Patek Philippe SA is a Swiss watch manufacturer founded in 1839 by Antoine Norbert de Patek and François Czapek. Since 1932, it has been owned by the Stern family and is one of the oldest watch manufacturers, with an uninterrupted watchmaking history since its founding. Patek Philippe is considered as one of the most prestigious watch manufacturers and produces high-end watches, including some of the most complicated mechanical timepieces.
Patek Philippe was founded in 1839 by two Polish watchmakers, Antoine Norbert de Patek and François Czapek, in Geneva. The two separated due to disagreements. From the very beginning, the brand specialized in high-end, complicated pocket watches. Patek will later be joined by French watchmaker Adrien Philippe, the inventor of the keyless winding mechanism. After Patek passed away, Joseph Antoine Bénassy-Philippe, one of Adrien Philippe’s sons-in-law, succeeded Patek’s position. In 1887, the Calatrava Cross became the registered company logo of Patek Philippe. In 1932, Charles Stern and Jean Stern acquired the company during the Great Depression. The Stern brothers were the owners of Fabrique de Cadrans Sterns Frères, a business partner of Patek Philippe as its supplier of dials. Since then, the manufacture is owned by the Stern family, with at its head Henri Stern (son of Charles Stern), Philippe Stern (son of Henry Stern) and now Thierry Stern (son of Philippe Stern).
Patek Philippe has been one of the most influential and most respected watch manufacturers for decades. It is specialised in complication watches, with the creation for instance of the Super-Complication watch, made for Henry Graves, which was the most complex timepiece ever created for several decades. The brand made a speciality of creating chronographs and calendar watches. Patek launched the world’s first split-second chronograph wristwatch in 1923 (a women’s watch) and the first perpetual calendar wristwatch in 1925. Later, the brand started to produce a type of watch that will become its hallmark, the perpetual calendar chronograph – first unveiled with the coveted reference 1518. World-Timer watches, created with the help of Louis Cottier, are also famous pieces by Patek Philippe.
In 1976, Patek Philippe will launch a watch that will become a true icon, a watch that marks a break in the brand’s strategy: the Nautilus. While Patek usually focused on dress, elegant and luxurious pieces, the Nautilus will be the first steel sports watch of the brand, a piece that followed the trend initiated by its main competitor, Audemars Piguet, in 1972 with the Royal Oak. These two watches are now the main representant of the “luxury sports watch” category and the Nautilus is one of the most collectable watches on the market.
Patek Philippe watches are manufactured almost entirely in-house, in its Geneva-based facilities – the production includes cases, bracelets, dials and movements. In order to guarantee the high quality of its watches, Patek Philippe created in 2009 its own certification, the Patek Philippe Seal (and thus abandoning the Geneva Seal), which controls the execution, the decoration and the precision of the watches.
The slogan of the brand is “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.”