Patek Philippe Gondolo, a Historical Watch Worth Your Attention

You may be familiar with the Patek Philippe brand through its more famous models such as the Calatrava, the Nautilus, the Aquanaut, or for ladies, the Twenty~4. One of Patek Philipe's models that may have escaped your attention is the Gondolo. These watches are considered 

Patek Philippe Gondolo White Gold 4972-1G-001 with Guilloched Mother-of-Pearl dial

"shaped watches" or non-round watches. Though non-round watches appear in some Patek Philippe models, such as the tonneau-shaped Twenty~4 ref#49XX watches, the Twenty~4 line also contains round watches. In the case of the Gondolo, all the shapes of watches in the line are exclusively non-round. These shapes are square, cushion-shaped, or rectangular tonneaus with vintage designs. What makes these watches exceptional is their deep connection to Patek Philippe's rich history. To most of us, the history behind the Gondolo is quite surprising.

Brazilian Roots

Identifying emerging markets 150 years ago was similar to how we identify ours today. When a luxury watchmaker looks for partners to expand their operations and distributorship today, they may look at China, India, or Russia as the best place to set up shop. However, given the politically volatile situation in Europe at the time, the emerging market Patek Philippe chose was Brazil. Brazil 150 years ago was a rapidly growing economy. Railways were quickly expanding, and the exports of cash crops like cocoa and coffee were increasing rapidly. 

Patek Philippe Pocket Watches Yellow Gold 972-1J-010 with White Opaline dial

The first watches sold in South America were pocket watches. The relationship with Patek Philippe’s future partners, the jewelers Gondolo and Labouriau, was struck when the first silver watch from Patek Philippe was brought to their attention in 1872. Until 1910, when the first wristwatches were added, Patek Philippe supplied its South American market exclusively with pocket watches.

Though not among the Gondolo line, a direct descendant of the Chronometro Gondolo released in the early 1900s is the Patek Philippe Pocket Watch Ref#971-1J-010 with a white gold opaline dial. The manually-wound Caliber #17" LEP PS IRM powers its chronometer and date functions and harks to the same functionality, opulence, and style of the first Chronometers launched for Gondolo.

Carlos Gondolo and Paulo Labouriau: The First Partners

The relationship between the reputed Brazilian partners and Patek Philippe lasted for 55 fruitful years resulting in the sale of thousands of pieces. The testament to the partnership's success was that one-third of Patek Philippe's production at the time went through Gondolo and Labouriau! Moreover, the word "Patek" has become synonymous with "watch" in Brazilian society.

The Gondolo Gang

The marketing savvy of Patek's partners was exemplified by the formation of the "Gondolo Gang." This 180-member club that consumed the exceptional Patek Philippe watches was comprised of the elite in Brazilian society. Admission to this exclusive club required a commitment to purchase a Patek Philippe pocket watch commissioned by Gondolo & Labouriau, which retailed at 790 Francs representing a skilled worker's annual salary. However, instead of paying the entire sum, each member signs up for the "Plano do Club Patek Philippe System," where they spend 10 Francs weekly for 79 weeks. One attractive feature of this club is the weekly lotteries where one member would be relieved of future payments. These lotteries were lavish affairs with members wearing huge straw hats with PATEK written on their lids.

The Advent of the Wristwatch in the 1910s

Wristwatches were introduced around 1910 after close to forty years of selling pocket watches. Instead of round cases, most Gondolo & Labouriau were "shaped watches." The silhouettes of "shaped watches" are non-round, meaning they come in different shapes such as rectangular tonneau, rounded square, and cushion-shaped.

In shape and dimensions, the modern incarnations of the classic wristwatches released by Gondolo & Labouriau in the 1910s are the rectangular-tonneau shaped Ref#5009/1J-051, the rounded-square or cushioned-shaped Ref#7041R-001, and the stylized rectangular-shaped Ref#4972G-001.

Patek Philippe Gondolo 39mm x 26mm, 18k Yellow Gold, Cream dial, 5009/1J-051

The vintage Patek Philippe Gondolo, Ref#5009/1J-051, harks back to the first rectangular-designed watches that found their way to Brazil in the 1910s. The case, solid case back, and bracelet material is made of 18k yellow gold. Its scratch-resistant sapphire glass provides up to 30m of water resistance. Powering it is a manual-winding caliber 215 with 18 jewels and a 44-hour time reserve which provides timekeeping functions with the tiny second hands at the 6'o clock position.

Keeping with the imminent Art Deco movement of the time, the Patek Philippe Gondolo Ref#7041R-001 represents what was a trendy shape for watches in the 1920s. Encased in 18k rose gold with an alligator skin strap, it has a scratch-resistant sapphire case back, which shows the automatic caliber 215 powering it. It has a dial flange set with 108 diamonds weighing ~0.31ct. 

Nicknamed "the Serata," the Ref#4972G-001 has a stylized rectangular shape that harks back to the Art Deco age. With a gem-set bezel with 130 diamonds weighing a total of ~1.80 ct, the watch exudes elegance and style punctuated by its fine Guilloche dial finish. Powering it is the Patek Philippe E15 quartz movement.

The Modern Gondolo

As a fitting tribute to the golden age of Patek Philippe watches in the 1920s, the company introduced its Gondolo line in 1993. One of the most notable pieces released so far is the Gondolo Rose Gold Ref#7099R-001, with an 18kt gold dial set with 367 diamonds weighing a total of 0.56cts. The rose gold case is set with a further 480 diamonds weighing ~3.31ct. Its scratch-resistant sapphire case provides the watch with 30m of water resistance. Its sapphire case back prominently shows the automatic caliber 25-21 REC movement with 18 jewels. Its alligator strap is punctuated with a prong buckle set with 26 diamonds.

As a reminder of the Art Deco age, the Gondolo Haute Joaillerie Ref#7042-100G-010, paved with 251 diamonds weighing ~0.73ct, is a fitting tribute to the coussin-cased and refined lines of the Ref#176-209 released way back in 1923. The bezel and lugs are set with 78 baguette diamonds weighing ~0.73ct. The diamond flange carries 108 diamonds at ~0.33ct. The hour markers are 12 trapeze-cut diamonds weighing a total of ~0.14ct. The bracelet is set with 78 Akoya pearls weighing ~48.85cts with white gold decorative links and ~2.28ct of princess-cut diamonds punctuated with a fold-over clasp with 55 diamonds (~0.23cts). Its scratch-resistant sapphire glass provides it with 30m of water resistance. Its transparent case-back reveals the automatic caliber #215 movement with 18 jewels and a 44-hour time reserve.

Takeaways: Gondolo, the Perfect Tribute to Patek Philippe’s Innovation in Commercial Excellence

Though Patek Philippe is renowned for its craftsmanship and cutting-edge engineering excellence, the Gondolo reminds the avid collector of one of the company's more successful commercial moves. With its shaped watches, the Gondolo collection is a fitting tribute to the Art Deco movement, which characterizes the styles of wristwatches during this successful era for the company. With geometric simplicity, timeless design, and strong lines, the Gondolo is Patek Philippe's reinterpretation of the historical pieces that are a part of its strong heritage. 

To learn more about our collection of Gondolo watches, call (212) 730-5959. You can also arrange a private viewing in person or by setting an appointment online on this page. Diamond Source NYC is one of the country's most trusted luxury watch and jewelry retailers. We also buy pre-owned luxury watches and jewelry at the most competitive prices in the industry.