Patek Philippe is next to none when it comes to developing the most complicated watches in the history of the watchmaking world. They are also the company behind some of the most expensive watches ever made.
But besides this, how much do you know about this world-famous watch manufacturer?
How did they become one of the most famous Swiss watch brands? What’s the story behind the timepieces that they’ve made?
So today, like in the history of Rolex watches article we featured last time, we will answer some of the most frequently asked questions about Patek Philippe timepieces by sharing a comprehensive overview of Patek Philippe’s history.
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Patek Philippe Brand Summary
|Industry||Retail, Luxury Goods, and Jewelry||Founder(s)||Antoni Patek, Adrien Philippe|
|Company Size||1001 to 5000 Employees||CEO||Claude Penny|
|Headquarters||Geneva, Switzerland||Owned By||Stern Family|
|Type||Privately Held||Watches Produced||60,000|
What Is The Origin Story Behind Patek Philippe?
The history of Patek Philippe started in 1839 when a Polish watchmaker, Antoine Norbert de Patek, and Czech-born partner, François Czapek, founded the Patek, Czapek & Cie in Geneva, Switzerland.
Antoine Patek and François Czapek started their business by manufacturing pocket watches for rich people and members of royalty. Initially, they would purchase high-quality Swiss-made movements and fit them into their pocket watch cases under the Patek, Czapek & Cie names.
How Did Patek Philippe Get Its Name?
In 1844, Antoine Patek met Jean Adrien Philippe, who won a bronze medal for his keyless winding and hand-setting system at the Industrial Exposition in Paris. Immediately, Antoine offered him the post of technical director as soon as Czapek’s contract ran out.
Since then, the two helped each other to create what would become one of the most famous watch brands in the world. And in 1851, the former Patek, Czapek & Cie was renamed Patek, Philippe & Cie.
Patek Philippe Chronology
1839 to 1899
The rich tapestry of Patek Philippe history began in 1839 when Antoine Norbert de Patek and François Czapek founded the Patek, Czapek & Cie. They are known for assembling pocket watches for the upper echelons of society.
Years later, in 1851, Antoine Norbert de Patek and French watchmaker Jean Adrien Philippe renamed the company and called it Patek, Philippe & Cie.
This was also the year when the Great Exhibition was held. England’s Queen Victoria was among those who admired the world’s first keyless pocket watches and acquired a pendant watch made by the brand.
Unfortunately, Antoine Patek passed away in 1877. After that, Adrien Philippe brought his son, Joseph Emile Philippe, into the business to train him in the family business.
And before the end of the 1800s, they successfully secured a patent for their latest inventions, including the precision regulator and perpetual calendar mechanism for pocket watches.
The 1900s was considered a fruitful era for Patek Philippe because of its technological innovations in watchmaking, cementing its place as one of the most prominent Swiss manufacturers.
And from 1901, it was named Ancienne Manufacture d’Horlogerie Patek Philippe & Cie. S.A.
In 1902, Patek Philippe patented the first double chronograph. This was then followed by another milestone made by the brand by creating the first complicated ladies’ wristwatch with a five-minute repeater.
From 1923 to 1925, they introduced the first split-seconds chronograph wristwatch and created its first wristwatch with a perpetual calendar.
It was only in 1932 when the Stern brothers, Jean Stern and Charles Henri Stern, invested and bought the company, which became the Patek Philippe S.A. This is also the year when the brand introduced the world-famous Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref. 96.
In 1933 Patek Philippe unveiled the first world’s most complicated mechanical watch, the Graves Supercomplication pocket watch.
And in 1944, after more than 100 years of watchmaking, Patek Philippe won a record number of first prizes for precision in the Geneva Observatory competition, making their brand more famous and a champion of high-accuracy timepieces.
Henri Stern, the son of Charles Stern, also joined the company and established the Henri Stern Watch Agency in New York, which served as the exclusive distributor of Patek Philippe watches in the US.
After World War II, Patek sought to continue and enhance their knowledge in the watchmaking industry. And in the early 1950s, Patek Philippe S.A. secured the patent for a self-winding mechanism calibre 12-600AT and made their first all-electronic clock.
