King Farouk, Kingof Egypt and the Sudan, succeeded his father, Fouad I, in 1936 at the tender age of 16. To say that King Farouk was rich would be a grave understatement. He prized the glamorous royal lifestyle and often travelled to Europe on royal shopping sprees. He was an avid collector of EVERYTHING; coins, ties… you name it! And of course, watches.
Farouk I inherited the love of Horology from his father, from whom he also inherited several historically important watches. King Farouk was an informed collector, a true connoisseur. A story on the Vacheron Constantin website says that once, on a visit to Geneva, he insisted on visiting the Vacheron Constantin factory and was shown around by Charles Constantin who was astounded by the – then – prince’s horological knowledge. To that the young prince retorted, “But Monsieur Constantin, I dismantled so many watches when I was a child… unfortunately for them.”
After scouring the internet and going through museum archives and auction booklets, here is King Farouk’s watch collection. A watch collection that was truly fit for a king.
1. Patek Philippe Ref. 1518
The Ref. 1518 is the FIRST serially produced perpetual calendar with chronograph. For those who aren’t into watches, this is HUGE. This is the watch that started it. How this watch fell in Christie’s – the famed auction house – hands and sold in Patek Philippe’s 175 Anniversary Sale in Geneva remains a mystery. All we know is that in was kept safely in a private collection until mid-2014, when Christie’s held their famed auction. The watch realized a price of 438,871 USD including buyer’s premium.
2. Universal Geneve Ref. 112167 with Enamel Dial Featuring the Arms of King Farouk
This rare pink gold wristwatch with enamel dial was made for King Farouk in 1951, a year before the quote revolution unquote. The enamel dial was beautifully decorated with the Arms of King Farouk. This watch was sold in auction in 2014 by Sotheby’s for 28,125 USD.
3. Patek Philippe Ref. 1593 with Cloisonné Enamel Dial
This beautiful Patek Philippe Ref. 1593 featured a cloisonné enamel dial of the map of Egypt and the Sudan with two diamonds to mark the two capitals, Cairo and Khartoum and was most definitely made under a special order from King Farouk. The distance between the two diamonds fixed to the dial of this watch is geographically accurate and reflects the actual distance between Cairo and Khartoum! It is believed that this watch was made in two examples; one is permanently housed in the Patek Philippe museum and the other is held by a private collector.
4. Breguet “King Farouk” No. 1880/24071
This beautiful Breguet pocket watch was made especially for King Farouk and presented to him c. 1935. It was sold by Antiquorom in 2006 with the original box with the crown applied on it to signify its royalty.
5. The King Farouk I
And the most important one of them all: the King Farouk I Vacheron Constantin. This watch was presented to King Farouk as a gift from Swiss Authorities in 1935 (he was 15 at the time). The watched housed 15 complication including a carillon minute repeater, grande et petite sonnerie (three gongs), split-seconds chronograph, perpetual calendar with moon phase, alarm, two power reserve indications, and was until 2005 the most complicated watch made by Vacheron Constantin.
The watch remained in King Farouk’s collection until his ousting and was left behind in the aftermath. It was seized by the Egyptian government and sold in the infamous Cairo sale of the Palace Collections in 1954. It was last seen in 1994 when it was sold by Antiquorom to a private collector for close to 1.5 Million USD!
How King Farouk’s collection came to be sold in auctions all over the world remains a mystery to this day. However, it is believed that these items might have been sold in the infamous auction of 1954, when the Egyptian government hired Sotheby’s to auction off King Farouk’s collection. The auction was called “Palace Collections of Egypt”. In the spirit of investigative journalism, I intend to purchase the auction catalogue for the 1954 auction and to expand on this piece with a future one on how exactly these items left Egypt.