Fotini Charalampopoulou

The Patek Philippe Chronograph, which was included in Sotheby’s “Fine Watches” sale in February 2023, is not just a masterpiece of engineering and design but also has a rich history. This exceptional watch was once worn by Major General Thomas North, who was an American military legend, during his service in the Second World War and in the highest circles of post-war international diplomacy.

When photos of this rare Patek Philippe were received by Tom Heap, a watch specialist at Sotheby’s, he immediately recognized the significance of the piece. Heap identified it as a Reference 533, made between 1937 and 1957, and one of only around 125 in yellow gold. Of these, only 44 are known to exist on the market and only 10 feature a blue enamel sector dial, making this particular piece the 11th of its kind.

Patek Philippe reference 533, ‘The general’ a yellow gold chronograph wristwatch (circa 1937) estimate 30,000 – 50,000gbp

Major General North had an illustrious military career, having been born in London in 1893 and serving as a senior American military figure. He earned the Purple Heart and a Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and had a long and distinguished service record. North arrived in America in 1911 and enlisted in the 11th Engineers (Railway) in New York in 1917. He saw action at the Battle of the Somme in France before transferring to the map section of the American Expeditionary Forces’ GHQ at Chaumont, where he worked closely with Major Eisenhower and General Pershing.

After returning to Washington in 1918 as a first lieutenant, North worked on field artillery fire-control methods and eventually opened the Paris office of the American Battle Monuments Commission in 1924, where he worked with Major Eisenhower and General Pershing. He had a number of postings before accompanying General Marshall on a tour of Brazil in 1939. It was during this tour that Captain North was presented with the Patek Philippe Reference 533 by the Brazilian Chief of Staff, General Pedro Aurelio de Góes Monteiro.

[caption id="attachment_97579" align="alignnone" width="1358"] JOHN F KENNEDY SIGNED PHOTOGRAPH, INCLUDED AS PART OF THE LOT.

Major General North wore and cherished the watch throughout his life, including his role as Secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission and his retired duties as Major General. The watch is well-traveled, bearing marks from its travels around the world and has a Swiss gold mark, a French gold mark, and possibly a Brazilian import mark or a retailer stamp on the inside of the case back.

This Patek Philippe Chronograph is not only a stunning piece of engineering and design but is also a piece of history and a reminder of Major General North’s significant contributions to the military and international diplomacy.