Beginning the Legacy: The Patek Philippe Union

Patek Philippe is one of the oldest and longest standing watch companies. In nearly two centuries of business, they’ve pioneered countless pieces of technology. These innovations have contributed to the advancement of modern watchmaking and resulted in some of the finest timepieces ever made. Today, Patek Philippe is widely regarded as one of the premiere watchmakers in the world.


Their work began in 1839. That year, Antoine Patek and his partner François Czapek began creating custom pocket watches. Their clientele focused on royalty and other elite members of society. Five years later in 1844, Patek attended the Exposition Nationale des Produits de L’Industrie in Paris, France. It was here that he met a man named Adrien Philippe. At the exposition, Philippe was awarded a bronze medal for his innovative keyless winding and hand-setting system. Within a year, Patek and Philippe went into business together, forming the brand we now know as Patek Philippe. Later in 1845, the duo produced their first pocket watch together using Philippe’s keyless winding and hand-setting system.

Expanding the Brand to America

For the next few years, they continued with Patek’s business model, serving their high-class clientele. However, Patek knew that the brand needed to think bigger and grow their international reputation. So, in 1851, he traveled to the United States and began working with Tiffany & Co. This partnership has continued to this day.


The brand’s aspirations to build their international presence quickly paid off. In 1853, Patek Philippe participated in the Exhibition of the Industry of all Nations in New York City. There, they received a silver medal. Just two years later, the brand received another silver medal at the World’s Fair in New York City.

The company was beginning to pick up speed, and Patek wanted to keep up their momentum. He continued to focus his energy on his successful partnership with Tiffany & Co. He also traveled to cities all around the United States until he accumulated orders for 150 watches. His persistence and perseverance made a lasting impression on Tiffany & Co. and the American market. Ever since, Patek Philippe has maintained this highly regarded reputation.

Fundamental Innovations and Changes

During Patek’s travels and focus on the business, Philippe remained committed to the development of the brand’s watches. In 1861, he finalized and patented his keyless stem-winding and setting mechanism. Two years later, he published a book on keyless timepieces. Later in 1863, he produced their first pocket watch with a tourbillon and invented a mainspring called the “slipping spring.” Then, in 1868, the first Patek Philippe wristwatch was born. It included an impressive perpetual calendar, split-seconds hand, chronograph, and minute repeater.

The next few decades brought about significant changes for Patek Philippe. Founder Antoine Patek passed away in 1877. Soon after, Philippe brought his son Emile Joseph into the business and began training him as his successor. Then, in 1894, Adrien Philippe passed away as well.

Still, even without the brand’s legendary founders, Patek Philippe continued to be a leading innovator in the watchmaking industry. Emile Joseph perpetuated his father’s legacy for the next three decades. In 1932, the brand left family leadership for the first time. That year, the Stern brothers, who owned a dial manufacture in Geneva, purchased Patek Philippe.

A New Generation of Patek Philippe

During the Stern family’s leadership, the brand has created some of its most iconic models. In 1932, they debuted the first Calatrava. In 1968, they introduced the Golden Ellipse collection. Then, in 1976, Patek Philippe launched the first Nautilus model.

To commemorate the company’s 150thanniversary in 1989, Patek Philippe debuted the most complicated wristwatch ever made, the Reference 3974. This timepiece featured a minute repeater, perpetual calendar, and moon phases and remained in production until 2000.

To this day, Patek Philippe continues to thrive under the Stern family leadership. They have grown to be one of the most highly regarded watch brands in the industry. Their superior quality and commitment to innovation continues to echo the vision of their founders.

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Caitlyn is the founder of Grey Ghost, a New York City-based boutique content marketing agency with a passion for artists, entrepreneurs, small businesses, and startups. She believes in quality over quantity, creative thinking, and, above all, using language as powerful tool to build lasting connections.

Latest comments

  • i REcently purchased a patek wristwatch at a chicago auction. based upon the movement number (199459) it appears that this watch was made in the early 1920’s. it is in an 18K yellow gold case (rectangular shape) with a hinge back to open to remove the movement. how do i find out what model number or reference number is associated with this movement?


    brad prendergast

    • Hi Brad,

      Do you have pictures of the watch?