The Fascinating Story Behind Queen Victoria's Pocket Watch
It’s a little known fact that Patek Philippe got its start with wristwatches through a woman named Madame Goscinska, who bought References No. 63, No. 64, and No. 65 in 1839. Back then, wristwatches were reserved for women who wore them as decorative accessories.
Years later, Patek Philippe’s exquisite treasures caught the eye of another noblewoman, Queen Victoria. During the 1851 Great Exhibition, the Queen was among the first to admire the world's first keyless watches.
The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations was a celebration of technology that was thought up by Prince Albert. The exhibition was staged in Hyde Park and was attended by over six million people during its entire duration.
“This day is one of the greatest and most glorious days of our lives, with which to my pride and joy, the name of my dearly beloved Albert is for ever associated,” Queen Victoria recorded in her journal on the day of the exhibition. “It is a day which makes my heart swell with thankfulness. We began the day with tenderest greetings and congratulations on the birth of our dear little Arthur. He was brought in at breakfast and looked beautiful with blue ribbon on his frock. Mama and Victor were there, as well as all the children and our dear guests. Our little gifts of toys were added to by ones from the Pce and Pcess [of Prussia].”
One of the exhibitors was a relatively new company named Patek, Philippe & Cie.
In one of the royal's visits, Patek and Philippe, who manned the stall, presented her with a pendant watch in a yellow gold case. The striking watch featured a white enamel dial and a Patek Philippe ebauche. On its back, it had a bouquet of rose cut diamond set roses on a lapis blue enamel ground surrounded by scrolling.
The Queen was so taken aback by Patek Philippe’s treasures that she bought it on the spot along with another pendant watch. The second pendant watch featured a white enamel dial, painted Roman numerals and was decorated with diamonds in a floral motif. Prince Albert also purchased a watch at the exhibition, and according to Patek Philippe’s records, he was an ardent promoter of the manufacturer.
Not long after that, Queen Victoria appointed Patek Philippe to be her royal watchmaker. Soon, more royals followed suit and grew to appreciate the Swiss manufacturer’s watches. Those who followed included Franz Joseph I of Austria, Oscar II of Sweden, Christian IX of Denmark, King Rama V, and more.
“Queen Victoria was the first royalty to purchase [Patek Philippe watches]. This [acquisition in 1851] began a line of royal patronage,” said Rhone Products managing director Mark Hearn.
Today, Patek Philippe still holds a special place within British royalty: Queen Elizabeth and her son Prince Charles remain fans of the manufacturer. And now, Queen Victoria’s pendant watches have come full circle, appearing alongside Patek Philippe’s other historical watches at the Grand Exhibition in Singapore from September 28 to October 13.
See photos from Patek Philippe Watch Art Grand Exhibition in Singapore below: