Offered for the first time in public, this exciting and significant discovery has been consigned by the descendants of Jean-Adrien Philippe (1815-1894), one of the legendary founders of Patek Philippe. It is doubly significant in not only being owned by Jean-Adrien Philippe himself, his son and his descendants, but it is also of great horological importance as one of the very first Patek Philippe watches constructed according to Swiss patent No. 1017 of 23 May 1889, for “independent seconds watch with two simultaneously wound barrels….and two wheel trains…”.
Jean-Adrien Philippe’s final calibre, the independent seconds watch with two wheel trains and two barrels wound simultaneously by a single stem winding mechanism took, like his stem winding and setting mechanism, several decades of research, reflection and improvement to perfect. Made in 1888 the present watch is one of the very earliest examples known and constructed before patent no. 1017 had been filed. Jean-Adrien Philippe was at the time still running the firm and it can safely be assumed that he used it regularly, possibly even to improve his independent dead centre seconds mechanism patented in 1889.
An almost identical watch, however in hunter case and with subsidiary seconds, movement number 80’048, only just preceding the present watch, is in the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva (Inv. P-626). Its catalogue entry in the Museum book states “…it is probably one of the earliest ones made. A similar watch, No. 80’050, was sold on January 31, 1894, to Jean-Adrien Philippe”. Jean-Adrien Philippe passed away on 5 January 1894. It is therefore most likely that watch no. 80'050 has been formally purchased from the company by his son Joseph Émile Philippe on 31 January 1894. Being his father’s watch, he had the date engraved on the cuvette and his monogram "JAP" to the case back, as a memorial to him.
Patek Philippe's independent dead centre seconds watches are exceedingly rare, only around 60 examples of this predecessor of the chronograph were ever made, both with and without subsidiary seconds. The mechanism requires two going trains, one for the movement and one for the centre seconds hand, allowing it to be stopped without stopping the main train in order not to interfere with the accuracy of timekeeping. The invention of this mechanism is attributed to Moise Pouzait, Geneva 1776.
Jean-Adrien Philippe's independent dead seconds mechanism, Swiss patent No. 1017 of 23 May 1889, varies completely from Pouzait's design. Moving the seconds train over the center bridge created more space, thus allowing a larger balance resulting in better timekeeping.
Jean-Adrien Philippe was fascinated by mechanisms that could perform intermediate time measurements, one of the earliest Patek Philippe keyless watches with two trains and independent seconds was made in 1858, no. 15’144, (Patek Philippe Museum Inv. P-1345) and it is evident that by the mid-1860s he was well advanced with two-train independent seconds watches. Watch no. 27’115, (Patek Philippe Museum Inv. P-730), likely shown at the 1867 Paris Universal Exhibition, which had two serially mounted barrels with unidirectional winding and slipping spring is a direct forerunner of the present watch using the system filed under Swiss patent 1017.
Jean-Adrien Philippe’s patent no. 1017 is illustrated and described in: Patek Philippe, Martin Huber & Alan Banbery, p. 53.
Patek Philippe’s independent seconds watches are described and illustrated in: Patek Philippe Watches, Volume I, Patek Philippe Museum, 2013, pp. 257-264.