Patek Philippe

For over 180 years the strength of one of the last family-owned companies in the watchmaking industry has resided in the combination of technical perfection and seeming simplicity. Patek Philippe’s strictly limited production is destined to connoisseurs who can appreciate hidden values. CAROLLINUM is honoured to be the only authorized Patek Philippe retailer in the Czech Republic.

Where to buy?

Boutique Patek Philippe
Pařížská 9, Praha 1
more information

History of Patek Philippe

Antoni Norbert Patek de Prawdzic was born in the summer of 1812 in the small village of Piaski in Poland, located close to the present-day border with Ukraine and Belorussia. As a child growing up during what were some of the most turbulent times in the history of Poland, it is no surprise that Antoni planned to join the army when he turned sixteen. On his way to his regiment Patek came to Warsaw where he eventually became an officer. In 1832 he moved to Bamberg and later on to the town of Versoix by Lake Geneva.

Patek was interested in arts and painting and fascinated by the watchmaking craft, much popular in Geneva and its surroundings, where over one fifth of the population worked in the watchmaking industry. This was the period of growth when the watchmaking industry and manufactured production grew significantly. Movements were made by the watchmakers in the Jura mountains, while decoration and other delicate tasks were carried out by master craftsmen called cabinotiers. They would sit in their small workshops on the top floors of Geneva houses, above the noise of the streets and beyond the shade of the surrounding houses. Under direct sunlight they would create their works of art that laid a firm basis for what has now become world-famous Swiss horology.

Young Antoni Patek started with a humble business: he would buy watch movements, have them placed in cases and then sell them to the Polish community, where there was much interest in these goods. In 1839 he got married in Geneva and love and coincidence forever changed his life.
He married the daughter of a successful merchant and at his wedding he met François Czapek, a Polish immigrant with Czech roots. Their meeting speeded things up: Czapek was a watchmaker collaborating with the uncle of Patek’s bride, the merchant Mr. Moreau. Back then Geneva was a laidback, modern town where many goldsmiths and watchmakers made their living creating luxury goods. Geneva was a dynamic, fast developing town and an excellent place for business activities. In its beginnings, the newly founded company Patek, Czapek & Cie. would buy watch movements and Czapek would polish and decorate them, adjust them and regulate their movement. The first pocket watches leaving his workshop were fitted with a striking mechanism marking every quarter-hour. They were beautifully engraved and decorated with enamelled motives.

Patek was active in political and social circles. He liked to use the name Antoine de Norbert Patek and as time went on, he became a successful Genevan businessman. By then, his company would manufacture some two hundred watches per year.
 
In 1844, Patek decided to radically change his market. He went to Paris where a huge industrial exposition took place in December of that year. There he encountered Jean Adrien Philippe, a visionary and genius watchmaker from a French watchmaking family. Philippe was the one who assembled the first mechanical watch that didn’t need an external key to be wound. He had his invention patented in 1844 and would go on to improve it in the years to come. Jean Adrien Philippe accepted Patek’s invitation to Geneva and agreed to a partnership. He became the technical director and came up with an endless number of ideas. Patek dedicated himself to enamelling, decorating and painting portraits on the external cases of pocket watches. Soon enough the amazing handwork of the Geneva manufacture gained fame on the other side of the ocean: a partnership with Tiffany & Co. opened the doors to the American market for Patek, Philippe & Co. and the New York boutique became the home for the manufacture’s watches, which were also becoming increasingly popular in Europe, especially Germany, Italy and Russia.

Photo from left: Jean Adrien Philippe and Antoine de Norbert Patek
Following Antoni Patek’s death in 1877 and his son’s retreat from the business, the company was managed by one of Jean Adrien Philippe’s brothers-in-law, Joseph Antoine Bénassy-Philippe. He was responsible for running the manufacture for some ten years until it was taken over by the youngest son of J. A. Philippe, Joseph Emile Philippe. In the meantime, the prestigious watchmaking brand had its logo – the Calatrava cross – patented.  

