Do you want to know why Patek Philippe watches are so special? Then you’ve come to the right place! This article is about Patek Philippe— a Swiss watch brand with a long history of making precision timepieces. With legendary designs, high-end materials, and intricate detailing, Patek Philippe watches are both beautiful and well crafted. Keep reading to learn more about this special watch brand.
The Story of Patek Philippe
The Patek Philippe Company began in 1851 when two Polish immigrants, Antoine Norbert de Patek and Jean Adrien Philippe, united their efforts to start a manufacture of complicated watches and pocket watches. As the company became more successful, they began to produce a broader range of watches and even clocks. This attracted their first customers, including royalty from around the world, making them an increasingly sought after brand.
In 1932, Patek Philippe launched its first wristwatch, the Calatrava. This watch became an instant hit and even today it still remains a popular model. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, the company continued to expand its product line and look for new innovations in watchmaking.
Built To Last
- Patek Philippe watches are built with the highest quality materials
- Their mechanisms have fine accuracy and are crafted with great precision.
- Patek Philippe watches are made to last for generations.
Today, Patek Philippe is one of the most sought-after and celebrated Swiss watch brands in the world. Their timepieces are considered to be among the best in craftsmanship and design, with models that range from classic to modern. Some of their watches are still crafted in the traditional hand-winding movements and look very much the same as they did a hundred years ago.
Patek Philippe Watch Models
The Patek Philippe collection features many popular models, including the Aquanaut, Nautilus, Twenty-4, and Calatrava. These watches come in a variety of styles and sizes, from dress watches to sportier dive watches. Two of the brand’s most well-known pieces are the Nautilus 5711 and the Nautilus 5980. Both models feature the iconic octogonal shape, with the 5711 being a more conservative design and the 5980 having a more modern look.
The Aquanaut is another popular model, made for active lifestyles. This watch has a lightweight steel case and a rubber strap that comes in an array of colors. The Twenty-4 is a timeless collection that features quartz movement and is mainly offered in steel. And the Calatrava is a classic dress watch that comes in various materials and features a number of complications.
In conclusion, Patek Philippe is an iconic brand with a rich history of precision timepieces. Their watches are crafted with elegance, sophistication, and high quality materials. From classic to modern, Patek Philippe watches are a perfect blend of elegance and craftsmanship. Whether you are looking for a dress watch, a chronograph, or a dive watch, you can find the perfect timepiece in the Patek Philippe collection.
Patek Philippe SA (French: [pəˈtɛk fəˈlip]) is a Swiss luxury watch and clock manufacturer, located in the Canton of Geneva and the Vallée de Joux. Established in 1839, it is named after two of its founders, Antoni Patek and Adrien Philippe. Since 1932, the company has been owned by the Stern family in Switzerland and remains the last family-owned independent watch manufacturer in Geneva. Patek Philippe is one of the oldest watch manufacturers in the world with an uninterrupted watchmaking history since its founding. It designs and manufactures timepieces as well as movements, including some of the most complicated mechanical watches. The company maintains over 400 retail locations globally and over a dozen distribution centers across Asia, Europe, North America, and Oceania. In 2001, it opened the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva.
Patek Philippe is widely considered to be one of the most prestigious watch manufacturers in the world. As of July 2023, among the world’s top ten most expensive watches ever sold at auctions, nine are Patek Philippe watches. In particular, Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime Ref. 6300A-010 currently holds the title of the most expensive watch (and wristwatch) ever sold at auction (US$31.19 million/31 million CHF), while Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication, the world’s most complicated mechanical watch until 1989, currently holds the title of the most expensive pocket watch ever sold at auction (US$24 million/23,237,000 CHF).
