Biography
Beniamin Czapla
Antoni Patek: A Watchmaker to Kings

The first full biography of Antoni Patek

The economic and trading conditions in Switzerland had a great effect on the functioning of Antoni Patek and Franciszek Czapek’s production company. The first decades after the Vienna Congress were a period of intensive and not always easy changes for a federation of cantons founded on liberal beliefs. France, which had chosen to follow a conservative path, more and more frequently employed an open politics of tax discrimination on Swiss products. A similar stance was taken by Austria, reformed in the spirit of distrust by the Austrian chancellor, Klemens von Metternich, an advocate of traditionalist conservatism. Switzerland was forced to enter the Holy Alliance, which allowed neighbouring states to meddle ruthlessly in the internal politics of the alliance and led to increasing internal conflicts.

Growing sectarianism between individual cantons flourished. Every region had its own financial system, often competitive with its neighbouring territories, different tax policies, its own measuring and weighing systems, and its own currency rates. Internal trade all but ceased because of numerous, often man-made obstacles such as bridge and road taxes, as well as tollbars. There were near to four hundred custom houses in the entire federation, and little fewer different coins. All this explains why the Polish partners attempted to evade horrendous taxes.

Usually, the Polish manufacturers made use of contraband. Timepieces produced in the Patek, Czapek and Cie workshop generally made their way across the Swiss borders thanks to the goodwill of Poles passing through Geneva or smugglers especially hired for the purpose. This ran the risk of parts of watches being lost either by being confiscated at customs control or through the dishonesty of hired intermediaries. Hence Antoni Patek’s numerous complaints repeatedly finding their way into his correspondence: “On the 24th of June [1840] we had smuggled out (as usual) your watch along with two others. All three have disappeared. How? We still don’t know.”

It is not unlikely that the relatively frequent “lost in transit” was one more reason for their loss of reputation. Perhaps other Swiss workshops had started similar enterprises. These were not the only difficulties created for Patek by Geneva’s legislation. The Geneva entrepreneurs chose a path by which it was not industrialisation but maintaining their prime position in the manufacture of exclusive products that was to solve the accumulating problems caused by the local economy. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, a number of institutions were set up to regulate manufacture in Geneva. One of these was le Bureau de contrôle des matières d’or et d’argent, which controlled the quality of gold and silver articles. Along with the introduction of the Central Office, stringent measures were introduced as to the possession and use of precious metals and their circulation. The greatest controversy among the local manufacturers was caused by the obligation to use, in production, gold hallmarked no less than eighteen carats. Antoni, too, struggled with this problem. He mentions it in one of his letters to Wielogłowski in 1840: “If you were to send us anything made of gold again, mention that the metal has to be at least eighteen carats.”

Excerpt translated by Danusia Stok

Biography
Beniamin Czapla
Antoni Patek: A Watchmaker to Kings

The first full biography of Antoni Patek

Publisher: Wydawnictwo Iskry
Translation rights: Beniamin Czapla, beniaminczapla@gmail.com

Patek Philippe watches have been a symbol of luxury and watchmaking expertise ever since the middle of the eighteenth century. They were worn by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert among others; by Victor Emmanuel III, Pope Pius IX, Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso. But the history of the company’s founder, Antoni Patek, a Pole of aristocratic blood, is little know and full of secrets, even though he lived in exceptionally turbulent times, when numerous armed conflicts waged throughout Europe, revolutions and uprisings, including the November Uprising, so important to the Poles. Many of the soldiers who had taken part in the November Uprising were forced to leave Poland and make their way towards Western Europe. Among these was Antoni Patek. His exile ended in Geneva, where he settled, started a family and opened the watchmaking company known to this day and which he soon turned into a factory. At the same time, he played an active role, both intellectually and materially, in the lives of Polish immigrants. He aided his compatriots financially, supporting, among others, the poet Adam Mickiewicz.

