One of the world’s oldest and most-revered luxury watch companies, Patek Philippe have pioneered countless pieces of technology and fueled the advancement of the art of modern-day watchmaking.
The company represents a yardstick that even now many watch manufacturers measure themselves against for their master craftsmanship and innovations.
This blog will discuss The rich tapestry of Patek Philippe history, from initial creation right through to the modern day.
Pre-Patek Philippe History
Before Patek Philippe was even a concept, the two men that would go on to be the eventual founders, Jean Adrian Philippe and Antoni Norbert Patek, were on their own paths in watchmaking.
Patek was born in Poland in 1812. After living the first twenty years of his life under the cruel rule of Russia’s Tsar Nicholas I, and a spell serving as a freedom fighter, Patek would flee his homeland, seeking political asylum in Paris before moving to Geneva — the home of horology to many.
On moving to the city and living amongst its many workshops and master craftsmen, Patek sought to immerse himself into the watchmaking industry. Initially, he would purchase high-quality local movements and fit them into his own watch cases under the Patek, Czapek & Cie name, a predecessor to Patek Philippe.
Patek, Czapek & Cie were estimated to have produced over a thousand timepieces in the six years prior to Patek leaving the venture. Czapek & Cie would also go on to produce many timeless watches for decades after.
Just before the dissolution of Patek, Czapek & Cie, Antoni Patek would travel to his former home of Paris for an exhibition where he was introduced to a widely respected and innovative watchmaker, Jean Adrien Philippe.
Philippe was credited for revolutionising the standards for watch design for the era by introducing a watch that could be wound with a crown rather than a key. This invention would earn him great exposure and attract the attention of many key figures at the time, including Queen Victoria, one of the most powerful figures in the world.
A year later in 1845, Patek’s contract with Czapek & Cie expired. The company dissolved, and Patek and Philippe would come together to found a new watch company, Patek & Co. which would be renamed Patek Philippe six years later. The rest is history.
Origins of the Brand
The newly founded brand quickly turned heads and rose to relative prominence. The early years of the Patek Philippe collaboration saw Philippe continue to innovate and further establish himself as one of the most widely renowned figures in watchmaking.
While this was happening, Patek travelled across Europe and beyond to market their watches and ensure the brand’s continued growth and success.
Early innovations and milestones for the company during this period include:
- A stem-winding watch
- New precision regulators
- Durable mainsprings
- A watch displaying multiple time-zones
- Perpetual calendar mechanisms for pocket watches
- The first double chronograph
- The brand become principle suppliers for Tiffany & Co. in New York
Both partners operated under the belief that absolute perfection was the goal, and the success of the company throughout history can be attributed almost entirely to following this principle. Around the same time, Patek Philippe models could be spotted on the wrists of many a royal and noble.
Antoine de Patek would pass away in 1877. Joseph Antoine Bénassy-Philippe — Jean Adrien’s son-in-law — was named his successor as Patek’s surviving son did not wish to join the business. Jean Adrien Philippe would continue to create and innovate for a further 13 years before retiring in 1890. His son, Joseph Emile Philippe, would continue in his footsteps.
Despite the loss of the two founders, even tougher times were ahead for Patek Philippe.
The Stern Family
In 1932, the world’s economy was crippled by the Great Depression. In turn, Patek Philippe would be faced with huge hits. In order to survive this financial catastrophe, the company was forced to seek outside investment in the form of Jean and Charles Henri Stern — two Genevan brothers — to stay afloat. The Stern family would go on to purchase a majority interest in the company.
This partnership made perfect sense, as the brothers and the company already had an existing relationship at the time. All parties shared similar desires to maintain the traditions of high-quality Swiss watchmaking.
Under new management, Patek Philippe went about making some key changes. First of all, the company would begin making its own, in-house movements. This period would be a successful one in Patek Philippe history books It would see the creation of a flagship model, the Calatrava in 1932, a model so beloved that updated versions remain a part of the Patek Philippe collection to this day.
The company has remained with the Stern family ever since the initial deal in the 1930s. In 1968, Henri Stern became president of the business. He was followed by his son, the aptly named Philippe Stern in 1993.
In 2001, as a way to pay homage to the history of Patek Philippe, and the art of horology, Philippe Stern oversaw the opening of The Patek Philippe Museum. The museum stores a century’s worth of Patek Philippe history, and watchmaking at large.
Modern History of Patek Philippe
To this day, Patek Philippe remains at the forefront of the industry. Patek Philippe is often cited as one of the finest makers of luxury watches in the world.
The business generates over $1billion annually in revenue, and over one million watches are estimated to have been produced throughout the history of Patek Philippe.
Make History Yourself With a Patek Philippe Timepiece
The history of Patek Philippe watches is one of precision and innovation, it is what makes them one of the premium manufacturers of luxury Swiss watches in the world. People who own a Patek Philippe will be the first to tell you how the craftsmanship, heritage, and design are what makes a Patek Philippe special.
If you have your eye on adding a Patek Philippe watch to your collection, it’s paramount that you work with a dealer you can trust. Blowers have been operating in the market of second hand luxury watches and jewellery for decades. We know what it takes to pair you with your perfect Patek Philippe watch.
That said, if you’re looking to purchase a Patek Philippe, a premium price tag is often attached. Find out more about why Patek Philippe watches are so expensive in our blog covering the subject.
From a Calatravas to an Aquanaut, Travel Time to Annual Calendar, we have an excellent collection of Patek Philippe sure to turn heads and complement any collection. For more information about how Blowers Jewellers can help with finding you the perfect Patek Philippe, or for assistance to guide you through our stunning collection of second hand luxury timepieces, contact us today.