August 16, 20237 min Read

The Watch Deal That Went Down Like a Bomb

By Niclas Berglund

Stockholm, March 19th, 2023.

I check my watch and calculate the time difference for the third time, trying to figure out the current time in Miami. The six-hour difference means it’s still too early to call Tony Kavak, the founder of Luxury Watches Stockholm.

Tony Kavak has had a hectic schedule in the U.S., with multiple significant interviews, including one with the renowned watch website, Hodinkee.

It all started with Tony Kavak’s Instagram post (@only_therarest) captioned “Game Over,” which sent a buzz through the watch community. The post made a massive impact. In it, the Swedish watch collector announced that he had sold an incredibly rare timepiece. One of the crown jewels from his extensive collection was now in the hands of none other than the producer and artist, Shawn Corey Carter, better known as Jay-Z.

When I eventually connect with Tony Kavak across the Atlantic, it’s afternoon in Stockholm and early morning in Miami. He sounds a bit groggy.

– I’ve just woken up, but it’s good to hear from you. Ever since the news about the watch deal broke, my phone hasn’t stopped ringing, says Tony Kavak.

He continues:

– Jay-Z approached me wanting something “exceptional” for this year’s Oscars. Initially, he inquired about the Patek Philippe’s reference 5004 split seconds.

But soon the conversation with the artist and music producer took an unexpected turn.

Tony Kavak outside his store on Grev Turegatan in Stockholm.

Tony Kavak’s 2499 from 1985 with a leather strap. The piece he sold to Jay-Z is from 1980 and features an integrated 18k yellow gold bracelet.

Jay-Z with his unique Patek Philippe 2499 ready for the Oscars. Photo: Mason Poole

"He Embodied The Essence Of Watch Collecting"

– When I casually mentioned my 2499/101-J with its integrated yellow gold bracelet, Jay-Z instantly expressed interest in purchasing it. I was taken aback and told him it wasn’t for sale, says Tony Kavak.

The artist, who is known for having a penchant for vintage watches, did not give up on Tony Kavak that easily. A friendly but intense persuasion campaign was launched against him. Tony Kavak felt flattered by the interest in his unique watch, but at first he had no plans to meet the artist in a deal about that particular watch.

– When I presented the watch to Jay-Z, he couldn’t sit still, he stood up full of enthusiasm. He embodied the essence of watch collecting – passion, love and appreciation for the craftsmanship behind these historical timepieces, says Tony Kavak.

A Piece Unmatched In Its Rarity

The watch at the center of this story is the Patek Philippe reference 2499/101-J. Yet, this isn’t just any 2499. This specific piece boasts an 18k yellow gold bracelet seamlessly integrated with its case, also made from the same precious metal. It’s the sole known piece of its kind.

After lengthy discussions with Patek Philippe, Tony Kavak entrusted them with the watch, which then had a leather strap fitted to it, in 2016. Two years later it was returned to him, in a new design, now boasting an integrated bracelet of 18k yellow gold – a piece unmatched in its rarity.

Tony Kavak showcasing his Patek Philippe 2499 from the fourth series.

– I was overwhelmed when Patek Philippe returned the watch to me. I instantly knew I had something exceptional in my collection. To me, the 2499 represents the pinnacle of Patek Philippe’s creations. No other perpetual calendar can rival this masterpiece. Holding it with its new integrated bracelet, I thought to myself, ‘Tony, this is it – Game Over’.
Just as Tony was delving deeper into the story, we lost the connection.

Dominating For An Impressive 35 Years

Introduced in 1950, the Patek Philippe 2499 is a Grand Complication Perpetual Calendar. It didn’t immediately succeed its predecessor, the reference 1518. Instead, both models were produced simultaneously until 1953. Following that, the 2499 reigned supreme for an impressive 35 years. Between 1950 and 1985, only 349 units of this model were crafted. Its successor, the reference 3970, was launched in 1986.

The 2499 saw four distinct design iterations throughout its production, known as four series. The second series is particularly coveted by collectors globally. The piece Tony Kavak sold to Jay-Z belongs to the fourth series, crafted in 1980. Watches from the fourth series have a more minimalistic dial. The tachymeter scale is now gone and the date wheel at number 6 is enlarged. The 30-minute indicator is gone to make room for the now enlarged date wheel. The glass is now sapphire instead of the previous acrylic.

Jay-Z with his Patek Philippe 2499 from the fourth series. The watch wears an integrated bracelet in 18k gold. Photo: Mason Poole

Jay-Z visits Luxury Watches in Stockholm. Here the artist is seen together with Tony Kavak and George Kavak in the store on Grev Turegatan. Photo: Luxury Watches.

Tony Kavak: Trusted By Jay-Z

Tony Kavak is a titan in the world of watch collecting, with a particular fondness for Patek Philippe. He holds one of the world’s most remarkable Patek Philippe collections, primarily from their Grand Complication line.

Years ago, Tony handed over the reins of the family business, Luxury Watches Stockholm, to his son George Kavak. While he may have retired from active dealing, his passion for collecting and guiding other enthusiasts hasn’t waned. He constantly travels, meeting fellow collectors, and seeking rare vintage pieces. As any collector would know, the quest for watches is an endless journey.

Back on the line, Tony delves into his decision to part with the watch and the rationale behind the sale.

– I have several important references in my collection and the 2499 is a fantastic watch and something very special. When I got the chance to reevaluate the offer from Jay-Z, I started putting other things into the equation. The watch is so exclusive that I often chose not to wear it in public, and I always wear my watches, that’s my philosophy. Also, I have another 2499 in my collection, but that one is fitted on a leather strap.

Tony Kavak could see how his 2499 with integrated bracelet mostly sat in his safe over the years, making it a “Safe Queen”. It didn’t seem right for the watch collector from Sweden.

– It’s like when you buy a shirt that you love, but you keep bringing other shirts out for the day. The new shirt ends up sitting there in your closet and after several years with the price tag still attached to it, then you start to rethink and revaluate. I therefore felt that this might be a good time to give a new owner the opportunity to enjoy this beauty, says Tony Kavak.

Tony Kavak with one of his top watches – Patek Philippe 2499.

The sale took place and apart from the watch discussed, the deal with Jay-Z also included other prized timepieces such as a Patek Philippe reference 5004 split second with red ruby hour markers, a platinum 5004, and an off-catalog Patek Philippe 5071 lavishly encrusted with diamonds.

Tony Kavak stays in close contact with Jay-Z, who has done several deals with the watch dealer from Stockholm. Jay-Z’s manager once said in an interview that Tony Kavak is one of few that Jay-Z trusts when it comes to vintage watches.

A Perfect Fit

The final touch was adjusting the as-yet-untouched bracelet. Tony Kavak had never adjusted it before – and ladies and gentlemen this is not a Rolex where you swing by your local AD and ask them to remove or add an extra link. No, this is watchmaking at its finest. This demanded unparalleled expertise. Master craftsmen meticulously hand-cut the links to ensure a perfect fit for Jay-Z.

The bracelet is hand cut to fit Jay-Z’s wrist. Photo: Mason Poole

Reflecting On The Entire Experience

– Now that some time has passed since the sale, I’m pleased that such an esteemed collector as Jay-Z owns the watch. It’s beneficial for the watch community, as this will undoubtedly spotlight the 2499 and underline its historical significance, says Tony Kavak.

He continues:

– I am also very happy for all the attention we have received from this deal. It shows that we are serious watch enthusiasts. Today we have customers from all over the world seeking our advice and services and that makes me proud, says the founder of Luxury Watches Stockholm 

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The 2499 is often hailed as the quintessential Patek Philippe.