In 1944, Patek Philippe created what is my single favorite perpetual calendar watch ever made. The reference 1591 was a highly audacious timepiece in that it combined the elegant functionality and technical innovation related to the perpetual calendar with a waterproof case, luminous hands and dial.
Befitting its sporty nature, rather than a small seconds hand that shared the subdial at six o’clock as with the 1526, the 1591 featured a large centrally mounted seconds hand. Collectively, these elements expressed that this steel-cased timepiece was made for a sportsman that wanted to wear his complicated timepiece while engaged in all manner of vigorous activity some of which — as expressed by its luminous nature — may have been nocturnal. And indeed the man in question was reputed to have been an Indian Maharaja who had a penchant for polo and other sports.
The movement was even protected from magnetism with a soft iron shield, as seen on many scientific watches of the era. The watch was imported for him by Patek’s India distributor Favre-Leuba and so magnanimous was the Maharaja in question that as the story goes, after his wedding, he gave the watch to the man who organised the festivities. Which is too bad as there were only two of these ever made, and while this one was steel (case No. 635 565, movement No. 864 470), the other was in yellow-gold. The timepiece was sold by Christie’s in 2007 for the sum of SFr.2,513,000. The 1591 was recently a major design influence in the 2017 reference 5320, which borrows its dial and hands design from the unique icon. As with the 1526, the watches’ movement is the Victorin Piguet, now designated 12 SC for seconds centrale QP.
Now, the reason why we mention the Christie’s 2007 sale is because, at that point in time and since, it has been believed that the one the auction house had for sale (which belonged to the Indian Maharaja and is now part of a private collection) was the only instance in steel.
The other instance that has been cataloged is one in yellow gold. The instance we are looking at in the photographs here, the one which was in the showcases during the Watch Art Grand Exhibition Singapore 2019, is one that has not been seen in public previously.
When asked, Patek did confirm that this is, in fact, a second stainless steel watch. For whom Patek made the watch — unfortunately that bit of information is presently under wraps.
Editor’s Note: An immense thanks and hearty gratitude, to our friends at Patek Philippe for allowing us to photograph this piece of horological treasure while it was on show in Singapore, during the 2019 Watch Art Grand Exhibition.