Patek Philippe - The New York Watch Auction: SEVEN New York Saturday, December 10, 2022 | Phillips

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  • Manufacturer: Patek Philippe
    Year: 2002
    Reference No: 3998J-013
    Movement No: 3’250’300
    Case No: 4’153’886
    Model Name: Calatrava
    Material: 18K yellow gold
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. 315 SC, 30 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Crocodile
    Clasp/Buckle: 18K yellow gold Patek Philippe buckle
    Dimensions: 34mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial, movement, and buckle signed.
    Accessories: Accompanied by Patek Philippe leather presentation box and hang tag. Further accompanied by Extract from the Archives confirming production of the present watch with hieroglyph hour markers in 2002 and its subsequent sale on November 25th, 2002.

  • Catalogue Essay

    Phillips is honored to offer this unique Patek Philippe Calatrava featuring an extraordinary Egyptian hieroglyph dial. Its provenance and intended recipient – unveiled here for the first time – bring together the worlds of watchmaking, modern art history, popular culture, and royal intrigue, making it one of the most exciting examples of a Calatrava to appear on the market in recent memory.

    The present reference 3998J first appeared at public auction in June 2014 as part of the Titanium Collection of unique Patek Philippe timepieces. This remarkable collection of 11 watches also included the only known titanium Sky Moon Tourbillon reference 5001T, and a titanium minute repeating annual calendar wristwatch reference 5033T.

    Also included were two other unique reference 3998 examples with hieroglyph dials: a second yellow gold model with movement number 3’250’134, and a titanium example that was removed from the auction before the sale date. Prior to their appearance, no other Patek Philippe timepiece with Egyptian hieroglyph markers were known.

    Confirmed by the Extract from the Archives accompanying the watch, the hieroglyph hour markers have long been a mystery – until now. Together with the consignor, we’re thrilled to have deciphered them, and are delighted to share this watch’s remarkable history for the first time.

    The choice of hieroglyphs is one of the most unusual and unique options ever found on any Patek Philippe dial and is reminiscent of Masonic pocket watches with symbols in place of numerals, which for the initiated, hold specific meaning. Given the absolute rarity of this dial type, it was certainly a special order by an extremely important Patek Philippe client whose relationship with the brand empowered him or her to make such an extraordinary request. An assessment of the Titanium Collection through this lens, along with analysis of the unique titanium reference 3998T-001 with hieroglyph dial, one can begin to formulate an intriguing and previously untold history, suggesting a connection to one of the most famous timekeepers of all time: The Henry Graves Supercomplication.

    Close inspection of the dials of each watch reveals they each have unique hieroglyphic combinations and layouts. Their placement puzzled watch enthusiasts, since they don’t follow the traditional hour marker pattern, with numerals placed around the outer edge of the dial. By translating the hieroglyphs, one gets a clearer understanding and appreciation for these most unusual timepieces. The dial of the present lot spells out “HALMUT” at 6 o’clock, and “NAUTUN” at 12 o’clock, while the titanium example translates to “ SAUD” at 6 o’clock and “AL TANI” at 12 o’clock.

    Saud bin Muhammed Al Thani (28 February 1966 - 9 November 2014), a Qatari Prince who served as Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage, was an avid art collector, and the owner of the Henry Graves Supercomplication, which he purchased during the famed 1999 Time Museum auction in New York City. The Henry Graves Supercomplication was loaned by the Prince to the Patek Philippe Museum and is certainly an indication of the strong relationship between the brand and Al Thani, demonstrating his ability to make extraordinary requests for personalised timepieces. Following the sale of the Titanium Collection in June 2014 in NY, in November 2014, the Henry Graves Supercomplication would be sold at auction in Geneva for US $24 million – the highest price ever achieved for a timepiece at the time.

    While the original owner of the Titanium Collection was never made public, the collector clearly had a special relationship with Patek Philippe to be able to purchase and own such a unique collection of timepieces. The titanium 3998 with “SAUD AL TANI” dial offers insight to who the “mysterious owner” was.

