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.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
Patek Phillipe Museum
National Watch and Clock Museum
Clubs & Associations
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Patek Philippe Watches
Source: Google News
Five Reasons Patek Phlippe Collectors Love PatekChristie'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
This new pilot's watch from Patek Philippe isn't for puristsBusiness 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
The Agony and Ecstasy of Patek Philippe's Strange Pilot's WatchBloomberg, 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 WatchClapway, 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
Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time Is 2015's Ultimate Stealth Wealth ...Forbes, March 27th
How do collectors feel about what is arguably the world's most conservative watch brand releasing a new 42mm-wide sport watch out of seemingly nowhere that costs almost $50,000? For 2015, Swiss Patek Philippe released the new reference 5524 (5524G ...Read more
Time is money: €349000 watch sells at Cork JewellerIrish Examiner, March 25th
“Patek Philippe is one of the world's most exclusive watch brands. The Swiss company boasts a long tradition of producing the finest timepieces and this is no exception. It is truly a beautiful piece of engineering, combining the beauty of diamonds...Read more
Introducing the Patek Philippe Ref. 5370 Split-Seconds Chronograph at ...Forbes, March 25th
Naturally, in true Patek Philippe style, all components are meticulously finished to the finest detail and can be viewed via a sapphire caseback. You can read about other Patek Philippe watch unveilings from BaselWorld 2015 on ATimelyPerspective this week...Read more
Patek Philippe Shocks BaselBarron's (blog), March 24th
It's that time of year again, when over 1,500 watch and jewelry brands showcase their latest creations in Basel, Switzerland, reviewed by over 4,000 journalists and some 150,000 industry professionals. From the outset, thanks to the Apple Watch...Read more