For many collectors, Patek Philippe represents the pinnacle of watchmaking. The brand’s prestige results both from the company’s rich history and its innovative future. Patek Philippe has never shied away from shaking up the horological world, and it is that bold, unrivaled push from Patek Philippe that makes the brand so desirable. Additionally, Patek Philippe is just well known enough to be ubiquitously esteemed while being less ostensive with its marketing and celebrity appearances than other luxury Swiss watch brands like Rolex.
1. Patek Philippe is a family company…just not one that belongs to Patek or Philippe
Patek Philippe was founded first by Patek in 1839 and then run by Philippe. Unfortunately, while Philippe was in charge of the company, the Swiss economy took a downturn during the Great Depression, causing sales to hit an all time low. Philippe was in dire straits and reached out to everyone he could to help save Patek Philippe. Eventually, Philippe reached out to Charles and Jean Stern, the owners of the dial manufacturer for Patek Philippe. Initially, Charles and Jean Stern just invested in stock, but over the following years, they came to acquire the entire company. Since then, Patek Philippe & Co. has remained in the family. The company is not currently publicly listed, meaning that Patek Philippe & Co. is still a private, vertically integrated company.
2. They might be Swiss, but they worked pretty closely with Queen Victoria
Patek Philippe has, since its inception and barring periods of extenuating circumstances, consistently produced some of the world’s most coveted timepieces. During Queen Victoria’s reign over England, Patek Philippe was placed in charge of producing timepieces for both the queen’s consort and the queen herself. Her two pocket watches can be found in the Patek Philippe museum in Geneva, Switzerland.
3. Patek Philippe? More like Patek, Czapek & Co.
Although Patek Philippe’s roots can be traced back to 1839, the company was not known by that name until the early 1850s. Prior to Patek’s partnership with Philippe, the watch brand was known as Patek, Czapek & Co. Thankfully this changed; many doubt that Czapek & Co. would be as appealing on a dial as Patek Philippe.
4. For an old corporation, they sure do revolutionize watchmaking often
Since the company’s beginning, Patek Philippe has been changing the way watch enthusiasts go about collecting watches. Initially, Patek Philippe was the first brand to develop the first keyless pocket watches—some of the first of which were given to Queen Victoria. Later on, with innovative help from Patek Philippe’s Advanced Research Branch, the watch brand created the world’s first silicon hairspring. Most recently, Patek Philippe seems set on reimagining the minute repeater function on their latest Fortissimo.
5. Patek Philippe movements have quite the complicated complications
Although all Patek Philippe timepieces are made by hand, the watchmakers behind the watches have no trouble with throwing together a watch with a movement more complicated than anything a machine could produce. The Grandmaster Chime has twenty complications, a reversible case, two independent dials, and six patented innovations.
6. The aristocracy was pretty taken by these watches (and, shockingly, so was the pope)
The global aristocracy has consistently chosen Patek Philippe over its competitors such as Rolex and Tudor. Even the queen of Denmark, Louise, bought her husband a Patek Philippe for his birthday. Pope Pius IX used to carry around a Patek Philippe pocket watch, and nowadays Pope Francis is known to occasionally wear one of their wristwatches.
7. Patek and Philippe did not get along
When the watch company was just starting out, it was just Patek and Philippe assembling the watches. Initially, they made each watch on a rolling basis as the orders came in, but the two increasingly disagreed on watchmaking practices, eventually leading to Patek leaving the company.
8. Americans did not have easy access to these watches for the longest time
Patek Philippe is a Swiss watchmaker, and for a while, they primarily sold their watches in Switzerland, making the occasional exception for the queen of England and pope.
In the United States, where Patek Philippe timepieces enjoy massive popularity amongst investors and enthusiasts alike, it is hard to imagine that the watch has been sold in the Americas for less than 100 years; however, up until 1935, if you wanted to get your hands on a Patek Philippe, you would have to either go to Switzerland yourself or have it imported.
9. Patek Philippe takes limited edition very seriously
One of the worst things that a luxury brand can do is oversaturate their respective market with their products. To do so would be to decrease their product’s scarcity, driving down prices and profits. Patek Philippe has prevented this by simply limiting the amount of watches they produce annually, leading to less than one million watches being released from the company since its start in 1839. Rolex releases just shy of one million watches annually, to put the figure in perspective.
10. President of Patek Philippe might have listened to your watch
Recently, Patek has released a new minute repeater known as the FORTISSIMO REF. 5750P. This mechanical watch loudly chimes the time at a push of a button. Such sophisticated technology does not come cheap, with retail prices starting at nearly $600,000 USD. To verify that each repeater sold is in working order, it is rumored that Thiery Stern, the president of Patek Philippe, listens to each before it is sold.
For the vast majority of collectors, Patek Philippe timepieces fall comfortably outside of their budgets, but if you can, know that, by purchasing that watch, you are buying into one of the most revolutionary, highest caliber horological instruments that money can buy. Patek Philippe is also the watchmaker to watch even if you do not want one of their watches. From designing the first silicon hairspring to crafting the first minute repeater, Patek Philippe is constantly reshaping the industry.