Among serious watch collectors and horological aficionados, perhaps no name inspires as much reverence and admiration as that of James Ward Packard (1863-1928), the American car manufacturer and inventor whose passion for watch collecting is the stuff of legend - and who enjoyed a cheerful rivalry with collector Henry Graves.
Packard was among the first of the great watch collectors to work directly with Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin, the world's most exclusive watch manufacturers, in his quest to build an exquisite personal collection of highly complicated, custom-designed timepieces.
This June, Christie's has been entrusted by the descendants of James Ward Packard with the sale of exceptional timepieces from this legendary collection.
These extraordinary watches remain in pristine condition, having been stored away in a bank vault for the last 60 years. They will be unveiled for the first time to the public this June, and offered as a key highlight of Christie's sale of Important Watches sale in New York.
"In watch collecting circles, this is a true fairytale collection. James Ward Packard is the original icon who inspired generations of serious watch collectors that followed him," said Sam Hines, Head of Watches for Christie's Americas and Asia.
"As a mechanical engineer by training, he had a deep knowledge and passion for the craft of watchmaking that made him uniquely qualified to work directly with the best Swiss watch manufacturers and create completely unique, one-of-a-kind watches that do not exist anywhere else in the world.
"Beyond this, he had a refined sense of style that was heavily influenced by the design motifs of his day, and it is a true delight to see Packard's personal taste reflected in the elegant, Art Nouveau styling of these timepieces, even down to the stylised monograms stamped on the case backs.
"These rediscovered watches are likely the last of the great Packard watches to come to market directly from his descendants, and we anticipate intense interest from collectors in the US, Europe, Asia and beyond."
One of the great revelations of Packard's rediscovered collection is documented proof of his design partnership with Vacheron Constantin, the oldest watch manufacturer in Geneva.
In 1918, the firm created a completely unique 20k gold openface chronograph clockwatch for Packard according to his specific instructions, incorporating a customized combination of complications, including trip minute-repeating, grande and petite sonnerie, chronograph, and half-quarter repeating functions.
With its unparalleled technical innovations, undiminished elegance, and exceptional provenance, this magnificent timepiece is without question the most significant Vacheron Constantin watch to come to market in recent memory. This makes it a strong investment.
This spectacular piece is expected to bring $250,000-500,000 in the June 15 auction in New York.
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