Scarcity and provenance : Eric Clapton’s Ref. 2499/100 Patek Philippe

In the book collecting world, ‘association copies’ often command higher prices, especially if a gift from a notable author to a similarly notable (and perhaps literary) recipient. In the watch world this concept currently seems most commonly manifested via the ‘watches owned by celebrities’ provenance category that seems to have taken firm root, and we’re not just talking about Steve McQueen and TAGs but also Elvis’ Rolex King Midas, Cary Grant’s Rolex Oyster, watches owned by actor (and known collector) Orlando Bloom and the like.

Does ownership by an actor or musician add anything to the price realised at auction if the watch is otherwise unremarkable, collectible but not that collectible, or fairly collectible? It brings up the interesting issue of timepieces owned by collectors where the actual piece itself is of sufficient scarcity or import that, arguably, the addition of an owner’s name (unless it’s Graves or Packard or perhaps even pick-a-historical-figure and Breguet etc) might not actually play all that much part in increasing the ultimate sale price, although it’s obviously guaranteed to give the sale a lot of publicity.

An upcoming Christie’s auction will feature a watch owned by a music legend that is truly rare, and whether or not its most recent owner’s identity will play a part in the bidding is something that is open to speculation, and which we may never really know.

November 12 is the date to put in your diaries for the Christie’s Geneva auction. It will feature 310 lots, of which one of the feature pieces will be a platinum Ref 2499/100 Patek Philippe perpetual calendar chronograph from the collection of one Eric Clapton, muso, with an estimate of 2,500,000 – 4,000,000 CHF.

Launched in 1951, Reference 2499 was in production until 1985, during which a paltry 349 examples were made. The first 2499 series is the most rare series, with experts believing that that there may have been no more than 40 pieces made in yellow gold. With its crisp flat rectangular pushers, the first series 2499 is immediately distinguishable from all later series, which have round chronograph pushers.

The only two Ref.2499s in platinum were most likely never intended for sale; one is in the Patek Philippe museum in Geneva, and the other is this one – this is the only Ref. 2499/100P in private hands. The first owner of this timepiece bought it in 1989 when Patek, to celebrate its sesquicentenary, offered it via the “The Art of Patek Philippe” auction in Geneva.

Acquired by a prominent vintage Patek collector, it has had two other owners, of which Eric Clapton is the most recent. Inside the Ref. 2499 is the Cal. 13 with 23 jewels with self-compensating Breguet balance spring, swan neck regulator, and Geneva Seal. The dial itself has three subsidiary dials for seconds, a 30 minutes register and of course the moon phase with date.

Provenance aside, Christie’s sold an 18k gold Ref. 2499/100 in May 2012 for a mere $314,015, but perhaps a better guide price-wise might be the Ref. 2499 with Asprey signature (Patek Philippe no.868.346) that was sold by Sotheby’s in Geneva on 14 November 2006. It is believed to be a unique example, and although this upcoming platinum Ref. 2499 is one of two, it will be the only one ever to be in private hands. How much did lot 325 of the 2006 auction fetch? A cool 2,204,000 CHF.

The estimate range for Eric Clapton’s Ref. 2499 in platinum is sounding about right.

Happy bidding.
UPDATE [12 November 2012] – it sold for 3 million CHF. For all results from the auction, click here.

Categories: Auctions, Limited Editions, Patek Philippe, Platinum, Rolex, Tag Heuer, Vintage watches, watches

2 replies

  1. Love the watch. I couldn’t care less that it was owned by Clapton. Now if you had told me Angus Young, that would be a different story. 😉


  2. I think it’s quite likely that this watch will sell for higher than it would if it didn’t have the Clapton connection; many watches, among other jewelry pieces & antiques, hold more value for historical & cultural reasons. For instance, compare the theoretical price of a 19th century pocketwatch to that, say, of a 19th century pocketwatch that Abraham Lincoln was wearing on the night of his assassination. Obviously, the latter would be tremendously more desirable to collectors and historians. Obviously Eric Clapton isn’t quite as historically significant as Lincoln (though some of his fans may disagree!), but you get the idea. We’ll have to wait and see what the final bid is!


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