While working for Patek Philippe, I was often asked what charities Patek Philippe supported. I honestly could not answer this question and was quietly told that the family and managers around the world preferred to give discreetly and anonymously. However, the deeper I dug into this question the more that I learned about how Patek Philippe gives back in some expected, and some unexpected ways. I imagine that the generous contributions that are shared in this article only scratch at the surface at what the company gives back to the global community, and it definitely shares some insight into what Patek Philippe supports philanthropically, particularly global initiatives for the health and the welfare of children.
At the Henri Stern Agency, I constantly saw random acts of kindness by the company and fellow employees that brought a smile to my face. Once, for example, I remember a gentleman brought in a Calatrava that was in a vault at the World Trade Center during 9-11. The watch was completely destroyed by heat and water with its dial melted into a heavily oxidized movement, and its 18K gold case with the color and shape so changed that it looked like it was from a Salvador Dali painting. In the end, Patek Philippe fully restored this watch to as-new condition as a personal message of hope to the owner and a sort of modern day Memento Mori. This was a small gesture that exemplifies the kind of quiet and personal charity that Patek Philippe exhibits. Day after day, I saw firsthand how Patek did the right thing to help people along in various situations. The majority of these stories will never be shared publicly and that underlines how Patek Philippe helps people, discreetly and with no need for glory or public attention.
More publicly, Patek Philippe has made a number of pieces donated to various charities that have sold at auctions around the world for exceptional numbers with every Euro or Franc going to the charitable recipient. I have attempted to list every known piece but please let me know if you know of others and I will add them to this list. These watches not only show generosity towards the charities, but Patek Philippe’s willingness to explore with new designs and unique metals, most notably in steel and titanium.
Children Action Patek Philippe Unique Watches
Patek Philippe starting creating unique watches for Children Action, a Geneva based charity that operates under the mantra “The First Human Right is the Right to a Childhood” in 2007 with a titanium ref. 6000T (above). This watch has since appeared at auction three times, most recently at Phillips where it sold for 240,000 USD. Read more here.
The next example was a ref. 5180T in titanium made for Children Action in 2009 (above) where it sold in Geneva at auction for 520,000 CHF. This exceptionally lightweight watch is one of the first known skeletonized watches made in this special alloy by Patek Philippe.
In June of 2012, Patek Philippe made a unique ref. 5131J with a cloisonné scene of Geneva (above). My wife, Andra Reardon covered this story for Hodinkee at the time. (Side note, could she have been the first female writer to have contributed a story to Hodinkee?!) This special dial depicts a view of Old Town Geneva and the famous Jet D’Eau. The watch sold for an astonishing 1 million CHF during this auction. Read more here.
Moving on to 2015, a ref. 5396T in titanium (above) was offered for Children Action. It sold for 1 million CHF. This unique timepiece features a sapphire back marked ‘Children Action 2015’ and the dial has blue accents on the markers and blue hands making this watch notably different than regular production 5396s.
Most recently, a unique Children Action charity watch was sold in 2018 (above). This titanium ref. 5524T brought 2.3 million CHF in an auction hosted by Christie’s in Geneva. Not only was the case unique, but the dial was made featuring a brushed satin finish that had never been seen before. The case back was engraved “Children Action 2018”. Read more here.
Tung Wah Patek Philippe Charity Watch
In March 2009, Sotheby’s hosted a charity auction for the Tung Wah Hospital Group and a ref. 5970P was created with a unique sunburst blue dial and ‘TWGH 2008’ engraved on the case back (above). This watch sold for approximately 800,000 USD.
The Singapore Dome Clocks
In 2015, Patek Philippe announced that three cloisonné clocks were made to celebrate Singapore’s Golden Jubilee. After touring throughout Singapore, each clock was offered at a charity dinner hosted by Philippe Stern. I had the amazing honor of being the charity auctioneer at the gala dinner and thanks to the generosity of the bidders, three world records were broken that evening. No phone bidders or online bidders were permitted in this auction with the goal of keeping the clocks in Singapore, and all the bidding action was only with the guests who attended the dinner. The three clocks brought 2.45 million SGD combined (1.72 million USD). The last clock brought 1million SGD and was immediately donated that evening to the National Museum of Singapore. It was a beautiful moment celebrating Singapore, Patek Philippe and pure philanthropy. For a detailed description of the clocks, please see this article by SJX.
The Patek Philippe Only Watch Pieces
Generously, Patek Philippe has made an exceptional and unique piece for the Only Watch auctions since 2005. The money raised from the sale of these watches goes directly to fund research into finding a cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a degenerative neuromuscular disorder that specifically effects children. Held every two years, this charity auction has featured a Patek Philippe as the top lot sold, the only exception being their first Only Watch submission in 2005 which is outlined below. The list following is of all the Patek Philippe watches sold at the Only Watch auctions.
