May 1st, 2014 marked the 175th anniversary of the establishment of one of the oldest and finest watchmaking manufactures of all time. Patek Philippe is Geneva's oldest independent family-owned watch manufacturer. Its independence enables it to go its own way and control its own destiny while pursuing a long-term vision. Celebrating almost two centuries of existence is not an easy feat. For the occasion, Patek Philippe has created a special section on their website to walk everyone through their milestones and rich history. To make things easier on you, we have dissected that information to walk you through the chronological journey of Patek Philippe and its rich history in a more simple way. All non-watermarked historical Patek Philippe images are courtesy of Patek Philippe unless stated otherwise. Now, let's dive into the rich history of how a Polish and a French man turned their watchmaking dreams into one of the most iconic watch manufactures in the world.
About Antoine Norbert de Patek
Antoine Norbert de Patek was born in Piaski, Poland in 1812. At age 16, Antoine Norbert de Patek joins the Polish cavalry. He is assigned to the 1st regiment of the mounted carabiniers and arrived in Versoix, a small town a few kilometers away from Geneva, in 1835. In 1831, Antoine Norbert de Patek is awarded the Golden Cross “Virituti Militari”. He is the 3489th recipient of this award —the highest Polish military distinction. Image from Wikipedia.com
In Versoix, he lived with Thomas Moreau, the uncle of the woman he would marry in 1839. At age 27, Antoine Norbert de Patek married Marie-Louise Adélaïde Elisabeth Thomasine Dénizart and procreated three children. The same year of his marriage he established Patek, Czapek & Cie. Antoine Norbert de Patek passed away at the age of 65 on March 1, 1877. His son Léon de Patek who was a law student signed a contract in June 1877 allowing the use of the Patek name as follows: “Mr. Léon de Patek allows Patek, Philippe & Cie to use his name subject to the following terms: he shall receive from Patek, Philippe & Cie a sum of 6000 francs per year, payable in quarterly installments ...” Léon died on October 6, 1927, in Thonon les Bains and no Patek descendants succeeded him at Patek Philippe.
About Jean Adrien Philippe
Jean Adrien Philippe was born in Perche about 90 km southwest of Paris in 1815. He was the son of watchmaker Jean-Antoine Philippe and Marie Jeanne Catherine. He had two sisters and two brothers. In 1833, at the age of 18, he left his hometown to hone his skills as a watchmaker. In his quest for perfection, he left Le Havre in 1836 and traveled to London, where he worked for a reputable watchmaker during the following three years. After having returned to France, he chose Versailles as his domicile, but business was disappointing. In 1845, he was invited to Geneva by Antoine Norbert de Patek to jointly pursue both men’s passion for watchmaking. In 1890, Jean Adrien Philippe is named Knight of the National Order of the Legion of Honour —Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur— which is a French order established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802. He received this highest decoration on November 8, 1890 from the Consul General of France in Geneva. Image from Musee-legiondhonneur.fr.
In 1891, Jean Adrien Philippe handed over the day-to-day management of the business to his son Joseph Emile Philippe and Francois Antoine Conty. Author of numerous inventions, member and president of the jury at many exhibitions and founder of Patek Philippe, Jean Adrien Philippe died on January 5, 1894. Between 1878 and 1906, the husband of his daughter Louise’s, Antoine Benassy was employed as director of finance and administration. To emphasize his affiliation with the Philippe family, Benassy appended his wife’s maiden name to his and their six children’s last name. As from 1951, no descendants of the Philippe, Benassy-Philippe or Patek families were employed by Patek Philippe.
Establishment of the Company
1839 - Patek, Czapek & Cie. is incorporated. The first manufacture was located on Quai des Bergues No. 29 in Geneva on the right bank of the Rhône.
1845 - The contract that binds Czapek and Patek is not renewed. They want to go their separate ways. Antoine Norbert de Patek invites Jean Adrienne Philippe to join him in pursuing their watchmaking dream together. What we know today as Patek Philippe is born as Patek & Cie. –manufacturers in Geneva Antoine Norbert de Patek, Jean Adrienne Philippe and attorney V. Gostkowski jointly established the company.
1851 - After having worked together with Antoine Norbert de Patek for six years, Jean Adrien Philippe insists that his name should be added to the company name. Patek promises to append the name Philippe to the company name, but weeks go by and nothing happens. Shortly before departing to the Grand Exhibition in London, Jean Adrien Philippe demands that his name be integrated in the company name for that special day, but Patek stalls. The name Philippe is present on the showcase in London but not separated from Patek with a comma, which would have made it clear that the two names were those of two different people. Finally, after Adrien Philippe threatens Patek to leave the company, Antoine Norbert de Patek concedes and agrees to draft a new contract with the name Patek, Philippe & Compagnie. Patek, Philippe & Cie is incorporated and relocated to Quai des Bergues No. 15.
