On 1 May 1839 the watch manufacture Patek, Czapek & Co. is founded in Geneva by two Polish immigrants, the businessman and aristocrat Antoine Norbert count de Patek and the watchmaker Francois Czapek. Because of differences between the two the co-operation does not continue. The latter continues the company Czapek & Co till 1869.
The collaboration between Patek and Philippe
Patek chooses the talented French watchmaker Jean-Adrien Philippe as his new partner. He had met him at the Paris World's Fair 1844, where both had been on very good terms with each other. Philippe had already enriched the watch history with one of its most revolutionary inventions: the crown winding. Since then watches need no longer to be wound with an additional key, but both the winding and also the time adjustment of the hands can now be performed much easier by the crown.
On 15 May 1845, after the entry of Jean-Adrien Philippe and Vincent Gostkowski, the company is renamed to Patek & Co.. In the same year a patent for a watch with an winding stem and hand adjustment mechanism is applied. Patek & Co. produces the first watch with minute repeater.
Stock corporation — and important inventions
The company continues through significant inventions, which are highly regarded. In 1925, the world's first wristwatch with perpetual calendar is launched. In 1927, the first wrist chronographs are produced.
As 1931, during the world economic crisis, a financially strong investor is searched for, the brothers Charles and Jean Stern, whose dial factory had already belonged to the suppliers of the company for some time, declare themselves ready to take over the majority shareholding of the company. Since then the name of the Stern family and of Patek Philippe are mentioned in the same breath. (Today, Philippe Stern serves as president in its third generation of the company. Thierry Stern, his son, as vice president now represents already the fourth generation.)
In 1932 the company presents the model Calatrava, named after an order of knights, founded in 1158 by the abbot Raimondo in the city of Calatrava. This model series has been one of the classics of the manufacture. The Calatrava Cross is still regarded as a hallmark of the watches, each of which is depicted on the crown.
1937 the Geneva watchmaker Louis Cottier develops the first wristwatches "heure universelle" for Patek Philippe. From the dial of these world timers time can be read in all 24 time-zones of the earth at the same time.
In the early 1940s begins the serial production of chronographs and wristwatches with perpetual calendar. In subsequent years movements by Patek Philippe carry off the victory at numerous precision competitions of the Geneva observatory.
1966 Jean Daniel Rubeli, the head of the development department, designs the model Ellipse. In the round shape of the housing he takes into account the rules of the Golden Ratio. The mysterious shimmering blue of the dial is caused by chemical treatment of the gold.
1976 the model Nautilus, designed by Gérald Genta, comes to market. Special feature of this watch is a bezel designed in porthole-shape. Pressed on the monoshell case with the two lateral screws, a water resistance to 120 meters is guaranteed. Since 1977 Patek is producer of the thinnest self-winding movement Calibre 240 with only 2.40 mm height.
Patek Philippe is today, at a time of increasing concentration in the watch sector, one of the few still independent watch companies. The company is also the only Geneva manufacture, whose entire production of mechanical watch movements is awarded with the Geneva Seal (Poinçon de Genève).
Peak performances in complications
On the occasion of the 150th anniversary celebration in 1989 the legendary Calibre 89 is presented, which was developed nine whole years. With 33 complications and 1728 components this watch is regarded as a pocket watch of superlatives. On two sides of the case it has 24 hands and 12 dials. In addition to a minute repeater with large and small carillion and an alarm function, a tourbillon , a perpetual calendar, a rattrapante chronograph movement and over 20 other complications it is the most complicated pocket watch movement at all.
The first double-sided wristwatch and also the most complicated wristwatch ever produced by Patek Philippe is the Sky Moon Tourbillon Ref. 5002 presented in 2002. It includes a tourbillon, a perpetual calendar with the moon age display (number of days since the last full moon), leap year cycle, day of week, month and date indication. The date display is available as additional complication provided with a reset hand. The back presents under a sapphire crystal the starry sky of the northern hemisphere and counterclockwise shows the angular motion of the stars and the moon in a cycle of 29 days, 12 hours and 44 minutes.
2003 as a world first the Reference 5100 "10 jours" is presented as the first mechanical movement with a power reserve of more than 10 days. It is a rectangular shaped form movement comprising two series-connected barrels and a tourbillon. It is used in four models variants (in white gold, yellow gold, platinum and rose gold), which are limited to 3000 pieces. (See Patek Philippe Ref. 5101P "10 Day Tourbillon".)
In November 2014, for the company's 175th anniversary, Patek Philippe released a new set of complicated watches. The CHF 2.5 million Grandmaster Chime is most notable, being the most-complicated wristwatch ever from the brand. Also released was the World Time Moon, Multi-Scale Chronograph, and Chiming Jump Hour, which rings each hour with a single chime, along with a set of handcrafted decorated watches with enamel, marquetry, and engraved depictions of Geneva harbor.
The most successful brand at big auctions
Among watch connoisseurs Patek Philippe is regarded as the leading brand, not least because of the tradition of the company and continuously delivered horological peak performances, for instance in the area of complications. Characteristic of this are the many inventions that have affected the fine watchmaking. From 1845 (modern crown winding) until 1996 (annual calender) Patek Philippe has been awarded over 70 patents.
The watches are not only sold as a consumer items, but also as investments with a very high stability of value. How coveted such highly complicated watches of this renowned manufacturer are, is unmistakably reflected in the auction results: A model World Time from 1946 in platinum reached on 14 April 2002 in Geneva a price of more than 6.5 million CHF and so holds the record for the most expensive wristwatch auctioned. The 20 most expensive wristwatches in the world that were ever sold at an auction come exclusively from the house of Patek Philippe (for pictures of the watches see: Worldtempus: Record auction sales)).
The Patek Philippe Museum
On 8 November 2001 the Patek Philippe Museum opens in Geneva, documenting the development of the watchmaking art from the 16th Century to the present day by numerous valuable exhibits. It is the most comprehensive collection that has so far been collected on this topic.
- Das große Uhrenlexikon; Author: Fritz von Osterhausen; ISBN 3898804305
- Patek Philippe, Geneve; Authors: Martin Huber, Alan Banbery; ISBN 3906500012
- Patek Philippe. Komplizierte Armbanduhren; Authors: Giampiero Negretti, Paolo DeVecchi; ISBN 382901449X
- Das ZEITGEFÜHL-Uhrenbuch; Author: Gerd-Lothar Reschke; ISBN 3-938607-61-0
Patek Philippe Genève
Chemin du pont-du-centenaire 141
P.O. Box 2654
CH-1211 Genf 2
Tel. +41 22 884 20 20
Fax +41 22 884 20 40