You ask it to yourself, you ask it to your friends, you even ask it to strangers, “What time is it?” might just land itself as one of the most common questions asked every day that warrants a specific and genuine answer. Unlike “How are you?” which sometimes seems to have become a casual greeting spewed out of politeness and habit, asking what time it is and proving an accurate answer serve a purpose—from saving someone from being late to actually saving lives.
This high importance given to time is reflected by enthusiastic watch manufactures since time immemorial. One of these luxury watchmakers is Patek Philippe, considered to be one of the most prestigious, and boasts centuries-old of tradition, uniqueness borne out of hard work, and awe-inspiring innovations. A Patek Philippe is art masterpiece admired all around the world.
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Before delving into highlights of the very interesting, nearly 180-year old story of Patek Philippe, here are some quick facts for those who are always on a time crunch.
- Origin: Switzerland
- Founded: 1839
- Founders: Antoni Patek and Adrien Philippe
- Known for: Complicated mechanical watches, especially “The Supercomplication” tagged as the most complicated watch ever made
Proud tradition and innovative craftsmanship
Patek Philippe is the last independent, family-owned Genevan watch manufacturer. Before their pivotal encounter at the French Industrial Exposition in 1844, Polish-born Antoni Patek and French-born Adrien Philippe lead a life of vibrant journey—from Poland to Switzerland (for Patek) and from France to the United Kingdom (for Philippe), bringing in dynamic experiences and their individual wealth of watchmaking expertise.
Traveling to Geneva with Patek’s letter of invitation in hand, Philippe replaced Patek’s first business partner and equally gifted watchmaker Franciszek Czapek, and Patek Philippe & Co., that we know of today, was born. Their partnership worked. Both perfectionists, many Polish and Russian clients went to Patek in Geneva for his pleasant manners, while Philippe worked on the completion and creation of new timekeeping instruments, as well as the pursuit of one of his first inventions—the keyless winding work.
Chasing dreams and the making the world fall in love with the brand
Philippe wanted to establish a manufacturing operation and Patek realized that international clients were important for the company to survive. Both traveled to London to attend The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations in 1851 where Queen Victoria purchased two watches.
An excerpt from Patek’s travel diaries reveals that there were tribulations during their travel. But even when the conditions of traveling were far from ideal, he continued the journey and arrived in the United States, securing an order from Tiffany for 130 watches.
From then on, Patek and Philippe started to make watches for royals such as creating the first Swiss wristwatch for Hungarian countess Koscowicz in 1968. The company invented new timepieces and movements such as the first chronograph in 1870, the infamous Supercomplication (having 24 functions) for banker Henry Graves in 1919, the first World Time wristwatch (with 24 timezones) in 1937, the first Annual Calendar in 1996, and so on.
Known for supreme quality and innovation that continuously revolutionize the watch industry, it only makes sense that Patek Philippe has produced some of the most expensive watches. In 2016, the Supercomplication pocket watch was sold at auction for $24 million dollars, mentioned in the Ariel Adam’s book, The World’s Most Expensive Watches as the highest amount paid for a single watch.
Exceptional principles that lead to the world’s finest creations
Patek Philippe has been owned by the Stern Family since 1932. To this day, the principles left by the founders endure and guide the company. First, “the quality of produced watches maintained on the highest possible level” proven by its in-house complete manufacture from start to finish. And second, “the ability of implementing new inventions and constructive solutions” attested by over a hundred patents.
If you’re interested to know more about Patek Philippe and the history of timekeeping instruments and movements, the company, created as a reflection of Philippe Stern’s passion for timepieces, opened in 2001 the “temple to watchmaking”—The Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva.
While it’s been said that a tech company, known as Apple, surpassed the sales of the whole Swiss watch industry in the last quarter of 2017, nothing can compare to the painstaking process of creating timepieces. Some may ask, why would a person pay such huge amount for a device that tells time when you can access that information digitally? It’s all about the genius craftsmanship behind watchmaking that demonstrates humankind’s creativity and determination.
The next time you look at a Patek Philippe or any luxury watch for that matter, think about the hard work of exceptionally and specifically skilled and trained people who marvelously and patiently handle the watch’s micro components and put them all together resulting in a complex and highly accurate piece of beauty that mechanically is close to perfection. It’s more than a mere timekeeping equipment, it’s art. And any Patel Philippe timepiece is a genuine masterpiece.
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