Patek Philippe is known today as one of the best watchmakers in the world. It is also Geneva’s oldest independent family-owned brand. This Swiss brand is famous for building some of the most complicated and valuable watches. This watch brand has been through different generations of families, and they all share a passion for protecting and developing the brand. Since the launch, Patek Philippe has grown in many ways, and we’ll be exploring that today. In this article, we’ll look back at Patek Philippe’s history to learn more about this renowned brand and how it all began.
Patek Philippe History – Antoni Patek Early Life
Antoni Norbert Patek’s birth was in 1812 in Poland. It was a time of political and international changes. As Russia defeated Napoleon, the Congress of Vienna chose to withdraw Poland’s borders and place the country under Russia’s controversial Tsar Nicholas I. When Antoni Patek was 16, he enlisted in the First Mounted Rifles of the Polish cavalry, serving as a freedom fighter against Russia. Ultimately, he fled Poland and the brutal policies of the Tsar in the mid-1830s.
Patek sought asylum in Paris before moving to the epicenter of watchmaking, Geneva, Switzerland. He immersed himself in the industry and bought top-quality movements he could mount in his watch case. Soon, he launched his own company with his business partner, Francois Czapek. From its headquarter in Geneva, the new company created over 1,120 timepieces.
Meeting Jean Adrien Philippe
In 1844, Patek decided to travel to Paris for an exhibition. It was at this watch exhibition that he met Jean Adrien Philippe. Philippe was a talented watchmaker respected and famous for making an impressive thin pocket watch. He also received credits for revolutionizing watch designs by introducing his timepiece. You could easily wind his timepiece with a crown, minimizing the need for the keys previously used to wind watches.
In 1845, Patek’s contract with Czapek was expiring. Therefore Philippe and Patek formed a new partnership. They renamed the company in 1851 as Patek Philippe & Co.
The Growth of Patek Phillipe
The new watch brand rose to prominence quite quickly. Philippe wrote a book about his keyless pocket watch, which helped cement his position as a watch expert in the industry. Meanwhile, Patek began to travel extensively and internationally to market his watches. However, Patek Phillippe watches continue to grow popular due to their innovations, and it received several accolades and awards over the years. In 1861, Patek Philippe released its stem-winding watch, followed by a durable mainspring that was a significant step in creating a self-winding watch. By 1855, the brand’s pocket watch received a gold medal award as the first universal exposition.
This watch brand also developed a watch in 1870 that displayed different time zones in 1870. They reworked this design over the years into the universal time watch. However, the major milestone for the company was in 1876 when they became the leading supplier of pocket watches for New York’s Tiffany & Co. Patek passed away in 1877, and he named his son-in-law Joseph Antonine Benassy-Philippe, his successor. Philippe also retired in 1890, and he handed over his position to his youngest son Joseph Emile Philippe. Philippe also passed away in 1894.
The Great Depression’s Effect on Patek Phillipe History
Joseph Antonine and Joseph Emile managed Patek Philippe as a family business and were even able to transform it into a stock corporation. In 1932, the world’s economy started to cripple due to the United State’s Great Depression. Therefore, the company turned to the owners of their dial maker business partners, Charles and Jean Stern.
Prompted by their business relationship and a sentimental desire to keep up the watchmaking traditions, the brothers purchased a majority interest in the crumbling Patek Philippe & Co business. After poaching Jean Pfister, a famous watchmaker from TavannesWatch Co., in 1993, the brand’s new management announced that the company would no longer be buying movement but would be making it’s own. With the Stern brothers leading the company, Patek Philippe picked up quickly. Soon, the company introduced its flagship model, the Calatrava, in 1932. The Bauhaus movement also inspired the design that brought function and form together. Patek Philippe also received a historic commission from Industrialist Henry Graves, Jr in 1933.
The Quartz Crisis Effect on Patek Philippe History
In 1977 Philippe Stern, Charles Stern’s grandson, assumed control of the business. The same period as the Quartz Crisis was crippling the watch industry. The introduction of these inexpensive quartz watches negatively affected the traditional watch industry as it caused sales to plummet. Philippe Stern straddled the world of conventional watchmaking with new, incoming technology by incorporating quartz into some models. This move helped to keep Patek Philippe afloat. When the vintage watch collection became a new hobby in 1984, it helped to revitalize interest in Patek Philippe. The brand reached a fever pitch in 1989 when the brand celebrated 150 years of existence.
Patek Philippe Today
Patek Philippe reigns supreme in the watchmaking world, with several fans going as far as naming Patek Philippe as the best watchmaker in history. The company makes over a billion in annual revenue. However, the Stern family, including Philippe and his son Thierry, has a net worth of $3 billion. There’s an estimation that Patek Philippe produced over 1 million watches in its 178-year history. Their watches are highly sought after and prized by collectors. The rarest of Patek Philippe watches usually pull record-breaking amounts at auctions.
