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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Watch out Apple, the Swiss are making their own smartwatchesStuff Magazine, February 27th
The Montblanc e-Strap has a module that attaches to your current watch, and displays notifications, as well as activity information, on an OLED display. As for us? We're sticking to our plain old non-smart £1,000,000 Patek Philippe timepieces, thank...Read more
Five Essential Reads for Serious Patek Philippe CollectorsChristie's, February 20th
Over the last few decades, some amazing books have been published that tell the history of most marquee watch brands. Relatively few, however, have been written about Patek Philippe, and this is what drove me to want to add to this body of scholarship...Read more
LG's new smartwatch: more Patek Philippe, less PebbleGant Daily, February 16th
The latest LG smartwatch looks more like a Patek Philippe and less like a Pebble. The electronics company unveiled its brand new LG Watch Urbane on Sunday. It's a return to form — round body in silver or gold, and the straps are made of stitched leather...Read more
Patek Philippe slashes prices by over 20% in Hong KongWantChinaTimes, February 14th
Swiss luxury watch brand Patek Philippe announced a significant markdown in prices by up to 22% in the Hong Kong market, a move analysts believe is aimed at taking on an influx of European watches through parallel imports, Shanghai's the Paper reports...Read more
Fear of price jump in Swiss watches unfoundedTHE BUSINESS TIMES, February 13th
But a Rolex spokesman reportedly said the price rise came from the Japanese yen's weakening against the Swiss franc, not because of the move by the Swiss National Bank. Geneva-based Patek Philippe, the watch industry's equivalent of a Rolls Royce, ...Read more
Patek Philippe Reduces Prices in Americas, Raises Prices in EuropeBloomberg, February 11th
Patek Philippe has reduced the prices of its watches by 7 percent in the Americas, effective Feb. 10, in reaction to recent currency fluctuations in Europe and Switzerland. In addition to the Americas price decrease, Patek Philippe is lowering prices...Read more
Deconstructed: Patek Philippe, Ref. 421Christie's, February 3rd
In today's watch market there are boutique edition pieces and then there are pieces like this rare top-winding Patek Philippe reference 421 from circa 1924 — old-style boutique pieces made especially for a retailer by exclusive arrangement. Marvelous...Read more
Patek Philippe's Annual Calendar Chronograph Ref. 5960 Now Comes ...Forbes, February 1st
5960 was Patek Philippe's very first automatic chronograph – a significant achievement for the brand – and quickly became highly coveted among collectors. Its rather unusual mono-counter chronograph and annual calendar display in three large windows ...Read more