In 1842 French watchmaker Adrien Philippe invented the keyless wind mechanism which allowed watches to be wound and set by means of crown rather than a key. In 1951 he formed a partnership with Polish watchmaker Antoni Patek and the name Patek, Philippe was born. That same year Queen Victoria purchased a Patek Philippe for her husband Albert, liked it so much that she purchased one for herself.
Since then the Patek Philippe has become a favourite with Royalty, Popes and anyone who’s anybody with unlimited funds. Complicated rare pieces by this company breaks auction records on a regular basis.
This immaculate 1873 example would have been very similar to the ones that queen Victoria had.
Unusual for the period is its plainness, quite bland in fact. Most quality and even ordinary timepieces of the day were highly decorated on the dial, case or movement or all of the above.
The 15 jewel movement with lever escapement is very plain; the watch is signed only on the inner case lid. The dial and hands are elegant but plain. A watchmaker examining this without noticing the signature would never pick this as product of one of the greatest watch manufactures of all time.
Having said all that, when I tell some one who knows anything about watches that I have an 18ct gold Patek Phillipe, from 1873, in immaculate condition, in it’s original box I get a slightly unbelieving exclamation, “Yeah!!”
One of my best pieces and I consider myself fortunate to have it.