A $1 Million ‘Possibly Unique’ Patek Philippe Heads To Auction

The rare Ref. 3974 will lead the Phillips watch sale in Hong Kong this May.

By Rachel Cormack 22/04/2022

What was once the world’s most complicated wristwatch will go under the gavel at Phillips next month.

The timepiece in question is a coveted Patek Philippe Ref. 3974. Launched in 1989, this self-winding watch features a minute repeater, a perpetual calendar, 24-hour indication and phases of the moon. Ref. 3974 was considered the most technically sophisticated watch of the time. It was one of the rarest, too, with only around 16 made in total.

This particular example, which the auction house has labelled “possibly unique,” was one of the earliest produced and sports a yellow-gold case crafted by legendary case maker Jean-Pierre Hagmann. In addition, the rarity has been extensively customised by Patek Philippe. The striking black lacquer dial is embellished with the Calatrava Cross, italicised calendar indications and rare gold Breguet numerals to match the case.

A stellar example of haute horlogerie, the timepiece is expected to fetch between approx. $553,000 and $1,124,000 at the upcoming Hong Kong auction. It’s not the only standout, either. Presented in association with Bacs & Russo, the sale, which will take place from May 27 to 28 at the JW Marriott in Hong Kong, comprises an array of extravagant wrist candy from Rolex, A. Lange & Söhne, Richard Mille, F.P. Journe, Lang & Heyne, Kari Voutilainen and Christophe Claret.

Patek Philippe Ref. 5723

Patek Philippe Ref. 5723. Phillips

What’s more, many of the watches on offer have never before appeared at auction. This includes a pink-gold Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5723 with the prestigious double stamp by Tiffany & Co. and 4 carats worth of rubies, which is expected to realize between $406,000 and $674,000.

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Ref. 16528

Rolex “Yin Yang” Cosmograph Daytona Ref. 16528. Phillips

Also fresh to auction is a yellow-gold Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Ref. 16528 with an “R83” serial from circa 1989. Nicknamed “Yin Yang,” this watch is fitted with a concept porcelain dial and features a black “Daytona” inscription above the six rather than the regular red-coloured signature. It’s estimated to attract between $269,000 and $539,000.

Patek Philippe Ref. 982/147R- 001

Patek Philippe Ref. 982/147R- 001. Phillips

It’d be remiss not to mention that an array of Patek Philippe’s Metiers d’Art watches will also go under the gavel. Featuring techniques from cloisonné enamelling to hand engraving, these rarities are true works of art. One highlight is the Peregrine Falcon open-faced pocket watch Ref. 982/147, which showcases marquetry in its finest form via one elegant bird. It’s expected to pull in between $202,000 and $345,000.

Leading up to the Hong Kong Watch Auction: XIV, highlights from the sale will appear on a world tour in London (April 21 to 24), Bangkok (April 27 to 28), Singapore (May 3 to 4), Geneva (May 4 to 8) and Taipei (May 13 to 14).

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