If any brand can take the ‘King of Watches’ crown it’s Patek Philippe – a watch-making supernova that’s as sophisticated as it is expensive…
The women’s Annual Calendar launched in 2015
It takes time to make a Patek Philippe.The most basic watch takes nine months, while a more complicated one is a two-year process only suitable for the supremely patient.
If you own one, you’re in good company.Queen Victoria owned a Patek Philippe (pictured above), as did Prince Albert. Surprisingly Charlottle Bronte was a fan. Eric Clapton famously sold his Perpetual Calendar, which he acquired in 1987, for £2.3m in 2012, while Brad Pitt is a fan of the Nautilus and Pablo Picasso sported a Moon Phase. Vladimir Putin is also partial to a Patek – he favours a Calatrava – but let’s not dwell on that…
Eric Clapton with a Perpetual Calendar, which he later sold, and Brad Pitt wearing his Nautilus
Patek promises to service any watch dating back to 1839, which is when the brand started. The only watch it hasn’t been able to restore to date was a watch that was mostly melted in the World Trade Centre after 9/11.
If you fancy investing in a vintage Patek, chances are you’re going to need a credit card with a very, very big limit. The Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication (above) – the most complicated watch made at the time – sold in 2014 for $24m, which is a record, while in 2008 its Sky Moon Tourbillon in platinum fetched HK$11.75 at Hong Kong Sotheby’s.
And in 2013 it broke online records with its chronograph wrist watch, which sold through Auctionata in Berlin for €471,000.
Amazingly though, for all its pomp, it is still a family-owned business. The Stern family bought Patek Philippe in 1932 and still owns the business today. In terms of the global watch world, that makes it one of only four, with the other three being Audemars Piguet, Seiko in Japan and Bulgari in Italy (though some discount AP because Jasmine Audemars started out as a journalist before becoming chairman of the board and fellow board member and family descendant Olivier Audemars also has a career outside of watchmaking).
In a refreshing twist, Patek has always led the way in women’s watches. In 2009, at the opening of the new showrooms on the Place Vendome, the brand launched its column-wheel controlled CH 29-535 PS calibre. This chronograph calibre was to have its first outing inside a women’s watch (pictured above); something that was unheard of at the time.
This was the start of Patek Philippe’s Ladies First collection, which, as the name suggests, would debut complicated movements, such as its split-seconds chronograph and minute repeater, rather than taking the traditional approach of using men’s watches in which to debut these advancements first.
It’s safe to say Patek knows what it is doing when it comes to watches. Its illustrious history points to that, obviously, but Patek Philippe has also mastered the seven traditional professions of the trade – designer, watchmaker, engraver, goldsmith, jeweller, enamel painter (as seen in action above) and chain maker, as well as the more recently introduced eighth pillar, calibre designer.
The Grandmaster Chime (left) and Multi-Scale Chronography made for the 175th anniversary