Patek Philippe is arguably the most famous and respected brand in the watch industry, usually instinctively associated with precious and elegant dress watches. Indeed, it wasn't until the Nautilus appeared in 1976 that one of their product was advertised as a "sports watch." However, when analyzing the early references of Patek Philippe products, it is easy to realize that some of the designs are clearly intended to suit customers with a vibrant lifestyle.
That’s where we start talking about reference 1463, one of the most famous chronographs in the history of timepieces and a milestone in Patek Philippe’s production.
Genesis of a myth
Patek Philippe 1463 production lifespan run from early 1940s and was discontinued around late 1960s.
This manually wound chronograph features a 35mm waterproof case and it’s operated by two large round buttons with anti-slide finishing, quickly nicknamed “Tasti Tondi” (Italian for "Round Pushers") by Italian collectors and now mainly known by this name. Production numbers are estimated to be between 700 and 750 units, of which few more than 200 specimens surfaced on the market or in books.
The hearth of all 1463’s is a hand-wound Valjoux 23 movement, which was assembled and finished by Patek Philippe and named as cal.13-130, featuring a column-wheel chronograph movement with two subdials, displaying running seconds at 9 and a 30-minute chronographic register at 3 o’clock.
With a production lifespan of almost thirty years, the watch was cased in yellow gold, pink gold and stainless steel. With yellow gold being the most common - as "common" as a Tasti Tondi can be - pink gold and stainless steel are utterly rare.
Despite some scholars believe that other metals - probably special orders - could exist, there are no records of specimen in white gold, platinum or mixed metals.
Taubert et Fils, a Geneva-based manufacture founded by François Borgel (and commonly referred to as FB on the case-back hallmark) was well-known for its waterproof cases and was instructed to create the case for the 1463.
The case of Patek’s first waterproof watch is a three-piece construction with a screw-down cack and an inner soft iron cover with anti-magnetic function.
Furthermor, the iconic large round pushers were also chosen to improve water resistance.
It’s possible to split the case production in two different series.
We can find the first, which features slightly curved lugs, trough 620.xxx serial range for stainless steel, while gold first series cases are sitting trough 623.xxx serial range.
The second, featuring a swirl on the lower side of the lugs, is found between 625.xxx and 2.6xx.xxx for stainless steel and between 628.xxx and 2.647.xxx for gold specimens.
While regular 1463 cases are stepped, four specimens manufactured by FB and in a very tight serial range are know for featuring a flat bezel.
These cases are dubbed by someone as “pre-series” ones, despite they are not among the oldest.
As collectors are generally used to, the dial can make a huge difference in collectability and value when talking about vintage watches.
Tasti Tondi features several different dial iterations, which of course influence rarity of each watch.
Dials can be divided in two different series and it’s important to point out that stainless steel specimen should only house first-serie dials, while gold specimens could be fitted with both.
While the first one features a double railway track, one with marks for running minutes and one generally paired with a tachometer scale, the second series is easy to spot thanks to the single railway track with tachometer on the outside and minute marks on the inside.
The dial style pivoted around 2.615.2xx case number, with a slight overlap between the two series. Despite that, is common to accept any second series dial found on lower serial range as service dial.
First series dials have been produced in a wide range of layout iterations. The most common color is light silver, although other rarer colours are pink or champagne and depending on printings dials could show two or three different tone finishing.
Tachometer scale are the most common dial layout for first series dial, with “Base 1000” print as the less rare compared to the “Base 1 Mile”. Importation hallmarks, retailer signatures and extracts, point out that these pieces were destined for the US market, making this dial batch more sought after.
However, talking about dial scales, the most coveted and rare is the pulsation one, found in extremely limited numbers.
Hour markers are always applied and three different layouts are known: full round of Breguet numerals, Roman 12/6, which can be paired to applied dots or batons, and Arabic 12/6 paired with batons only. Hands can be either leaf or baton.
Second series dial are hands down less interesting in terms of variety. Most of them are cased in yellow gold and almost all of them have a “Base 1000” tachometer scale, with applied baton markers for the hours or applied arabic 12 and 6. Hands can be either dauphine or baton.
It’s possible to find some rare dials, either from first or second series, with a “Swiss” graphic printed below or above 6 o’clock. Despite the meaning of this print never been fully understood, most of these dials can be found on watches sold outside Switzerland so it's likely that it could have been for exportation purposes.
Collecting, as we know, is made of exceptions and the ref. 1463 is no less.
In fact, there are -beyond the standard production - unique versions or few pieces sharing identical characteristics but that cannot be classified as "regular production" due to the very limited specimens that have appeared on the market so far.
Only four watches with black dial are known, all with cases in the 653.xxx / 684.xxx range, with three different layout variations:
- triple scale dial, telemeter, tachymeter and central snail scale
- Two identical dials, mounted in consecutive cases, with Arabic numerals and luminous hands, one of which belonged to Briggs Cunningham, a famous American sportsman
- luminous indexes and handset, double signed by Serpico Y Laino
There also are two models with silver dial and luminous indexes and both feature the iconic radium-painted "syringe" hands, typical of Patek luminous models.
The first doesn’t have applied indexes, but 12/6 radium Arabics and round radium indexes for each hour, while the second has a "classic" dial with Breguet and radium applied indexes.
Not unique, but certainly rare enough to merit a special mention, are the sector dials, which can be found on both gold and steel cases in extremely limited quantities.
There are also rare specimens with an asmometric scale, used by doctors to measure breathing per minute.
While one is in the 644.76x serial, the second was produced without serial number as it was donated by Patek Philippe to Jacques Golay, one of the best watchmakers of the time, on the occasion of his retirement.
Patek Philippe 1563
If you think of pairs of references such as, for example, 1578/1579 or 2497/2499 it is easy to understand how, around the middle of the last century, Patek Philippe used the same cases, with minimal modifications, to accommodate different movements.
This did not happen for 1463, as no parallel reference with the same case has ever seen the daylight in a mass production.
However, there are three examples, marked with the reference 1563, which adopt the same waterproof case with the iconic "round pushers", but which feature the manual rattrappante chronograph caliber cal.13-130 and are easily placed among the Grails of vintage watches collecting.
The three examples, all cased in yellow gold, have three different dials:
- Champagne dial with Arabic applied indexes at 12 and 6 and pulsometric scale
- Silver dial with Arabic applied indexes at 12 and 6 and tachymeter scale, which belonged to jazz legend Duke Ellin
- Silver dial with dagger hands, radium Breguet indexes and tachymeter scale
A symbol of an era
Interestingly, the reference 1463 has seen few soaring prices since the 1980s, growing undoubtedly, but still maintaining a fairly stable trend over the years.
The reason can be found in the fact that its size and the variety of dials, coupled with a discreet appearance and excellent practicality of usage, made it a widely appreciated (and priced) reference already forty years ago.
This is not, in fact, a watch that’s really rare numerically speaking. It is rather extremely important because it has somehow irreversibly marked the history of Patek Philippe.
The 1463 was the first waterproof chronograph produced by the maison, and the only one until the 1990s, which thanks to modern design and timeless charm immediately became popular among all sectors of enthusiasts and collectors. It will surely be a challenge for Patek Philippe to be able to create, over the years, another chronograph as iconic and timeless as the Tasti Tondi.