS the sum of money (USD 200,000 vs. CHF 17,500). Oh, and Patek Philippe themselves did their half too by issuing a extremely controversial “Extract from the Archives’.

Patek Philippe Ref. 2481, case quantity 689392

Patek Philippe launched Ref. 2481 in 1950. With a diameter of 37 mm, it was one of many largest wristwatches ever made by Patek Philippe. Accordingly, the watch was nicknamed “King Size’. Ref. 2481 was out there with the usual silvered dial and a wide range of cloisonné enamel dials, depicting portraits of well-known personalities, landscapes or continents, usually made to particular order.

The story of the current watch begins with its manufacturing in 1955. With case quantity 389392, it sits proper in the midst of a particular batch made for King Saud bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia who ascended to the throne in November 1953. From a logical perspective, the watch in query ought to have the looks of the instance seen on the left-hand aspect of the next image however as an alternative, it’s the one depicted on the right-hand aspect. As you’ll be able to see, there is no such thing as a portrait, only a ‘Patek Philippe Genève’ emblem.

Ref. 2481 – 389417 ‘King Portrait’ vs. 389392 “Ruby Dial’

A complete of 150 wristwatches have been manufactured over a interval of two/three years following a particular order from watchmaker Abdul Rahman Serour of Red Sea Trading (Patek Philippe’s Saudi Arabian agent) on behalf of the King. In addition to wristwatches, Patek Philippe additionally produced 200 pocket watches (Ref. 600/1) with an nearly equivalent dial.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower standing with King Saud Ibn Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia and Vice President, Washington DC, 1957

A set consisting of wrist and pocket watch was introduced to American president Dwight D. Eisenhower throughout an official go to of the Saudi King to the United States in 1957 and resides now within the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas.


In November 2015, the current watch made its first recorded public look at Antiquorum. The watch group is aware of how crucial I’m of Antiquorum however on this explicit case, the public sale home was extremely open concerning the true nature of this watch.

Antiquorum Lot 293 – Patek Philippe Ref. 2481, 389392

According to the public sale home, the dial is a later alternative and if you know the way to learn between the strains, they even urged the dial is pretend (not made by Patek Philippe):

“Born with an enamel dial with a portrait, the dial has clearly been exchanged sooner or later so an extract can’t be ordered for this watch.”

Fetching solely CHF 17,500 together with purchaser’s premium, the watch was clearly not met with nice curiosity from the watch accumulating group.

Auction hyperlink: Lot 293 – Patek Philippe Ref. 2481 Ruby Indexes and Pink Gold (Antiquorum)

2020 – Christie’s Hong Kong

In November 2020, the exact same watch materialized at Christie’s Hong Kong however this time it was glorified as one of many rarest and most unique examples of Ref. 2481:

“The current watch isn’t solely a rare and distinctive piece within the historical past and evolution of reference 2481…”

Lot 2425: Patek Philippe Ref. 2481 – 389392 ‘Ruby Dial” (Photo: Revolution)

Auction hyperlink: Lot2425 – Patek Philippe. The solely identified and really enticing… (Christie’s)

Nowhere in Christie’s description it was talked about the dial might be a later alternative. Instead, the ruby hour markers have been described as confirmed by the ‘Extract from the Archives’. As a outcome, the watch fetched slighty over USD 200,000 together with purchaser’s premium. Under regular circumstances and that includes the unique portrait dial, such a watch can be value between USD 40,000 and USD 50,000 at public sale.

I used to be capable of get my fingers on a duplicate of stated doc and the ruby hour markers are certainly talked about – however solely these. According to Christie’s the dial is fabricated from enamel however enamel isn’t talked about in Patek Philippe’s extract.

Patek Philippe ‘Extract from the Archives’ for Ref. 2481 – 689392 from September 14, 2020

Did Antiquorum maybe wrongly assume the dial was a later alternative and lose some huge cash in course of? Highly unlikely and right here is why. Ref. 2481 watches with the Saudi King’s portrait have been produced in three totally different batches. A bigger first group and two smaller ones. A complete of 150 items have been made. In addition to wristwatches, Patek Philippe additionally produced Ref. 600/1 pocket watches with the king’s portrait. Two batches of 100 items every have been made.

Series Year Reference Case quantity Range Quantity (est.)
1st wristwatch batch 1955 2481 689331 – 689417 100
1st pocket watch batch 1955 600/1 689419 – 689512 100
2nd pocket watch batch 1956 600/1 694629 – 694716 100
2nd wristwatch batch 1956 2481 696389 – 696393 25
third wristwatch batch 1956 2481 2600008 – 2600021 25

As the next checklist reveals, the watch in query with case quantity 689392 is deeply embedded within the first Saudi batch. Up and down the ladder are both examples that includes the portrait or watches that have been initially born with the portrait dial (confirmed by the archives) however had the dials swapped.

