The Swiss company that became Patek Philippe was founded in 1839. One of the company’s two founding partners, Antoine Norbert de Patek, met French watch maker Adrien Philippe in 1844 during a presentation of Philippe’s pioneering stem-winding system. In 1845, Patek’s partner decided to strike out on his own and in 1851, Patek Philippe & Cie was born.
From the beginning, Patek Philippe made some of the most complicated — and beautiful — watches ever produced. Fastidious records have been kept on every watch the company has made, so that modern-day collectors can request the repair history of any antique or vintage Patek Philippe watch before making a purchase.
Significantly, the company’s first wristwatch was also Switzerland’s first wristwatch. It was made in 1868 and sold to the Countess Koscowicz of Hungary in 1876. Ornate and clunky by contemporary standards, it was wound with a key and resembled a triptych, with the watch framed by two diamond-and-gold encrusted panels on either side. Patek Philippe has been a luxury brand ever since.
By the end of the 19th century, the technical quality of Patek Philippe watches began to be codified. In 1886, the micromechanical engineering and hand finishing of the firm’s wristwatch movements were awarded the prestigious Geneva Seal. Numerous patents followed, including one for a "split-seconds chronograph" in 1902.
Patek Philippe’s first complicated ladies’ wristwatch appeared in 1916. It had a five-minute repeater. In 1922-23, Patek Philippe created the first split-seconds chronograph wristwatch and in 1925 it introduced its first wristwatch with a perpetual calendar.
The 1920s was a vibrant decade for Patek Philippe. Some of its most sought-after antique watches are from this period, including the Officer Gondolo wristwatch from 1920, a perpetual-calendar wristwatch with moon phases in 1925, a repeater in 1926, and a square version of the handsome Gondolo in 1928.
Despite the Great Depression and new owners in 1932, innovation continued through the 1930s. The rectangular Reverso, whose face could be reversed as its name suggests, was produced in 1932, but it took more than a decade for the curiosity to find a buyer. The extra-large, "Staybrite" steel Doctor’s wristwatch arrived in 1937. As for the Calatrava, which is today considered one of the company’s flagship lines, it began in 1932, with new Calatravas added throughout the decade...
In 1941, Patek Philippe began regular production of its perpetual-calendar wristwatches — today these vintage Patek Philippes are highly prized by collectors. By the middle of the decade, a wristwatch named for Duke Ellington appeared. Edward Kennedy Ellington himself purchased one in 1948, though why the legendary jazzman needed a water-resistant wristwatch with a split-second chronograph and a tachometer can only be imagined.
Patek Philippe filed numerous patents for self-winding mechanisms in the mid-1950s (a self-winder from 1955 with a black enamel dial and labeled "Ref. 2526" is especially handsome). Patents were also filed in 1959 and 1962 for time-zone watches. The end of the 1950s saw the introduction of a prototype for a digital wristwatch; the late 1960s heralded the launch of the first model in the popular Ellipse collection ("Ref. 3548").
Concurrently, from the late 1940s until about 1960, Patek Philippe produced a number of wristwatches with cloisonné dials to take advantage of the abundance of enamel painters who were working in Geneva at that time. Subjects included maps (Geneva and its lake, the world, the Americas, Eurasia), sports figures (a tennis player, a polo player), and odes to nature (a rain forest, palm trees).
Another popular Patek Philippe series are the vintage, asymmetrical wristwatches of the 1950s and 1960s. Designed by Gilbert Albert, these post-war timepieces are distinctly Swiss riffs on the Mid-century Modern aesthetic of the day.
Key terms for Antique and Vintage Patek Philippe Wristwatches:
Chronograph: A watch that also records time intervals, like a stopwatch.
Cloisonné: A technique in which filaments of metal (often gold or copper) are soldered to a surface to create compartments that are then filled with ground enamel, fired, and polished.
Complication: A complicated watch is one that displays more than just hours, minutes, and seconds. Complications include an annual calendar and time zones. So-called "grand" complications include watches with moon phases, chronographs and split-seconds chronographs, and sky charts.
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Recent News: Patek Philippe Watches
Source: Google News
A tiger-shaped brooch and bracelet made by Cartier and once owned...Mynextfone, September 15th
Geneva's November auction season will also feature a Patek Philippe pocket watch that holds the record for the most expensive timepiece sold at auction. Sotheby's, which is handling the sale, estimates the Henry Graves Supercomplication is worth more ...Read more
Building a watch portfolio: the four brands to invest inTelegraph.co.uk, September 15th
Patek Philippe watches. 14 Aug 2014. Patek Philippe's Calatrava is Mr Kivel's top watch, at $9,750 (£600). "This is the bond you hold forever and just see growth." This watch will bring in 40-50% growth, as Patek Philippe is seen as a stable company...Read more
Fashion world gawks at Apple Watch, but questions feminine appealCult of Mac, September 11th
But what do the Swiss watchmakers Jony Ive said were “fucked” think about the Apple Watch? The president of Patek Philippe told The Financial Times that, “It is not part of our world,” whatever that means. “Ultimately you are talking about a $349 watch...Read more
5 reasons Apple Watch won't scare Swiss watch industryUpstart, September 10th
The UpTake: The Apple Watch may be functionally superior to other watches when it comes to communications and fitness tracking. But if you think Swiss watch industry execs at Patek Philippe, Rolex or Omega are going to lose sleep over this gadget, then ...Read more
Patek Philippe: discreet luxury brand with cult followingFinancial Times, September 5th
Patek Philippe is a brand that comes “close to a religion” for watch collectors, according to John Reardon, co-chief executive of Christie's watch department. At auction, the brand's rarer pieces regularly break the $1m barrier. And although only a few...Read more
My Grail Watches: The Patek Philippe 1518 Steel and Rolex's Only Vintage ...Forbes, August 30th
“What is your grail watch?” This is a question I was recently posed. Despite spending the last several years in close proximity to fine watches, I could not cite one watch alone. Simply, there're just too many out there: Watches I've seen, watches I've...Read more
Patek Philippe Supercomplication Expected to Fetch $16.5 Million at Sotheby's ...Robb Report, August 29th
Perhaps the most significant timepiece ever created, the Henry Graves Supercomplication will cross the block on November 11 at Sotheby's Important Watches sale in Geneva. Conceived and built by Patek Philippe for the New York banker Henry Graves, the ...Read more
Rolex, Patek Philippe, Cartier & More – the History of WristwatchesPR.com (press release), August 28th
“A Wristwatch Timeline” showcases historically important watches from brands such as Rolex, Patek Philippe, Panerai, Seiko, Cartier and Jaeger-LeCoultre. Writer and WatchTime executive editor Norma Buchanan explores the history of the wristwatch from ...Read more