When it was first released, the retail price for a gold ref. 2526 on a bracelet was around CHF 3,400 - only CHF 400 less than the ref. 2499, the only perpetual calendar chronograph available on the market at the time. This initial pricing, as well as the clients who received these timepieces - with distinguished collector J.B. Champion taking delivery the very first one and Andy Warhol owning an example with Breguet numerals - demonstrates Patek Philippe’s high regard for the reference.
Scholarship suggests that between 1953 and 1960, around 2,880 pieces were produced in yellow, rose and white gold, as well platinum. This example, from the second series, is distinguished by its shorter hour marker at 6 o’clock and slight depression of the enamel around the second's indicator (though not around the hour markers, which is a distinguishing factor of the first series). This is consistent with the case and movement numbers, as confirmed by an Extract from the Archives, which fall within the range usually attributed to the second series (between 760.500-763.999 for the movement and 681.XXX-698.XXX for the case).
This yellow gold Patek Philippe ref. 2526 is classically-sized, at 36mm in diameter, with a screw-back case. The amorphous shape of the case is well-preserved, with crisp hallmarks visible on the left-hand side of the case and behind the top left lug. One of the distinctive features of the reference, the original crown is signed with two, back-to-back “P” letters, for Patek Philippe. This style of crown was introduced for the calibre 12-600 AT and while it is not unique to this reference, it is probably most associated with it.
The twice-baked cream enamel dial features gold facetted markers, as well as the signatures and indications applied in gold dust. The enamel dial is beautifully preserved, with no visible imperfections or cracks. Used sparingly today, enamel was chosen by Patek Philippe for being impervious to the action of outside agents, such as tarnishing produced by sunlight, ensuring the longevity of the dial.
The watch is powered by the Patek Philippe's very first self-winding calibre, the 12-600 AT. Launched in 1953, the 12-ligne movement is considered by many as one of the finest automatic calibres ever made, with around 7,100 believed to have been produced. The 12-600 AT features Patek Philippe’s Gyromax balance wheel, first introduced two years prior, which is an adjustable inertia balance. The Gyromax remains one of the manufacture’s trademarks, to this very day. Aiding the Gyromax wheel is a swan neck regulator and self-compensating Breguet balance spring. Reminiscent of Patek Philippe’s mid-century hand-wound movements, separate cocks are used for the balance wheel, escape wheel, and fourth wheel.
In a period brochure from Patek Philippe, the movement is described as such, “The Patek Philippe Automatic watch is treasured for its luxurious elegance, the beauty of its lines and its enduring accuracy. With good care, and after ‘personal’ adjustment to your own wrist, the maximum variation is only 1 second in 24 hours.” This level of accuracy, especially in 1953, speaks to the technical prowess of the 12-600 AT.
The rotor, possibly the very first decorated rotor in history, features an intricate engine-turned motif, alongside a Patek Philippe crest in the centre. Bearing the Geneva Seal, the movement is beautifully finished, with exquisite chamfering on all angles, countersinks, polishing and decoration, in the form of Geneva striping. This level of hand-finishing is all the more impressive, considering the watch came with a closed caseback, and it would be several more decades until open casebacks even became a practical reality.
This Patek Philippe ref. 2526 in yellow gold is accompanied by its original box and Extract from the Archives, which confirms production of the watch in 1956, and its subsequent sale in January 1957. It also comes with Patek Philippe servicing paperwork from 2019, where the movement was serviced and the plexiglass replaced, with all other parts being kept.
It comes on our Luxembourg light grey saffiano strap, with a matching yellow gold Patek Philippe tang buckle.
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