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.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Patek Phillipe Museum

Patek Phillipe Museum

This website, from the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva, gives visitors a satisfying glimpse into the world of watch… [read review or visit site]

National Watch and Clock Museum

National Watch and Clock Museum

This virtual museum, created by the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, lets you stroll through tim… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Patek Philippe Calatrava 5196 18k Gold Watch Complete With Box & Papers Unworn Fine & Rare Vintage Patek Philippe 18k Rose Gold Mens Patek Philippe Geneve Watch Original Antique Swiss High Quality 18 Jewels MRare Vintage Patek Philippe & Co Good Condition Men Watch(pocket Watch Marriage Patek Philippe Vintage Ladies 18k Solid Gold Diamonds 18 Jewel Manual Wind WatchSigned Lecoultre Repeater/repetition Hunter Pocket Watch Movement Patek QualityPatek Philippe & Co Geneva 21 Jewels Gold Special Chronometer - 1884Patek Philippe & Cie 14k Gold Case Swiss Men's Engraving Pocket Watch Movement18k Yellow Gold Patek Philippe Watch Ref 1289Patek Phillppe 5711/1a Nautilus Complete Box/papers.Minute Repeater/repetition Chronograph Lephare Type Hunter Movement Patek Qual.Vintage Ulysse Nardin Chronometer Co. 14k Gold Patek Style Calatrava Men's WatchVintage Movement Patek Philippe Solid 18k Gold Patek Philippe & Co For Tiffany Pocket Watch C1918Amazing Vintage Mens 18kt Gold Patek Philippe Wristwatch Circa 1967 Must See!18k Rose Patek Philippe Ref 5100 10 Day Best Price In World Very Rare No ReservePatek Philippe Aquanaut Wrist Watch - MidsizePatek Philippe 5070gPatek Philippe 18k White Gold Annual Calendar Automatic Mens Watch & Box 5146Men's Casual 46mm Steel Mechanical Patek Philippe Pre 1895 Pocket Watch Mvt Patek Philippe & Co Geneva Solid 14k Gold Chronometer - 1886Patek Philippe 3937j Wristwatch MovementExtremely Rare Patek Philippe Porcelain Limoges Dish 1999Super Rare Patek Philippe Stainless Steel Wristwatch Buckle.Old Authentic Mechanism Patek Philippe In Wristwatch Luxury Style Image. Rare Patek Philippe Porcelain Limoges Dish 2003 Top Patek PhilippeAuthentic Patek Philippe Key RingPatek Philippe 14k Gold Custom Jumbo With Enamel Dial !!Rare Patek Philippe Porcelain Limoges Dish 2009Authentic Patek Philippe By Caran Dache Ca1980Agassiz Pocket Watch, 18kt Gold Case, 8 Adjustments, 21 Jewels, Tiffany,patek,Vintage Patek Philippe Chronometro Gondolo Solid Gold 18k CasePatek Philippe Geneve St Steel Back 92328Patek Philippe 18k Gold 85g. Cal. 177 Hand Wind Mechanical Wristwatch Rare Early Civil War Era Patek Philippe 18k Gold Hunter Ladies Pocket WatchPatek Philippe Calatrava 18k Yellow Gold, 5196 Manual Wind, Box, Great ConditionOld Authentic Mechanism Patek Philippe In Wristwatch 1/4 RepeaterStunning Patek Philippe 2000s Ref.5296 Automatic Calendar Mens Wristwatch DialAuthentic Patek Philippe Leather Portfolio In Original Box With Calatrava PinPatek Philippe Solid 18ct White Gold Deployment Buckle/clasp 16mmLeys (butte Montana) Watch Movement, Possibly A Patek Philippe ProductOriginal Patek Philippe Watch Pouches X 6Patek Philippe Pin Stylus 18k Wg Pusher For Complication Very Rare Unsused Patek Philippe Box And Bronze Medallion Latest Product!!!Patek Philippe 2000s Ref.5396 Triple Calendar Moonphase Mens Wristwatch DialHigh Grade Skeleton Patek Philippe ?for Tiffany Pocket Watch Movement!!Authentic Vintage Patek Philippe Leather Watch Strap 20 Mm / 14 MmAuthentic Patek Philippe Ladies Pink Leather Watch StrapVintage Patek Phillipe Ladies 14k White Gold Diamond WatchPatek Philippe Vintage 2436 2436j 18k Yellow Gold Patek Archive No Reserve!!Patek Philippe 4958 4958/1 Annual Calendar Instruction Manual Book CompletePatek Philippe Geneve Travel Case / Wallet/ Pouch Patek Philippe 2000s Ref.5396 Triple Calendar Moonphase Mens Wristwatch DialPatek Philippe 2010-2011 Collection BookAuthentic Patek Philippe Ladies Leather Watch Strap 15mm / 12mmPatek Philippe 18k White Gold Annual Calendar Automatic Mens Watch & Box 5146Stunning 5059 Retrograde Perpetual Tribute Wristwatch Calendar Flyback Patek2 Patek Philippe Genuine 100% Factory Link For Nautilus @ No Reserve!!!Authentic Patek Philippe Pink Ladies Alligator 12mm Watch Strap

Recent News: Patek Philippe Watches

Source: Google News

Waiting for the Apple Watch: A less than luxury experience
CNET, April 24th

At high-end jeweler Tiffany, located just up the street, I'm invited to try on a $190,000 diamond-encrusted Patek Philippe watch, no wait, no hassle. I opt instead to put on one that costs closer to $50,000. At Apple, I waited. At Burberry and Tiffany...Read more

Chronographe à rattrapante référence 5370
World Tempus (press release), April 12th

For decades, split-seconds chronographs that allow lap times to be measured without interrupting an ongoing event time measurement have ranked among the most coveted Patek Philippe specialties. That was already the case in the 1920s, when the ...Read more

Five Reasons Patek Phlippe Collectors Love Patek
Christie's, April 10th

That's fewer than some very high-end Swiss manufacturers make in a year. Patek production is so detailed it takes nine months to make the most basic Patek Philippe watches in production and over two years to make some of the more complicated ones...Read more

Fratello Friday: Reviewing the New Gold Patek Philippe Nautilus (blog), April 10th

Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5711 - Gold Some of you may know that I have a weak spot for watches designed by Gérald Genta in the 1970s, a list that includes the Royal Oak by Audemars Piguet and the Ingenieur by IWC (it is a common misconception by ...Read more

This new pilot's watch from Patek Philippe isn't for purists
Business Insider, April 6th

Last year, Patek Philippe released the hyper-cool stainless steel Nautilus 5990 Travel Time, and this year, they've continued the travel theme with a new pilot's watch. In a surprising move, Patek has played to the trends and reached into their history...Read more

10 Things to Know About the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime, April 3rd

Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime Last year marked Patek Philippe's 175th anniversary. What better way to celebrate than with a series of limited-edition timepieces? Why not include the most complicated wristwatch Patek Philippe has ever created?...Read more

The Agony and Ecstasy of Patek Philippe's Strange Pilot's Watch
Bloomberg, March 31st

Patek Philippe is known as one of the world's greatest watch brands for a number of reasons. Making pilot's watches isn't one of them. One of the big surprises to come out of this year's Baselworld watch show was the reference 5524G, also called the ...Read more

Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time Watch
Clapway, March 28th

When it comes to the best fashion accessories that are both classic and modern, the Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time Watch is a timeless piece to take advantage of this spring. It is one of the best sports watches available as it is both...Read more