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On January 1, 1851, the company's name was officially changed to Patek, Philippe & Cie. In the same year, Queen Victoria of Britain acquired a keyless pendant watch at the Great Exhibition in London. The watch was embellished with rose-cut diamonds set in the pattern of a bouquet of flowers. The Queen had another exclusive Patek Philippe timepiece, to be worn pinned to clothing. This watch was suspended from a diamond and enamel brooch. In 1868, Patek Philippe created the first Swiss wristwatch for Countess Koscowicz of Hungary.
In March 1877, Antoni Patek passed away at the age of 65, but his only son, Léon Mecyslas Vincent, did not join the business. As a result, Joseph Antoine Bénassy-Philippe, one of Adrien Philippe's sons-in-law, succeeded Antoni Patek's position. In 1887, Calatrava Cross became the registered company logo of Patek Philippe. In 1891, the 76-year-old Adrien Philippe handed over his position in the business to his youngest son Joseph Emile Philippe, together with Francois Antoine Conty. Adrien Philippe died in January 1894.
1901 saw the transformation of Patek Philippe into a joint-stock company, Ancienne Manufacture d'horlogerie Patek, Philippe & Cie, Société Anonyme, initiated by J. A. Bénassy-Philippe and Joseph E. Philippe. Still being run a family business, Patek Philippe then had seven shareholders, five of whom formed the board of directors with J. A. Bénassy-Philippe being the chairman. Joseph E. Philippe's son later joined the company, and he was the last offspring of the founders in the business. In 1915, Albert Einstein ordered a gold pocket watch from Patek Philippe; in that year, he completed his Theory of General Relativity.
Patek Philippe has been owned by the Swiss Stern family since 1932, when Charles Stern and Jean Stern acquired the company during the Great Depression. The Stern brothers' company, Fabrique de Cadrans Sterns Frères, had been a business partner of Patek Philippe as its supplier of watch dials. In 1935, Patek Philippe was brought to American markets by New York-based Henri Stern Watch Agency, where it was sold as a sister brand alongside Universal Genève.
In 1958, Henri Stern, the son of Charles Stern, became the president of Patek Philippe. Alan Banbery, who previously designed Universal's "Compax" movements and worked as a horologist for London's Garrard & Co, would take on the position of Director of Sales in 1965 and later authored official reference books on vintage Patek Philippe pocket watches and chronographs.
In 1993, Philippe Stern, the son of Henry Stern, became the president of the company. He initiated the publication of the twice-a-year Patek Philippe Magazine in 1996, which is reserved for the watch owners and has received contributions from various prominent writers including Nobel LaureatesGao Xingjian and José Saramago. And in 2009, Philippe Stern's son, Thierry Stern, took over the reins from his father in 2010. In 2010, the company produced 40,000 timepieces and, according to Thierry Stern, it produced 58,000 pieces in 2017. In 2018, the number went up to 62,000, and in order to maintain quality and exclusivity, Patek Philippe would only slowly increase the number of timepieces produced each year (by 1-3 percent per year) but with a ceiling. Currently, the company is an active member of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry FH.
Since 2000s, Patek Philippe timepieces have repeatedly fetched high prices in auctions worldwide. As of 2018, among the world's top ten most expensive watches ever sold at auctions, seven are Patek Philippe watches, and among the top 58 most expensive watches sold at auction (over 2 million US dollars), 46 are Patek Philippe watches. A small part of the demand for auction pieces is driven by Patek Philippe themselves, as they are purchasing in the auction market to add to the collection of the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva.
Motto and slogan
One of Patek Philippe's company slogans is "You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation." The slogan was introduced when the company launched its "Generations" campaign in 1996.
A pocket watch in the Patek Philippe collection of Tiffany & Co., an authorized retailer and close business partner of Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe manufactures its own watch components. Like other Swiss manufacturers, the company produces mostly mechanical movements with automatic or manual winding mechanism, but has also been producing quartz watches. In fact, Patek Philippe was one of the twenty Swiss watch companies that founded the Centre Electronique Horloger and collaboratively developed the first Swiss quartz movements, such as the Beta 21 movement (1969) which was used by several manufacturers in their watches. In 1950s, the company even produced a prototype for a mechanical digital wristwatch, Ref. 3414.
