There was very little debate heading into this week’s auctions that amongst the top lots at the four major auction houses, this watch was king. What you’re looking at here is a Patek Philippe ref. 2499 signed by Asprey. What’s more, it’s a first series 2499 and the only known example with the famed London retailer’s name on the dial, plus it’s in great condition overall. When the hammer fell earlier today, this watch became the most expensive reference 2499 to ever sell at auction, bringing it $3,879,843 all-in (that’s the official conversion from CHF 3,915,000, in case you’re wondering why it’s such a strange figure).
What watch previous held this title, you ask? It’s a watch you might remember. Back in November 2012, a platinum 2499 owned by Eric Clapton fetched $3.65 million, and that price remained the pinnacle for that reference for six years and one day. The funny thing is, the Asprey 2499 we have here wasn’t the only huge 2499 sale of the week. Just yesterday, Christie’s sold this first series 2499 signed by Serpico y Laino for CHF 3,252,500 (approximately $3.23 million), a very solid result on its own. For some additional context, Christie’s sold another 2499 the same day, this one a third series example with no extra signature, and that watch commanded a price of CHF 672,500 (approximately $668,500).
One thing to note about this Asprey-signed 2499 is that it’s been sold at auction before – by Sotheby’s, in fact. According to the auction listing, the watch was sold by the original owner in the late 1990s (presumably to a dealer), and was purchased from that dealer by a collector who then consigned it to Sotheby’s. It sold in November 2006 for the then-astronomical sum of $1,773,206. Despite this being its second appearance at auction (which can sometimes dampen enthusiasm), there was no shortage of excitement or interest.
Now, beyond this watch setting its record and bagging Sotheby’s the prize for selling the most expensive lot of the Geneva sales, why does this result matter? If you’ll excuse the somewhat crude comparison, the 2499 is in many ways for Patek Philippe collecting what the Paul Newman is for Rolex collecting. It’s a great barometer of overall interest, as it’s an attainable but still highly aspirational watch and archetypal for the brand. There are enough 2499s out there, and with enough variation amongst them, that you can actually get a sense of a real “market” by watching them. When there are only two or three of something, there’s no actual market to speak of. Here, you can look across different series and at special pieces like this to get an idea of the health of the collector community and where taste is going. What the performance of this lot tell us is pretty simple – early, special examples of important references are still king, especially when they’re in good condition.
If you want to learn a little more about the 2499 and the other Patek Philippe perpetual calendar chronographs, I recommend you check out our Reference Points story on the subject – these watches are all about minutiae, so a little extra knowledge makes a big difference.