When it comes to talk about fine watchmaking, the conversation always leads at some point to Patek Philippe. These two magical words belong to the restricted circle of the “Holy Trinity” or the “Big Three”, as Jack Forster from Hodinkee himself calls it. Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin are often considered as the three most important swiss watchmakers. With the emergence of fine watchmakers from all around the world (Germany and Japan for example), it’s difficult to go as far as to say that only the “Holy Trinity” rules over the world of luxury watchmaking today but they do have a great historical legitimacy. In order to have a better understanding of Patek’s groundbreaking success, we could split it into three main factors : the historical legacy of an old brand (170 years of existence), the innovative movements (+70 patents filed) and the outstanding design of several iconic watches. Patek Philippe is a very old brand whose watches are icons equipped with some of the most complicated movements ever created.
History of Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe was founded in 1839 by the polish Antoine Norbert de Patek and the Czech François Czapek. In 1844 Czapek had to leave and was replaced by Jean Adrien Philippe. That’s why in 1845 Antoine Norbert de Patek, Jean Adrien Philippe and Vincent Gostowski founded in Geneva the company Patek & C° and later in 1851, the company Patek Philippe & C°. In 1932, the Stern family took the company over and Patek still belongs to this family today. One of the most distinguishing factor is that Patek Philippe has archived all the data concerning its customers since the beginning of its activity. If your Patek Philippe has been serviced by Patek Philippe, you can find all the information concerning its background. This is one of the reason why Patek Philippe is one of the most collected brand nowadays.
• 1932: Birth of the Calatrava. The Calatrava can be considered as the ultimate classic watch. Designed in 1932, this watch was inspired by the Bauhaus (form follows function). Thanks to its minimalist design, the Calatrava can easily be read. The Calatrava still is a timeless classic with a gold case and a amazing movement.
• 1941: Birth of the Perpetual Calendar Chronograph. The Perpetual Calendar Chronograph is a technically impressive movement. The ability of combining two separate complications (the perpetual calendar and the chronograph) in one single movement was a huge breakthrough at that time. The Perpetual Calendar Chronograph has evolved throughout history. The different references are: 1518, 2499, 3970, 5970 and now the 5270. The very first movement was a Valjoux modified by Victorin Piguet and then decorated accorded to the high standards of Patek Philippe by its watchmakers. Today Patek Philippe produces an in-house movement for the 5270.
• 1976: Birth of the Nautilus. The Nautilus is obviously one of the most famous watches ever. Designed by Gerald Genta (father of the Royal Oak too), it’s the ultimate “sports luxury watch”. The creation of a stainless steel watch with a Patek Philippe movement was something unusual at that time. Patek Philippe’s ad was at that time : “one of the world costliest watches is made of steel”. Patek wanted to show that the best watch with the best movement had not necessary to be made of gold.
• 1997: Birth of the Aquanaut. The Aquanaut is a very original watch in Patek’s Collection. The watch’s design is sporty with a « tropical » strap (made of rubber) which is radically different from leather straps. The stainless steel case is inspired by the Nautilus. Just like the Nautilus, it’s a stainless steel watch equipped with a high quality movement inside. This watch is aimed at a younger audience, very different from Patek’s traditional audience.