    The present yellow gold 3998 with “HALMUT NAUTUN” dial represents a surprising discovery, however when viewed in a broader context, one understands the decision for its creation. At the time of his death, the art collection Al Thani curated and amassed in the span of about a decade was valued at US $1.5 billion and included a diverse array of art and objects. He was known for his keen eye and aesthetic sensibility – and unyielding passion in the auction room. In a 2004 interview, Al Thani expounded on his collecting ethos. “I go by masterpieces,” he says. “Pieces from an important church, a major family, a great collection, these really interest me, they have history and provenance. You get them in the best possible condition, and there are no problems of authenticity. I want visitors to see the very best, or nothing at all. This is a way of ensuring that my successor will have to collect at the same level, I will set the standard.” He focused mainly on rare objects from across antiquity, particularly Islamic art. He also displayed a keen interest in Egyptian art and antiquities, specifically the 18th dynasty and the pharaoh Akhenaten, and scholars have said that his knowledge in this area was vast for a private citizen.

    Though conventional modern and Impressionist art did not excite him as much as the objects that made up the bulk of the collection he amassed (though David Hockney was commissioned to design his pool), he had a lifelong interest in and sustained passion for photography, owning works by Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Helmut Newton. He spent US $15 million on the Bokelberg Collection, comprising 136 photographs by Man Ray and Alfred Steiglitz, among others. He owned a vast number of cameras and lenses as well, including some highly prized vintage Leicas. He was known in the photographs auction market as a kingmaker, once buying an entire sale with the exception of a single lot. In 2002, Sheikh Al Thani initiated the Sheikh Saud Bin Mohammed Al-Thani Photo Competition Award, which is still in operation to this day, speaking to the enduring legacy of Sheikh Saud Al Thani’s passion for photographs.

    In fact, Al Thani and Helmut Newton (1920-2004) had a working relationship, with the prince paying Newton $210,000 for a three-day commission. Following this project, one can extrapolate Al Thani most likely had the wristwatch made as a gift for Newton, but never presented it.

    The "Helmut Newton" 3998J is a wonderful representation of Patek Philippe’s iconic Calatrava wristwatch, and is offered at auction with a history that is as unique as its dial. With its most probably unique 3998J-013 reference number and Extract from the Archives confirming the Egyptian hieroglyph hour markers, the present lot presents an extremely rare opportunity for the most discriminating connoisseur.

  • Artist Biography

    Patek Philippe

    Swiss • 1839

    Since its founding in 1839, this famous Geneva-based firm has been surprising its clientele with superbly crafted timepieces fitted with watchmaking's most prestigious complications. Traditional and conservative designs are found across Patek Philippe's watches made throughout their history — the utmost in understated elegance.

    Well-known for the Graves Supercomplication — a highly complicated pocket watch that was the world’s most complicated watch for 50 years — this family-owned brand has earned a reputation of excellence around the world. Patek's complicated vintage watches hold the highest number of world records for results achieved at auction compared with any other brand. For collectors, key models include the reference 1518, the world's first serially produced perpetual calendar chronograph, and its successor, the reference 2499. Other famous models include perpetual calendars such as the ref. 1526, ref. 3448 and 3450, chronographs such as the reference 130, 530 and 1463, as well as reference 1436 and 1563 split seconds chronographs. Patek is also well-known for their classically styled, time-only "Calatrava" dress watches, and the "Nautilus," an iconic luxury sports watch first introduced in 1976 as the reference 3700 that is still in production today.

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Ref. 3998J-013
A unique, extremely rare, culturally significant, and highly attractive yellow gold wristwatch with Egyptian hieroglyph dial, date, hang tag and presentation box

34mm Diameter
Case, dial, movement, and buckle signed.

$50,000 - 100,000 

Sold for $239,400

Contact Specialist

Paul Boutros

Head of Watches, Americas

+1 (212) 940-1293


Isabella Proia

Head of Sale, New York

+1 (212) 940 1285


The New York Watch Auction: SEVEN

New York Auction 10 - 11 December 2022