Swiss luxury watchmaker Patek Philippe is marking the end of the 20th century with a unique giveaway and celebrating the new millennium with a monumental new timepiece, the Star Caliber 2000. The Geneva, Switzerland, firm announced in late 2000 that it would mark the end of the 20th century by giving owners of its timepieces the chance to win one of the last 10 complicated mechanical watches made by the company in that century. Customers were asked to send the reference and movement numbers of Patek Philippe watches purchased before Jan. 1, 2000, along with their name, address, and the name of their Patek Philippe dealer, to the Swiss watchmaker before Dec. 31. Watch owners also could register at the Patek Philippe Web site (www.patekphilippe.com) or by fax or mail.
All 10 watches will be presented to the winners by Philippe Stern, chairman of the family-owned business, at a special reception for the opening of the Patek Philippe Watchmaking Treasures Museum in Geneva this autumn.
A new Caliber. With 21 complications, the Star Caliber 2000 is the third most complicated mechanical watch ever made. The other two, also made by Patek Philippe, are the Caliber 89 (made in 1989, with 33 complications,) and the Graves Supercomplication (made in 1933 and sold at auction in 1999 for $11 million).
The timepiece is the product of eight years of design, development, and invention. In 1993, Patek Philippe’s master watchmakers decided to welcome the new millennium with what a spokesman calls “an unprecedented feat in watchmaking-a timepiece that would unite the most fascinating and sophisticated of known complications in a single movement [and also show that] there is still untapped potential in mechanical watchmaking.”
Patek Philippe had to overcome technical obstacles, such as fabricating tiny movements with numerically controlled machines that cut with wire and electrolysis, and devising the first-ever comprehensive mechanical synchronization of a perpetual calendar with the running equation of time and display of sunrise and sunset. The project produced six innovative patented mechanisms (including one for the first pocket watch capable of correctly playing the melody of London’s Westminster Chime) and enhancements in the industrial production of mechanical watches.
The Star Caliber’s production also involved nearly extinct enameling skills, such as the champlevé technique for the Roman numerals on the watch’s front cover, the old art of filigreed case decorations, and engraving to embellish the back cover.
The double-faced watch has a solar dial (showing hours, minutes, seconds, the running equation of time, perpetual calendar, sunrise and sunset, and the power reserve for the movement and chime) and a celestial dial, showing movement of the nocturnal sky, lunar orbit, and moon phases.
Patek Philippe will produce 20 Star Caliber timepieces, in five sets of four watches each. Four sets will contain yellow, white, and rose gold and platinum watches (priced at $7.5 million per set). The fifth set will consist of four platinum watches (not priced at press time).