Almost two centuries of watchmaking heritage lie behind the name Patek Philippe – a maker that inspires fierce loyalty amongst connoisseurs and fierce envy amongst the rest of us.
Celebrated as much for its unique aesthetics as its unerring innovation, for many Patek Philippe takes the crown as the most coveted Swiss luxury brand. In the last year alone, auction house record breakers have included the 1927 Patek Philippe single-button stainless steel chronograph, which sold for $5 million in May 2015, and the 1933 24-function Supercomplication, which brought the hammer down at 23.2 million francs at Sotheby’s in November 2014.
So what sets Patek Philippe apart as a timekeeping superstar?
Here’s our round up of the most significant facts that give this maker its inimitable mark of distinction.
Starting life as Patek, Czapek & Cie in 1839, the company progressed through various early iterations before Antoine Norbert de Patek invited Jean Adrien Philippe to join him in Geneva in 1845, where their first early pocket watches were crafted. Acquisition by the Stern family rescued the maker from troubled times during the Great Depression, and this family still owns the brand today – leading to its distinctive identity as Geneva’s oldest independent, family owned watch maker. That independence is essentially what sets Patek Philippe apart, since it allows the company to strictly maintain its adherence to its ten core values, which include tradition, innovation, rarity and value.
Perhaps Patek Philippe’s most enduring advantage is its independence – and hence ability to exercise total creative freedom. Creative freedom, of course, leads to innovation – and timekeeping firsts are something this maker has offered in abundance right from the start. Early inventions included the keyless stem winding and setting mechanism - which won three separate patents in 1861, as well as the slipping spring in 1869 – an early influencer of today’s self-winding watches. Still to come were the Perpetual Calendar (1889), the notorious and brand-defining Supercomplication, the Double Chronograph, the first repeating wristwatches and more modern advances including photo-electric cells, time zones and the perpetual calendar. In fact, Patek Philippe has been granted a staggering 80-plus patents over the years. But it is the combination of new inventions with good old fashioned attention to quality, rarity and craftsmanship that qualified Patek Philippe to carry the Geneva Seal until it took the self-assured step of introducing the definitive Patek Philippe Seal in 2009.
Over the years, Patek Philippe has delivered time and again on extraordinarily rare craftsmanship and value. From the Grandmaster Chime – launched for the company’s 175th anniversary and generally acclaimed as the most complex wristwatch ever made – to the exquisitely rare ruby-set Nautilus - produced as a series of just 5 individual timepieces in 2015 - Patek Philippe has consistently set hearts racing with its unashamed dedication to the art of the unique. One-off, multi million pound timepieces include the horologically significant Henry Graves Supercomplication, the simply breathtaking Sky Moon Tourbillon 6002G, and the 1936 Aviator Prototype – claimed by many to be an absolute one-off.
Throughout its distinguished history, Patek Philippe has enjoyed a long line of royal patronage. The first royal purchase was made by The Grand Duchess Catherine of Russia in 1851, before both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert purchased a Patek Philippe at London’s Great Exhibition of 1851. Other regal distinctions have included commissions for Nicolas II, Emperor of Russia, Maria Pia, Queen of Portugal and the King of Serbia, Alexander 1.
The company’s 175th anniversary in 2014 afforded a chance to celebrate its heritage by creating some new traditions. It’s fairly widely accepted that the aforementioned Grandmaster Chime steals the show – but there are also new offerings for 2015, namely the Nautilus and Gondolo collections for men and the Aquanaut for ladies. Perhaps most talked about at the moment, though, is the rebirth of the classic 1930s Calatrava, once worn by Clark Gabel and acclaimed by the makers themselves as having the power to “recapture the hearts of each new generation” on every new release.
Owning one of Patek Philippe’s most notorious rarities is a privilege reserved for the very few. But when it comes to choosing a pre-owned vintage watch David Duggan is equipped to help you find exactly the right timepiece to invest in.
We carry pre-owned timepieces from not just Patek Philippe, but Rolex, Jaegar le Coutre, IWC and more. For specialist advice in buying or selling, contact us online or visit our showroom in London’s Mayfair.