Case quantity Mov. Number Reference Dial
689212 744162 2484 Silvered
––– ––– ––– –––
689331 704661 2481 King Portrait
689344 704801 2481 King Portrait
689351 704564 2481 King Portrait
689356 704805 2481 King Portrait
689357 704806 2481 King Portrait
689368 704818 2481 King Portrait
689369 704819 2481 King Portrait
689370 704821 2481 King Portrait
689374 704833 2481 King Portrait
689385 704864 2481 King Portrait
689388 704827 2481 King Portrait
689389 704951 2481 Cloisonné ‘Lighthouse’ (in 1996 identical dial as 689399 in 1998)
689390 704869 2481 Ruby hour-markers (orig. born with King Portrait)
689392 704892 2481 Ruby hour-markers
689399 704954 2481 Cloisonné ‘Lighthouse’ (orig. born with King Portrait)
689406 n.a. 2481 Silvered dial (orig. born with King Portrait)
689414 704978 2481 King Portrait
689415 704979 2481 King Portrait
689417 704964 2481 King Portrait
––– ––– ––– –––
689419 931207 600/1 King Portrait

The identified case quantity vary of the primary batch expands from 689331 to 689417 which suggests a complete of 100 items. Right after the wristwatch batch, there’s a corresponding Ref. 600/1 pocket watch batch that includes nearly equivalent enamel dials with ruby hour markers and the king’s portrait. The first publicly identified case quantity is 689419 (solely two numbers away from 689417), the final is 689512. It will be assumed this batch consisted of 100 items as properly. A second batch consisting of not less than 87 pocket watches will be discovered within the case quantity vary 694629 – 694716.

Let’s take a more in-depth have a look at case quantity 689390 which is just two numbers away from our watch and was auctioned by Antiquorum Hong Kong on October 08, 2017. As you’ll be able to see within the image beneath, the dial of this watch can also be a ruby-set dial with out portrait. It isn’t the identical dial because the watch in query however you get the concept. The portrait of a Saudi King isn’t all people’s cup of tea and was usually changed. If you have a look at the extract within the image beneath, it clearly states the unique dial case quantity 689390 (motion 704869) was born with.

Antiquorum Lot 259 – Patek Philippe Ref. 2481, case quantity 689390

Auction hyperlink: Lot 259 – Patek Philippe Ref. 2481, 689390 (Antiquorum)

Coming again to the watch in query, if we examine the ‘Patek Philippe Genève’ emblem with different enamel dials from the identical interval and in shut case quantity proximity we are able to simply see variations. The most evident one being the awkwardly ‘huge’ Okay of Patek but in addition the upper crossbar on the H and the 2 Es of Genève.

Comparison ‘Patek Philippe Genève’ emblem

Another necessary element is that enamel dials at all times have not less than one enamel layer on the again as properly. This is named ‘contre-émail’ (counter enameling) which balances the strain attributable to the enamel layers utilized on the entrance. Without ‘contre-émail’, the dial would bend and presumably break. Let’ s take a look at some Patek Philippe enamel dials from that period to offer you an thought what the again appears like. The dial beneath belongs to a Ref. 2526 with case quantity 685318 from 1954. See how there’s an enamel layer on the again?

Enamel dial of Ref. 2526 – 685318 from 1954

Next the dial of a Ref. 2526 with case quantity 698273 from 1957. Again, ‘contre-émail’ on the again.

Enamel dial of Ref. 2526 – 698273 from 1957

One extra? Here is a Ref. 2526 with case quantity 2603321 from 1958. Same factor as above. The ‘contre-émail’ is clearly seen on the again of the dial.

Enamel dial of Ref. 2526 – 2603321 from 1958

Now let’s have a more in-depth look behind the dial in query offered by Christie’s. Not certain what we’re precisely taking a look at right here nevertheless it certain doesn’t appear to be the ‘contre-émail’ seen on the again of different Patek Philippe enamel dials. It is attention-grabbing to notice that the entire above photos have been discovered on the Christie’s web site. The query is, why did they solely present a close-up of the numbers ’93 672′ and never the entire again as typical?

Back of the enamel dial of Ref. 2481 – 689392

Speaking of numbers, they’re dial maker marks. All of those dials have been manufactured by Stern Frères S.A. (Stern Brothers), a famend dial maker from Geneva who traditionally had a really particular relationship to Patek Philippe. During the ‘Great Depression’, Patek Philippe obtained into monetary bother and consequently, the Stern brothers Charles and Jean jumped in to avoid wasting the model from insolvency. The brothers acquired the model in 1932. Today’s Patek Philippe president Thierry Stern is the great-grandson of Charles Stern.