1853 - The company leases space in a building between Grand Quai —on the left bank of the Rhône in front of the Port du Commerce— and Rue du Rhône 168, which is subsequently renamed Rue du Rhône 41.
1877 - 1883 Antoine Norbert de Patek passed away at the age of 65 on March 1, 1877. In 1880 at the Astronomical Observatory of Geneva, Patek, Philippe & Cie wins first prize with a pocket chronometer with lever escapement and Breguet overcoil hairspring. In the following years, Patek Philippe establishes its name worldwide as a renowned watch company while winning gold medals and participating at numerous exhibits throughout the world and even establishing a relationship with Gondolo & Labouriau of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1881. Years later, Patek Philippe would launch the iconic Gondolo as a tribute to the longstanding relationship with the renowned Brazilian partner.
1883 - 1885 The company is registered as the watch manufacture Patek, Philippe & Co., general partnership and continues to tour the world and win gold medals at various exhibits. 1883 marks the year in which Patek Philippe enters the Asian market for the first time, sending a representative on a tour that includes India, China, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, and the Dutch East Indies. Today, the Asian market is one of the most important markets for Patek Philippe and most watch manufactures. In 1884, Patek Philippe is awarded the series prize for the top five pocket chronometers at the Astronomical Observatory of Geneva with 184.9 points.
1886 - The republic and canton of Geneva introduces the Geneva Seal. A certification that guarantees the quality and provenance of movements manufactured in Geneva. Patek Philippe produces movements that carry the Geneva Seal until 2009, when the Patek Philippe Seal is introduced.
1887 - Patek, Philippe & Cie files the Swiss trademark No. 1881 on April 27, 1887 registering the Calatrava Cross emblem as the company’s logo. The registration was renewed on January 25, 1908, with the explicit mention of the designation Calatrava Cross. It is unknown what prompted Jean Adrien Philippe to adopt the Calatrava Cross as their logo. It is very likely that he decided to use it, as the fleur-de-lis is considered to be symbol of French royalty and can also be found on the coat of arms of the village in which Jean Adrien Philippe was born. For those of you interested in world history, the 'Calatrava' cross was the emblem used by the first military order founded in Castile, Spain and confirmed as a Militia by Pope Alexander III on September 26, 1164. 'Calatrava' means "Fortress of Rabah" and is also the name of a castle in Spain recovered from the Moors in 1147. The 'Calatrava' cross was originally worn by the Order Calatrava —composed by monks that later became knights— as a red Greek cross with fleur-de-lis ends.
1889 - Patek Philippe is awarded a Swiss patent for a pocket watch with independent seconds and two mainspring barrels wound simultaneously by their patented keyless pendant-winding mechanism. Patek Philippe takes part in the Exposition Universelle in Paris and is awarded a Grand Prix —one gold medal and two silver medals. Additionally, Patek Philippe is awarded patent No. 1018 for its perpetual calendar mechanism for pocket watches.
1891 - 1895 Patek Philippe & Cie purchases the building on Rue du Rhône. In 1893, Patek Philippe participated as a jury member and exhibitor at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. A year later in 1894, Jean Adrienne Philippe dies. In 1895, Patek Philippe creates the 19-ligne, open-face, minute repeater chronograph, No. 90 521, with perpetual calendar and moon phases, and a red and blue enamel monogram ‘NR’, topped by the imperial crown, for Nicolas II, Emperor of Russia.
1898 - U.S. business leader Stephen S. Palmer takes delivery of a rare early Patek Philippe supercomplication, No. 97 912, a rose gold pocket watch that numbers among its functions a perpetual calendar, split-seconds chronograph, moon phases, and a minute-repeating mechanism with grande and petite sonnerie.
1901 - Ancienne manufacture d’horlogerie Patek, Philippe & Cie Société Anonyme’ is created.
1902 - 1904 ‘Chronometro Gondolo’ is registered as a trademark in Switzerland and Patek Philippe is awarded the Swiss patent for its first double chronograph. In 1904, a Swiss patent is awarded for an extra-thin watch caliber. The winding-stem is positioned so that the center wheel is on the same plane as the ratchet.
