Reunited: Giulio Papi And The G.N. Papi Number 1 Pocket Watch
Previously, I had the wonderful opportunity to report on an important and previously unknown watch: the “G.N. Papi 1” pocket watch made by Giulio Papi and now owned by a good friend of mine (for the full story see Exclusive: The Giulio Papi No. 1 Pocket Watch).
At the time, I promised to follow up should more information come to light on the watch. At SIHH 2016, our group of collectors received an update from none other than Giulio Papi himself.
As part of our whirlwind schedule of visits with major brands and independents at the show, we met with Audemars Piguet historian Michael Friedman, who introduced us to some of the new offerings from Audemars Piguet and also showed us some beautiful vintage pieces from the company’s collection.
The watches on the “vintage tray” included some classic men’s watches as well as the jeweled Oscar Heyman watch with Audemars Piguet movement shown below and a skeletonized pocket watch with floral engraving.
As we discussed the watches, my pal quietly took a small pouch from his pocket, produced the G.N. Papi 1 pocket watch, and handed it to Friedman. A few moments later, the brand historian was on his way to find Giulio Papi in the depths of the booth, and the Papi 1 was placed on the table amidst the other vintage pieces.
After Papi entered the room and greeted our group, the following photo opportunity occurred.
As you can probably imagine, Papi spent some time re-acquainting himself with his creation. His facial expression alternated between amazement and joy.
After a little while, we began to talk about the watch and its origins. While all of the published biographies of Papi that I have found suggest that he went directly to work for Audemars Piguet after graduation from watchmaking school, there was apparently an intervening period in August of 1984 during which he created his one and only “independent” watch.
Over a period of 25 days at the tender age of 19, Papi completed the skeletonization of the Unitas 6497 movement and drew on other local resources in his hometown of La Chaux-de-Fonds, including case maker Monnier and engraver P.A. Walter, to complete the watch.
Perhaps not too surprisingly – now, at any rate – Papi’s first role when he joined Audemars Piguet was to work in the skeletonization department; the G.N. Papi 1 is tangible evidence of his early passion for skeleton work, which, of course, features prominently in many of the modern watches of APRP (Audemars Piguet Renaud & Papi).
Papi confirmed for us that this is the only watch made that bears his name. He also clarified that it was not his student watch, but a commercial piece made for sale.
He seemed quite pleased to see some of the photos of his watch that we published here on Quill & Pad last year and asked me to send some of them along to him.
It’s not clear what route the watch took from the day it was first sold until last year when my friend found it at a well-known vintage timepiece shop in La Chaux-de-Fonds, but it seems entirely possible that it may never have departed the city of its origin.
At SIHH, it was great to see the G.N. Papi 1 “come home” in an entirely different way. When we saw Papi again later in the week, he told us that it had been a very emotional experience for him; for our small group of enthusiast collectors who had the opportunity to witness it, the moment was pure magic.
If you missed it, please check out my first article on this timepiece: Exclusive: The Giulio Papi No. 1 Pocket Watch.
Also published on Medium.