The company traces its origins to the mid-19th century, when Polish watchmaker Antoni Patek and his Czech-born Polish business partner Franciszek Czapek formed Patek, Czapek & Cie in Geneva on 1 May 1839 and started manufacturing pocket watches. The two eventually separated due to disagreements, and the company was liquidated on 18 April 1845. At that point, Czapek founded Czapek & Cie on 1 May 1845 with a new partner, Juliusz Gruzewski. Subsequently, Patek was joined by French watchmaker Adrien Philippe, the inventor of the keyless winding mechanism (although this had been discovered previously by Abraham Louis Breguet but not patented by him), and continued the watchmaking business with a new company, Patek & Cie, beginning on 15 May 1845.
On 1 January 1851, the company’s name was officially changed to Patek, Philippe & Cie. In the same year, Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom acquired a keyless pendant watch at the Great Exhibition in London. The watch was embellished with rose-cut diamonds set in the pattern of a bouquet of flowers. The Queen had another exclusive Patek Philippe timepiece, to be worn pinned to clothing. This watch was suspended from a diamond and enamel brooch. In 1868, Patek Philippe created the first Swiss wristwatch for Countess Koscowicz of Hungary.
In 1875, Adrien Philippe commissioned a watch that he later gave to his daughter Louise as a wedding present, which is known as the only wristwatch dating back to be owned by either Patek or Philippe. This historical watch is known as “The Watchmaker’s Daughter” and was auctioned in 2023 by the descendants of Adrien Philippe. The watch was purchased most probably by the Patek Philippe Museum though this is not confirmed and may be owned by a private collector. The wedding between Louise Philippe and Joseph Antoine Bénassy where the watch was presented is noted as the wedding that helped Patek Philippe survive the founding generation by providing the company with a successor to Antoni Patek.
In March 1877, Antoni Patek died at the age of 65, but his only son, Léon Mecyslas Vincent Patek, did not join the business. As a result, Joseph Antoine Bénassy-Philippe, one of Adrien Philippe’s sons-in-law, succeeded to Antoni Patek’s position. In 1887, the cross of one of the four Military Orders of Spain, the Order of Calatrava, became the registered company logo of Patek Philippe as a sympathetic allusion to the still-extant order of Catholic knights that fought the Muslims in the Crusades. In 1891, the 76-year-old Adrien Philippe handed over his position in the business to his youngest son, Joseph Emile Philippe, together with François Antoine Conty. Adrien Philippe died in January 1894.
1901 saw the transformation of Patek Philippe into a joint-stock company, Ancienne Manufacture d’horlogerie Patek, Philippe & Cie, Société Anonyme, initiated by J. A. Bénassy-Philippe and Joseph E. Philippe. Still being run as a family business, Patek Philippe then had seven shareholders, five of whom formed the board of directors with J. A. Bénassy-Philippe being the chairman. Joseph E. Philippe’s son later joined the company, and he was the last offspring of the founders in the business. In 1915, Albert Einstein ordered a gold pocket watch from Patek Philippe; in that year, he completed his Theory of General Relativity.
The Stern family of Switzerland has owned Patek Philippe since 1932, when Charles Stern and Jean Stern acquired the company during the Great Depression. The Stern brothers’ company, Fabrique de Cadrans Sterns Frères, had been a business partner of Patek Philippe as its supplier of watch dials. In 1935, Patek Philippe was brought to American markets by New York-based Henri Stern Watch Agency, where it was sold as a sister brand alongside Universal Genève.
In 1958, Henri Stern, the son of Charles Stern, became the president of Patek Philippe. Alan Banbery, who previously designed Universal’s “Compax” movements and worked as a horologist for London’s Garrard & Co, would take on the position of Director of Sales in 1965 and later authored official reference books on vintage Patek Philippe pocket watches and chronographs.
In 1993, Philippe Stern, the son of Henry Stern, became the president of the company. He initiated the publication of the twice-a-year Patek Philippe Magazine in 1996, which is reserved for the watch owners and has received contributions from various prominent writers including Nobel Laureates Gao Xingjian and José Saramago. And in 2009, Philippe Stern’s son, Thierry Stern, took over the reins from his father. In 2010, the company produced 40,000 timepieces and, according to Thierry Stern, it produced 58,000 pieces in 2017. In 2018, the number went up to 62,000, and in order to maintain quality and exclusivity, Patek Philippe would only slowly increase the number of timepieces produced each year (by 1-3 percent per year) but with a ceiling. Currently, the company is an active member of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry FH.