In 1901 the manufacture became a joint-stock company and its name Patek Philippe & Cie changed to Ancienne Manufacture d’horlogerie Patek, Philippe & Cie, SA. Back then the company had a registered capital of 1.6 million Swiss francs. Its board of directors had seven members, including Alfred G. Stein who was entrusted with managing the company’s American branch in New York.  

Until 1932 the company kept growing, did well on all markets, and dominated the US market. Patek, Philippe & Cie, SA manufactured complicated timepieces called grand complications that were fitted with sound mechanisms such as a minute repeater and a grande and petite sonnerie. Among its important clients was factory owner James Ward Packard and banker Henry Graves. When the Great Depression hit in 1929 even a company as strong as the Genevan horological star was negatively impacted. The company searched for a new owner. 
Black Tuesday of 29 October 1929 was the day stock prices on Wall Street fell to their lowest ever and signalled the beginning of a long global economic crisis. Even such renowned joint-stock companies such as Ancienne Manufacture d’horlogerie Patek, Philippe & Cie, SA couldn’t avoid the crisis. Many clients stopped meeting their payment obligations and the company started having problems with finances. To avoid a takeover by a competitor or going bankrupt, its directors turned to the brothers Charles and Jean Stern, whose company Cadrans Stern Frères produced top quality dials and was one of the manufacture’s favourite suppliers.

Stern’s long-term friendly relations with the directors and their solvency eventually lead to them buying a share in the company in 1932 and taking it over within a year from the purchase.

This large initial capital and a new philosophy of management turned Patek Philippe into a modern company oriented to top quality horological production: in combination with the right administrative and marketing methods it brought about an unprecedented success. In 1934 Charles Stern was appointed chairman of the board of directors and it is since then that the Patek Philippe company is owned by one family guiding all its business decisions towards the long-term prosperity of the company. 
 
 
Henri Stern, the son of Charles Stern, was entrusted with the American market, which finally started flourishing again after the Second World War. He opened a branch in New York and organised local distribution directly from there. He was doing so well that his father appointed him director in 1958. Henri Stern was also a collector of Patek Philippe watches, and it was with the support of his large collection that the company opened the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva in 2001 with over two thousand timepieces by this Swiss brand.

His son Philippe Stern didn’t become a watchmaker despite loving the world of ticking timepieces. He grew up in the States and when he moved back to Europe with his parents, he realised how much more it was developed in terms of modern technologies. He went to study informatics because he was aware that this would be the field that will set the global economy into motion. He used the knowledge he acquired in the 1970s, when the popularity of the battery-powered table clock rose sharply. However, it was a different feat of his that was to be of capital importance…

Philippe Stern was an enthusiastic yachtsman and liked to spend his time after work on Lake Geneva. His father assigned him the uneasy task of designing and marketing a sports watch that would please active men. Philippe joined forces with the then iconic designer Gérald Gentou who proposed a design for a sports watch with a steel case and bracelet. The Nautilus watch was a bestseller in 1976 despite the slogan that read: “The most expensive watch in the world made of steel.” The reference 3700/1A was waterproof to 120 metres and the timepiece, which was primarily meant as a leisure watch, became a masterpiece that is admired to this day.

At present the president of Patek Philippe is Thierry Stern, Philippe’s son and the fourth of the Stern generation. His steps follow those of his predecessors. Patek Philippe’s domain have been precise complicated timepieces whose rendition and complexity are not surpassed by anyone else in the industry. Thierry is supporting the development of a new movement with a non-magnetisable silicon heart – the balance wheel.

Thierry Stern also introduced the Patek Philippe Seal, a certificate of accuracy attesting that all the stringent production criteria have been met, both aesthetic and technical, while also proving that the watch has been tested for its accuracy. These accuracy requirements are among the strictest in the world of watchmaking. The permissible accuracy variance is -3/+2 seconds per day and the brand continues in registering new patents and bringing game-changing innovations.

Any purchase of a Patek Philippe timepiece is an emotional event since behind each Patek Philippe reference and movement is a long story and behind each collection are many years of experience and the expertise of master watchmakers.
 
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