1905 - 1929 James Ward Packard, an automobile engineer, commissioned Patek Philippe around 18 complicated watches. In 1905 James Ward Packard received his first known Patek Philippe grand complication, No. 125009: an open-face chronograph pocket watch, with minute repeater, grande and petite sonnerie, and perpetual calendar. In 1912 Packard commissioned a chronograph pocket watch, No. 157392 with a tachymeter scale capable of measuring speeds up to 150 miles per hour. Four years later in 1916 he received pocket watch No. 174129 furnished with 16 complications including a split-seconds chronograph, perpetual calendar, and petite and grande sonnerie. Packard who was establishing his motor car company in Detroit, collects a second pocket watch that year, No. 174623, which shows the exact time of sunrise and sunset back in his hometown, Warren, Ohio. In 1918, Packard received a Minute-repeating perpetual calendar watch with moon phases No. 174702. In 1919, commissioned watch No. 174720. It is the first time that Patek Philippe has combined a minute-repeating chronometer with a tourbillon —a very complex horological task. During the same year, Packard purchased pocket watch No. 170297 —a silver-cased chronometer with pendant winding mechanism and power reserve gauge. This piece wins first prize at the Astronomical Observatory of Geneva's precision timing competition in 1914 and is sold to James Ward Packard five years later.
In 1920, three exceptional pocket watches are received by James Ward Packard: No. 174749, No. 174876 and No. 190757. A year later in 1921 – James Ward Packard receives No. 197505, a watch with perpetual calendar, double power reserve and double barrel. In 1923 an eight-day perpetual calendar desk timepiece with eight-day power reserve, No. 197707, is made for him. In 1924, he takes delivery of a watch with carillon, No. 197791. In 1927, he acquired his most famous Patek, a double-faced pocket watch with 10 complications named "The Packard" No. 198023. This astronomical pocket watch was fitted with a case back that opened to reveal a rotating celestial map —the first made by Patek Philippe. More than 500 stars enameled in gold depicted the night sky as it would appear on any given night over Packard’s hometown of Warren, Ohio. That same year he purchased No. 198012, a cushion-shaped wristwatch with split-seconds chronograph and an open-face, minute repeater pocket watch and then No. 198014 fitted with a musical alarm with an ingenious design that allows the alarm to play the entire melody of his mother’s favorite tune, Godard’s "Jocelyn Lullaby". In 1929, James Ward Packard received astronomical pocket watch No. 198240, a split-seconds chronograph with perpetual calendar, phases of the moon, grande and petite sonnerie, and a minute repeater. Concurrently with the amazing creations that the company had been developing for Packard, Patek Philippe presented the Supercomplication “Duke of Regla” in 1910. The “Duke of Regla” coat-of-arms pocket watch is an exceptional timepiece with 22 1/2 ligne mechanical movement and a five-gong minute-repeating mechanism that plays the Westminster chimes —the Big Ben’s melody of London’s Houses of Parliament— on a petite and grande sonnerie. This piece is now exhibited in the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva.
In 1924, the first Patek Philippe minute-repeating wristwatch was made for the American automotive engineer and inventor Ralph Teetor. Teetor, who was blind, famously invented the cruise control device. In 1925 he purchased No. 112057 made from platinum and yellow gold with a case diameter of 27.3 mm. The timepiece, with a 10 ligne manually wound movement, features a minute repeater on two gongs which allows him to tell the time independently.
In 1925, Patek Philippe introduces its first wristwatch with perpetual calendar, No. 97975, sold to T. Emery. This timepiece is the earliest known perpetual calendar wristwatch.
In 1927, perhaps fueled by the compulsiveness of collectors like James Ward Packard, Henry Graves Jr. —a New York financial magnate and art lover— became another renowned collector of Patek Philippe timepieces commissioning a large number of Patek Philippe timepieces over several years, including “The Graves” supercomplication pocket watch with 24 complications.
This piece remains the world’s most complicated timepiece until 1989 when the Calibre 89 was launched. The same year Henry Graves Jr. received his “Paperweight” desk clock, No. 198048, with subsidiary seconds, perpetual calendar in apertures with moon phases, leap-year display and power reserve indicator. In 1928, he purchased an open-face, keyless winding pocket watch with minute repeater and moon phases, No. 198052. A year later a minute-repeating watch, No. 198212, was delivered to Henry Graves Jr., with his coat of arms on the case back.
In 1925, Graves Jr. asked Patek Philippe to create for him “the world’s most complicated timepiece.” It took eight years to research and build. The double-faced pocket watch contains more than nine hundred parts. Its 24 complications include: a grand strike with four-gong chime; an alarm on a fifth gong; a split-seconds chronograph; and a perpetual calendar. In addition, the reverse side presents sidereal time, the equation of time, the times of sunrise and sunset in New York, and a rotating chart of the portion of the nocturnal sky visible from Henry Graves Jr.’s home. This amazing pocket watch sold at Sotheby's in New York on December 2nd, 1999 for $11 Million dollars —including buyer's premium— setting an all-time world record for any timepiece. Image from Sothebys.com
1932 - Patek Philippe is acquired by Jean and Charles Henri Stern, two brothers owners of a fine dial manufacture in Geneva setting a new era for the company. That same year the first Calatrava model is launched as well as the chronograph Ref. 130.