Since the 2000s, Patek Philippe timepieces have repeatedly fetched high prices in auctions worldwide. As of 2023, among the world’s top ten most expensive watches ever sold at auctions, nine are Patek Philippe watches. Among the top 58 most expensive watches sold at auction (over 2 million US dollars), 46 are Patek Philippe watches. A small part of the demand for auction pieces is driven by Patek Philippe themselves, as they are purchasing in the auction market to add to the collection of the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva.
One of Patek Philippe’s company slogans is “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.” The slogan was introduced when the company launched its “Generations” campaign in 1996.
Patek Philippe manufactures its own watch components. Like other Swiss manufacturers, the company produces mostly mechanical movements with automatic or manual winding mechanism, but has also been producing quartz watches. In fact, Patek Philippe was one of the twenty Swiss watch companies that founded the Centre Electronique Horloger and collaboratively developed the first Swiss quartz movements, such as the Beta 21 movement (1969) which was used by several manufacturers in their watches. In 1950s, the company even produced a prototype for a mechanical digital wristwatch, Ref. 3414.
Patek Philippe popularized complications such as perpetual calendar, split-seconds hand, chronograph, and minute repeater in mechanical watches. In 2009, the company announced that all of its future mechanical timepieces would be imprinted with the Patek Philippe Seal which requires a precision of -3/+2 seconds per day for diameters no less than 20 mm and -5/+4 seconds per day for diameters less than 20 mm, surpassing the highest industry standard of watch manufacturing and thus abandoning the Geneva Seal.
In December 2018, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) released a report assigning environmental ratings for 15 major watch manufacturers and jewelers in Switzerland. Patek Philippe was given the lowest environmental rating as “Latecomers/Non-transparent”, suggesting the manufacturer has taken few actions addressing the impact of its manufacturing activities on the environment and climate change.
Patek Philippe has invented over 20 basic calibres and has received over 100 patents. The following are some of the important contributions from Patek Philippe to the watchmaking industry.
In 1932, Patek Philippe launched the first Calatrava model Ref. 96, which was designed by English horologist David Penney who was influenced by the Bauhaus art movement in Germany. Originally, the Stern brothers, soon after they acquired Patek Philippe in 1932, introduced the Calatrava to help the company pass through the Great Depression smoothly.
The original Calatrava Ref. 96 was in production for more than 40 years, and its successor models include Ref. 2526, Ref. 3520, Ref. 5196 and so on. Known for its simple and elegant design, the Calatrava wristwatch has been a flagship model of Patek Philippe since its introduction. Notably, the Calatrava Cross has been company’s logo since 1887.
Patek Philippe World Time (Heures Universelles) collection was introduced in 1939, with Ref.1415 being the first model. The “World Time” complication is able to show the time for all 24 time zones on the same watch and was invented by Swiss watchmaker Louis Cottier in 1931. Cottier’s invention attracted several watchmaking companies, while Patek Philippe was the first company to introduce a series of World Time wristwatches after forging a partnership with Mr. Cottier. The successors to Ref. 1415 include Ref. 2523, Ref. 5230, Ref. 5531 (with minute repeater), and so on.
As of 2018, Patek Philippe World Time collection (Ref. 1415, Ref. 2523) holds 6 spots among the 58 world’s most expensive watches sold at auction (over 2 million US dollars), with the world record being 4.027 million US dollars (6,603,500 CHF) made at Antiquorum’s Geneva auction on April 13, 2002.
In 1976, Patek Philippe introduced the Nautilus collection after deciding it was time to produce an exclusive sport watch with finishes of the highest quality. The first model was Ref. 3700 and was made of steel. It was designed by Swiss watchmaker Gérald Genta, who previously designed the Royal Oak collection for Audemars Piguet, and was released by Patek Philippe during the quartz crisis in the hope that it would help re-attract people’s attention to high-end Swiss mechanical watches.
