Once upon a time, a young Polish émigré called Antoni Patek met fellow Polish immigrant, Franciszek Czapek and made some pocket watches with him. The year was 1839; the city, Geneva. When that collaboration failed to bear fruit, Patek threw his lot in with a Frenchman who had developed an innovative way of setting the time. The man was Jean Adrien Philippe; the year 1845. By 1851 Patek Philippe was born.
What followed however, was not the gold-plated road to success such an opening might suggest. It may be one of the most storied names in the storied world of luxury watchmaking today, but Patek Philippe wasn’t always the behemoth it is now. In fact, president Thierry Stern was closer to the truth when he referred to Patek as a niche brand (due to the relatively low number of watches it produces per year) back in 2014. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Its legendary status is well-earned: the brand is responsible for such leaps in watchmaking as the first perpetual calendar watch in 1925 and the first execution of world time in 1937. In 1976 it launched the iconic steel sports watch, the Nautilius – designed by horologist-for-hire Gerald Genta. It’s been a women’s watch pioneer too. In 1999, it launched the Twenty-4 – a bracelet watch designed for women that was to pave the way for the industry-leading Ladies First Chronograph in 2011, which saw Patek debut a new movement (its CH29-535 calibre) in a women’s watch – something that was unheard of at the time.
Elsewhere, its adventures in silicon – spearheaded by CSEM (Swiss Centre for Electronics and Microtechnology) in Neuchatel in exclusive collaboration with Rolex and the Swatch Group – have had industry-wide implications.
No wonder Patek watches are regarded as the gold standard of the industry. It doesn’t make anything that would be deemed affordable and makes no apologies for that. As its famous advertising campaign says: these are watches you look after for the next generation. If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on one that is.
While last year’s Twenty-4 Automatic would be a solid choice, when it comes to considering Patek’s best woman’s watch only one name springs to mind. Calatrava is everything Patek distilled into watch form. Launched in 1932 and inspired by Bauhaus design principles, it’s an exercise in restraint and balance. There are some more flashy diamond-set designs but the time-only model is the Patek icon. Go manual-wind for the truly authentic experience.