175 YEARS OF ELEGANCE
Tweaking and tuning timepieces to perfection has been Patek Philippe’s main commitment since they started making fine watches in 1839. Today their timepieces are among the most valued in the world.
Patek Philippe, the most revered and respected watch brand, is celebrating its 175th Anniversary, adhering closely to its DNA by playing with details and new materials.
WHEN DEFINING THE ULTIMATE in prestige and luxury, the first name in timepieces that comes to mind is inevitably Patek Philippe. Unless you are the luckiest person in the world, the very first watch you are likely to get is something more mundane, and that’s where you begin your way up the ladder. Some of you will aspire to own something beyond the mundane to reward yourself, something that will represent your achievements in life—if so, Patek Philippe is the watch you will steer towards. It is the ultimate watch, a piece that will grow with you, a true timeless classic.
The reason for Patek Philippe’s fame is its reputation as a watchmaker extraordinaire. Every timepiece from Patek Philippe manufacture is hand-finished to the highest standard by their artisans. Their movements have not let tradition hold them back, they are constantly evolving and revolutionising to keep up with the latest technology. Having said that the manufacture is also very selective in view of technology—they will only use it when it’s absolutely necessary and with sizable benefits, otherwise status quo. All this is done without interrupting their fine execution of the aesthetic of the exterior—Patek Phiippe timepieces are always classic, clean and easy to read, no matter how complicated they are on the inside. Even the simplest model has the touch of both old and new; when you hold one in the palm of your hand you will appreciates its true value, as if it were shaped and formed naturally in your hand like a piece of exquisite jewellery. You can be assured that a Patek Philippe will be around more than a lifetime and will still keep perfect time. That is a result of nearly two centuries of experience and expertise.
2014 is a big year for Patek Philippe as it celebrates its 175th Anniversary. Antoine Norbert Graf de Patek Prawdzic started his own watch company in Geneva with countryman Franciszek Czapek, a watchmaker from Warsaw. After years of trading fine pocket watches in France they established Patek, Czapek & Cie in 1839, and it wasn’t until 1851 that the company’s name changed to Patek Philippe & Cie. after Czapek left and Patek took in Adrien Philippe, a French watchmaker who had previously invented the keyless winding system.
In 1932 Patek Philippe & Cie came under Jean and Charles Henri Stern’s ownership during the great
depression. It was also the year they introduced the iconoclast, Calatrava, the simple and elegant watch which is still very much alive today, though it has sustained minimal tweaks over the decades. Not resting on their laurels, the Stern brothers steered the company further down the road of innovations and saw one of the most complicated watches ever made: ‘The Graves’. With a total of 24 complication, it was created for American collector and ardent Patek Philippe fan, Henry Graves Jr. In 1999 the watch went under the hammer and fetched USD11,000,000, which was the most ever paid for a watch, and until today it is still the most sought after luxury timepiece in auction houses around the world.
Today, Patek Philippe carries on with their founding fathers’ philosophy, to make timepieces of the highest quality. As mentioned before, progress and technological advancement is also an important element in adapting and improving on existing movements or creating new movements. Though there was a dip in activities between ’70s and ’80s (we all know what happened there), the watchmaker never stopped. Soon in the mid ’90s they were back in business and with a brand new manufacture. In 2005 they introduced their very first in-house movement of the new era, and have never looked back. Sharing their R&D for new materials with a couple of other watchmakers resulted in a special material made from silicon, which found its way into Ref. 5250 Annual Calendar in 2005, Ref. 5350 Annual Calendar in 2006 and Ref. 5450 in 2008. This trilogy has found its way into some of the latest models.
That is not the end of the story, more evolution and innovation are still in progress, improvements and advancements are always in the making, and it may take a while but that’s how Patek Philippe to does things. They tweak to perfection and innovate where it’s necessary and revolutionary.
In conjunction with their anniversary, the watch company has introduced three new novelties to 2014— Nautilus Travel Time Chronograph Ref. 5990-1A, Annual Calendar Chronograph Ref: 5960-1A, Calatrava Ref: 5153_010.
