The Patek Philippe of the Dalai Lama

7 December 2020

The story behind this patek philippe pocket watch is so bizarre that it almost sounds unbelievable. This pocket watch was given to the Dalai Lama when he was 7 years old, which is noteworthy in itself. Moreover, the watch was donated by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the middle of the Second World War. The watch was not brought by Roosevelt himself, but by the grandson of Leo Tolstoy, an exceptionally famous historical writer/philosopher, to the Dalai Lama.

Roosevelt was not only generous when he gave the Dalai Lama this watch, the representatives sent by Roosevelt to bring the watch were also there to investigate the possibility of building a road from India to China that would pass through Tibet, so that the United States could better support Asia in its war against Japan.

-The watch of the Dalai Lama

This is the Patek Philippe reference 658, an extremely rare pocket watch. The watch has a perpetual calendar with a moonphase complication, a minute repeater and a split-seconds chronograph. These are all extremely high-end complications produced only by the best watchmakers in their most high-end pieces. It is estimated that only 15 pieces of the reference 658 were produced, which is even more remarkable considering that the reference was in production for about 20 years.

The Dalai Lama, decades later, still owns the watch. The Dalai Lama has written in a memoir that when he was young he sometimes tried to repair watches, sometimes it didn’t go well and he seems to have wrecked some of them. These watches then had to be repaired elsewhere. The Dalai Lama was given this Patek Philippe when he was 6 or 7 years old, so there is a chance that he tried to repair the watch himself, possibly this is one of the watches that he also had to take to another watchmaker in worse condition.

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