Patek Philippe – The Last Family-Owned Independent Genevan Watch Manufacturer
Origin Since 1839 without interruption, Patek Philippe has been perpetuating the tradition of Genevan watchmaking. As the last family-owned independent watch manufacturer in Geneva, it enjoys total creative freedom to entirely design, produce and assemble what experts agree to be the finest timepieces in the world – following the vision of its founders Antoine Norbert de Patek (1839) and Adrien Philippe (1845).
Independence, tradition, innovation, quality and craftsmanship, rarity, value, aesthetics, service, emotion and legacy are the fundamental values of the Genevan watchmaker. Patek Philippe has always aimed for perfection by creating timepieces of unrivalled quality and reliability, the uniqueness and exclusiveness of which makes them rare and precious pieces, a unique legacy to be handed down from one generation to the next.
The Company Today
Patek Philippe S.A. today comprises the main workshops at Plan-les-Ouates, with its administrative headquarters, research activities into new technologies, development of new mechanisms, the creation division, the movement component manufacturing workshops, and all the watchmaking activities from design to delivery, including after- sales service and restoration; the case and bracelet workshops in Perly; the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva, and the exclusive Patek Philippe Salons in Geneva, Paris, and London. Patek Philippe also owns eight partner companies outside the Canton of Geneva.
Packard challenges Graves, through Patek Philippe
The early twentieth century thus witnessed the start of one of the most remarkable and fascinating duels in horological history. The brilliant automobile engineer, James W. Packard, and the mysterious New York financial magnat, Henry Graves junior, shared a passion for fine watches and both men longed to possess the timepiece with the greatest possible number of complications.
Both therefore turned to Patek Philippe, and the zest with which the firm seized and met the challenge secured its place amongst the greatest names in horology. For James Ward Packard, whose celebrated Packard cars were to become synonymous with Hollywood stars, jazz musicians and sports celebrities between the two world wars, Patek Philippe created two ultra-complicated watches.
The first was delivered in 1916, with sixteen complications and the second in 1927, with ten. The latter included a rotating celestial chart with 500 stars, representing the sky over Ohio, where Packard was born. But the world’s most complicated timepiece was built for Graves. This pocket watch, delivered in 1933, had twenty-four complications and was the result of six years’ research. Only fifty-six years later would Patek Philippe beat its own record, by creating the Calibre 89.
Caliber 89, the world’s most complicated timepiece
In 1989, the year of its 150th anniversary, Patek Philippe realized a dazzling “tour de force” by presenting its latest creation, the Calibre 89. The fruit of nine years’ research and development, this jewel of horological knowledge and skill, composed of 1798 parts, was the most complicated portable timepiece ever created.
With its thirty-three complications, the masterpiece surpassed the previous record holders: the Leroy of 1904, the Packard of 1927 and the Graves of 1934, both of these last two built by Patek Philppe. The Calibre 89 embodied unparalleled expertise and gave full expression to the three main types of complication: The calendar, the chronograph and the striking mechanism, to which it added astronomical complications.
In addition to indicating mean sidereal time and incorporating the Gregorian calendar, the Calibre 89 is adorned with a celestial chart on sapphire crystal, presenting the milky way and 2800 distinct northern-hemisphere stars in five orders of magnitude. Amongst the most rare of its complications is the ability to display the coming year’s Easter date at midnight each December 31st. Patek Philippe has patented this invention, which will indicate the changing date of Easter, as set by the Vatican, until 2017.
Star Caliber 2000
To mark the new millennium, this pocket watch combines the most fascinating ever complications. The Star Caliber 2000, in addition to indicating the time, incorporates 21 different complications and thus ranks third among the world’s most complicated watches, right after the Patek Philippe Caliber 89 (1989 – 33 complications) and the Patek Philippe Graves (1933 – 24 complications). The dial on its front side features a full complement of time- and calendar-related displays while the sky chart on the back side shows the apparent movements of the stars as well as the orbit and phases of the moon. What really sets the Star Caliber 2000 apart is the degree of innovation it embodies, with six patents granted or pending for the Westminster chime, the running equation of time, the display of sunrise and sunset times, the movements of the sky and moon, the rapid calendar corrector, and the selective sprung cover release mechanism