Jewelry & Watches
8 Things You Didn't Know About Luxury Watchmaker Patek Philippe
The luxury Swiss watch manufacturer has a long history of supplying timepieces and movements to royals.
IMAGE COURTESY OF LUCERNE
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Patek Philippe has created many of the finest and most sought after timepieces in the world. Here are some things to know about the luxury Swiss watch manufacturer.

1. PATEK PHILIPPE TRACES ITS ORIGINS BACK TO 1839.


Antione Norbert de Patek and Adrien Philippe

Polish watchmaker Antoine Norbert de Patek and partner Franciszek Czapek founded Patek, Czapek & Cie, the precursor to today’s Patek Philippe & Co. The two started making pocket watches and quickly flourished by producing 200 watches a year. After a six-year partnership, Patek parted ways with Czapek and joined French watchmaker Adrien Philippe to establish Patek Philippe in 1851.  

2. IT’S THE ONLY INDEPENDENT, FAMILY-OWNED GENEVAN WATCH MANUFACTURER.


Henri Stern

Since its founding, Patek has remained a family-owned company. During the Great Depression, Patek Philippe was hit hard and sales, in particular, hit an all-time low. The company’s directors decided to approach their dial manufacturer, Fabrique de Cadrans Stern Frères, for help. The brothers behind Fabrique de Cadrans Stern Frères, Charles and Jean Stern, decided to buy shares and in the following years completely acquired the company. In 1932, ownership was transferred to the family-owned company, Henri Stern Watch Agency. Today, the luxury watch brand is headed by Thierry Stern as president of Patek Philippe.

3. THE BRAND SPECIALIZES IN COMPLICATED WATCHES.


Grand Complications 2013 6002G

There are a number of notable models, including the third most complicated model, the Grand Complications Ref. 5304R, Patek’s second most complicated model Grand Complications Ref. 6002G, and the most complicated of all, the Ref. 5208R, the first to be equipped with a chronograph, a minute repeater, and an instantaneous perpetual calendar.

4. ONE OF ITS MORE POPULAR COMPLICATIONS IS THE PERPETUAL CALENDAR.


1995 CHRONOGRAPH 5004G

The perpetual calendar mechanism has been sought after by collectors ever since Patek patented it back in 1889. It essentially displays the day, date, and month, while keeping track of each upcoming leap year. The complicated mechanism is particularly astonishing since everything inside a Patek timepiece is mechanical.

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5. IT OWNS THE MOST PATENTS FOR INNOVATION IN WATCH TECHNOLOGY.


1851 Queen Victoria

Patek and Philippe pioneered complications such as the perpetual calendar, split-seconds hand, chronograph, and minute repeater in watches. The first one was patented for a keyless winding and hand-setting system made in 1845. In total, the brand has over one hundred patents.

6. PATEK’S EXCEPTIONAL QUALITY AND CRAFTSMANSHIP SEALS ITS REPUTATION AS ONE OF THE WORLD'S MOST PRESTIGIOUS WATCHMAKERS.


Ateliers in 1950

In addition to applying age-old techniques, Patek complies with the strictest quality standards. All parts and pieces of a Patek movement are meticulously hand-finished, from the most minuscule parts down to the underside of the dial, even the parts that aren’t visible to the wearer. Excessive as it may seem, this ensures that all of the watchmaker’s timepieces run as smoothly as possible.

7. THE BRAND’S HAND-ENGRAVED WATCHES TAKE A MINIMUM OF 200 HOURS OF WORK.


The Ref. 5531 World Time Minute Repeater

Patek’s more extraordinary watches are manually engraved—the oldest technique associated with watchmaking. Those from the brand’s most recent rare handcrafts collection were decorated using more obscure techniques such as gemsetting, hand guilloching, and various grand-feu enameling techniques (miniature painting on enamel, cloisonné, champlevé, paillonné, flinqué, grisaille, plique-à-jour, Limoges enamel painting).

More: The Details on These Rare Patek Philippe Timepieces Are Extraordinary

8. PATEK HAS A LONG HISTORY OF SUPPLYING TIMEPIECES AND MOVEMENTS TO ROYALS.


First Swiss wristwatch

Patek Philippe’s timepieces have always been immensely popular with collectors, and through the years, these have included royalty. The Swiss brand has been commissioned by royalty since Queen Victoria’s reign and has created pieces for Prince Albert, Christian IX and Princess Louise of Denmark, Victor Emmanuel III of Italy, and Egyptian Sultan Hussein Kamel.

In 1868, the very first Swiss wristwatch in the world was bought by a noblewoman, Countess Koscowicz of Hungary. The wristwatch is currently in Patek’s possession and is on display at the brand’s museum. It features ornate carvings and diamonds, and was used by the countess purely as a decorative piece.

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Paolo Chua
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