And in 1958, Henri Stern was appointed president of the Patek Philippe manufacturer and helped the company to patent their time-zone watches.
In 1962, the Patek Philippe tourbillon movement achieved the still unbeaten world timekeeping accuracy record for a mechanical watch at the Geneva Observatory.
In the following years, the company launched several noteworthy models of watches. This includes the Patek Philippe collection of Nautilus, Gondolo, Golden Ellipse, and Aquanaut.
They also invented and secured a patent for the first ultra-thin movement, the ultra-thin automatic calibre 240, and the secular perpetual calendar with retrograde date indication.
Philippe Stern eventually became the president of Patek Philippe in 1993.
2000s to Present
In 2000, Patek Philippe launched the Star Caliber 2000, one of the most complex manually wound watch movements ever made. They also reached another milestone after creating one of their most complicated wristwatches, the Sky Moon Tourbillon Ref. 5002.
Philippe Stern also opened the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva for people to understand the history of Patek Philippe and its importance in the development watchmaking industry.
In 2005, Patek Philippe released the Annual Calendar Ref. 5250 with the first escape wheel for a Swiss lever escapement.
Soon after, the Patek Philippe Advanced Research department introduced the revolutionary Spiromax balance spring and Pulsomax silicon-based escapement.
And in 2009, Philippe Stern’s son, Thierry Stern, became the new president of Patek Philippe.
He brought the company to new heights of glory and facilitated the release of different innovations and new timepieces. These include the World Time Minute Repeater, the Calatrava Weekly Calendar, and commemorative watches for the 175th anniversary.
Today, over a million watches are estimated to have been created throughout the history of Patek Philippe. It designs and manufactures timepieces and movements known for their elegance, precision, and functionality according to the Patek Philippe Seal, their own standard of excellence and quality.
And because of their long history of greatness, their logo, the Calatrava Cross, would forever be remembered as a sign of excellent fine watchmaking.
Who Is The Owner Of Patek Philippe?
Since 1932, Patek Philippe has been owned by the Stern Family. Today, the company is managed by Thierry Stern as the president, his dad, Philippe Stern, who served as honorary president, and Claude Penny as the CEO.
Patek Philippe Ambassadors & Brand Placement
Unlike other luxury watch brands, Patek Philippe has a different marketing strategy and doesn’t have any watch ambassadors. This very exclusive watchmaking brand doesn’t need to spend even a penny to pay celebrities to wear their difficult-to-own watches.
Instead of relying on celebrity endorsements, the brand prioritizes haute horlogerie, precision, and accuracy in its watch movements while maintaining its exclusive reputation that does not cater to market whims.
Current & Past Patek Philippe Models
Classic Patek Philippe Watches
This category includes some of the most iconic and most loved timepieces models made by Patek Philippe because of their timeless elegance and exceptional craftsmanship.
The Nautilus watch collection is probably the most sought-after model made by the brand. Nautilus timepieces are famous for their rounded octagonal bezel and horizontally embossed dial.
Because of its iconic reputation, even the most basic watches from this collection are highly desirable for many watch enthusiasts.
Price Range: $34,890 – $134,840
If you want an affordable Patek Philippe watch, the Aquanaut collection is one of the best options for you. Released in 1997, this model created a sensation in the watch community for its young, modern, yet classic design.
Available in different watch dials to choose from, the Aquanaut watches are perfect for modern gents today.
Price Range: $21,650 – $69,190
Calatrava was one of the earliest wristwatch collections established in Patek Philippe History. These classic timepieces symbolize success, elegance, and class. This makes them one of the definitive dress watches of all time.
Price Range: $24,600 – $40,810
Made for classy ladies who love to wear stunning watches adorned with beautiful white diamonds, the Lady Twenty-4 watch collection epitomizes timeless feminine elegance dedicated to the young, active, and modern woman.
It is a perfect companion for formal gatherings and would surely complement evening wear.
Price Range: $16,800 – $60,320
Professional Patek Philippe Watches
Besides its classic watches, Patek Philippe is also famous for their tool watches equipped with superb complications. This makes their timepieces highly collectible for seasoned and even new watch collectors.
