A venerable watch manufacture launches its first authorised chronicle.
It might be hard to believe, but Patek Philippe only recently saw the launch of its first official historical chronicle – nearly 178 years after its founding in 1839. Commissioned by the independent manufacture in 2011, Patek Philippe: The Authorized Biography is a 544-page tome by British author and historian Nicholas Foulkes, who was given unprecedented access to pivotal personalities and archives. Here are three interesting nuggets – among many – we gleaned from the volume, available at Patek Philippe boutiques and its website.
1) Innovation has been in its DNA from Day One: Patek Philippe has been awarded more than 80 patents for its innovations (including its annual calendar and world-time mechanisms), and this penchant for invention isn’t something new. Indeed, in 1844, prodigal French watchmaker Jean Adrien Philippe first caught the attention of Polish entrepreneur Antoine Norbert de Patek with his stem-winding and setting mechanism – a vast improvement over the standard timepieces of the day, which had to be wound using a separate key.
2) It made the first Swiss wristwatch: While “serious” watches for women are now on the rise, mechanical wristwatches remain typically seen as a masculine domain. The first Swiss wristwatch on record, however, was actually made by Patek Philippe for the Hungarian Countess Koscowicz: a “tiny watch set in a gold bangle rather than the brooch watches” that were de rigueur for ladies in 1868.
3) How it began making quartz watches: The company’s first response to the industry-upending emergence of quartz timepieces in the 1970s was to join a 21-member consortium of Swiss watch brands (including Piaget and Omega), which created the Beta 21 high-end quartz wristwatch movement. Patek Philippe would subsequently produce its own quartz movements such as the calibres E15 and E23, finished to the same high level as its mechanical movements.
Once in a while, Greubel Forsey likes to take a step back from inclined tourbillons and other headline-grabbing complications to show us that it does the simple(r) things just as impressively. Case in point: the Greubel Forsey Balancier. It features only the time and a power reserve indicator, but the construction and finishing is nothing short of marvellous. Every surface and screw has been polished; each angle and recess chamfered.
The asymmetrical case houses a 3Hz movement that uses a Philips terminal curve and Geneva-style stud, while the balance, which is viewable through a window at eight o’clock, can be stopped by the crown, making time-setting more precise. Limited to 33 pieces in white gold.
Despite its name, there really isn’t any question as to the colour of De Bethune’s DB28 Kind of Blue Tourbillon Meteorite. The intense shade is the result of flame-blued titanium, and is used on the 42.6mm case, lugs, chapter ring, dial flange, caseback and even the movement. But the real star is the sliver of meteorite on the dial, which was taken from a rock that landed in Santiago del Estero, Argentina, about 5,000 years ago. The nebula-like pattern and rosy hues, dotted with white gold stars, add some variation to all that blue, as does the 30-second tourbillon at six o’clock.
PRETTY IN PINK
It isn’t always easy putting a feminine spin on an uncompromisingly technical-looking watch, but Breguet managed to pull it off last year when it released its first Tradition model for ladies. This year, the lovely Tradition Dame 7038 gets a pinkgold twin with a mother-of-pearl dial decorated with an engine-turned hobnail pattern. Like the original white-gold version, this model features the same 37mm case size and a bezel set with 68 brilliant-cut diamonds and a crown topped with a watch jewel. The 505SR movement is an automatic one that comes with a 50-hour power reserve, with a lever and Breguet balance spring in silicon.