Patek Philippe is generally considered the top brand among the major Swiss watch manufacturers. Why is that?
Patek Philippe controls everything that makes fine watchmaking. The manufactory’s know-how is shown in the two-hand watch with manual wind movement as well as in the “minor” complications with functions such as an annual calendar or second-time-zone, and not least in the demanding masterpieces with minute repetition, tourbillon or slave hand chronograph. Master craftsmanship goes hand in hand with the use of state-of-the-art machines.
Such a skill can not be developed overnight. Patek Philippe has existed for 177 years and has continuously produced watches throughout the period. This results in an immense experience, which is passed on among the watchmakers from generation to generation.
Although Patek Philippe has such a great tradition, the manufactory is not a thing of the past. On the one hand, one cultivates the values of traditional watchmaking, but on the other hand, it invests heavily in the use of new materials, techniques and production methods. Shortly after the turn of the millennium Patek Philippe went into the production of components from monocrystalline silicon and introduced in the following years, several silicon components: 2005 its own escape wheel, 2006 spiral Spiromax, 2008 the Pulsomax escapement, 2011, the GyromaxSi balance, the combined with the Pulsomax escapement the assembly Oscillomax results, and in 2017 the improved Spiromax with new final curve and new form of internal attachment. It uses so-called silinvar (“silicon invariable”), i.e. silicon, which has been rendered thermostable thanks to an oxide layer. Plant components made of this material behave almost unchanged between -10 and +60 degrees Celsius. The material was developed in a joint project by Patek Philippe, Rolex, Swatch Group, the Center for Electronics and Microelectronics in Neuchâtel (CSEM) and the Institute of Microtechnology at the University of Neuchâtel.
Quality is the highest good at Patek Philippe. The entire company is geared to this. With the Patek Philippe seal launched in 2008, the company has imposed strict quality standards, some of which far exceed what is customary in the industry. But the commitment to quality not only affects the watches themselves: Patek Philippe also sets the highest standards in the training of employees, from watchmakers to sales personnel, and in the care of customers, from sales to service.
Patek Philippe is run by the Stern family for the fourth generation, over 80 years. This results in a high consistency in corporate philosophy and policy. Strong changes of direction by changing managers are excluded; you can be sure that the successful way will continue. That means sustainability – and is closely related to the next point:
One of the reasons for the enormous value retention is the regular success at auctions. The most expensive watch ever sold – a pocket watch – as well as the most expensive wristwatch ever sold are from Patek Philippe. The highest price ever paid for a watch – over 20 million Swiss francs – was achieved in 2014 by Patek Philippe’s pocket watch called “Supercomplication” for New York banker Henry Graves Jr. And the maximum price for a wristwatch in 2016 was the Reference 1518, a perpetual calendar chronograph by Patek Philippe, who changed hands in a rare 1943 steel version for a good eleven million francs.
The proportion of manual labor in the production process is high – in technology as well as in decoration. Even for inconspicuous parts such as wheels, 40 to 60 steps are estimated. Artisan techniques such as enamel painting, finest engraving, gemstone setting or inlay work play an important role.