Patek Philippe Eric Clapton's 2499
Letters From The Editor: A Personal, Detailed Account Of Eric Clapton's Platinum Patek Philippe 2499
HODINKEE - 17 October 2012 Benjamin Clymer
The most hackneyed term used by any watch journalist, dealer, or auction house expert is "important." To us, everything is important. Whether it be because of the technical firsts it represents, or the general rarity, or who owned it, you could make the case that just about any watch is "important." But some watches are more important than others, and Eric Clapton's Patek Philippe 2499 in platinum is undoubtedly incredibly important. More so than just about any other watch made in the last 25 years, and in this in-depth post, we'll tell you why, and include tons of live photos that we captured when Mr. Clapton's watch paid a visit to NY this weekend. We'll also tell you how this rare bird came to be, how it ended up in the very slow hands of Eric and what it means to the world of watch collecting.
Understanding the 2499
First things first, let's talk about just what the 2499 is. One must understand the importance of this particular reference calendar chronograph, in production from 1951 - replacing the 1518 - until 1986, when it was succeeded by the smaller 3970. But over those 35 years, only 349 of them were made, or about ten per year. That's not exactly a lot, is it? And, the vast majority of the 2499's produced were cased in yellow gold. In fact, only four rose gold 2499s have ever appeared at auction, and the last one - which we showed you here - sold for $2,750,760. Christie's estimates that less than 10% of the 349 2499's were made in rose gold, and they are already something so rare and special that the existence of the legendary 2499 in platinum is, quite literally, something of watch collecting lore.
This sale, consisting of only Patek Philippe watches, would go on to catapult Patek into the stratosphere of second-hand prices, of which it continues to own almost singularly. And it was at this sale that the lot to which we are dedicating this lengthy post first hit the open market.
The Clapton Years
While the original purchaser of this watch was a large private collector, it was not Eric Clapton. Eric purchased this watch from an intermediary owner within the last ten years. While little is known about the details of that transaction, it was known within the watch-collecting community that Eric owned it, and with that, the legend simply grew. Again, the 2499 is the holiest of references to Patek collectors, and this example, the only example in a white metal (that white metal being platinum, at that) in private hands belonging to one of the most famous rock stars on the planet, who also happened to be a vintage watch collector of some note, added an entirely new element to the already perfect provenance of the piece.
Offered in Christie's (enormous and monstrously impressive) November 12th Important Watches sale in Geneva, lot number 151 has pre-sale estimate of $2,700,000 to $4,200,000. The provenance is clearly documented and the watch is in fantastic condition, though one would not call it new old stock. This of course leads me to wonder, just when would Eric Clapton, or its previous owner, deem it appropriate to wear this watch out, and with what? Did Clapton wear it to the Grammy's? Or to an intimate family gathering? We simply don't know, but this watch has definitely been worn. And that is awesome, because this is a watch (like ALL wristwatches) that should be worn.
Does Christie's know how special this watch is? Absolutely. And while I was there filming on Friday, they were fielding press inquiries from everyone from ABC, NBC, and CBS to the NY Post and Forbes. This sale is a huge deal for them, for us as journalists, and for the entire collecting world. Could this watch become the most expensive wristwatch to ever be sold publicly? It certainly could, though I don't think it will be - and it doesn't matter anyway. This is the watch I've been dreaming about since I first learned of its existence, and now I can say that I've gotten to see it, wear it, and experience it.
The Patek Phlippe Reference 2499/100 perpetual calendar chronograph in platinum, currently belonging to Eric Clapton will be sold on November 12th in Geneva by Christie's. More information may be found here.
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