For some Patek Philippe collectors, the name André Zibach draws considerable interest. After all, Zibach is one of the most gifted watchmakers to have worked for Patek Philippe, was the inventor of the Gyromax and famous for some of the most interesting chronometers like the Ref. 2458 made for J.B. Champion which won the Geneva Bulletin de Marche in 1948 Concours de Chronometrie. Here we profile a rare watch (offered for sale – details below) which is possibly the prototype Calatrava made by Zibach with a case by celebrated casemaker Emile Vichet.
This special watch is made in 1929 and is a prototype and possibly the first Calatrava. It carries no official Patek Philippe Reference number, and the case number is the same as the movement number, both being No 822397. We shall call this the Zibach Patek from here on.
Other than the fact that this watch is possibly the prototype which is to become the Calatrava, it is also interesting for these three reasons:
- it was made by and for André Zibach.
- the case was made by Emile Vichet.
- the dial was made by Fabrique de Cadrans Stern Fréres.
Why are these factors interesting?
André Zibach is prehaps one of the most talented watchmaker with exceptional talent for precisely regulating movements. He worked at Patek Philippe as a régleur, a specialist profession within the master watchmaker ranks responsible for adjusting the movements to very high precision. He is also credited by Patek Philippe as the inventor of the Gyromax balance.
He is known for winning many chronometry awards from the Geneva and Kew Observatories. The famous J.B. Champion Patek Philippe Ref. 2485 is one such mythical watch which won the Bulletin de Marche by the Geneva Observatory for outstanding chronometrie performance. This watch was sold at auction in the Christie’s Sale in Geneva on 12 November 2012 for CHF 3,779,000.
The so called Zibach Patek is also only one of two Patek Philippe watches known to have been owned by Zibach. The first is a Ref. 1582 with a prototype Gyeromax balance sold by Christies in the New York Auction on 6 December 2016 for US$ 137,500,
The Zibach Patek was made by Zibach as a gift to a friend as a wedding gift. He made the watch himself, and bought it from Patek Philippe. We speculate the price, but this is commonly practiced by companies to sell these pieces to the watchmaker who made the watch in what is known as “watchmaker price”, basically cost of the components, materials and perhaps rental and overheads. Or cost less his own wages. The Patek Philippe certificate issued in 2001 shows that the watch movement was sold to Zibach without a case. Photo of the certificate is shown below.
Zibach went to Emile Vichet to make the case for this watch, and this is verified by the Poinçoin de Mâitre mark No 9 which identifies the casemaker as Emile Vichet.
The case created by Vichet carries the characteristics which would suggest that it was the forerunner of later Patek Philippe cases made by Vichet. The DNA is clear on the case shape, the beautiful downturn lugs and flat thin case back later seen in the Patek Philippe Ref. 130 Chronograph, the Ref. 1526 Perpetual Calendar and the Ref. 2499 Perpetual Calendar Chronographs which made Patek Philippe a household name with high achievements in sale prices in auctions.
And last, but certainly not least, Fabrique de Cadrans Stern Fréres was then owned by Jean and Charles Stern who later acquired Patek Philippe (in 1935). Jean continued to run the dial making concerns and Charles dedicated himself to Patek Philippe. Fabrique de Cadrans Stern Fréres is part of the Stern Group which was acquired by Richemont in 2000. Patek Philippe remains in the Stern family, now under the leadership of Thierry Stern, Thierry is the great grandson of Charles.
This watch is being offered for sale in Sotheby’s Important Watches Sale on April 2 (tomorrow!) in Hong Kong, Lot 2894.