Five Top Patek Philippe Timepieces
Patek Philippe is known as the best watch manufacturer. This watchmaker comes out on top of the list of the best watchmakers in the world. Patek Philippe history showcases how this brand releases intricate and specialized designs that continue to excite the world’s avid watch collectors. However, most collectors, auctioneers, retailers, and bloggers cannot agree on the five best models of the company. Below are five watches we believe are the best Patek Philippe’s timepieces ever made.
Nautilus Ref 5711/1A
The original Nautilus was a ref. 3700 was a stainless steel luxury watch influenced by nautical motifs. The watch was redesigned by Gerald Genta in 1973 and introduced in 1976. On the model’s 30th anniversary, Patek Philippe released a new version of the Nautilus, a ref 5711. It was a modern update of the watch praised for its graceful combination of historical details and contemporary styling.
Although the Nautilus Ref 5711/1A maintained the classic beauty of the original Nautilus, it also featured several innovations over the original. Some of its features included a higher water resistance, improved comfort due to a double-folding clasp, and better corrosion resistance due to the utilization of higher-grade steel. The Nautilus Ref 5711 was amongst the most desirable watches on the planet and ignited interest in the Nautilus family. This watch became a watchmaking sensation as it rewrote the secondary market rules, commanding a significant premium over retail.
The watch also sparked the Tiffany-signed craze as one Nautilus 5711 with a Tiffany & Co. signature on the dial seemed to have traded at over $200,000 one summer. Another was rumored to have sold for $150,000. For most Patek Philippe’s lovers, the appeal of the Nautilus Ref 5711 isn’t the price; it is simply the perfect everyday watch as it embodies everything that Patek Philippe represents in today’s time.
Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Ref 5970P
The Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Ref 5970 is one of the holy grails of Patek Philippe. You’re highly unlikely to find a grail holier than this watch which is the ultimate in the world of grand complications. It is a direct descendant of Patek’s ref 1518 and 2499. Therefore, collectors highly admire the 5970 for its superbly balanced proportions and 40mm diameter. The watch features square pushers and tasteful stepped lugs. The brand released it in 2004 and produced it for only seven years. Patek’s last perpetual calendar chronograph used a highly modified outsourced movement. It featured a well-respected Lemania-based caliber.
The Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Ref 5970p is available in 18-karat yellow gold, platinum, white, and rose gold. Its stunning aesthetics and rarity make any version of this watch highly sought after today.
Anyone familiar with Patek Philippe’s 20th-century productions will recognize the Sky Moon Celestial, Ref 6102P. Patek Philippe history portrays it as the progeny of astronomy pocket watches the company created for collectors like Henry Graves Jr and James Warm Packard. The solar system inspired this celestial edition and featured a black face with the milky way running through it. It also features a tiny moon on the end of the second dial. All avid collectors would be over the moon if they lay hands on this timepiece.
Patek Philippe introduced this model in 2015, and it pays homage to the history of the brand without compromising modernity. The Sky Moon Celestial is poetry and has a rich history with several celestial complications. The poetic complication of this watch, in addition to its larger size, makes the watch almost perfect.
First Ladies Chronograph Ref 7071
In 2009, Patek surprised avid collectors and fans with a model they didn’t expect. The company chose to present its first in-house traditional chronograph movement in a ladies’ timepiece. The Ladies’ first Chronograph Ref 7071 was a successor to a famous chronograph caliber developed by Nouvelle Lemania exclusively for Patek Philippe. This move set the stage for a conversation about courting female buyers in the watch industry.
Since then, this movement has been famous in several men’s and ladies timepieces. No one can deny the good looks of this watch. It comes with a cushion-shaped case for which most women have a soft spot. By first paying tribute to the female clientele, Patek Philippe was able to win over the audience.
The Grandmaster Chime Ref 6300A
The Grandmaster Chime is a watch that stands out in Patek Philippe history for its record-setting price. This model sold for the world’s highest price in 2019. It is a limited-edition timepiece released in 2014 to celebrate 175 years of Patek Philippe. They made only seven examples of this watch, and you can admire each one when you visit the Patek Philippe museum. The watch contains many complications and parts. It also has many functions, including a perpetual calendar with a four-digit year display, a minute repeater, an acoustic alarm, and a second timezone. As the most expensive watch globally, the Grandmaster Chime is a marvel of micro-engineering.
Patak Philippe is famous as the most powerful in the watch industry. This brand is synonymous with class, high auction values, price legitimacy, conservatism, and several best traditional watches. Patek Philippe is the leader when it comes to high-end timepiece auction prices. Patek Philippe is still an independent family-owned company, and its most exclusive watches usually go straight from the factory to the most prestigious collectors. We hope this article helped share insight into Patek Philippe’s history and how it could dominate other watchmakers when it comes to achieving record-setting prices.