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.
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Patek Philippe and MeInternational 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
You Are There: Attending The Only Watch Auction 2015 With Patek PhilippeQuill & Pad, November 10th
Only Watch, the biennial charity auction on behalf of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy research, has firmly established itself as a landmark event on the watch scene. With this year's sixth renewal of the event serving as the kickoff for the autumn Geneva...Read more
Ethiopian Emperor's Patek Philippe Pulled From Christie's SaleBloomberg, 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 $7.3MCNBC, 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 $613000Charlotte 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 PhilippeChristie'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 watchIrish 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