‘One of a Kind’ Watches from J.W. Packard Collection Highlights Timepieces Sale

The Art Nouveau styling of these timepieces is impressive, even down to the stylized James Ward Packard monograms stamped on the case backs.

Christie’s upcoming Sale of Important Watches, featuring exceedingly rare watches from the collection of automobile pioneer James Ward Packard—including two very fine and unusual watches, custom-designed by Packer himself and executed by the world’s foremost watch manufacturers, Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin.

The auction, slated for June 15 at Christie’s Rockefeller Plaza location, will include 416 lots of fine, unusual and intricate modern and antique wrist and pocket watches representing all of the finest and most well-known watch houses. It is clearly a sale not to be missed by any serious watch aficionado or investor.

Packard was an accomplished engineer, innovator and businessman who founded two very successful companies, the Packard Electric Co. and the Packard Motor Car Co., which produced the premier luxury car of the early 1900s. He was among the first watch collectors to design and work directly with Patek and VC. The automotive entrepreneur was directly involved in the design of the case and mechanical functions of these two very fine watches.

“In watch collecting circles, this is a true fairy tale collection. J.W. Packard is the original icon who inspired generations of collectors that followed him,” said Sam Hines, head of Christie’s watch department. “As a mechanical engineer by training, he had a deep knowledge and passion for the craft of watch making that made him uniquely qualified to work directly the best Swiss manufacturers and create completely unique, one-of-a-kind watches that do not exist anywhere else in the world.”

“Beyond this,” Hines added, Packard “had a refined sense of style that was heavily inspired by the design motifs of the day, and it is a true delight to see Packard’s personal taste reflected in the elegant Art Nouveau styling of these fine timepieces, even down to the stylized monograms configured on the case back covers. These re-discovered watches are most likely the last of an extensive collection of watches. They come directly from the estate of JWP’s descendants, and there will most certainly be extensive interest from collectors from around the world.”

The James Ward Packard Vacheron Constantin
Estimate: $250,000-$500,000


An exceptional, monumental and historically important Vacheron Constantin 20k-gold open-face, two-train trip 7 ½ minute repeating grande and petite sonnerie chronograph clockwatch, once belong to James Ward Packard.

This watch will include documented proof that J.W. Packard partnered with VC—the oldest watch manufacturer in Geneva—on the design. In 1918, the firm created this quite unique 20-karat-gold open-face chronograph clockwatch for Packard, according to his specific instructions, incorporating a customized combination of complications, including a trip minute repeating, petit and grand sonnerie, chronograph, and half-quarter repeating functions. High resolution repose-style floral designs decorate the case body in the Art Nouveau style, emblazoned with Packard’s monogram in blue enamel. This fine timepiece is in impeccable, nearly unused condition. The watch is accompanied with a detailed and neatly hand-drawn and labeled diagram, most likely in Packard’s own hand, detailing all the watches function settings.

This watch is most certainly the most significant VC to come to the marketplace in many years. Packard paid 3,320 Swiss francs for the watch in 1919, the year of delivery.

The James Ward Packard Patek Philippe
No. 174907
Estimate $200,000-$400,000

An extremely fine and unique Patek Philippe of 18k gold, open-face minute repeating keyless lever dress watch with up-and-down indicator, original box and certificate.

This second major discovery of the collection is a previously unrecorded and completely unique watch that Packard commissioned from Patek Philippe in 1919. Prior to this discovery, the records reflect the commissioning of 16 watches the firm produced specifically for Packard, each incorporating his own specifications. This is the only known minute-repeating watch by Patek Philippe to feature both power reserve and an unusual Murat-style case.

In nearly unused condition and still wrapped in its original wrapping paper the watch is stored in its original presentation box, with original certificate, spare crystal and mainsprings. Patek’s records indicate the watch was delivered on April 22nd of 1920. The majority of Packard’s watches were willed to the American Horological Institute upon his death in 1928, only two other Packard-owned Patek Philippe watches have ever appeared at auction. This is most certainly one of the most historically important Patek’s watches to come to market since the Antiquorum auction of Patek Philippe watches some years ago.

Other Packard Family Heirloom Watches

The first is a model ’59 Appleton, Tracy & Co. grade key wind key set an 18k gold hunter case that belonged to Packard’s father, Warren Packard. While not of the caliber of the P.P. or the V&C, it none the less a fine watch in its own right, and historically important.


An American Watch co. A silver and pink gold half hunter case keyless lever pocket watch, inscribed to Packard.

The last watch is a later 19th-century example, probably a gift to Warren Packard from James Packard and his brother William Doud Packard. The silver and pink gold half hunter, keyless lever pocket watch, with blue enameling, is estimated to bring $2,000-$3,000. Replete with a picture of a boy in a sailor suit, it is engraved with “Wm. Packard FROM THE BOYS – Mar. 1874.”

This author will travel to New York to preview these and all the other fine watches that Christie’s will be offering for sale to the highest bidder on June 15 and report in detail the results and prices realized at this historic sale. Stay tuned!

David Mycko is a WorthPoint Worthologist specializing in antique and vintage watches.


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