sunday reading: Patek Philippe steel watches

PP steel book.jpg

The lavishly cork-coated book dedicated only to steel Patek Philippe watches by John Goldberger is why we buy watch-dedicated books. Beautifully put together with clear and informative images and details covering some of the best pocket and wristwatches made by Patek Philippe. In his usual format of a full-page image on the right with detail images on the left, famed Italian watch collector Auro Montanari (John Goldberger is a pseudonyms) yet again proves he is the master of producing the highest quality books with the finest watches.

The above Patek Philippe stainless steel split second chronograph Ref.1436 is beautifully displayed over 4 pages in the book. I chose to show this watch as I happen to know a little about it.

Originally purchased by an American collector in 1949, this watch was only the 4th known Ref. 1436 in a steel case to appear publicly. It was discovered after finding a brief description (Patek Philippe Ref. 130 split-second wristwatch in steel)  on a jewelers valuation of some 20 watches after the collector had passed away. The watch missed being auctioned with the other items as it was the lowest value on the list at a mere US$900, (even a 1980’s steel and gold Cartier Santo’s was valued higher at US$1000) as the lowest value, the watch was retained as a keepsake by a family member. After contacting the trustee, who eventually provided the details of the person who had inherited the watch, I informed them the valuation was incorrect and received a reply they weren’t interested in selling for any price, when I notified the owners I believed, if genuine, the watch would be worth in the region of a million dollars, they stopped replying. Three years later after sending numerous unanswered letters, I received a phone call. Twenty Fours later I had driven halfway across America and was looking at the most pristine and untouched Patek Philippe Ref. 1436 the market had seen. In 2009 it was purchased by a well-known collector of steel Patek Philippe watches from Antiquorum auctioneers for just over US$1 million

 The Patek Philippe Staybrite steel Ref.450 pictured here was complete with original (unsigned) steel buckle when it first emerged from a ladies underwear drawer

The Patek Philippe Staybrite steel Ref.450 pictured here was complete with original (unsigned) steel buckle when it first emerged from a ladies underwear drawer

Above is another stunning Patek Philippe presented in the book that I happen to have seen in person. The watch a perfectly preserved reference 450 in a staybrite steel case from 1937. It was discovered in Los Angeles by a jeweler on a routine valuation, believing the watch must be fake as it was so light they refused to take it for inspection, eventually agreeing it to have it examined further, their value for the insurance form was a mere US$500. Upon inspection I called the owner to ask about the watches history, apparently it was gifted to their father by his father upon graduation. As an engineer her father owned few possessions of value and never found occasion to wear it, remaining in a ladies underwear drawer for the majority of its life. When I explained it really was quite valuable they couldn’t understand as her fathers family had never been known to be wealthy, I can only assume the watch was chosen for its quality of movement, something that would appeal to an engineering family, and the staybrite steel case all they could afford in 1937. The condition of the dial and movement is so good on this watch few believed it could be genuine, including my colleague from London. At least two people knew it was all original as the bidding reached a respectable (in 2007) $30,000.

This book, although i am sure out of print is highly recommended for anyone with an interest in steel PP watches, actually I would suggest anyone with a love of well-produced coffee books buy this book, it is really like no other.