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featured 06, Dec 2017 04:32pm
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Discussing J.N. Tata's Patek Philippe Pocket Watch with Thomas Perazzi

Having recently joined the Phillips family as the Head of Watches for Asia, Thomas Perazzi talks to us about the Patek Philippe pocket watch, which had been custom-ordered by Jamsetji N. Tata himself.

Thomas Perazzi, the current Head of Watches, Asia for Phillips is not new to the watch auction industry. His history with vintage timepieces dates

"We were especially pleased to welcome significant participation from collectors across India for the Patek Philippe five minute repeating chronograph pocket watch, presented by Jamsetji N Tata to James Morris, The Architect of Esplanade House Bombay, which soared to seven times its estimate." Thomas Perazzi Head of Watches, Asia, Phillips

back to Sotheby's where he served as the Deputy Director for the European market, before moving to become the Head of the European Watch Department for Christie's. Today, he heads the watch department at Phillips for their asian market, and is responsible for securing consignments and selling Phillips’ watches with an emphasis on strengthening their active client base and developing a network of top collectors across the continent.

With the sale of iconic pieces like John F. Kennedy's Elgin, Mahatma Gandhi's Zenith pocket watch, and Jackie O's Cartier Tank, under his belt, the sales at the Hong Kong Watch Auction adds yet another feather to his cap. We say this is not only because of the record-breaking sales achieved in Asia for the Patek Philippe 2523 World-time, but also for the sale of Jamsetji N. Tata's Patek Philippe five minute repeating chronograph pocket watch, for seven-times its estimated price.

He says, “The Phillips’ Watch department is proud to have delivered a triumphant sale in Hong Kong this fall, reaffirming its market leadership in the region. As we continue to bring fresh to the market timepieces of the finest quality to the Asian marketplace, we broke Phillips’ own record for the highest result ever achieved for any wristwatch sold at auction in Asia with the Patek Philippe reference 2523 selling for HK$22,300,000. We were especially pleased to welcome significant participation from collectors across India for the Patek Philippe five minute repeating chronograph pocket watch, presented by Jamsetji N Tata to James Morris, The Architect of Esplanade House Bombay, which soared to seven times its estimate. Phillips is fully committed to further expanding our presence in Asia and offering best-in-class quality, service and scholarship to collectors in the region.”

Jamsetji N. Tata, the Father of the Indian industry, and the founder of TATA – India's largest conglomerate – is known to have been very

"The first examples of five minute repeaters appeared in the mid-18th century"

passionate about Patek Philippe. He portrayed his fascination for the brand by custom-ordering the timepieces as gifts for very significant people in his life. One such timepiece which has unearthed was Lot 965, also know as, the 18k pink-gold five minute-repeating hunter case chronograph presentation Patek Philippe pocket watch. Phillips recently sold the watch during the Hong Kong Watch Auction: Five, for a price which was seven-times the estimate of USD 10,000 – USD 20,000. The mentioned pocket watch is said to have been a gift for the English architect James Morris, who constructed the famous Esplanade House in Mumbai, India – the then residence of Jamsetji N. Tata. Perazzi takes us through a few more details about the timepiece.

WTI: What makes this specific Patek Philippe pocket watch historically so significant?

TP: Jamsetji Tata was a legendary entrepreneur, who was regarded as the Founder of the Indian industry. His company, TATA is best known as the owner of the Jaguar Land Rover. In the late 1880s, Jamsetji had hired English architect James Morris to build a new family home in modern day Mumbai. Construction began in 1885 on what was named Esplanade House, one of the first homes in India to feature electricity, as well as elevators. This Patek Philippe watch was Tata’s gift to Morris on completion of the Esplanade House.

Back in the time, all precious and delicate Swiss watches were delivered to India via England. English distributors were the leaders in the market even if the delivery could take several months. Given that considerable effort was required, the present timepiece demonstrates its historical significance.

WTI: Can you give us more details about the 140-year old pocket watch?

TP: The present pocket watch comes with repeating chronograph hunter case presentation. A repeater is a complication in a mechanical watch that chimes the time on demand by activating a slide-piece. Their origins can be traced back to the end of the 17th century. The first examples of striking watches were “dumb” repeaters, which struck the time on the inside of the case producing a muffled sound and could only be detected if the watch was held in the hand. Over time, a bell, usually attached to the inner back cover of the watch, was introduced for the hammer to strike and the first chiming watches were born.

Evolution brought forth watches that not only chimed the hours, but also the quarters, half-quarters and five-minute repeaters, like the present one. The first examples of five minute repeaters appeared in the mid-18th century. At the end of the 18th century, A.L. Breguet designed a mechanism that would strike the hours, quarters and minutes replacing the bell by a set of coiled wire gongs thereby reducing space and providing different tones. Over 100 unique components must be combined to create a five minute repeating mechanism with each component manufactured to extremely exact tolerances. Integrating a five minute repeater into a pocket watch takes incredible skill but fitting one inside a wristwatch adds several magnitudes of intricacy, as the comparatively small case requires the further miniaturisation of what are already extremely small parts. Today five minute repeaters, one of the most complex repeater mechanism, are sought after by fine collectors as rare masterpieces of precision mechanical engineering.

Lastly, the caseback of the pocket watch is engraved with a dedication to Morris, in recognition of his “professional skill and of the care and attention devoted by him.”

WTI: What was the condition of the timepiece when you sourced it?

"The caseback of the pocket watch is engraved with a dedication to Morris, in recognition of his “professional skill and of the care and attention devoted by him."

TP: The pocket watch was in a good condition when it was sourced. It has been preciously kept in a wise collector’s safe for few decades before it appeared at auction. Unfortunately, though, we are not able to track the full story of the present watch.

WTI: Have more pieces of the same watch been discovered?

TP: According to our researches, another Patek Philippe pocket watch hunting case in 18K pink gold with five minute repeater and chronograph was sold at auction in Geneva in 2006 for circa USD 20,000.

WTI: How is Phillips planning to tap the vast, unexplored watch collectors market in India?

TP: Phillips has always advised its collectors to read our catalogues, which offer an in-depth research from watch enthusiasts and scholars, and to come to our preview exhibitions which display hundreds of the finest and rarest timepieces.. On top of the existing regions, we are looking into the possibility of expanding our auction preview tour to India.

The Patek Philippe pocket watch was sold for HK$562,500, and comes accompanied by a leather presentation box decorated with the architect's monogram.

 

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