Sometimes, being predictable is fine. When it comes to including the Ref. 2499 in my list of all-time Patek Philippe icon list, I think very few would disagree. A more interesting question, however, is why it should be included.
First, let me put some context around the Ref. 2499. In 1941, Patek Philippe launched two pioneering references; Ref. 1526 and ref. 1518. These two watches were patented as the first wristwatches with perpetual calendar and the first perpetual calendar with chronograph. In total, Patek Philippe made 210 examples of the Ref. 1526 and 281 examples of the Ref. 1518.
The Ref. 2499 was launched in 1950 as a replacement for the Ref. 1518. Over the subsequent 35 years, some 349 watches were made. So, the ref. 2499 was neither historic in the sense of being the first ever perpetual calendar chronograph nor rarer than the Ref. 1518 in terms of numbers produced.
And although the Ref. 1518 is revered, it is the Ref. 2499 that is viewed as plausibly the most perfect watch ever made by Patek Philippe.
Over the 35 years of production, there have been four evolutions of the Ref. 2499, though within each “series” there are some variations. The “First Series” was produced from 1950 to 1960. With rectangular pushers, arabic numerals and tachymeter scale. The case size shifted from 36.2mm to 37.8mm (Vichet to Wenger).
The “Second Series” somewhat confusingly ran from around 1954 until 1960, with round pushers and with either Roman or baton numerals.
“Series Three” was produced from 1960 until 1978. The tachymeter is absent from this series and baton is the mode.
“Series Four” was produced from 1978 until the end of the reference production in 1985. Sapphire replaces acrylic and there are some minor changes in date font sizing.
I should NOT have written this article!!! Just look at that dial.
The majority of Ref. 2499s were made in yellow gold, though over the entire history one can also find rare versions in platinum, white and rose gold.
Let me declare my hand. I have always admired the Ref. 2499. However, I have never had the inclination to own one. There are two reasons for that. Firstly, I can’t own a watch without wearing it. Owning a watch without wearing it would be anathema to my way of collecting. Given the absolutely stratospheric price of Ref. 2499s, I think I would have a lot of difficulty having one on my wrist. Maybe that says something about me, but I recognise that I would not feel comfortable with the best part of a million dollars sitting on my wrist. Secondly, the Ref. 2499 was not the very first perpetual calendar chronograph. It does not carry that mantle within Patek Philippe history. History matters in my collection process. So, I do not own one and will not be buying one.
Yet, I still include the watch in my list of all-time Patek Philippe icons. Why?
Firstly, I think the case size of the Ref. 2499 is relevant. Although cases sizes do vary across different series, a case size of 37-38mm is readily wearable by modern standards. Once one moves below 36mm, in my opinion, a watch moves more into a vintage paradigm and thus will fragment demand. The Ref. 2499 hits the sweet spot for many in terms of case dimensions. This makes it eminently desirable.
Secondly, and crucially, the balance of the dial is exquisite. The capacity to balance numerals, date, moonphase, chrono scale and chrono registers within a dial without making the dial look badly cluttered is no easy task. I think it speaks volumes that, some 70 years after the Ref. 2499 was first produced, connoisseurs STILL consider the dial balance of the Ref. 2499 to be the finest ever made.
Thirdly, and I put my hands up to using this factor quite heavily, the Ref. 2499 is touched by something magical. Not everything in life can be evaluated with logic. Not everything has a scientific rationale. Sometimes, whether it is a piece of art or literature or whatever, something emerges that is just touched by something magical. Perhaps this factor explains why the title of “the finest watch ever made” appears to attach itself to the Ref. 2499 more than any other watch. In fact, I have never really heard any other watch described as such other than the Ref. 2499.
Does the Ref. 2499 deserve to be in the top 10 all-time iconic Patek Philippe watches?
It was inevitable.