Even within the rarefied world of fine watches, across its 180-year history Patek Philippe has carved out an unparalleled reputation for producing some of the most complicated and expertly crafted timepieces ever made. This is in no small part due to its unusual history; not only has the company carried out traditional watchmaking continuously since it was founded 1839, it also remains the last independent, family-owned Genevan manufacture, with the Stern family at the helm since 1932.
This privileged position affords it a freedom that throughout the centuries has resulted in groundbreaking horological innovations and a meticulous approach to the production of its timepieces. Its commitment to the latter even led it to establish its own quality criteria – the Patek Philippe Seal – considered a gold standard in high-end watchmaking. To pass its stringent testing, all timepieces must achieve an accuracy rate within a tolerance of no more than -3 to +2 seconds per day. To put this into context, to achieve a chronometer certification from the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronométres (COSC) – considered the hallmark of accuracy in the wider watchmaking world – a timepiece must fall within -4 to + 6 seconds.
However, the Patek Philippe Seal doesn’t just ensure the quality of the movement but the watch as a whole, even down to the bracelet and clasp. Looking at the long-term vision of the brand, the seal also guarantees the maintenance, repairs and restoration of all Patek Philippe watches dating back to 1839, while the criteria is open for development to reflect the brand’s continual innovation.
It is a pioneering spirit that has seen Patek Philippe create some of the most cutting-edge timepieces in the history of watchmaking, cementing its position as a favourite with high-profile collectors and serious watch connoisseurs. These avant-garde masterpieces have gone on to attract some of the highest prices ever achieved for watches at auction, most famously the Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication. The pocket watch, containing an impressive 24 complications, was commissioned by American banker Henry Graves Jr in a bid to outdo automobile manufacturer and fellow watch collector James Ward Packard, and went on to fetch SFr23,237,000 at Sotheby’s in 2014.
Today, Patek Philippe watches remain just as covetable, as evidenced by another record-breaking result last month in Geneva. A stainless steel version of the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime, created for biannual charity auction Only Watch, went under the hammer for SFr31,000,000, making it the most expensive watch in the world.
SPOTLIGHT ON THE PATEK PHILIPPE GRAND COMPLICATIONS 5496R: ‘This stunning Patek Philippe Grand Complications is a mind-blowing masterclass in watchmaking from the finest watch manufacturer in the world. Elegantly displaying the date with a retrograde date hand, the 324 S QR self-winding caliber is encased within a rose-gold case.’
Sandy Madhvani, showroom manager for DMR London, 4 Jubilee Place, Canary Wharf, London E14 5NY