NAUTILUS TRAVEL TIME CHRONOGRAPH REF: 5990-1A
It is not very often one gets to see a two timezone complication and a chronograph combination, let alone in a Patek Philippe timepiece. Does it indicate an intention on the watchmaker’s part to do away with conventions? That shall remain to be seen, for now this is about as interesting as it gets. And it makes things a damn sight more practical for sporty globe trotters. The dial had to be reconfigured and the movement as well, redesigned so the date indicator appears at 12 o’clock, and the chronograph 60 minutes counter is at six o’clock. The dual time is told by two hour hands, the Super-LumiNova coated solid hour and minute hands tell the local time and the skeleton hour hand below tells the home time. When you are home the skeletal hands will hide under the solid hands and will tell the hometime and when you move away from the timezone and the selector is chosen you can move the local solid hands to the second timezone via plus and minus adjusters, clockwise and anti-clockwise according to time gain or time loss location. And the central chrono hand is made of rhodium-coated steel. The dial has a graduation black, from a dark centre graduating to a lighter flange with the Nautilus signature horizontal embossed pattern. Applique steel hour indexes coated with Super-LumiNova. The day and night indicators are at nine and three o’clock. The combination of two timezones and a chronograph function has resulted in a redesign of the stainless steel case, with the chrono pushes close to crown protector on each side at two o’clock and four o’clock and plus and minus hour time adjusters is at eight and ten o’clock. The date adjuster is located in the lug at one o’clock. All this complicated redesign is to give the wearer easy access to all the functions, and give the watch a brand new calibre CH-28-520 C FUS, an automatic mechanical movement with column-wheel and disk clutch chronograph function.
ANNUAL CALENDAR CHRONOGRAPH REF: 5960-1A
If you are an ardent fan or a keen collector of Patek Phlippe you will notice there is something different and yet all too familiar about this watch. Yes, this is a special timepiece. It has Nautilus chronograph feature fused with the body of the classic Annual Calendar with a stainless steel case, a metal which is normally reserved for Nautilus and Aquanaut. Once in a blue moon the watchmaker makes a timepiece in stainless steel, and always in limited quantities. They actually fetch a very high value if they ever come up for auction because they are so rare, the stainless steel inadvertently becoming a ‘precious’ metal. The other feature normally seen in Nautilus is the chronograph counters which are arranged in three concentric circles, in a sub-dial at six o’clock, with the hour counter in black on the outer concentric, the 0 to 30 seconds counter in the middle concentric and the 30 to 60 seconds is in the centre with a day and night indicator. The calendar are located at 10, 12 and 2 o’clock for day, date and month respectively,
and with every first day of the month, the date numeral ‘1’ is in red which is another unusual feature, to work as an alert for the first day of the month. Though a small gesture, it is markedly different from the rest. The hour and minute hands are multi-faceted gold oxidised in black with luminescent and matching hour makers and the calendar’s windows, the central chrono second and minute hands are in red and the hour chrono hand is in brass oxidised in black. The power reserve indicator at 12 o’clock, just below the date window is white gold oxidised in black. And they all sit above a silvery opaline dial, beneath which lies the calibre CH 28-520 IRM QA 24H, an automatic mechanical annual calendar movement with chronograph function with column wheel. This is all housed in a stainless steel case that is hand-finished, a process that takes much longer because of the hardness of the metal, making this piece a valuable keepsake.
CALATRAVA REF: 5153G-010
This watch is by definition a real classic: beautifully crafted and finished in the remarkable standard only seen in rare pieces. It has clean and simple lines that give it a perception of purity. A purist’s dream, carried on from 2013 Calatrava’s officer’s style case, with a back cover, the 5153G-010 has a slightly different case, the lugs are straight out and secure the strap by a pair of screws on each side. The bezel is flatter and it has a silvery opaline dial decorated with a sunray guilloche centre. The hour indexes are in white gold faceted arrow head and the Dauphine hour, minute and second hands are in white gold. The watch is powered by a Calibre 324 S C automatic mechanical movement, and housed in a white gold case with a dust cover on the back to protect the sapphire caseback.
The latest novelties were revealed at the Baselworld in a very different environ to last year’s. The latest and the last booth to unveil at Baselworld 2014 was Patek Philippe’s, done so to coincide with their 174th Anniversary. The new structure is simply spectacular—very different from the last which has been around since 1999 and in comparison looks dated and old. The new building is more of a pavilion, and completely transparent like a gigantic showcase. It has a huge glass and steel superstructure which houses three levels of show space, and within this space floats another structure (resembling a gift-box) which is translucent and lit from within. The ground floors house the guest waiting lounge, and the watches and calibres from the oldest to the latest from the manufacture are all proudly displayed in 16 glass showcases around the glass structure from the inside.
The corner by the lounge is a display of all the old and new famous Patek Phliippe table clocks. The staircase in the back takes the guests to the second and third levels. The space has a total of 630sq m of ground area, and floor space totalling 1,500sq m. The pavilion is supermodern and with a touch of vintage feel to it. Although on first impression the space may seem the antonym to what Patek Philippe is all about, it is the excellent dichotomy that makes it all work. The design is by famed Italian architect Ottavio Di Blasi, based in Milan. The message from the pavilion is clearly one of look brightly into the future, and by the way things are going at the maison, they will be around for the next 175 years and more.
Left: Annual Calendar Chronograph Ref. 5960-1A in stainless steel.
Bottom: Calatrava Ref 5153G-010.