The Yellow Gold Patek Philippe ‘Pearl of Bahrain’ is For Sale

At Collectability, we are constantly on a quest to find the most unique, important, and precious Patek Philippe watches. Sometimes, our treasure hunting will lead us to exceptional pieces that are NFS or Not for Sale, Patek Philippe watches that money cannot buy. Occasionally, these NFS watches do come to market and that is what makes the world of collecting so exciting! Here we have one of our favorite NFS watches from earlier this year now available to purchase. To see the original NFS video and learn the incredible story of this particular watch from 1958, please click here.

The earliest known ‘Pearl of Bahrain’ made in 1958. Image credit: Collectability

The story of the ‘Pearl of Bahrain’ starts in 2015 when Christie’s discovered a watch with pearl hour markers, a ref. 2573 in rose gold with a rose gold dial. Finding a Patek Philippe timepiece with a pearl dial is not unusual, particularly on an early pendant or pocket watch, but it’s exceptionally rare on a wristwatch, especially a time-only Calatrava ref. 2573.

The Patek Philippe Calatrava ref. 2573 was made from 1956 until 1971. This is a standard version that was made in 1961. Image credit: Sotheby’s

The ref. 2573 was produced from 1956 until 1971 in yellow, rose, white gold and platinum. The elegant ref. 2573 is a popular piece for collectors, but with a unique dial and case, it could be an exceptional watch for collectors. However, variants with factory modified bezels to accommodate the height of the pearls was something the world had never seen before. Once the Extract from the Archive arrived confirming that the ‘Pearl of Bahrain’ watch was indeed born with a pearl dial and made in 1958, there was a buzz in the watch world over this new discovery, a buzz that translated into an auction that no one in attendance will ever forget.

The first known ‘Pearl of Bahrain’ in rose gold was sold at Christie’s in 2015. Image credit: Christie’s
On December 15, 2015, the watch came to auction with a ‘teaser’ estimate of $10,000 – 15,000. It was expected it would sell for an exceptional number since nothing similar had ever come to market. However, no one expected the extreme level of interest that was revealed that historic evening. The phone banks were full, the online bidding was aggressive, and bids quickly rose from $10,000 to $30,000 to $100,000 — and just kept going — reaching in just 10 minutes an unprecedented $437,000 total for this time-only watch.
Catalog page from the sale of the first know ‘Pearl of Bahrain’ which sold for an unprecedented USD437,000 in 2015. Image credit: Christie’s

Why did the watch sell for so much? Further research by Christie’s revealed that the watch “was a gift presented by Emir Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa I of Bahrain to an American advisor, businessman and close friend who had enjoyed a celebrated career in the Middle East spanning decades.” The gift was specially crafted with precious pearls from the waters off Bahrain. A closer look at this rose gold ref. 2573 revealed that the case design had been re-structured. The bezel was slightly stepped to hold a domed crystal that was raised to accommodate the height of the pearl markers. The center arbor holding the hands was also raised so that the minute hand could travel comfortably over the pearls. This was something that had never been seen before in the world of Patek Philippe. And as luck would have it, the day of the auction happened to be Bahrain National Independence Day.

The second known Patek Philippe ‘Pearl of Bahrain’ sold at Christie’s in 2018 for CHF250,000. Image credit: Christie’s.

The collecting community generally agreed that the ‘Pearl of Bahrain’ was a unique watch and certainly did not expect to see another. Little did they know that this was just the beginning. Three years later in 2018, Christie’s in Geneva found another ref. 2573R with a pearl dial. Once again, the Extract from the Archives confirmed it was authentic, made in 1958 and sold in 1959. Although it was not as well preserved as well as the previous piece, it was given an estimate of CHF100,000 – 200,000. It sold for an impressive CHF250,000.

Three’s a charm: the earliest ‘Pearl of Bahrain’ made in 1958 with a Gay Frères bracelet. Image credit: Collectability
Three years later in 2021, here at Collectability we received a blurry picture and a phone call from someone believing they had yet another ‘Pearl of Bahrain’.  When the high-res images arrived, we could not believe our eyes and we realized we were looking at something extraordinary: a yellow gold ref. 2573 with a gilt and pearl dial on an exquisite Patek Philippe gold bracelet.
Dial detail of the earliest known ‘Pearl of Bahrain’ shows the domed crystal and raised hands to accommodate the height of the pearl hour markers. Image credit: Collectability

On closer inspection of the actual watch, the customization of the case and dial was the same as the rose gold versions, but this watch had some unique differences. To complement the 18K yellow gold case, the gilt dial magically frames the pearl markers.

Detail of the bold, geometric design of the exceptional Gay Frères dial. Image credit: Collectability

The bracelet design was unlike anything Collectability had ever seen before, it was a master class in 1950s design. Careful study of the bracelet markings on the buckle revealed that it was made by Gay Frères, the important bracelet maker for Patek Philippe during the 1950s. Gay Frères transcended any other bracelet maker of the time, making the most beautiful bracelets — and this was no exception. The bold, geometric design of the bracelet is truly unique representing mid-century design at its finest. To complement the case the bracelet tappers slowly to the buckle making it extremely comfortable to wear.

Markings on the buckle confirm the bracelet was made for Patek Philippe & Co. by Gay Fréres as indicated by GF. The 750 mark indicates 18K gold. Also stamped in the number 2 above the number 58. In Gay Frères vocabulary this means it was made in the second quarter of 1958 which corresponds perfectly with the information in the Extract from the Archive. Image credit: Collectability

Another anxious three months passed waiting for the Extract from the Archives which thankfully confirmed all that was expected with the gilt pearl dial and the bracelet. One last secret was revealed with the movement and case numbers. Comparing the numbers with the two previously known ‘Pearl of Bahrain’ watches, this piece had earlier case and movement numbers. Such information indicates this is the earliest known ‘Pearl of Bahrain’ watch, pre-dating the other two examples.

For collectors of Patek Philippe, proof that a rare watch is the earliest known is the icing on the cake. To add to the story, it has just been discovered in a Patek Philippe marketing brochure from 1959 titled ‘Summer in Europe’, that the company was indeed marketing a pearl dial ref. 2573s, and it opens the door to the very real possibility that not all the three known pearl ref. 2573s were sold through or gifted by the Bahraini Royal Family. The marketing brochure markets the pearl ref. 2573 as a ‘Creation 1959’ that suggests these may have been novelties for an exhibition. To see this brochure, please visit the fascinating Instagram account of johnbehalf (John Nagayama).

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