A Mediocre Patek Philippe 1518 Supercharged By “King Farouk” Hot Air

King Farouk of Egypt’s Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 yellow gold perpetual calendar chronograph is well-known in the world of watches. It has been around since it was first auctioned by Antiquorum in November 2000. In March 2018, the watch was last auctioned by Christie’s in Dubai. It was here where I first openly expressed my doubts about the provenance. The engravings on the back did not look right and there was no photographic evidence showing the monarch wearing the watch. Christie’s immediately reached out and assured me they had “proof beyond all doubt” that it was indeed Farouk’s watch. Proof that was never produced as it was up to the new owner what could be shared. When asked again just recently, they could not recall ever telling me about definitive proof. Weird right? As it turns out, the very same watch was offered at Antiquorum in October 1995 without any mention of engravings on the caseback. Some old schoolers chuckle when they hear about this watch. Some even remember the name of the Italian dealer who applied the fake engravings in the year 2000 to get a premium out of a rather mediocre watch.

Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 “King Farouk”

Reference: 1518
Case number: 636428
Movement number: 863473
Date of production: 1944
Date of sale: November 7, 1945

2000/2001

The 1518 made its first appearance as King Farouk’s very own watch at an Antiquorum Geneva auction in November 2000. “Sold to King Farouk”, the auction catalogue stated. All “dressed up” with a solid gold bracelet it truly made a majestic impression and sold for the incredible sum of 251,000 Swiss Francs.

King Farouk’s Patek Philippe 1518 as auctioned by Antiquorum in Novemeber 2000


To compare, a much more desirable pink gold 1518 featured in the same auction fetched only 245,500 Swiss Francs. Just seven months later, in June 2001, Antiquorum offered Farouk’s watch again in Hong Kong. Here it sold for 922,000 Hong Kong Dollars which at the time was equivalent to around 210,000 Swiss Francs, almost 20% less than the previous year.

Auction 2000: Lot 164 – Patek Philippe, No. 863473, Case No. 636428, Ref. 1518, sold to King Farouk
Auction 2001: Lot 504 – Patek Philippe, No. 863473, Case No. 636428, Ref. 1518, sold to King Farouk


Is it not interesting that the watch was sold twice within seven months? This leaves the door wide open for speculation. Did the first buyer refuse to pay when he realized there was nothing to substantiate the royal provenance? Was the first auction only meant to “legitimize” the watch, to create a record? My guess is that the latter was the case. “Authenticated” by an auction house, the watch was then offered in Hong Kong to attract inexperienced Asian collectors. It is not uncommon that lots sold at auction in reality never sold, as you can see in the post below.


Read more: Monochrome promoting a fake Rolex Single Red Sea-Dweller

Whatever the real reason, following the Hong Kong auction in 2001, King Farouk’s watch vanished for more than a decade.

November 2014

In November 2014, the watch resurfaced at Christie’s Geneva and sold for 425,000 Swiss Francs. The pictures showed a rather mediocre 1518 with possibly washed dial (soft day/month appertures) featuring unattractive holes behind some of the applied gold numerals.

Possibly washed dial with massive holes behind some of the applied numerals


The case was visibly repolished with lots of “soft” edges. See the faint gold hallmark on one of the lugs in the picture below? That is a clear indication of a heavily repolished case. Not exactly a piece a discerning collector would want to acquire.

Repolished case


Christie’s description stated:

“The present watch is made even more special as it belonged to King Farouk of Egypt, (1920-1965), who was born in Alexandria, Egypt.”


To be clear, the above claim was made solely based on the engraved caseback as there is no real proof the watch ever belonged to King Farouk. A comparable 1518 without royal provenance would have fetched only slightly more than half the sum.

Auction link: Lot 46 – Patek Philippe, an extremely fine and historically important 18k gold perpetual chronograph wristwatch with moon phases (Christie’s)

March 2018

In March 2018, Christie’s auctioned the watch again, this time in Dubai. A watch with “Arab history” for the emerging Middle Eastern watch market. The description was basically a copy/paste job from 2014 making the same claims:

“The present watch is made even more special as it belonged to King Farouk of Egypt, (1920-1965), who was born in Alexandria, Egypt.”

in addition to:

“One of the first Patek Philippe perpetual chronograph watches ever made, commissioned in 1945 by King Farouk of Egypt (1920-1965) and assembled in 18-carat gold,…”


At this auction, the watch fetched a total of USD 912,000, incl. premium. A record result for Dubai. It was at this auction that the watch first caught my attention. The engravings on the back were badly executed and lacked the details one would expect in a watch made for royalty. In addition, a comparison with the official Royal Egyptian crown showed considerable discrepancies. For instance, instead of lotus flowers, the engraved crown featured elements that have more resemblance with the fleur-de-lis, a christian symbol representing the Virgin Mary. A muslim king would never have accepted such a thing. Heck, Real Madrid had to remove the cross from their Logo for the Middle Eastern market, remember? Another detail that seemed completely off was the star and the crescent, the symbol for Islam. A downward pointed star with its negative connotations seemed odd to say the least and the crescent did not have the right shape. The whole thing reminded me of a shuriken (ninja star) stuck in a banana.


