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 Dress Watch 5296r 18k Rose Gold Automatic Sector DialPatek Philippe Dial Men’s Wristwatch Longines Cal. 345 Movement Nos Steel Case Patek Philippe & Co Geneva Solid 14k Gold Chronometer - 1918Luxury Antique High Grade Patek Philippe & Co Geneva Men’s Watch Gold PlatedVintage Big-size Patek Philippe Chronograph Hinged Lugs 50mm Ss. Case WindupMen’s Patek Philippe 1907 Pocket Watch MovementLuxury Antique High Grade Patek Philippe & Co Geneva Men’s Watch Jewels Fianit Outrageous Ref 1491 Orig Dial Curly Lugs 18k Gold Art Deco Patek Philippe WatchRare Vintage Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref 2588 With Fancy Pearl Dial 1960'sLuxury Antique High Grade Patek Philippe & Co Geneva Men’s Watch Stainless SteelGenuine Solid 14k Gold Patek Philippe Ladies Hunter Pocket Watch C188818k Rose Patek Philippe Ref 5100 10 Day Factory Sealed No ReserveLadies .750 18ct Gold Patek Philippe Quartz Wrist Watch Tiffany & Co Not Working Patek Philippe & Co. Stainless Steel Tonneau Wristwatch. Patek Philippe 18k Gold Ladies Watch Full Gold 18k Band With Appraisal NoreservePatek Philippe & Co Geneva For Tiffany & Co Solid 18k Chronometer - 1899Patek Philippe Vintage Men's Wristwatch Dial And Movement (94369)High Grade Vacheron Constantin Pocket Watch Movement Patek Philippe Quality1950s Patek Philippe Gold WristwatchPatek Philippe Sculpture Watch Ref 5091 Steel 38 Mm Automatic White Rare W/ BoxSolid 18k Gold Patek Philippe & O Geneve Enamel Engraved Pocket Watch EnameledStunning Art Deco Mens 1940s 18k Gold Patek Philippe Wrist Watch Patek Philippe & Co-tiffany & Co Luxyry Antique High Grade Men’s WatchPatek Philippe Watch & Logo Cufflinks Pink Gold FilledMen’s Patek-philippe Ellipse Ref.3978 Full Solid Gold 18k Manual-winding MovemenMen Vintage Patek Philippe Pocket Watch 18k Yellow Gold $20 1904 Coin Flip OpenPatek Philippe Julius C Walk & Son Pocket Watch 18k Very Nice..Patek Philippe Ballpoint Pen - Madison Special Edition By Caran D’ache - Rare Patek Philippe Rare Mens Wrist WatchEd.koehn /patek Philippe :for Tiffany Wristwatch!Patek Philippe 18k Gold Hunter Pocket Watch #42756Antique Patek Philippe Pocket Watch Movement No 139689 41mmHigh Grade Vacheron Constantin Pocket Watch Movement Patek Philippe QualityPatek Philippe Geneve Wooden Watch Box With Outer PackagingPatek Philippe Geneve Watch Storage Box Presentation Case Internal Watch CushionPatek Philippe Watch BoxPatek Philippe Calatrava Pen By "graf Von Faber Castell"Patek Philippe 18k Gold Ellipse Date Quartz Strap Watch 3788 Inner/outer BoxesAntique 18k Solid Gold Patek Philippe & Cie Hunt Case Kw Pocket Watch Ticks!Longines Platinum Ladies Wristwatch Manual Longines Movement Patek Quality Vintage Patek Philippe Box Patek Philippe Strap /band For A Watch, Unworn, 20 X 16, Dark BrownVintage Movement Patek Philippe Antique Vintage Patek Philippe Ladies Watch, 18k White Gold, No Reserve100% Genuine Patek Philippe Leather Belt W/calatrava BucklePatek Philippe 1920-1965 Watch Material Catalog Book Movement Parts InstructionsCh. Patek & Co. Geneva Pocket Watch MovementPatek Philllipe Shiny Black Crocodile Used Watch Band.Patek Philippe Strap /band For A Watch, Unworn, 21 X 16, Dark BrownLot Of 3 Patek Philippe International MagazinesVintage Patek Philippe Geneve Watch Display Stands 45 Mm X 45 Mm Patek Philippe Baselworld 2014 175th Anniversary Press Pack

Recent News: Patek Philippe Watches

Source: Google News

Patek Philippe and Me
International New York Times, November 26th

Patek Philippe, the legendary Swiss watchmaker founded in 1839, boasts that it can repair any of its watches — no matter how old, no matter how rare. The company keeps an extensive archive of parts, old and new, and if it does not have parts in stock...Read more

“They wouldn't even know what they've got, I'd think,” he said.
Herald Sun, November 24th

$160,000 Patek Philippe watch stolen in Keysborough burglary. November 24, 2015 4:06pm. Greater Dandenong Leader. The distinctive Patek Phillippe $160,000 watch stolen from a Keysborough house on October 31. A WATCH worth $160,000 was stolen ...Read more

7 Most Expensive Patek Philippe Watches
Insider Monkey (blog), November 16th

If you're up to adorning your wrist with some true luxury, the list of 7 most expensive Patek Philippe watches should be right up your alley. Being trendy and classy often go hand-in-hand, but they don't necessarily have to. You won't stumble upon the...Read more

Ethiopian Emperor's Patek Philippe Pulled From Christie's Sale
Bloomberg, November 10th

Christie's halted the sale of a Patek Philippe watch formerly owned by the last emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, in a dispute over ownership of a timepiece that could be worth as much as $1 million. The 18-karat gold wristwatch, with a rare black...Read more

Most expensive watch ever auctioned goes for $7.3M
CNBC, November 9th

A Patek Philippe timepiece became the most expensive wristwatch ever sold at auction over the weekend, when it was purchased for $7.3 million. The watch, called the 5016A, sold at Phillips auction in Geneva for more than 10 times its low estimate of ...Read more

Patek Philippe watch sells in local Windsor Jewelers store for $613000
Charlotte Business Journal, November 3rd

Windsor Jewelers in SouthPark recently sold a watch on nearly every timepiece collector's wish list — and it cost $613,000. The Patek Philippe Ref. 5304R Minute Repeater Perpetual Calendar was bought by a New York business owner who travels to ...Read more

Made for an Emperor — A one of a kind Patek Philippe
Christie's, November 2nd

For collectors and scholars of vintage timepieces, nothing is more exciting than when a watch with traits previously unseen comes to light. When the watch is a reference already regarded as one of the most sought-after wristwatch models ever made by...Read more

Travel gear: Wi-Fi USB Adapter and a Patek Philippe watch
Irish Times, October 30th

Patek Philippe World Time Moon Watch Master watchmakers Patek Philippe take style to new level with the World Time Moon Watch. Designed to mark its 175th anniversary, it pairs a mechanism that was first used in the 1930s with a gorgeous moon-phase ...Read more