Patek Philippe. A fine and rare wristwatch with cloisonné enamel dial in an 18k pink gold french case, 1949 mvt 9638761949 'Les Armes de Paris'
* cal. 12-120 manual wind movement, 18 jewels * polychrome cloisonné enamel dial depicting a boat tossing amidst a stormy sea, applied gold Roman numerals at the quarters and applied dots * French case with snap back * dial and movement signed, case stamped with French goldmarks * Extract from the Archives confirming production of movement and sale on 11 July 1949 - diameter 35 mm - Est. 30,000—50,000 USD - Sold 53,750 USD
NOTE: The dial of the present lot depicts the coat of arms of Paris and is attributed to Marguerite Koch, one of Geneva's best enamelers at the time. While working with Stern Frères, her specialty was in classic subjects, including boats, maps and sports themes.
Examples of her enamel dials include a map of North America on a white gold World Time wristwatch, as well as a rectangular scene of a tennis player. For a more comprehensive view of her work, see Huber, M., & Banbery, A., Patek Philippe Wristwatches, Vol. II, Second Edition, pp. 143-144, 206 and 242.
The Parisian coat of arms depicts an Egyptian boat at sea. The emblem is still found on many official monuments and buildings throughout the French capital. The city's motto corresponds to the theme: 'Fluctuat nec mergitur', which translated from the Latin to 'tossed but not submerged'. This theme was especially relevant in post-war France.
Patek Philippe wristwatches with cloisonné enamel dials are widely sought-after, and fully enameled dial plates such as this example are considered the most desirable among collectors. The use of a full plate allows a more expansive and detailed miniature painting as compared to those where only the central part of the plate was used.
Another Patek Philippe wristwatch with a similar dial, No. 963880, was sold at Sotheby's Geneva 9 May 1989, lot 143. That example was offered by the original owner, a Frenchman who purchased it in Paris at Guillermin, Patek Philippe's most important French retailer and agent, whose store in Place Vendôme is now the Patek Philippe boutique. Similarly, that piece was cased in France, had an identical signature to the dial and its movement number was close to that of the present example.
French-cased Patek Philippe watches were common during the late 1940s and early 1950s. The French government, reacting to its fragile post-war economy, placed importation restrictions on precious metals in jewelry and watches. Given these constraints, Patek Philippe worked closely with French firms, such as Guillermin, providing the movements under the agreement that Patek Philippe's standards would be upheld at a level suitable to bear the firm's signature.
The denotation 'Fab. Suisse', seen at the top of the dial of the present lot, became all the more important at this time, given the French market's unabated appetite for Swiss-made pieces. Due to these circumstances, at the time of its sale, this watch was simply marketed as a Patek Philippe watch, rather than a Patek Philippe movement with a French case.
The close relationship between Patek Philippe and Guillermin is illustrated by the similarity between the case of the present lot and that of lot 137 from Sotheby's New York, 28 April 2009, which had a cloisonné enamel floral dial. The French case maker likely modeled the present case to the specifications for Ref. 2494.
Sotheby's is pleased to offer this watch for sale for the first time.
Sotheby's Important Watches, Clocks and Automata. 20 Oct 09. New York www.sothebys.com