The Nautilus collection played a key role in Patek Philippe’s overall marketing strategy as it had to refresh the brand image while perpetuating tradition. The target was represented by dynamic business managers of the new generations. The Nautilus wristwatch has become one of the most popular collections from Patek Philippe, and the Ref. 5711 & 5712 models, which the company introduced in 2006 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the collection, are among the most popular models.
Patek Philippe perpetual calendar chronograph was introduced in 1941, with Ref. 1518 being the first model. On November 12, 2016, a Ref. 1518 in steel became the most expensive wristwatch ever sold at auction (until October 2017), fetching a record-breaking US$11.14 million (11,002,000 CHF) in Geneva (through Phillips’ auction house).
As the successor, Ref. 2499 is widely considered to be one of the greatest watch models in the world. Historically, only 349 pieces of Ref. 2499 were made from 1950 to 1985 – around 9 pieces each year. Over the course of 35 years, four series of Ref. 2499 were introduced, exerting a strong influence on the watch designs of many other renowned watchmakers. As of June 2019, Ref. 2499 holds eleven spots among the 59 world’s most expensive watches sold at auction (over 2 million US dollars) and at least 18 pieces of Ref. 2499 have been auctioned for more than 1.5 million US dollars, with the world record being 3.880 million US dollars (3,915,000 CHF) made at Sotheby’s Geneva auction on November 13, 2018. The successors to Ref. 2499 include, in chronological order, Ref. 3970, Ref. 5970 and Ref. 5270.
Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillon wristwatch was introduced in 2001, with Ref. 5002 being the first model. The wristwatch has two dials and contains 12 complications including tourbillon, minute repeater, sky chart, and moon phase & orbit. In 2013, the company introduced the second model of Sky Moon Tourbillon, Ref. 6002, also with 12 complications. The new model took 7 years of research and development, while the engraving on each piece alone took more than 100 hours.
Sky Moon Tourbillon was the most complicated wristwatch from Patek Philippe until 2014. It is estimated that only 3 – 5 pieces are made each year, and the price for each piece is over US$1.2 million. However, every purchase of the piece requires an application from the buyer and has to be approved by Patek Philippe President Thierry Stern. On October 2, 2018, a Sky Moon Tourbillon 6002G was auctioned by Poly Auction in Hong Kong, fetching US$2.707 million (HKD 21,240,000), making it one of the most expensive watches ever sold in auction.
In 1989, Patek Philippe created Calibre 89, then the most complicated mechanical watch ever made, for its 150th anniversary. Calibre 89 holds 33 complications, including the date of Easter, time of sunrise, equation of time, sidereal time, and many other indicators. 1,728 unique parts allow sidereal time, a 2,800 star chart, and more. In addition, Calibre 89 is able to add a day to February for leap years while leaving out the extra day for every 100 year interval.
Only four pieces of Calibre 89 were ever manufactured by Patek Philippe, with one in white gold, one in yellow gold, one in rose gold, and one in platinum. The yellow-gold and the white-gold Calibre 89 were sold at auctions by Antiquorum in 2009 and 2004, respectively, and both watches currently rank among the top ten most expensive watches ever sold at auction, with final prices over 5 million US dollars.
In 2014, Patek Philippe introduced the Grandmaster Chime Ref. 5175, the most complicated wristwatch ever built by the manufacturer (with 20 complications, but no tourbillon), to celebrate its 175th anniversary. Only seven pieces of Ref. 5175 were created, with one permanently residing in the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva. The sale price for each of the other six pieces was 2.5 million CHF (2.6 million US dollars).
In 2016, Patek Philippe introduced the Grandmaster Chime Ref. 6300, succeeding the Grandmaster Chime Ref. 5175. Ref. 6300 also has 20 complications, including grande sonnerie, minute repeater, and alarm with time strike (but without tourbillon), with the sale price over 2.2 million US dollars. The purchase of each piece requires an application from the buyer and has to be approved by Patek Philippe President Thierry Stern.