A collective obsession among watch enthusiasts with the origins of brands and the continuity of their ownership has been significantly more positive for some manufacturers than others. Sitting far above the fray, with only a small and exclusive club for company, is Patek Philippe. Founded in 1839, and in continuous business since, with a clear line of succession over the years, when important milestones have arisen for the company in recent years they have deservedly marked the occasion with a sizeable celebration.
While the centenary was a bit challenging to commemorate due to what was occurring elsewhere in Europe, for the 150th year since the establishment for the house of the Calatrava cross, collectors got a whole host of mementos, chief among which was the Calibre 89. The most complicated watch ever made at its point of introduction, eclipsing the Henry Graves Supercomplcation also produced by Patek Philippe in 1933, the 1.1kg tour de force contained 1,728 components powering 33 complications (the count varies a bit depending on the exact definition of a given function), and would hold the record until 2015, when Vacheron Constantin unveiled the reference 57260.
The Calibre 89 took nearly a decade to bring it from an idea, through development, then production, before delivery. Four were produced in yellow gold, white gold, pink gold and platinum, all quickly finding homes in important collections, and its arrival was a pivotal moment for Patek Philippe, showing that the company could embrace new technologies, such as computer aided design, in its pursuit of horological excellency. Other debuts at the 150th anniversary celebration included a number of Calatravas, a jump hour equipped watch, and even a commemorative medallion, with the stand out event being the now legendary The Art of Patek Philippe auction hosted at the Hotel des Bergues in Geneva, that would contain some of the most important watches ever produced by the company, including the only publicly sold reference 2499 in platinum.
It would be a long 25 years before the next milestone that the management at Patek Philippe deemed worthy of celebration would come along. The formula from the 150th was kept largely similar, with a true flagship product unveiled in the form of the reference 5175 Grand Master Chime. With its case that can be rotated to allow the owner flexibility as to whether they emphasise the chiming works (consisting of grande sonnerie, petite sonnerie, minute repeater, alarm with time strike and date repeater) or calendar function, and its heavily engraved structure showing the exceptional workmanship the company is known for, the reference 5175 would be the most complicated watch ever produced by Patek Philippe for the lucky six people who gained an allocation upon its debut.
Fortunately for others, an entire range of celebratory watches was made available for both men and women. The reference 5975 Multi-scale Chronograph was offered as a 1,400 piece edition total (400 in yellow, rose, and white gold respectively, plus another 100 in platinum), and the ladies version with a smaller case diameter and baguette diamond hour markers was 300 pieces (150 in white gold and 150 in pink gold).
World timers would play a key part in the 175th anniversary collection, and while the references 5131 and 7131 from the standard collection, but fitted with a special scene depicting boats on Lake Geneva, were virtually impossible to obtain, the newly announced World Time Moon would prove to be one of the hits of the entire range. With its new case and hand design, as well as the highly attractive starscape and hyper realistic moon, the reference 5575 for men offered in white gold with black dial (1,300 pieces) and the equivalent ladies model reference 7175 in pink gold with diamond set bezel (450 pieces), these two new releases would prove Patek Philippe’s commitment to offering something fresh and compelling for their most loyal fans.
We have saved the most exciting by far of the relatively available watches for last, with the reference 5275 Chiming Jump Hour in platinum. A novelty in the keenest sense of the word, it featured a new case format with intricate engraving, an elegant white gold dial with a floral design in relief around the aperture for the jump hour and scales for the minutes and seconds, the watch certainly has wrist presence.
The movement makes the 5275 even more fascinating, containing an extremely unusual set of complications. In addition to the aforementioned jump hour, the party trick of the watch is the fact that it strikes a gong once at the top of each hour, the function able to be silenced with the slide in the band at 10 o’clock. Utilising four patents to ensure that the jump, chime and advance of the minutes and seconds occur smoothly at the top of each hour, the reference 5275 shows how far Patek Philippe is prepared to go to explore new boundaries for the 175 collectors who were fortunate enough to secure one.
With such an impressive portfolio for their previous anniversaries, one can only dream what the future holds for other comparable commemorative collections from such an important manufacture. Roll on 2039 and the 200th anniversary, so we can all wish Patek Philippe a very happy birthday!