Industry / Pearls

At Christie’s, It’s Time For Pearls


Swiss watches and pearls don’t often get discussed in the same sentence. But if you’re a fan of vintage Patek Philippe timepieces, you may know that wristwatches studded with seed pearls are a special breed of rare. And while they don’t surface on the market every day, you can see a lustrous example at Christie’s Watches Online: The Dubai Edit sale, closing Oct. 26 at 8 a.m. ET.

Known as the Pearl of the Arabian Gulf, the circa 1958 18k yellow gold Patek Philippe ref. 2573 watch is believed to be one of three Calatrava ref. 2573 watches that Emir Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa I of Bahrain commissioned to feature eight seed pearls as hour markers between the cardinal indices.

Pearl of the Arabian Gulf top down view
The Pearl of the Arabian Gulf (also shown at top)

The other two ref. 2573 watches were made in 18k rose gold, while the current example was the only one in 18k yellow gold. In fact, Gay Frères made an 18k yellow gold bracelet for Patek Philippe specifically for the timepiece.

Estimated to fetch between $100,000 and $200,000, the timepiece follows in the footsteps of the fabled Patek Philippe ref. 2573 Pearl of Bahrain—of the two pearl-studded rose gold models believed to have been made for the emir, this is the one that sold at Christie’s New York in December 2015 for $437,000, against an estimate of $10,000–$15,000. The time-only Calatrava, also manufactured in 1958, was consigned by an American businessman who’d received it as a gift from the emir.

Patek Philippe Ref 2573 Manufactured in 1958
Patek Philippe ref. 2573, manufactured in 1958, aka the Pearl of Bahrain

The second rose gold model, consigned by a British businessman who’d received it as a gift from the emir, came to market in May 2018, when Christie’s Geneva sold it above estimate for CHF250,000.

Now, the yellow gold Pearl of the Arabian Gulf completes the trilogy. There is, however, a catch: While the architecture of the watch mimics that of the two rose gold versions sold in 2015 and 2018, its provenance cannot be established with certainty.

But just because Christie’s can’t prove it was commissioned by the emir of Bahrain doesn’t take away from its astonishing rarity.

Top: The Pearl of the Arabian Gulf, a circa 1958 Patek Philippe ref. 2573 studded with seed pearls, is part of Christie’s Watches Online: The Dubai Edit sale.

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By: Victoria Gomelsky

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