1934 - Henri Stern, son of Charles Henri Stern, joins the company and a year later becomes Chairman of Patek Philippe.
1940 - The World Time chronograph Ref. 1415-1 HU is created. A unique timepiece combining Louis Cottier’s World Time mechanism and a chronograph mechanism. The Ref. 1415-1 HU is one of the twenty-first century's most sought after watches. It can now be admired in the Patek Philippe Museum.
1941 - Patek Philippe begins regular series production of a perpetual calendar wristwatch, the Ref. 1526.
1946 - Henri Stern founds the Henri Stern Watch Agency in New York City located in the heart of midtown in Rockefeller Center. The company is the sole distributor of Patek Philippe watches in the USA.
1949 - 1951 Patek Philippe designs an entirely new type of balance construction that replaces screws with small weights fixed on the rim of the balance wheel. The weights are integrated into the rim of the balance so as to reduce air resistance. The Gyromax balance wheel is a major technical innovation and the manufacture is awarded two Swiss patents.
1953 - 1956 Swiss patents are awarded for self-winding mechanisms. Ref. 2526 is Patek Philippe’s first self-winding model, launched in 1953 with a water-resistant case. In this movement, an ingenious switching system (using a ring of eccentric rotation) prevents idling of the solid gold rotor when it reverses. At the same time in 1954, a Swiss patent is awarded for clocks fitted with photo-electric cells. Patek Philippe's idea for a light-powered horological mechanism is to introduce additional electronic storage —an accumulator that provides the energy to wind the spring. The photoelectric cells can either store their energy electronically in the accumulator, or mechanically by winding the spring. When the mechanism is fully wound, the cells switch over to charge the accumulator. In 1956, the Patek Philippe Electronic Division makes the first all-electronic clock.
1958 - 1962 Henri Stern becomes President of Patek Philippe in 1958 and that same year another Swiss patent is granted, this time for an adjustable mechanism fixing the hairspring to the balance cock. For three consecutive years Patek Philippe designer, Gilbert Albert, wins the Jewelry Industry award at the Diamonds International Awards in New York. In 1959, a Swiss patent is awarded for a linear digital time display. The dial is made up of two synthetic cylinders, one for the hours, the other for the minutes. The superimposed cylinders, half white and half black, are linked to the motion work. They indicate the hours and minutes in two narrow apertures, as they turn. The rectilinear display produced by this ingenious construction enjoys great popularity during the second half of the 1950s and is then used across the world for speedometers in cars. Between 1959 and 1962 another Swiss patent is granted for time-zone mechanisms invented by Louis Cottier. The mechanisms allow the hour hand to move when the wearer changes time zones without affecting the minute hand or the running —and consequently the precision— of the movement.
1966 - Under the reigns of the Stern family, the name of the company is changed to Patek, Philippe S.A. That same year Philippe Stern, son of Henri Stern (1911-2002), joins the company.
1968 - The Golden Ellipse ref. 3548 with a blue sunburst dial is introduced. With this watch, Patek Philippe delights aficionados with yet another radical debut. It became an instant classic, perhaps unsurprisingly, because of its distinctive case shape based on the principle of the golden ratio.
1976 - Following the steps of Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe releases the iconic Nautilus ref. 3700/1 in stainless steel designed by Gerald Genta and inspired by a brawny ship's porthole.
1977 - Philippe Stern, son of Henri Stern, is appointed Managing Director of Patek Philippe. The same year a Swiss patent is awarded for the automatic calibre 240 with micro-rotor. The caliber has a radically smaller rotor which is integrated into the movement plate plane eliminating the need for extra height and trimming the calibre to a remarkable thinness of 2.53mm.
1986 - Patek Philippe introduces the new Lémania base movement, hand-wound classic column-wheel chronograph caliber CH 27-70, produced exclusively for Patek Philippe, replacing the Valjoux 23 VZ movement. At the same time this new calibre is fitted in the perpetual calendar ref. 3970 which was replaced in 2004 by ref. 5970 with a new slightly larger case of 40 mm.
