Up Close: Patek Philippe Ref. 2523 World Time Cloisonne “Eurasia”

A very special watch.

The upcoming spring auction season is bringing with it a surprising number of vintage Patek Philippe world time wristwatches. Christie’s will be offering three of them during its evening sale on May 22, including the famed and unique ref. 1415 HU in platinum that once held the record of most expensive watch in the world when it last sold publicly in 2002 and achieved CHF6.6 million including fees.

Phillips, on the other hand, will be offering the Patek Philippe ref. 2523 “Eurasia” publicly for the very first time. Long owned by an Italian collector until it was acquired by the present owner in the mid 1990s, this ref. 2523 is one of just three known with a cloisonné dial bearing the “Eurasia” map – and it is in strikingly fine condition. I put it on my wrist during the preview exhibition, and the watch is gorgeous, crisp, and arguably every dollar of the ten or more million it’ll sell for.

The hallowed complication

Despite not being amongst the most complicated watches Patek Philippe made in the 20th century, its world-time wristwatches (and also pocket watches) are amongst the brand’s most coveted and valuable timepieces.

Well before the platinum ref. 1415 HU set a record in 2002, examples of the ref. 2523 with cloisonné dial were regularly selling for well over US$1 million at auction in the 1990s – and are the inspiration for the today’s world-time models, including the recent ref. 5231J. The fact that the world-time was a favourite of Osvaldo Patrizzi, the founder of Antiquorum and then the most important person in watch auctions, doubtlessly contributed to the strong prices.

The intrinsic appeal of the world-time watches is manifold. To start with, they are visually distinctive and beautiful, with the enamelled versions being exceptionally pretty in a manner that few complicated watches can achieve. In fact, the world times are the only complicated Patek Philippe wristwatches to feature cloisonné enamel dials.

More broadly, the world-time watches also evoke a bygone era when intercontinental travel was actually an adventure undertaken by boat, rail, or propeller planes. In fact, the first commercial passenger services using jet airliners only started in 1952 with the ill-dated de Havilland Comet.

Perhaps the watch that symbolises the dawn of the jet age is the Rolex GMT-Master – originally developed for the pilots of Pan Am – which was introduced in 1955. In contrast, this example of the ref. 2523 – produced in 1953 and sold a year later – was very much a part of an era that was quickly coming to an end.

And it goes without saying that world-time wristwatches are extremely rare. Beyond the handful of experimental world-time wristwatches, like the rectangular ref. 515 or the Calatrava ref. 96 HU, the world-time complication was only found in two distinct models.

A little over a hundred of the ref. 1415 HU were made during its production run from 1939 to 1954. And from 1953 to the late 1960s, between two to three dozen of the ref. 2523 were produced, and about 10 of its nearly-identical successor ref. 2523/1.

Another variant of the ref. 2523, this one with a guilloche dial

One reason for the scarcity of the world-time watches is simple – they just did not sell well, according to Phillips. And another is the fact that the world-time complication was made by Louis Cottier (1894-1966), the Geneva engineer whose best known invention is the world time, which was also supplied to Rolex, Vacheron Constantin, and Agassiz, amongst others.

He invented several complications for Patek Philippe, including the linear-hour display of the experimental ref. 3414 (that has been reproduced in the modern day by Urwerk). All of the world time watches were powered by a 12-ligne movement – the cal. 12-400 in the ref. 2523 and the cal. 12-120 in the ref. 1415 – with Cottier adding the world time module onto the base plate. According to Phillips, Cottier also produced the hands of the world-time models, and assembled the finished watches.

The gold hands are evidently made by hand, by Cottier himself no less

More of Europe

Officially described as “Europe” by Patek Philippe, the map on this ref. 2523 has come to be known as Eurasia, despite not having very much of Asia on it. Perhaps an expediency in increasing its appeal with Asian clients, “Eurasia” is relatively uncommon amongst the cloisonné maps found on the ref. 2523, with just three known. The most numerous version of the cloisonné-map ref. 2523 is North America, with six known.

Another of the known ref. 2523 “Eurasia” is in the Patek Philippe Museum

This example of the ref. 2523 is both original and well preserved. The case retains much of its original shape and lines, a quality that is especially visible on the “wing” lugs, which are stepped on the side and facetted along the edge. At the same time, the hallmarks remain deeply embossed.

The dial is similarly crisp, with the colours of the enamel remaining vivid, and the surface being free of cracks or damage. The watch looks extremely good in person.

The last major example of the ref. 2523 to sell at auction was a pink gold model with a blue enamel dial featuring the name of Italian retailer Gobbi. It sold in November 2019 for HK$70.18 million, or just over US$9.00 million, fees included.

