Style: Best of the Best Watches: Patek Philippe

  • Laurie Kahle

When Patek Philippe unveiled its supercomplicated Sky Moon Tourbillon wristwatch at last year’s World Watch and Jewellery Show in Basel, Switzerland, an American collector read about the introduction on the Internet and boarded his private jet bound for Basel. Such is the passion of a devoted collector of Patek Philippe watches. By the end of 2001, Patek had a five-year waiting list of buyers for the groundbreaking dual-faced Sky Moon, which is priced at around $570,000. Currently, only one of Patek’s 180 watchmakers is capable of producing two to four Sky Moons per year.

The Sky Moon was built on the foundation of the previous year’s Star Caliber pocket watch, demonstrating Patek’s commitment to advancing the technical art of watchmaking. “After more than a century and a half, we are still innovating, creating, and developing new ideas in the world of watchmaking,” says Hank Edelman, president of Patek Philippe USA.

Last fall, Patek and Tiffany’s commemorated their 150-year relationship with the limited edition T150, which sold out quickly. “It confirmed both our admiration for Patek Philippe as the world’s finest watchmaker and the significance of 150 years of the Tiffany/Patek partnership,” says Tiffany & Co. President Michael J. Kowalski.

Patek’s supply of timepieces rarely meets the demands of the market, resulting in astronomical values when vintage Pateks hit the auction block. Despite last year’s economic downturn, a rare 1944 Patek Philippe perpetual calendar sold for $1,911,770 last November at Philips in Geneva. “Patek holds all the major records,” says Osvaldo Patrizzi, president of Antiquorum, which sold a Deco-era stainless steel chronograph for $1.1 million last November. “They invest time and human resources to make the most complicated and perfect watches possible, and they get results—after 50, 100, 120 years, the watches still work perfectly.”

While 2001 was a landmark year for Patek Philippe, the accomplishment dearest to the watch house’s heart had nothing to do with product development or auction results. In November, Patek President Philippe Stern saw the culmination of decades of collecting when he opened the doors of the new Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva. “The museum represents a lifetime of acquiring and documenting the 163-year history of Patek Philippe,” says Edelman. “It is a legacy not only to Patek, but also to the traditional art of watchmaking in Geneva.”

Patek Philippe, 212.218.1240, www.patekphilippe.com

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