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 Quietly Runs an Elite Watchmaking School in New York—and It's FreeBloomberg, October 6th
If you've been thinking about become a watchmaker, now might be your chance: Patek Philippe is opening the Patek Philippe Horology Programme New York, a free, two-year watchmaking course to train the next generation of specialized watchmakers...Read more
Patek PhilippeWorld Tempus, October 5th
Patek Philippe only produces an average of 12 dome table clocks a year, highlights John Reardon, Senior Vice President, International Head of Watches at Christie's. This means this small nation received 25% of the brand's worldwide allocation of dome ...Read more
Sotheby's to auction retro Swatch watchesAOL Money UK, October 5th
Nick Hayek, CEO, told Switzerland's Tages-Anzeiger newspaper that the smartwatch would be called Touch Zero One. Speaking of its main rival which is currently dominating the market, he said: "The Apple Watch is an interesting toy, but not a revolution."...Read more
How Emory Porsche Customizes Incredible Vintage Porsche 356sBloomberg, October 5th
building the transmission, and plating the hardware specifically to the demands of the client. (They use both deadstock parts and, on the same '60s-era tools Emory's father used, make new-car parts for the cars.) It's like putting together a...Read more
Reading Roundup: The Best Fall BooksWWD, October 5th
Although a wide variety of automatic watches have been launched since the end of the Second World War, the highest-quality mechanical watches have only increased in value in that time. This tome features an introduction about the history of the...Read more
Shreve & Co. And Patek Philippe Reveal SF Boutique Plans At Haute DinnerHaute Living, October 1st
Lane Schiffman, co-owner of Shreve & Co., and Larry Pettinelli, President of Patek Philippe US, hosted the evening, which drew Haute Living publisher Seth Semilof, Cheryl Baxter and Donald and Lora du Bain, amongst others, and included a cocktail...Read more
Looking At The 2015 Patek Philippe Calatrava Watch CollectionHaute Time, September 22nd
Today, Haute Time looks at the signature Patek Philippe dress watch, the Calatrava. Introduced in 1932, the Calatrava has stood the test of time, the simplicity of the design making it a classic, appreciated for its elegant and pure lines generation...Read more
Patek Philippe's Aeronautic-Inspired Pilot WatchWall Street Journal, September 11th
Patek Philippe takes one of its signature models to new heights this fall with the release of the Calatrava Pilot Travel Time Ref. 5524. The sporty design features aeronautic-inspired details, including a dial in navy lacquer that resembles the body...Read more