In watchmaking and watch collecting circles, the term “holy trinity” often comes up. Its reserved for only the finest vintage chronograph watches.
This phrase is used to describe three manufactures that many believe to be the finest and foremost, as a result of their storied pasts, impressive back catalogues, and continual ability to amaze the watch buying public. In summary these are the makers of some of the the collectable and universally admired vintage chronograph watches on the market today!
At the forefront of this trinity stands Patek Philippe, which many regard as the ultimate manufacture and horological institution in all of Swiss watchmaking history. These aforementioned titles are substantiated with many a good reason, both aesthetic and mechanical.
Patek Philippe’s first incarnation was founded in 1839 as Patek, Czapaek & Cie. by the Polish watchmaker Antoni Patek, along with the Czech-born Franciszek Czapek. Together the two would produce pocket watches for five years, until 1844 when the two partners would separate, and Patek would join forces with Adrien Philippe, a watchmaker known best at the time for his invention of the keyless-winding mechanism. In 1851, Patek Philippe & Co was officially founded, beginning the true saga of the watchmaker we celebrate so passionately today.
Following this restructuring, Patek Philippe would go on to produce a seemingly endless number of timepieces that are now regarded with immense importance. These include the Henry Graves Supercomplication of 1933, which was at one point the most complicated timepiece in the world with 24 functions, the Ref. 96 Calatrava of 1932, which began one of the brand’s most revered collections, and of course the Ref. 1518 of 1941, which established the market for perpetual calendar-equipped chronographs. It should be noted that Patek Philippe is also attributed with creating the first self-winding wristwatch, the first annual calendar, and the first perpetual calendar, among other innovations.
The brand is also credited with creating a class of wristwatch that was once unheard of — the stainless steel luxury timepiece. Prior to the mid 1970s, it was generally agreed upon that a true luxury watch was to be crafted out of precious metals and precious metals only, given the sizeable price tags that often accompanied these watches. With the release of the Gerald Genta-designed Ref. 3700 Nautilus, the argument was made that it was thoughtful design elements and expertly crafted movements that afforded a wristwatch a luxurious quality, and not mere case materials alone. Patek not only demonstrated the power of a great design with the introduction of this watch, but their unparalleled influence over the watch industry as a whole.
As far as groundbreaking developments in watchmaking go, Patek Philippe truly has a laundry list. They are simply at the top of their game, in both mechanical and aesthetic respects, defining class and refined tastes within the watch market as a whole. Just like their modern counterparts, vintage chronograph watches are examples of the brand’s most esteemed icons are seen as being in a league of their own, given the flawless nature of their internals, and the subtly strong expression of status they exude. Like any other vintage timepiece, sourcing ideal examples grows increasingly more difficult by the second, making yesterday the right time to claim a vintage Patek Philippe that you can call your own.