The comparison below shows what the real Royal Crown of Egypt looked like (right). The crown on the Patek not only lacks important details but is extremely poorly executed.


Let’s compare this to masterfully executed engravings worthy of a king. See the difference?


Auction link: Lot 101 – Patek Philippe, an extremely fine and historically important 18k gold perpetual chronograph wristwatch with moon phases (Christie’s)

Royals expect nothing less than perfection. Heads would have rolled if suboptimal work like this had been delivered. But this discussion is pointless in light of the following bombshell discovery.

October 1995

Interestingly, the very same watch was offered at Antiquorum already in October 1995 – BUT – the Antiquorum online archives neither mention King Farouk nor any engravings on the back.

Update September 22, 2022
Following the publication of this article, an Antiquorum expert directly involved in the 1995 sale came out guns blazing, calling my report “fake news”. To prove his point, he provided pictures of the paper catalogue where the 1518 was listed under the title “The property of the family of King Farouk” (linked at the bottom of this box). To be clear, this information was completely absent in Antiquorum’s online archive and new to me. However, thanks to these new details, the story just got so much better. Here is why. Being “the property of the family of King Farouk” does in no way mean the watch belonged to King Farouk and neither did Antiquorum claim so in 1995. This was confirmed by the Antiquorum expert.

The Antiquorum expert stated he personally met the seller, “a member of the family of the late King Farouk”, in the Antiquorum Geneva shop in summer 1995. Asked to provide the name of the seller to independently verify the story, he refused to be more specific, asserting “professional ethics reasons”. Antiquorum and ethics… good one! I doubt the provenance is strong if the auction house is unwilling to disclose the seller, especially after more than a quarter of a century. While the expert seemed to perfectly remember the meeting and the number of people present, his memory let him down when it comes to the “King Farouk” engravings. I find it hard to believe that such a defining and notably poorly executed element of the provenance could go unnoticed. I take this therefore as a no, the engravings were not yet present in 1995. If they were, they had been photographed like for instance in the following auction from 1989. Note the almost identical fleur-de-lis elements.

Auction link: Lot 568 – Vacheron & Constantin, King of Yugoslavia (Antiquorum)

A total of five watches were offered in 1995 under the title of “The property of the family of King Farouk”. The other four pieces were of very low value compared to the 1518, estimated between CHF 2,500 and CHF 10,000. Note the two Universal Genève watches featuring the Royal Egyptian Crest on the dial and how it completely differs from the one on the 1518. The two watches were typical royal gifts (mementos) for important state guests, etc.

Open: Antiquorum catalogue October 1995, title page “King Farouk”
Open: Antiquorum catalogue October 1995, Lots 621, 622 & 623
Open: Antiquorum catalogue October 1995, Lots 624 & 625


In 1995 the watch was just a “plain” 1518 in not so great condition. The comparison below shows it was indeed exactly the same watch with large holes behind some of the numerals.

Comparison 1995 vs. 2014


The price was estimated according to the condition but the watch did not sell. Some may argue that back then not all details were stated. Really? Such an important detail that would lend credence to the Farouk story not mentioned? Very doubtful considering that special caseback engravings, particularly royal crests, were mentioned and shown in photographs as early as 1989. I have spoken to a number of old-school scholars about this watch and some chuckled when I mentioned it. Of course, they know who applied the engravings in the year 2000. The Italian dealer who did it was considered the “Rinaldi” of Patek Philippe. Ask Davide Parmegiani. The revered super dealer knows… and yet, he continues to perpetuate the “Farouk” nonsense. It is all about not upsetting the market, you know.

Auction link: Lot 625 – Patek Philippe & Cie, No. 863473, case no. 636428, Ref. 1518

Thoughts

The “King Farouk” story is one of many fairy tales in the marvelous world of watches. To pocket the fees, auction houses often perpetuate whatever stories come with the lots. We witnessed here how the story line changed with each auction. In 1995, nobody claimed the 1518 was King Farouk’s personal watch, just “the property of the family of King Farouk”. This changed in 2000. After applying fake engravings, it was claimed the watch had been “sold to King Farouk”. In 2014 and again in 2018, Christie’s went a step further affirming the watch “belonged to King Farouk of Egypt”. Mainstream watch media outlets did their part too by simply copy/pasting auction house press releases and recklessly spreading misinformation. Anybody with an eye for details, and auction house specialists should definitely have that, can see something is not right with the engravings. The sheer lack of craftmanship should have been a first red flag. A simple Google image search would have brought to light there is not a single photo of King Farouk wearing a Patek 1518, none. Red flag number two. Finally, a quick research of the watch itself would have lead to the 1995 Antiquorum auction. End of story! Expert watch spotter Nick Gould aka @niccoloy has searched the internet up and down but all he could find are pictures of Farouk wearing a Rolex Datejust.

Disposed King Farouk in Italian exile, 1954


Of course, the Patek Philippe 1518 “King Farouk” story is made-up, simple and plain. Thank you for your interest.

3 comments

  • We as consumers need to stop supporting these shady auction houses (not all but some). We as consumers should always require more proof when extraordinary claims are made. And shame on the Hodinkees of the world who don’t inform the consumers about these shady practices.

    Like

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