2005 Antiquorum Monaco, ref. 5099/101RG, sold for 120,000 EUR (below)
Interestingly, the first Only Watch made by Patek Philippe was a Ref. 5099/101RG, a unique gem-set Cabriolet. The hinged cover was “engraved and set with precious stones to reflect the theme Recovery and Hope [see above]. Its symbolic elements are as follows: 1) the sun is represented by seven yellow sapphire stones that stand for hope, strength, and shining energy 2) the moon, intrinsically linked with the sun, is symbolized by five diamonds. It expresses sensitivity, protection, and love 3) the large diamond-paved heart denotes charity, openness, and generosity 4) the small heart, paved with six yellow sapphire stones, represents the child’s heart from which a ray points to the future, toward evolution and compassion 5) the horizon, represented by seven widening horizontal bands, is a symbol of hope and the path to recovery.” Notably, this beautiful and unique watch was the only Patek Philippe that did not bring the top price within the Only Watch sale. Read more here. In this inaugural sale in 2005, top honors went to a unique Richard Mille made in collaboration with Philippe Starck, the RM 005-1 sold for 285,000 EUR.
2007 Antiquorum Monaco, titanium ref. 5712T, sold for 525,000 EUR (below)
In 2007, Patek Philippe made their first unique Nautilus for Only Watch, a titanium ref. 5712T. As the first known titanium Nautilus, this watch was the star of the auction with top collectors vying to own this piece. Keep in mind this was years before the recent Nautilus mania and today this watch would easily be valued in the millions.
2009, Patrizzi & Co., Monaco, pink gold ref. 5106R, sold for 535,000 EUR (below)
In 2009, Patek made their first high complication for Only Watch, a celestial chart unique ref. 5106. It was bought by none other than Jean Claude Biver and the full story can be read here. This celestial watch features an engine turned bezel that makes the watch look entirely different than the regular production ref. 5102. It is interesting to note that this is the first time Patek Philippe issued an entirely new reference number for a charity watch.
2011, Antiquorum, Monaco, stainless steel ref. 3939A, sold for 1.4 million EUR (below)
The historic progression and trend to make more complicated and more valuable watches for Only Watch is made definitely clear with this steel minute repeating ref. 3939. Read more here. A minute repeating touurbillon in a stainless steel was previously only fodder for one’s horological imagination. This watch made a dream come true for the lucky buyer, as well as a very appreciative and deserving charity.
2013 Antiquorum Monaco, titanium ref. 5004T, sold for 2.95 million EUR (below)
Not to be outdone, 2013 saw the introduction of a perpetual calendar chronograph in titanium with a beautiful, unique dial. Read more here. The case metal of this example is of course the highlight but the red seconds hands steals the show. The specially made checkered dial is complemented by a matching pattern strap with red enamel stitching. At the time of the sale of this watch, many commented on how this was the ‘coolest and most sporting’ strap ever seen on a Patek Philippe.
2015 Phillips Geneva, stainless steel ref. 5016A with blue enamel dial, sold for 7.3 million CHF (below)
The 2015 submission was an impressive Grand Complication with a unique dial. The selling price was equally impressive and a world record at the time for a modern Patek Philippe. Read more here. The steel case is noble and understated to say the least, but the blue enamel is pure magic. Never seen before on a ref. 5016, the deep blue enamel dial features the word ‘EMAIL’ at 6 o’clock, a not so subtle reminder to the new owner that this is the king of all ref. 5016s. Until the sale of the steel ref. 1518 in November 2016, this unique ref. 5016A was the most expensive wristwatch to ever sell at auction. After all records are made to be broken.
2017 Christie’s Geneva, titanium ref. 5208T, sold for 6.2 million CHF (below)
Upping the game with a ref. 5208T uniquely made by Patek Philippe was a definitive statement. Read this article by Thierry Stern about this exceptional watch. Taking a design cue from the ref. 5004T, the patterned central dial is distinctively Only Watch. For the first time, an Only Watch did not bring a bigger price than the previous edition however the number was respectfully impressive to say the least. However, we can speculate that Patek Philippe was already pondering at this time how to break another record at auction with their next Only Watch submission.
2019 Christie’s Geneva, steel Grandmaster Chime ref. 6300A, sold for 31 million CHF (below)
Patek Philippe does not disappoint. The final word, and widely covered in the press, is the sale of the steel Grandmaster Chime in November 2019 at Christie’s. This watch definitely broke record after record in the midst of an unforgettable bidding war. It surpassed the sale price of the famous Paul Newman’s ‘Paul Newman’ Rolex at 17.7 million USD in 2017 by Phillips and incredibly even the price of the the Henry Graves Supercomplication that sold for 24 million USD by Sotheby’s in 2014. Now the world record for any watch, pocket or wrist, sold at auction, this steel Grandmaster chime holds an impressive record that may stand for many years. Read more here. Patek Philippe now remains King and it is exciting to imagine what could possibly be next.
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