1989 - To celebrate its 150th anniversary, Patek Philippe presented the world's most complicated timepiece ever made named Calibre 89. The Calibre 89 remains unequaled to this day. With 33 complications, this masterpiece of complexity took nine years to build including five years of research and development. The keyless three-barrel pocket watch of which only four pieces were made —white gold, rose gold, yellow gold and platinum— weighs 1.1 kilos, is fitted with 24 hands and has 1,728 components in total. Its complications include a thermometer, a celestial map, double dial with astronomical and astrological sidereal time, second time zone, time of sunrise and sunset, equation of time, perpetual calendar, century leap year correction, century, decade and year indication, four year cycle indication, season, equinox, solstice and Zodiac indication, phases and age of the moon, date of Easter indication, split-seconds chronograph, hour and minute recorders, Westminster chime on four gongs, Grande and Petite Sonnerie, alarm, up/down indicators for the going and striking train, three way setting indicator, winding crown position indicator and Tourbillon regulator. The yellow gold example that sold at Antiquorum in Geneva in 2009 sold for over 5 million Swiss Francs. Image from Antiquorum.com
During same year, the Ref. 3974 with a minute repeater, perpetual calendar, and moon phases was launched on the occasion of Patek Philippe's 150th anniversary. It is the most complicated wristwatch of its era and remains in the company's collection until 2000. The piece features mechanical self-winding movement caliber R 27 Q, with 24-hour indicators, and day, date, month, and leap year indicators. It is available in yellow gold, white gold, rose gold, or platinum, with a case diameter of 36.6 mm.
1993 - Philippe Stern becomes President of Patek Philippe. A year later, his son Thierry Stern joins the company.
1996 - 1997 Patek Philippe moves all its production facilities under one roof into a new building in Plan-les-Ouates, Geneva. The inauguration of the workshops in 1997 is celebrated with a collection of new limited edition “Pagoda” watches. The Pagoda ref. 5500 is produced in a limited edition of 1,100 pieces in yellow gold, 500 in rose gold, 250 in white gold, and 150 in platinum.
The same year the Aquanaut is introduced as a casual sports watch in steel with a "Tropical" composite strap. The Aquanaut ref. 5060 is fitted with a case diameter of 38 mm. The Aquanaut ladies’ model ref. 4960 has a case diameter of 31 mm and a 'Jumbo' ref. 5065 with a case diameter of 41.5 mm is released in 1998.
2000 - To mark the millennium, Patek Philippe presents the Star Calibre 2000, a double-sided pocket watch with 21 complications. The model features a half-hunter case and is the first timepiece in the history of Patek Philippe to house six patented inventions and 21 ingenious horological complications. It is also fitted with a five-gong Westminster chime and the movement comprises 1,118 parts.
2001 - The Patek Philippe Museum opens to the public in Geneva, unveiling Mr. Philippe Stern's private collection of timepieces accumulated over 40 years. The museum collection represents a wide selection of timepieces, presenting over five hundred years of watchmaking history.
The same year Patek Philippe launches its first —and most complicated— double-faced, two dial wristwatch comprising 12 complications: the Sky Moon Tourbillon, Ref. 5002. The piece features a manually wound movement caliber R TO PS QR SID LU CL with minute repeater, tourbillon and chime on two “cathedral” gongs. The front dial includes: perpetual calendar with retrograde date hand; hours and minutes of mean solar time; day, month, leap year by hands; moon age. The reverse includes: sidereal time and celestial chart.
2005 - Patek Philippe presents the thinnest split-seconds, column-wheel chronograph movement CHR 27-525 PS ever made as the ref. 5959. This is the first Patek Philippe chronograph movement entirely developed and produced in-house.
2009 - Thierry Stern becomes President of Patek Philippe and the fourth generation of the Stern family since they purchased the company. The company is officially named Patek Philippe SA Geneve. Concurrently, the company launches the Patek Philippe Seal. This seal replaces the use of the Geneva Seal on all their timepieces and is symbol of the evolution of a philosophy of quality and independence that the workshops in Geneva have been systematically pursuing since the company was founded in 1839.
2012 - The Ref. 5204 split-seconds chronograph with perpetual calendar is launched. The movement, caliber CHR 29-535 PS Q, features a newly developed and patented split-second mechanism that is incredibly revolutionary.
2013 - Twenty Amazingly Rare Patek Philippe Timepieces Sold for More Than $12 Million Dollars at Christie's Auction in Geneva.
2014 - Yet as if this chronological journey didn't have enough milestones, May 1, 2014 marks another milestone for this legendary manufacture celebrating its 175th anniversary.
While our summary includes most milestones in the manufacture's history, there's still more information included in the timeline on their website, so don't forget to check it out. Congratulations Patek Philippe!
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