Patek Philippe’s signature collection was launched in 1932 and came to represent the epitome of a round wristwatch. Elegant in its simplicity, the Calatrava is timekeeping at its most classically understated.
When the Golden Ellipse was launched it became an instant classic, perhaps unsurprisingly, because the distinctive case shape – a rounded rectangle or linear oval – is based on the principle of the Golden Section.
Rigorous geometry and pure lines of modernism, characteristic design features of the Art Deco movement, are recognizable in the Gondolo collection, inspired by classic models from the 1930s.
Inspired by the Nautilus collection of elegant sports watches, the Aquanaut was devised for a younger audience that had an attachment to classical values as well as a passion for modernity.
With Patek Philippe’s first sports watch, the company introduced a timepiece that was both rugged and streamlined. The current Nautilus collection is a result of the subtle evolution of the original 1970s models.
Timekeeping instruments that provide functions beyond indicating the time and date are called complicated watches. In Patek Philippe’s workshops, this class of timepiece is segmented into complications and grand complications. “Useful” complications offer add-on functions that are user-friendly, such as the legendary Annual Calendar. This ingenious complication “knows” how many days each month has and only needs to be corrected once a year at the end of February. Another compli cation gaining significance in the life of present-day nomads is the time-zone indication as implemented in the Calatrava Travel Time – it simultaneously displays the local time in two different zones. This watch is available in a ladies’ version. Patek Philippe’s World Time watch goes a step further and displays all 24 time zones at the same time. It is based on a principle devised by the ingenious Genevan watchmaker Louis Cottier in the 1930s and perfected and patented by Patek Philippe in 1999. The mechanism makes it possible for the wearer to switch the watch easily from one time zone to the next without compromising the rate accuracy of the movement. Meanwhile, the moon-phase display enjoys an enduring popularity. This poetic complication indicates the gradual day-to-day progression of the moon’s face in a curved dial aperture. But the mechanism behind it is more sophisticated than meets the eye. It is so precise that the display faithfully tracks the true lunation for 122 years and 45 days. Only then must it be corrected by one day. “Useful” compli cations also include different types of chronographs from classic manually wound chronographs with column wheels to innovative self-winding Annual Calendar chronographs with monocounter. All these timepieces are crafted in Patek Philippe’s ateliers in Geneva. Many of them are endowed with an Annual Calendar mechanism, a moon-phase display, or a powerreserve indication and they belong to a group of watches that illustrates the subtle line between “useful” complications and grand complications.
Grand complications represent the paragon of horology and challenge the watchmaker to the ultimate degree. This apotheosis of haute horlogerie has been a part of the Patek Philippe heritage since the company was founded in 1839. No other watchmaker has been involved in the highest sphere of horology for such a long time without interruption; no other company has created such an impressive portfolio of complicated watches. With 33 complications, the Calibre 89 was the world’s most complicated portable timepiece when it was presented in 1989. Grand complications include intricate mechanisms such as the tourbillon, which compensates variations of the center of gravity of balance springs in vertical positions, and the repeater function, which tells the time acoustically by striking gongs. Split-seconds chronographs also belong to this category, as do perpetual calendars and various astronomical indications including sunrise and sunset displays, and stellar progressions. All these mechanisms are highly complex and correlated with one another in various ways. Often, they are enriched with further refinements such as retrograde displays or instantaneous calendarswitching mechanisms. A Patek Philippe tourbillon consists of 31 parts, yet weighs a mere 0.3 grams. Patek Philippe’s minute repeaters draw on a tradition established over 150 years ago. Their sound as they strike the hours, quarter hours, and minutes is considered to be the benchmark of acoustic-time indication. Astronomical watches are another domain in which Patek Philippe has shown unprecedented prowess. The Sky Moon Tourbillon is a prime example: it needs both sides of the watch to accommodate all of its features. But these grand complications are not spectacular, one-off showpieces. They belong to Patek Philippe’s established collection and aptly demonstrate the excellent skills the Geneva workshops employs on a daily basis.