A Patek Philippe “Dashboard” Clock Goes Under The Hammer For Only Watch 2021
Swiss precision meets American history in a masterful clock coming up for auction on November 6th.
Many, many of the top wristwatch brands also have an equally illustrious history of creating marvelous, large-format clocks and time-tellers; and Patek Philippe is arguably unrivaled in this arena. While much of the attention is often drawn to the maker’s intricate, bell-jar-covered table-top mechanisms – for this year’s charity Only Watch auction, a biennial timepiece event presented under the patronage of HSH Prince Albert of Monaco to benefit Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy research, Patek Philippe is offering a desktop clock inspired by jazz-age industrialism, with a strong dose of American automotive history to boot.
The reference 27001M-001 desktop clock features a perpetual calendar complication and 31-days of power reserve, and pulls together a total of nine new patents in its mechanisms. But, more to the point, it is inspired by a desktop clock commissioned by American automotive tycoon, James Ward Packard, in 1922/23, that is conserved in the watchmaker’s museum in Geneva.
James Ward Packard, along with his brother, William Doud Packard, took their handmade, single-cylinder “horseless carriage” buggy experiment built in their Ohio garage in 1899 and grew a company that became an American automotive behemoth. Many aficionados of classic cars consider the last true Packard that rolled off the assembly line in Detroit in 1956 to be the last great American luxury car. As it turns out, James Ward Packard was also a keen and loyal customer of Patek Philippe.
Modern Power, Vintage Flair
The watchmaker’s designers and engineers were tasked with modernizing the Packard desktop “dashboard,” creating a wholly-new, manually-wound movement with a whopping 31-days of power reserve, constant-force mechanism, and accuracy of +/- 1 seconds per day. The development of the rectangular, 919-part 86-135 PEND IRM Q SE calibre also took seven years of effort.
Still, jazz-age flourishes and functions abound. From the ornate, gold-gilded footings and decorations to the sculptured, silver framing, to the finely-grained American walnut veneer, the clock screams robber baron gravitas. The gilt “The Only One” badging on the front-facing panel underlines this clock’s relationship with the charity auction, as well as its uniqueness.
The numbering and gauging on the clock’s vintage-feeling opaline dial appear to be almost hand-drafted (a typeface you can find in the Patek Philippe Calatrava reference 5212A-001 that debuted in 2019), but one of the more unique features is the red-framed weekly calendar along the outer ring of the clock’s face (this heritage function was also explored in the aforementioned Calatrava reference). The weekly cycle was particularly important during the industrial age (as in, “we have 44 weeks to design, tool, promote, and begin production on this new car model!”), but this unique function would be as useful as it is charming for any modern-day mover-and-shaker.
As we move towards the center of the dial, next up is a seconds gauge, tallied by a prominent central seconds hand. The newly developed movement incorporates a “jumping” seconds hand to mimic the function of vintage clocks, and at the hand’s axis in the center of the dial rides a simple, legible power reserve indicator.
Hours and minutes are delivered via an elegant roman numeral sub-dial at 12 o’clock. Days and months are reported in rectangular apertures that straddle the clock’s center. Two smaller, square apertures – a day/night and leap-year indicator – book-end the classic moon phase indicator, which is framed by a circular date gauge that flips top/bottom numeral marker orientation on the 13th and the 25th of each month for easier legibility.
Of course, where would a business leader be without a secret or two? A subtle pusher on the right side of the piece opens the clock panel, which is hinged on the left. This allows easy access to make simple, intuitive adjustments to the clock settings, as well as access to a patented ejector slot for the elaborately finished winding key and to the key’s two openings – one to set the time and another to wind the clock each month.
With the jumping seconds hand visually dominating the action of this desktop clock, of course the old adage “time is money” comes to mind. But, depending on how much this $444,000 to $555,000 pre-auction estimated masterpiece goes for when the hammer falls in Geneva, “money is time” might be a better motto.
In any case, all the secrets of this time-teller will be revealed at the Only Watch 2021 auction, which takes place on Saturday, November 6th, at 2:00 in the afternoon, Geneva time. For more information please visit the Only Watch website.
(Images © Patek Philippe)