The Patek Phillipe Museum

On Wednesday I visited Switzerland to go to the office of Antima, who manufacture watches for Burberry. On the first day of the trip, I had some spare time in Geneva so decided to visit the Museum of Patek Phillipe watches. A brief history [from the official website]:

“On May 1st, 1839 two Polish immigrants, Antoni Patek (Businessman) and Franciszek Czapek (Watchmaker) joined forces to found « Patek, Czapek & Cie » in Geneva. In 1844, Mr. Patek met the French watchmaker, Mr. Adrien Philippe in Paris where the latter presented his pioneering  stem winding and setting system by the crown. In 1845 when Czapek decided to leave the company and to continue his activity on his own, the company name changed for « Patek & Cie ». Later on, in 1851 when Mr. Philippe officially associated with the company, it  was rebaptised « Patek Philippe & Cie », before changing once more in 1901 for « Ancienne Manufacture d’Horlogerie Patek Philippe & Cie, S.A. ». In 1932, the company was purchased by Charles and Jean Stern, two brothers owners of a fine dial manufacture in Geneva. Since then, « Patek Philippe S.A. » remains a family owned firm. In 2009 the company presidency was officially transmitted from the 3rd to the 4th generation : Mr. Thierry Stern became president and his father Mr. Philippe Stern, Honorary president.”

The collection at the museum contains not only Patek Phillipe watches, but also a good range of general historical watches. It is interesting to see how watches moved from being pieces that denoted only the hours, to the chronographs and extended editions that are available today. Patek Phillipe themselves invented the self winding system for watches – prior to this, all timepieces required a separate key to be carried in order to wind them up daily to keep them going. This is why when people are seen to be wearing pocket watches in historical imagery, the chain usually has two sections – one for the watch and one for the key. In the late 1800s, the enamel painting technique became very much in Vogue, as watches became more a symbol of status and wealth than actual items for telling the time.

Wrist watches only became popular in the early 1900s, but were mainly the preserve of women, and not seen as manly at all. However, during the First World War there was a move towards wrist watches for men, as soliders’ found a pocket watch to cumbersome and impractical to use during battle. In the present day of course, men are rarely seen to be wearing pocket watches. It will be interesting to see what happens to the humble watch as mobile phones, iPads and other electronic equipment all become the first port of call for obtaining the time. I have seen an ‘app’ that actually gives your iPod/iPhone etc a clock face, removing the need to carry a separate watch at all.

The Patek Phillipe Museum is in Geneva, Rue des Vieux-Grenadiers 7, Switzerland.

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One Response to “The Patek Phillipe Museum”

  1. Glyza Says:

    nice watches, hope to have 1 like that. deer antler velvet

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