Looking ahead to Patek Philippe‘s upcoming “Art of Watches” Grand Exhibition, opening up next month in New York, WatchTime offers a look at the most notable wristwatches from the company’s 178-year history. Read on to discover WatchTime.com’s top five. For the complete list of 24 milestone Patek Philippe watches, you can download the full article from the WatchTime Shop.
1. First Patek Philippe Wristwatch (1868)
In 1868, Patek Philippe began production of its first wristwatch: an ornate affair with a baguette-shaped, key-wound movement called Caliber 27368. It had a cylinder escapement and eight jewels. The watch’s case and bracelet were made of yellow gold. The dial was protected by a hinged cover adorned with large diamonds; more diamonds flanked both sides of the dial. In 1873, Patek Phillipe delivered the watch to the Countess Koscewicz of Hungary. The watch is now in the company’s museum.
2. First Perpetual Calendar Wristwatch (1925)
That this, the world’s first perpetual calendar wristwatch, ever came to be is due chiefly to chance. Patek Philippe originally made the movement, which bears the number 97975, for a women’s pendant watch. Completed in 1898, the watch found no takers despite one interesting feature: its calendar hands jumped instantaneously to the next day at the stroke of midnight, rather than creeping forward slowly, as on conventional calendar watches. The watch stayed on the shelf until 1925, when the growing popularity of wristwatches inspired Patek Philippe to put the movement into a wristwatch case. The watch was finally sold on Oct. 13, 1927.
3. Reference 2441 “Eiffel Tower” (1948)
This watch, Reference 2441, earned the nickname Eiffel Tower from its lugs, whose flared shape and squared-off ends bring to mind the tower’s bottom section. The watch, launched in 1948, was powered by Caliber 9-90, a tonneau-shaped movement that Patek Philippe launched in 1934. Reference 2441 is a favorite with collectors, thanks in part to its distinctive and flamboyant case. In 1997, Patek Philippe paid homage to that case. To mark the inauguration of its new factory and headquarters in Geneva that year, the company brought out a limited-edition watch with a rectangular case with flared lugs like those on the Eiffel Tower. The new watch also had a name inspired by architecture: the Pagoda.
4. Reference 3700 Nautilus (1976)
In the 1970s, when quartz technology was gaining steam, mechanical-watch makers were eager to retain, or regain, consumers’ attention. For Patek Philippe, the Nautilus, introduced in 1976, and designed by the famous Gérald Genta, was a way to do so. At 42 mm in diameter, it was huge by the standards of the day, and had an unusually shaped, water-resistant (to 120 meters) steel case with two odd, ear-like projections on either side. But the most notable feature of Reference 3700, as the first Nautilus was designated, was its price: $2,350. At the time, steel luxury watches were still a rarity. For Patek Philippe, until then known exclusively for its precious-metal dress watches, a chunky, steel sports watch with an eye-popping price tag was news indeed. The watch was not an immediate hit, but later became one, earning the nickname “Jumbo” among collectors.
5. Sky Moon Tourbillon, Reference 5002 (2001)
The Sky Moon Tourbillon, Reference 5002, was the most complicated wristwatch Patek Philippe had ever made. It was also the company’s first two-faced wristwatch. One side shows the time and a perpetual calendar, including a retrograde date indicator, day and month subdials, a moon-phase display and leap-year indicator. The watch’s other side shows sidereal time, a star map of the night sky and the angular motion of the moon. The tourbillon is not visible, but its presence is heralded by the word “tourbillon” inside the month subdial. The watch also has a minute repeater. The movement, which is manually wound, has 686 parts. When it was introduced, in 2001, the Patek Philippe Sky-Moon Tourbillon was priced at SF950,000 for the yellow-gold version shown here.
To read the entire list of 24 milestone Patek Philippe watches, including the stories behind iconic watches such as the first automatic-winding perpetual calendar wristwatch, the world’s thinnest split-seconds chronograph, and modern-day classics like the new Nautilus and Gondolo, download the complete article from the WatchTime Shop.
This article first appeared in WatchTime magazine.