I think I saw it first in Eric Wind’s (he of Christie’s Auctions) Facebook feed. Or maybe it was his Instagram account. Or one of Christie’s pages. Or Hodinkee’s. Yes, it was Hodinkee’s Instagram feed. Out of the corner of my eye, as I was either swiping past or clicking away, I saw it. There was a Patek Philippe Calibre 89 for sale.
Now, while I know of the Calibre 89, it’s in such rarefied air that I thought there was only one. Turns out there are four (white, yellow, and rose gold, plus plaitinum), plus the prototype which resides in the Patek Philippe Museum. And Christie’s has one of them on ice, the yellow gold one, waiting for somebody with $11 million burning a hole in his pocket to walk by.
In case you’re not familiar with the Calibre 89, at the time it was the most complicated watch ever made (Vacheron Constantin surpassed that plateau last year with its reference 57260). Patek Philippe presented the Calibre 89 in 1989 for their 150th anniversary.
My colleague Jack Forster of Hodinkee quoted Patek Philippe’s enumeration of the 89’s complications thusly:
" . . . a full perpetual calendar showing the year in an aperture; the moon’s age and phases; a split-seconds chronograph; and a second time-zone. The reverse shows astronomical indications, with sidereal time, equation of time, times of sunrise and sunset, display of the seasons, equinoxes and solstices, and the signs of the zodiac, together with a rotating celestial chart. Acoustic indications offer grande and petite sonnerie; a minute repeater which chimes on four gongs; and an alarm on the fifth gong. Swiss patents are awarded for the date of Easter indication, which varies according to the ecclesiastical calendar, and for the secular perpetual calendar with retrograde date indication, displaying the day’s date based on a cycle of four hundred years, and requiring no adjustment until the 28th century."
One is tempted to add, “and a partridge in a pear tree,” but I’ve used that line before.
Jack notes the most interesting complication of the watch is its Easter calculation. Now, as most of you know, it seems like Easter is never on the same day, ever. Truth is, it’s on a cycle which repeats every few million years. So Patek took a small liberty with the calculation. Instead of a full-on gear train to make the calculation, it makes use of a “program wheel.”
C’mon kids, time’s a wastin’. Yours today for only $11,000,000. Go break that piggy bank one more time.