A more in-depth have a look at the numbers, extra particularly the typeface, reveals the figures have been stamped with a distinct set of punches than the dials seen above. The following comparability tells the story. The stamp on the left, belonging to the current watch, encompasses a utterly totally different typeface than the stamps discovered on Stern Frères dial from the 1940/50s period. The distinction can finest be seen by evaluating the numbers 9, 6 and seven.

Comparison Stern Frères S.A. dial stamps Forties – Fifties

Stern Frères S.A. manufactured dials for a wide range of Swiss watch manufacturers. For organizational functions, the dials have been marked with particular codes which recognized the consumer (watch model) and the dial kind/reference/consecutive quantity. 93 was Stern’s consumer quantity for Patek Philippe. Stern made additionally dials for Rolex. Their consumer quantity was 103. The image beneath reveals the again of the well-known ‘Chimera’ cloisonné enamel dial of a Rolex Ref. 8651 from 1952. As you’ll be able to see, the typeface used for the stamps is precisely the identical as on Patek Philippe dials from that period. What can also be completely seen is the ‘contre-émail’ layer which is important to maintain the dial from bending.

Rolex Ref. 8651 ‘Chimera’ cloisonné enamel dial made by Stern Frères S.A.

So right here we’ve a dial that appears nothing just like the identified enamel examples from the period, neither in model nor in the way in which it was produced. I think it isn’t even actual enamel. As talked about earlier, Antiquorum implied the dial is pretend. It will be assumed that again in 2015 the public sale home introduced the watch to Patek Philippe in Geneva to acquire an ‘Extract from the Archives’ however the Genevean watchmaker refused because of the questionable dial.

Everybody is aware of how completely crucial I’m of Antiquorum, particularly of the present administration which took over the reins in 2017, however on this case the public sale home was fairly trustworthy. The solely higher resolution would have been to reject the watch altogether. I’m of the opinion that watches that includes pretend elements don’t have any place within the public sale world. But that’s me.

Christie’s Hong Kong was capable of promote this watch because of the extract confirming the ruby hour markers – and solely the ruby hour markers. And that is the purpose the place a whole lot of questions come up. If Antiquorum couldn’t get an extract in 2015, how did Christie’s handle to get one in 2020? Having been issued so near the public sale, which happened on November 28, 2020, the watch should have already been with Christie’s for fairly a while. It is nearly sure the extract was solicited by Christie’s. We know the watch belongs to the Saudi batch, so how is it doable that the extract doesn’t state the unique dial however solely elements of it? Normally it might say:

Type of dial: Enamel, painted portrait of the King of Saudi Arabia, ruby hour-markers

Instead it says:

Type of dial: Ruby hour-markers

Another factor to contemplate is, if the dial was a later alternative made by Patek Philippe itself, as an example on particular request of an necessary buyer, the extract would state so within the remarks. But there is no such thing as a comment. The entire scenario is extraordinarily awkward to say the least, and it certain appears like Lucy… I imply Patek Philippe ‘obtained some splaining to do’.

Rumour has it that within the outdated days (1980/90s) sure individuals inside Patek Philippe might be bribed to accommodate particular requests from sellers as to what sort of dial, and so forth. was to be said within the extracts. This scenario created apparently a lot chaos within the archives, thenceforth Patek Philippe is compelled to perpetuate these lies with a view to hold the entire thing underneath the rug. I discovered a Ref. 2481 from the Saudi batch the place the dial was swapped for a tremendous Cloisonné dial. In 1996, the watch was offered at Antiquorum with its authentic king portrait dial however in 1998 – at all times at Aniquorum and this time in fact with out disclosing the case quantity – the identical piece had immediately a Cloisonné dial which in line with the outline was confirmed by the ‘Extract from the Archives’. Interestinlgy, the exact same Cloisonné dial was in a distinct Ref. 2481 from the Saudi batch solely ten numbers away, at all times confirmed by the Patel Philippe archives. Wait, what? It definitely appears there might be some fact to the aforementioned rumours.


Situations like this present why it’s so necessary for public sale homes to at all times publish the case numbers of their tons as an alternative of hiding/obscuring them like Christie’s Hong Kong is doing since 2021 (see image beneath).

Obscuring case and serial numbers by Christie’s Hong Kong since 2021

Some watches might have been tinkered round with to extend their worth because the latest Rolex Daytona Ref. 6263 ‘Oyster Sotto’ scandal from Christie’s Hong Kong has fantastically illustrated. Other watches could also be stolen items and even outright fakes. Forget about public sale home specialists being the specialists they faux to be. With few exceptions, they’re simply gross sales personnel, plain and easy. Instead of withdrawing the ‘Oyster Sotto’ after it turned crystal clear the watch was made-up, Christie’s Hong Kong lowered the beginning worth in what appeared to be an try to lure some gullible outsider into shopping for that factor.

Thank you to your curiosity.

Read extra: Franken/Fake ‘Oyster Sotto’ Daytona (ROC) At Christie’s Hong Kong (Perezcope)

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