Watches from this collection are products of the Patek Philippe advanced research program, which aims to make their timepieces more than just a time-telling device, but also a tool watch that can help the daily lives of their wearer.
In each watch from the Grand Complications collection, many lifetimes of artistry and skill are captured to produce an object of timeless worth.
Price Range: $92,260 – $485,000
Like the previous collection, Patek Philippe Complication is a collection of timepieces with amazing intricate movements with other functions beyond telling time. This includes an annual calendar, dual time zones, and world time displays.
Price Range: $35,480 – $163,230
The Patek Philippe Gondolo collection is famous for its rectangular, tonneau or cushion-shaped cases. Watches from this collection boast an excellent mix of classic and contemporary design and architecture.
Beautiful, elegant, and stunning.
Price Range: 35,400 – $149,300
First introduced in 1968, the Golden Ellipse was a bold departure from traditional watch shapes that Patek Philippe made, as it features an elliptical case between a circle and a rectangle.
The design of these watches was inspired by the principle of the “golden ratio” discovered by ancient Greek mathematicians.
Price Range: $34,070 – $72,150
Discontinued Patek Philippe Models
With almost 200 years of fine watchmaking history, Patek Philippe also retired some of their classic timepieces. But although they are now discontinued, it doesn’t mean that these timepieces aren’t great.
As a matter of fact, these discontinued watch models are now more highly desirable and often more expensive than other watches in the Patek Philippe catalog.
Patek Philippe Calatrava 5119R
Released in 2006, the Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref. 5119R features an 18k rose gold case with a classic white dial and Roman numeral hour markers. It is also powered by manual wound in-house calibre that can be seen on its transparent caseback.
Price Range: Starts at $19,200
Patek Philippe Tourbillon Minute Repeater 5078P
The Patek Philippe Tourbillon Minute Repeater Ref. 5078P is one of the classic dress watches that no watch collector can refuse to have.
This ultra-rare platinum timepiece features a beautiful enamel dial and stunning in-house automatic movement with minute repeater complication.
Price Range: Starts at $365,000
Patek Philippe Nautilus 5712GR-001
This special edition Patek Philippe Nautilus features a white gold case and is paired with a rose gold bezel. Unlike other Nautilus models, this watch has a unique slate gray dial and is run by a self-winding movement with date and moon phase functions.
Price Range: Starts at $52,000
Patek Philippe Innovations & Patents
Patek Philippe is one of the oldest pioneers of the Swiss watchmaking industry. They invented over 20 elite watch movements and have received over 100 patents on its almost 200 years of history.
Here are some of the most notable contributions of the Patek Philippe brand to the watchmaking world:
- Precision Regulator
- Perpetual Calendar Mechanism
- First Double chronograph
- Gyromax Balance
- Self-Winding Mechanism Calibre 12-600AT
- Time-Zone Watches
- Ultra-Thin Automatic Calibre 240
- Photoelectric Table Clocks
- Secular Perpetual Calendar with Retrograde Date
- Annual Calendar Mechanism
Patek Philippe Serial Number Structure
Like other luxury watches, every timepiece from Patek Philippe has its own randomized serial number. These serial numbers are important information to help you track the production date of a watch. Moreover, this can also be used for authenticity purposes.
How To Find A Patek Philippe Serial Number
If you have a Patek Philippe watch with an exhibition or see-through caseback, you can find the serial number when you look at the inside of the case back. But if not, these important numbers can be easily seen as it is engraved on the caseback.
Frequently Asked Questions
Patek Philippe created an ornate wristwatch with Caliber 27368 for Countess Koscowicz of Hungary in 1868.
Patek Philippe watches are considered rare because of their exclusive and limited production. This is because all Patek Philippe timepieces are hand-crafted by elite watchmakers of the brand.
Patek Philippe usually makes about more or less 60,000 watches a year.
Patek Philippe Watch History – Conclusion
And we’re done! That is the complete and comprehensive history of Patek Philippe and some of their greatest contribution to the modern watch world. We hope this guide can help you further understand the story behind every timepiece made by this top-tier luxury brand.
Do you want to know more about the watchmaking world?
If you want to learn more about watches, check out our comparison of the Patek Philippe vs Audemars Piguet watch brands.