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
Thieves steal platinum Pateks worth £90000WatchPro.com, March 6th
Two platinum Patek Philippe watches worth £45,000 each were among the haul of watches taken in a house burglary in Guildford last week. Surrey Police is appealing for witnesses after the watches were taken, still inside a safe, between 7pm on Thursday ...Read more
Rolex vs. Patek Philippe | CNN Money Compares Two Iconic Brands | VideostupidDOPE.com, March 4th
Despite the fact that we are in a digital age, people are still into iconic timepieces. With all of the technology and smartphones that can tell folks what time it is, the watch is still a very popular accessory and time telling tool. Watch enthusiasts...Read more
Formal office attire is a must at this law firm; name partner says younger ...ABA Journal, March 4th
Gross favors three-piece suits, reading glasses by Tumi, seven-fold ties, and a Patek Philippe Calatrava watch. Gross doesn't think smartphones should be used as watches and doesn't think the devices should be pulled out in the middle of a discussion...Read more
Standing the test of timeWA today, March 2nd
While he sells vintage watches starting at a few hundred dollars, many price tags are in the thousands of dollars. He well recalls selling a Patek Philippe Minute Repeater for $250,000 to a collector. Other watches have been sold for greater amounts...Read more
Hodinkee's Watch Report: Perpetual Calendar Chronographs From Patek PhilippeGQ Magazine (blog), February 25th
And it's not somewhere in the realm of Paul Newman Daytonas, or badass military watches. Nay, the watches that I tend to believe are the "end game" so to speak, come from Patek Philippe, and they really don't look like much. I'm talking about a...Read more
Powdered milk… and a Patek Phillipe watch stolen in raid on industrial estateEvening Standard, February 24th
One worker, a 32-year-old man, was hit over the head with a crowbar during the 11am raid. They also snatched a large quantity of cash, mobile phones and a gold Patek Phillipe watch from the building. Related stories. Police appeal for witnesses as men...Read more
Iconic Names for Iconic WatchesNew York Times, February 24th
At Patek Philippe, widely considered the world's most sought after watch brand, it took until the late 1980s for the company to codify its timepieces into formal collections. The round watches were labeled Calatravas, after the company's symbol, the...Read more
Patek Philippe watch gets smuggler slappedRichmond Review, February 18th
A man who failed to declare his new 18 karat rose gold Patek Philippe watch in his jacket pocket, was fined more than $10,000 in Richmond provincial court last week. Wei Zhao pled guilty Feb. 11 to evading duties on imported goods, and was fined ...Read more