Patek Philippe popularized complications such as perpetual calendar, split-seconds hand, chronograph, and minute repeater in mechanical watches. In 2009, the company announced that all of its future mechanical timepieces would be imprinted with the Patek Philippe Seal which requires a precision of -3/+2 seconds per day for diameters no less than 20 mm and -5/+4 seconds per day for diameters less than 20 mm, surpassing the highest industry standard of watch manufacturing and thus abandoning the Geneva Seal.
Notable inventions and patents
Patek Philippe has invented over 20 basic calibres and has received over 100 patents. The following are some of the important contributions from Patek Philippe to the watchmaking industry.
In 1845, patented keyless winding and hand-setting system, which received a bronze medal at the 1844 Industrial Exposition in Paris.
In 2011, introduced the Oscillomax ensemble, combining the Spiromax balance spring, the Pulsomax escapement, and the GyromaxSi balance.
In 2014, created the Grandmaster Chime Ref. 5175, one of the world's most complicated wristwatches (20 complications).
Top 5 gold producing nations
In December 2018, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) released an official report giving environmental ratings for 15 major watch manufacturers and jewelers in Switzerland. Patek Philippe, along with 7 other manufacturers including Audemars Piguet, Breguet and Rolex, was given the lowest environmental rating as "Latecomers/Non-transparent", suggesting that the manufacturer has taken very few actions addressing the impact of its manufacturing activities on the environment and climate change.
On November 12, 2016, a Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 in steel took the title as the most expensive wristwatch ever sold at auction (until October 2017). Sold through Phillips' Geneva auction house, the watch fetched a final price of US$11.14 million (CHF 11,002,000). This was the first time that a steel-case Ref. 1518 (only four were made in steel) went for auction; in fact, this piece was the first of the four steel Ref.1518 manufactured, which features a chronograph and perpetual calendar.
In 1932, Patek Philippe launched the first Calatrava model Ref. 96, which was designed by English horologist David Penney who was influenced by the Bauhaus art movement in Germany. Originally, the Stern brothers, soon after they acquired Patek Philippe in 1932, introduced the Calatrava to help the company pass through the Great Depression smoothly.
The original Calatrava Ref. 96 was in production for more than 40 years, and its successor models include Ref. 2526, Ref. 3520, Ref. 5196 and so on. Known for its simple and elegant design, the Calatrava wristwatch has been a flagship model of Patek Philippe since its introduction. Notably, the Calatrava Cross has been company's logo since 1887.
World Time wristwatch
Patek Philippe 5131R-011 World Time wristwatch (front view)
Patek Philippe World Time (Heures Universelles) collection was introduced in 1939, with Ref.1415 being the first model. The "World Time" complication is able to show the time for all 24 time zones on the same watch and was invented by Swiss watchmaker Louis Cottier in 1930s. Cottier's invention attracted several watchmaking companies, while Patek Philippe was the first company to introduce a series of World Time wristwatches after forging a partnership with Mr. Cottier. The successors to Ref. 1415 include Ref. 2523, Ref. 5230, Ref. 5531 (with minute repeater), and so on.
In 1976, Patek Philippe introduced the Nautilus collection after deciding it was time to produce an exclusive sport watch with finishes of the highest quality. The first model was Ref. 3700 and was made of steel. It was designed by Swiss watchmaker Gérald Genta, who previously designed the Royal Oak collection for Audemars Piguet, and was released by Patek Philippe during the quartz crisis in the hope that it would help re-attract people's attention to high-end Swiss mechanical watches.
The Nautilus collection played a key role in Patek Philippe's overall marketing strategy as it had to refresh the brand image while perpetuating tradition. The target was represented by dynamic business managers of the new generations. The Nautilus wristwatch has become one of the most popular collections from Patek Philippe, and the Ref. 5711 & 5712 models, which the company introduced in 2006 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the collection, are among the most popular models.
Perpetual calendar chronograph
Patek Philippe perpetual calendar chronograph 5270R
Patek Philippe perpetual calendarchronograph was introduced in 1941, with Ref. 1518 being the first model. On November 12, 2016, a Ref. 1518 in steel became the most expensive wristwatch ever sold at auction (until October 2017), fetching a record-breaking US$11.14 million (11,002,000 CHF) in Geneva (through Phillips' auction house).