The pink gold ref. 2523 that sold for US$9.00 million in 2019

The ref. 2523 “Eurasia” at Phillips has a modest estimate “in excess of 3.5 million” Swiss francs, which will surely be less than what it finally sells for. I spoke with two individuals who collect such watches, and both predicted a final price of about three times the estimate.

While a rich valuation compared with the result achieved for the pink gold example with a blue dial at Christie’s in 2019, the watch market has moved on since then, with both demand and prices having become stronger overall. While there are prominent examples of genres in vintage watch collecting that have softened in the last two years, the ref. 2523 looks likely to benefit from the rising market given its singular nature.

Full lot details on Phillips.com.

Addition April 23, 2021: Final paragraph touching on the potential price included.

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Qatar Watch Club Teams Up with Hermès for Special Edition Arceau

In unusual ebene.

Since its founding three years ago, Qatar Watch Club (QWC) has collaborated with several watchmakers on special editions that paid tribute to its home country. The first was a Chopard L.U.C GMT with a burgundy dial – the primary colour of Qatar’s national flag – then a Tudor Pelagos featuring the country name in Arabic script, and most recently a Ulysse Nardin Freak X.

It latest project is a tie-up with Hermès that resulted in special edition of the Arceau. Limited to 40 pieces, the Hermès Arceau Qatar Watch Club features an ebene, or “ebony”, dial that reflects the shared equestrian history of both the Parisian saddle maker and the Gulf state.

Initial thoughts

The watch is very much Hermès in nature and execution. Though distinctive, it is discreet. One of Hermès’ most distinctive models, the Arceau was first conceived in 1978, with its asymmetrical case inspired by a stirrup. The italicised Breguet numerals are stylish, giving the watch subtle flair. Equally subtle is the herringbone-textured dial that brings to mind Hermès fabric.

The ebene dial colour is noteworthy. Rich in tone when executed right, brown is relatively uncommon in today’s watches, especially when green and blue seem to be the colours du jour. Long a colour associated with horse riding – Hermès saddles and riding boots can often be found in ebene – it is also a popular shade for the brand’s iconic Birkin bags.

Coupled with orange accents – the five-minute markers and the stitching of the strap are rendered in orange – the emblematic colour of Hermès, the Arceau QWC is very much a simple, yet refined, blend of both the French luxury goods house and the Gulf state.

Priced at 21,600 QAR, or about US$5,900, the QWC edition of the Hermès Arceau costs about 10% more than the standard model, which is a fair premium for a limited edition series in a never-before-seen colourway.

Ebene dial

Beyond the dial colour, the Arceau QWC also does away with “Automatic” that’s found on the dial of the standard model. Presumably, the creators of the watch felt the wording was superfluous, and I’m inclined to agree.

The watch is identical in size to the Arceau TGM (très grand modèle, or “very large model”), and thus possesses a more contemporary 40 mm case that is nonetheless remains slender to be elegant.

It’s powered by the H1837, a calibre produced by movement specialist Vaucher – which is partially owned by Hermès – that has a handy 50 hours of power reserve. Like most of Hermes’ proprietary movements, the H1837 is decorated with an embossed, alternating “H” motif on its bridges and rotor.

Key Facts and Price

Hermes Arceau Qatar Watch Club

Diameter: 40 mm
Height: Unavailable
Material: Steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water-resistance: 30 m

Movement: cal. H1837
Functions: Hours, minutes, date
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 50 hours

Strap: Alligator with pin buckle

Availability: Only to QWC members
Price: 21,600 Qatari riyals (approximately US$5,900)

For more, visit Hermes.com.


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Living With: Panerai Luminor Logo PAM 1084

Is entry-level good enough?

I admit that I wasn’t much of a Panerai fan. Nothing against the brand – it’s just that large, military-inspired watches aren’t my cup of tea.

However, I’ve always been intrigued by the loyalty and enthusiasm that the brand engenders in Paneristi, its most loyal aficionados. In a nod to that following, Panerai launched a limited edition for the 20th anniversary of the Paneristi forum last year – the sixth watch created for the community. Few brands have their own watch forum, much less one that has lasted two decades. Clearly, there’s a lot of love for Panerai watches, and I’ve always wondered what lay behind that.

When Panerai offered me the chance to test-drive the Luminor Logo 44 mm PAM01084, the latest version of its entry-level model, it was the perfect opportunity to venture outside my comfort zone and see what Panerai is all about.

Initial thoughts

The PAM 1084 is very much what I had expected.

