Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Watch Brands History - Article 6 (Patek Philippe)

The Company known today as Patek Philippe was founded in Geneva in 1839, by an exiled Polish Nobleman, Count Antoine Norbert de Patek, and his compatriot Francois Czapek. The earliest watches were signed Patek, Czapek & co. until 1845 when Czapek left the partnership. Several years later the company was joined by French watchmaker , Jean Adrien Philippe, who later became the inventor of their famous stem-winding and hand setting mechanism, a modern and reliable concept. From May 1845 to January 1851 the firm was known as Patek & Co; Philippe lent his name to the company in 1851 when he became a full partner.

Among the reasons for their initial success was the high standard of watch making and practicality of Philippe's new stem-winding system. From the middle of the 19th century, Patek Philippe assumed a leading role in the Swiss watchmaking industry by raising the standards of workmanship and time keeping through the introduction of technical improvements (the free mainspring, the sweep seconds hand), in addition to implementing improvements to regulators, chronographs, and perpetual calendar mechanism. As early as 1867 the Paris Exhibition, Patek Philippe displayed watches featuring functions that were to become the standard for complicated watches at the beginning of the 20th century; namely a perpetual calendar, a repeater, and a chronograph with split-seconds.

The two most complicated watches of all time were made by Patek Philippe. The first, made for Henry Graves Jr. New York, was completed at the beginning of the century, and the second, the Caliber 89, the world's most complicated watch, completed in 1989 (hence the name) to mark the firm's 150th anniversary. In 1932, Patek Philippe changed hands, and its new owners became Charles and Jean Stern. Today the third generation of this family still owns and manages the company. Shortly after World War II, Patek Philippe established an electronic division, and in the 1950's the company pioneered quartz technology, filling several patents and winning multiple awards. Today, Patek Philippe SA, Geneva, is still a family company, owned jointly by its president, Mr Henry Stern, and his son and Vice President, Mr Philippe Stern.

Although Patek Philippe is rightly famous of the leading manufacture of mechanical horology, the firm is also the forefront of the industry as producers of industrial and electronic timekeepers, with its highly accurate master-clocks installed in power stations, hospitals, airports, and other public buildings and factories. The firm clientele has included many of the famous figures across history, including royalty such as Queen Victoria, as well as distinguished scientists, artists, authors and musicians, including Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Charlotte Bronte and Tchaikovsky. Today, clearly most of the firm's production consists of wristwatches, but Patek Philippe retains the ability to produce pocket watches,and clocks to order, from highly complicated movements to those decorated with enamelled miniature paintings and engravings. The company continues to patent new inventions and improvements in horology and plays an important role in maintaining the quality, prestige and reputation of the Swiss watchmaking.


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