As the successor, Ref. 2499 is widely considered to be one of the greatest watch models in the world. Historically, only 349 pieces of Ref. 2499 were made from 1950 to 1985 - around 9 pieces each year. Over the course of 35 years, four series of Ref. 2499 were introduced, exerting a strong influence on the watch designs of many other renowned watchmakers. As of June 2019, Ref. 2499 holds eleven spots among the 59 world's most expensive watches sold at auction (over 2 million US dollars) and at least 18 pieces of Ref. 2499 have been auctioned for more than 1.5 million US dollars, with the world record being 3.880 million US dollars (3,915,000 CHF) made at Sotheby's Geneva auction on November 13, 2018. The successors to Ref. 2499 include, in chronological order, Ref. 3970, Ref. 5970 and Ref. 5270.
Sky Moon Tourbillon
Patek Philippe Ref. 5002 Sky Moon Tourbillon
Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillon wristwatch was introduced in 2001, with Ref. 5002 being the first model. The wristwatch has two dials and contains 12 complications including tourbillon, minute repeater, sky chart, and moon phase & orbit. In 2013, the company introduced the second model of Sky Moon Tourbillon, Ref. 6002, also with 12 complications. The new model took 7 years of research and development, while the engraving on each piece alone took more than 100 hours.
Sky Moon Tourbillon was the most complicated wristwatch from Patek Philippe until 2014, and is one of the most important wristwatches manufactured in the 21st century. It is estimated that only 3 - 5 pieces are made each year, and the price for each piece is over US$1.2 million. However, every purchase of the piece requires an application from the buyer and has to be approved by Patek Philippe President Thierry Stern. On October 2, 2018, a Sky Moon Tourbillon 6002G was auctioned by Poly Auction in Hong Kong, fetching US$2.707 million (HKD 21,240,000), making it one of the most expensive watches ever sold in auction.
150th anniversary edition
In 1989, Patek Philippe created Calibre 89, then the most complicated mechanical watch ever made, for its 150th anniversary. Calibre 89 holds 33 complications, including the date of Easter, time of sunrise, equation of time, sidereal time, and many other indicators. 1,728 unique parts allow sidereal time, a 2,800 star chart, and more. In addition, Calibre 89 is able to add a day to February for leap years while leaving out the extra day for every 100 year interval.
Only four pieces of Calibre 89 were ever manufactured by Patek Philippe, with one in white gold, one in yellow gold, one in rose gold, and one in platinum. The yellow-gold and the white-gold Calibre 89 were sold at auctions by Antiquorum in 2009 and 2004, respectively, and both watches currently rank among the top ten most expensive watches ever sold at auction, with final prices over 5 million US dollars.
175th anniversary edition
In 2014, Patek Philippe introduced the Grandmaster Chime Ref. 5175, the most complicated wristwatch ever built by the manufacturer (with 20 complications, but no tourbillon), to celebrate its 175th anniversary. Only seven pieces of Ref. 5175 were created, with one permanently residing in the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva. The sale price for each of the other six pieces was 2.5 million CHF (2.6 million US dollars).
In 2016, Patek Philippe introduced the Grandmaster Chime Ref. 6300, succeeding the Grandmaster Chime Ref. 5175. Ref. 6300 also has 20 complications, including grande sonnerie, minute repeater, and alarm with time strike (but without tourbillon), with the sale price over 2.2 million US dollars. The purchase of each piece requires an application from the buyer and has to be approved by Patek Philippe President Thierry Stern.
The Patek Philippe pocket watch (made in 1866) given to Jane Stanford by Leland Stanford as a New Year's gift on January 1, 1868. In late 1890s and early 1900s, Jane had the watch along with her other jewelry collections auctioned to fund the fledgling Stanford University. In 2005, the watch was sent back to the university, and it is the only piece among Jane Stanford's original collection to re-emerge.
^Albert Einstein ordered a gold pocket watch from Patek Philippe in 1915, the year when he completed his theory of General Relativity. This watch is now kept in the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva. Before that, Einstein had a possibly German-made, unknown-brand pocket watch (circa 1900), which was auctioned by Christie's for GBP 266,500 in London on July 13, 2016. In addition, Einstein also owned two timepieces from Longines, one 1943 silver pocket watch and one 1929 gold wristwatch. His Longines wristwatch, which was presented to him by RabbiEdgar Magnin in 1931, was auctioned by Antiquorum for US$596,000 in New York on October 16, 2008, making it the most expensive Longines' timepiece ever sold at auction. His Longines pocket watch is now kept in the Bern Historical Museum in Switzerland.