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Feature: 3 More Things You’ve Got To Know About Patek Philippe

For our second swing at our In Focus semi-finalist, we’ve scoured the deepest, darkest vaults for the tiniest scraps of information to bring you these juicy facts today. You’ll find even more great Patek Philippe content right here at Watchfinder.com. So, think you know all about Patek Philippe? Think again!

Everything You Know About Patek Philippe Is A Lie

So you think you know your stuff about Patek Philippe? Well, let’s try this on for size. True or false: Patek Philippe was founded by Antoni Norbert Patek and Jean Adrien Philippe in 1839. I’m sure you know the answer, and if you don’t feel free to stop there and go Google it. You’ll still be wrong. That’s because, despite what Patek Philippe tells you, it was not founded in 1839, and it was not founded by Mr. Patek and Mr. Philippe. Not only is that wrong, but it’s all sorts of wrong.

Patek and Philippe first met in 1844, which you don’t need to be a genius to realise is five years after Patek Philippe was supposedly founded. How is this possible? Well, unless the pair were not only makers of time-telling instruments but time travelling ones as well, the answer is not very possible at all. Let’s do a little time-travelling of our own and zip back to 1834.

Here we meet François Czapek and someone we know only as Moreau. Czapek was from Poland, Moreau Switzerland. Take note of the fact that he’s the only Swiss person we’ll meet on this journey. He and Czapek founded Czapek & Moreau in 1834, the first watchmaking firm we’ll see in a string of watchmaking firms. With Czapek’s skills and Moreau’s investment, the business was set to flourish.

It was five years later in 1839 that Antoni Patek enters the scene. Also from Poland, he had found some success trading wine, and through his friend Moreau became interested in watches. A new watchmaking firm was created, Patek & Czapek, with Moreau staying on as a silent partner. He paid the bills, Czapek made the watches, and Patek used his trading knowledge to run the business. They were buying in unfinished movements for Czapek to finish, sending them on to a casemaker and selling them.

But the business was struggling, and Patek and Czapek fought, eventually going their own ways in 1845. Czapek went lone ranger and so too did Patek until 1951. That’s when the guy he’d met seven years earlier, Adrien Philippe—a Frenchman—joined the business. They’d met at an exhibition where Philippe had been showcasing his new keyless works—and Patek’s shrewd business mind saw it as the next big thing.

And he was right. Patek & Philippe conquered the world with their cutting-edge mechanism, building the foundation of what you see today. But what’s not right is that the business was founded by Antoni Patek and Adrien Philippe in 1839. It’s a little more complicated than that.

Patek Philippe Made Its Own Money

Imagine if Patek Philippe had a licence to print money. What’s that? The Nautilus 5711 is a license to print money? Be that as it may, I’m talking about a watchmaker minting its own coins. It all sounds very unlikely, but it seems that Patek Philippe has a bit of a fascination with coin—and I don’t just mean a fascination with making money.

Coins have been used to commemorate things for almost as long as coins have existed. I mean, really, when you think about it, a coin is kind of a commemoration in and of itself, of the goods or work whose value it represents. But beyond just being a metal disk with its worth stamped upon it, coins have also been used as a messenger as well.

All the way back a century and a half ago and you’ll find coins struck by Constantine the Great commemorating the Goddess of the city, Roma, on one side, with Romulus and Remus suckling from a she-wolf, events which supposedly led to the founding of the city, on the other. This did nothing for the coin’s value at the time, except to commemorate the great city it was forged in.

In England, the monarch has distributed silver commemorative coins, known as Maundy money, to the elderly the day before Good Friday since the 13th century. Even in modern circulation you’ll find plenty of coins celebrating or mourning events in the history of the nation they uphold.

Commemorative money has value both in worth and meaning, and so for Patek Philippe, they are kin to its watches. So much so that Patek Philippe has actually fitted its watches with commemorative coins, including one commemorating the 1979 Swiss Federal Shooting Competition. It even made pocket watches that themselves looked like coins, hiding the timepiece itself in a case that looked like a gold twenty-dollar coin.

But sometimes even Patek Philippe just wants to straight-out make itself some money. And so, for special occasions from anywhere between the 1889 150th anniversary of its founding to the 2001 150th anniversary of its partnership with Tiffany, it cracks out a commemorative coin of its very own.

Patek Philippe’s Customers Include Queen Victoria, Albert Einstein and the Pope

Our obsession with celebrity culture today feels like a new one, with huge attention paid to which musician ruined which watch with which precious stones, but the reality is that celebrity endorsement has long been a popular marketing tool. It’s something Patek Philippe appreciated early on, having gone on to amass some of the most important celebrity customers a brand could ever hope to have.

I’m not talking Kim Kardashian or the Chuckle Brothers, or even Barry from Eastenders: I’m talking celebrity royalty. By which I mean real, genuine royalty. Two of them include both the current Queen, Elizabeth II, and former Queen, Victoria. Whilst Lizzy’s Patek Philippe is a more elegantly subdued Golden Ellipse in white gold with a deep blue dial and diamond bezel, Vicky’s was something a bit more … well, a bit more.

Given her fame for dressing in black and generally looking miserable, her pocket watch game was very much on point. Enrobed in gold with engraved motifs and blue enamelling set with diamonds, hanging from an extraordinarily ornate matching clasp, it is a real showstopper. Of course, she didn’t actually buy it—it was gifted to her at the 1851 Great Exhibition. Patek Philippe may be fine watchmakers, but perhaps not the best at picking gifts.

But our A-list endorsements continue to fly in from all sorts of directions. Never mind TAG Heuer’s new ambassador, famed Omega collector Ryan Gosling, I’m talking stars on the universal stage, like theoretical physicist Albert Einstein. After all, if you’d just completed the ground-breaking Theory of General Relativity, you’d feel like treating yourself, too. Einstein may have been a genius, but he was still a human after all. A pat on the back and a nice gold pocket watch from Patek Philippe was just the ticket for a job well done.

Pretty cool, I’m sure you’ll agree. But forget the Royals, forget the Nobel prize winners—the best ambassador you could ever have would be God himself. And, failing that, the next best thing, the man who has his ear, Pope Pius XV. Yes, that’s right, even the most holy of men can’t help themselves but flash a bit of bling—do people still say say bling?—and why not for the Pope who held the title longest. I guess the Vatican appreciates a man who can be on time.

That was number two in our In Focus series. No prizes for guessing who’s number one! Before we reveal that great mystery next time, why not catch up on our previous In Focus week stories here at Watchfinder.com.

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