It might be hard to believe, but Patek Philippe only recently saw the launch of its first official historical chronicle – nearly 178 years after its founding in 1839. Commissioned by the independent manufacture in 2011, Patek Philippe: The Authorized Biography is a 544-page tome by British author and historian Nicholas Foulkes, who was given unprecedented access to pivotal personalities and archives. Here are three interesting nuggets – among many – we gleaned from the volume, available at Patek Philippe boutiques and its website.
1) Innovation has been in its DNA from Day One: Patek Philippe has been awarded more than 80 patents for its innovations (including its annual calendar and world-time mechanisms), and this penchant for invention isn’t something new. Indeed, in 1844, prodigal French watchmaker Jean Adrien Philippe first caught the attention of Polish entrepreneur Antoine Norbert de Patek with his stem-winding and setting mechanism – a vast improvement over the standard timepieces of the day, which had to be wound using a separate key.
2) It made the first Swiss wristwatch: While “serious” watches for women are now on the rise, mechanical wristwatches remain typically seen as a masculine domain. The first Swiss wristwatch on record, however, was actually made by Patek Philippe for the Hungarian Countess Koscowicz: a “tiny watch set in a gold bangle rather than the brooch watches” that were de rigueur for ladies in 1868.
3) How it began making quartz watches: The company’s first response to the industry-upending emergence of quartz timepieces in the 1970s was to join a 21-member consortium of Swiss watch brands (including Piaget and Omega), which created the Beta 21 high-end quartz wristwatch movement. Patek Philippe would subsequently produce its own quartz movements such as the calibres E15 and E23, finished to the same high level as its mechanical movements.