Let’s start with the positives. One is a utilitarian and eminently legible dial that is quintessentially Panerai – I never had an issue telling the time. Another is the classic Panerai case with its signature, oversized crown-lock bridge. And at 44 mm, it has significant wrist presence, but doesn’t feel overly large due to its short, sloping lugs. There is substantial heft to the watch, but it comes across as reassuring rather than bulky.

And despite being one of the most affordable references in Panerai’s current lineup, the PAM 1084 retains much of the DNA that defines Panerai – it is instantly recognisable as a Panerai, even from across the room.

However, several details give away the fact that it’s an entry-level model (the “Logo” watches were originally conceived as just that).

For one, the PAM 1084 does not have a “sandwich” dial, instead the luminous markings are printed on the dial. More significantly, the solid case back is a press-fit, rather than screw-down back. Lastly, the water resistance of 100 m is middling at best, undermining the military dive watch history somewhat.


When Panerai started making watches once again in 1993, after a hiatus when it solely produced dive and timing instruments, one of its first models was the Luminor 5218-201/A that was inspired by vintage military-issue watches Panerai once made for the Italian navy.

Known as a “pre-Vendome” model because it was produced before the brand was acquired by Richemont (then known as Vendome Luxury Group), the Luminor 5218-201/A along with a handful of other “pre-V” models became highly desirable timepieces by the early 2000s. Part of the catalysts for that decade’s Panerai mania was the film and sports celebrities who wore one, with one of the pioneer owners of a Panerai being Sylvester Stallone, who sports a Luminor 5218-201/A in the 1996 film Daylight.

Mr Stallone with the Panerai on his right wrist in Daylight

The PAM 1084 shares many similarities with the Luminor 5218-201/A, a look that defined Panerai for most of its last three decades.

And the PAM 1084, despite being entry-level, is closer to the Luminor 5218-201/A than many of its fancier peers in the current catalogue. The 5218-201/A did not have a sandwich dial, and neither does the PAM 1084.

The PAM1084 case is polished throughout, while the crown-lock bridge is satin-brushed. That case finishing is historically accurate; the 44 mm Luminor case has been finished in this way since the “pre-V” watches.

It is, however, simple. A more varied finish like that found on the larger Luminor models would be a welcome improvement since 1993. And the polished case can be a fingerprint and scratch magnet, which undermines its billing as a military tool watch somewhat.

Solid and simple

Nevertheless, despite its simplicity the Panerai case is excellent quality. It is large, rigid, and robust, while also having flat, well-defined surfaces and edges, which are uncommon for stamped cases with simple forms. It’s not quite the level of Grand Seiko, but still acceptable given its price point. Admittedly, for what this costs, the case should be well done, and it is.

Inside is the manual-wind P.6000. Introduced in 2018, this fuss-free, in-house movement is found in many entry-level Panerai watches, replacing the ETA Unitas movements that powered previous iterations of the Luminor 44 mm.

The P.6000 boasts three days of power reserve, a marked improvement from the 56-hour power reserve of preceding generations. Unfortunately, the movement is hidden under the solid back. Earlier generations of the Luminor “Logo” that were equipped with a Unitas movement had exhibition case backs, so it’s a shame that the in-house calibre isn’t visible in this latest iteration, even if the movement isn’t dressed up.

Concluding thoughts

The PAM 1084 is an affordable way to enjoy the distinctive Panerai style, managing to capture the essence of the brand at a relatively affordable price. It makes an iconic design accessible.

Compared to other popular entry-level military watches, the PAM 1084 is slightly higher priced, but justifiably so. Legible, robust alternatives such as the IWC Mark XVIII and Breitling Avenger Automatic can be had about US$4,000 mark – or about a quarter less than the PAM 1084 – but they are powered by modified ETA (or equivalent Sellita) movements. At the same time, their designs are more generic, and less of the icon that the Luminor is.

When I first tried on the PAM1084, my opinion about it was lukewarm. However, it grew on me – to my surprise – and looked better on my wrist than I had initially expected. By the end of the loan, I was reluctant to return it, and missed it afterward.

There’s something about the watch that endows it with unmistakable masculinity. It got me seriously thinking about adding a Panerai to my collection, something which I would never have considered before. Perhaps one day I too will be part of the Paneristi – I definitely came away with a newfound appreciation for the brand.

Key Facts and Price

Panerai Luminor Logo 44 mm
Ref. PAM01084

Diameter: 44 mm
Height: 13.05 mm
Material: Stainless steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 100 m

Movement: Cal. P.6000
Functions: Hours, minutes and seconds
Winding: Manual-wind
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Power reserve: 72 hours

Strap: Calfskin with an additional rubber strap

Availability: At boutiques and authorised retailers
Price: US$5,500; or 8,000 Singapore dollars

For more information, visit Panerai.com.


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