Patek Philippe: World's Most Prestigious Watch Manufacturer?

1 minutes reading time
Published 13 Mar 2024
Reviewed by: Peter Westberg
Updated 17 May 2024

It’s been almost 30 years since Patek Philippe took the world by storm with its campaign: “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.” The brand is synonymous with supreme quality, exclusivity, and desirability – key factors defining a true luxury brand. Being founded in 1839 in the Canton of Geneva and the Vallée de Joux, this Swiss luxury watch manufacturer stands as one of the oldest and most prestigious watchmakers in the world. The collaboration between Antoni Patek, a Polish watchmaker, and Adrien Philippe, a French inventor of the keyless winding mechanism, marked the birth of a legacy that revolutionized watchmaking. Come along as we explore the company further.

Key Insights

  • Constant innovation: Founded in 1839, Patek Philippe has continuously set new benchmarks for technical excellence in watchmaking.

  • Collector’s gem: Known for limited editions like the Tiffany blue Nautilus, Patek Philippe's watches are coveted for their rarity and potential to appreciate in value.

  • Excellence and craftsmanship: The brand’s commitment to quality and timeless design has made it a favorite among watch collectors and enthusiasts alike.

  • Family-owned: Under the Stern family since 1932, Patek Philippe maintains its independence, ensuring each watch meets the highest standards of craftsmanship.

Founding and Early Innovations

Patek Philippe was founded under the name Patek, Czapek & Cie in 1839 by Antoni Patek, a Polish businessman and watchmaker, and Franciszek Czapek, a Czech-born Polish watchmaker. In 1845, the partnership ended, and Antoni patek joined forces with Adrien Phillippe, a French watchmaker who had recently invented the keyless winding and setting system. Together, they ended up founding Patek & Cie, and after several name changes, the two settled for Patek Phillippe & Cie in 1851.

The company has ever since maintained a tradition of innovation and excellence, holding numerous patents and creating some of the most complicated mechanical watches ever made. The brand is synonymous with quality, reliability, and a timeless aesthetic, appealing to collectors and enthusiasts who appreciate fine watchmaking. Patek Philippe is also known for being the last independent, family-owned Genevan watch manufacturer.

Constantly Innovating

Patek Philippe has ever since its inception been at the forefront of watchmaking. Here are some key milestones:

  • Keyless winding and hand-setting mechanism: Adrien Phillippe’s invention in 1845 allowed watches to be wound and set via the crown, a revolutionary development at the time.

  • Perpetual calendar: In 1864, Patek Phillippe introduced the first Swiss wristwatch with a perpetual calendar, showcasing their ability to miniaturize complicated mechanisms.

  • Minute repeater: The company has been known for its expertise in crafting minute repeater watches, which audibly chime the time at the press of a button, since the 19th century.

  • Chronograph: Patek Philippe has developed numerous chronographs, watches combining timekeeping with a stopwatch function.

  • Split-seconds chronograph: A refinement of the Chronograph, allowing the timing of multiple events simultaneously.

  • The Calibre 89: In 1989, to celebrate its 150th anniversary, Patek Philippe created the Calibre 89, one of the most complicated mechanical watches ever made, boasting 33 different complications (features).

The Tiffany Blue-Colored Dial Nautilus 5711/1A-018

Limited edition models and rare pieces from Patek Philippe frequently fetch high prices at auction, underscoring the brand’s prestige and the high demand among collectors. An example of such limited models is the Tiffany (a part of LVMH and among others guided by Alexandre Arnault) blue-colored dial Nautilus 5711/1A-018, which the two legendary brands created in 2021, celebrating its 170-year alliance. Here’s a visualization of the insane retail-versus-resale price contrast of this piece:

Patek Philippe in collaboration with Tiffany & CO: the value of scarcity
Retail vs resale price of Tiffany Blue-Colored Patek Philippe Nautilus

Independently Owned and Operated by The Stern Family

The Stern family, which has owned Patek Philippe since 1932, continues to uphold the brand’s tradition of quality and innovation. This structure allows for consistency and maintaining strict control over its production processes and ensuring that each watch meets its exacting – incredibly high – standards.


Patek Philippe’s enduring legacy in the world of fine watchmaking, managing to continue operating on its founding principles of innovation, quality, and craftsmanship, is a lesson worth studying in itself. By combining technologically advanced features with aesthetically pleasing exteriors, it’s no surprise that collectors and enthusiasts alike place Patek Philippe at the top of the luxury mountain.

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