The first full biography of Antoni Patek, written by historian Beniamin Czapla, portrays a man who, thanks to his diligence, business acumen and courage for innovation achieved incredible success on the market within ten years, and won universal recognition. In 1850, his watches were already famous in the United States as well as South America. Numerous sources from that time (letters, documents and articles) discovered by the author in Polish archives and archives abroad, allow us to learn about the legendary watchmaker not only as an ingenious businessman but also as a caring husband and father, loyal friend and patriot, sensitive to the fate of his country and of his compatriots in enforced exile.

Katarzyna Wójcik

Translated by Danusia Stok

Selected samples

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Urszula Honek
Honek
Radek Rak
Agla
Mariusz Staniszewski
Staniszewski_Kartel
Paweł Rzewuski
Adriana Szymańska
Kazimierz Orłoś
Orlos
Rafał Wojasiński
Tefil
Antonina Grzegorzewska
Grzegorzewska_drama
Józef Mackiewicz
Mackiewicz_Sprawa
Tobiasz Piątkowski, Marek Oleksicki
Piatkowski_Oleksicki_Ekspozytura
Daniel Odija
Bronisław Wildstein
Józef Mackiewicz
Mackiewicz_Droga
Józef Mackiewicz
Mackiewicz_Bunt-rojstow
Witold Szabłowski
Szablowski_Rosja-od-kuchni
Andrzej Muszyński
Muszynski_Dom-ojcow
Wiesław Helak
Helak
Bartosz Jastrzębski
Jastrzebski_Dies-irae
Dariusz Sośnicki
Sośnicki_Po-domu
Łukasz Orbitowski
Orbitowski_chodz
Jakub Małecki
Malecki_SO
אנדז'יי ספקובסקי
Elżbieta Cherezińska
Wiesław Myśliwski
Jakub Małecki
Aleksandra Lipczak
Jacek Dukaj
Wit Szostak
Bartosz Biedrzycki
Zyta Rudzka
Maciej Płaza
Wojciech Chmielewski
Paweł Huelle
Przemysław "Trust" Truściński
Angelika Kuźniak
Wojciech Kudyba
Michał Protasiuk
Stanisław Rembek
Rembek
Krzysztof Karasek
Elżbieta Isakiewicz
Artur Daniel Liskowacki
Jarosław Jakubowski
Zbigniew Stawrowski
Szczepan Twardoch
Wojciech Chmielarz
Robert Małecki
Zygmunt Miłoszewski
Anna Piwkowska
Dominika Słowik
Wojciech Chmielewski
Barbara Banaś
Rafał Mikołajczyk
Jerzy Szymik
Waldemar Bawołek
Julia Fiedorczuk
Jakub Szamałek
Witold Szabłowski
Jacek Dukaj
Grzegorz Górny, Janusz Rosikoń
Paweł Piechnik
Andrzej Strumiłło

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Marta Kwaśnicka
Piotr Mitzner
Paweł Sołtys
Wacław Holewiński
Anna Potyra
Wiesław Helak
Urszula Zajączkowska
Marek Stokowski
Stokowski
Hubert Klimko-Dobrzaniecki
HKD
Jakub Małecki
Malecki_Horyzont
Łukasz Orbitowski
Orbitowski
Małgorzata Rejmer
Rejmer
Rafał Wojasiński
Olanda
Wojciech Kudyba
Kudyba
Włodzimierz Bolecki
Bolecki
Jerzy Liebert
Liebert
Wojciech Zembaty
Zembaty
Wojciech Chmielarz
Chmielarz
Bogdan Musiał
Musiał
Joanna Siedlecka
Siedlecka
Krzysztof Tyszka-Drozdowski
Drozdowski
Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz
Marek Bieńczyk
Bienczyk
Leszek Elektorowicz
Elektorowicz
Adrian Sinkowski
Sinkowski
Szymon Babuchowski
Babuchowski
Lech Majewski
Majewski
Weronika Murek
Murek
Agnieszka Świętek
Swietek
Stanisław Szukalski
Barbara Klicka
Klicka
Anna Kamińska

She climbed her first peaks in a headscarf at a time when women in the mountains were treated by climbers as an additional backpack. It was with her that female alpinism began! She gained recognition in a spectacular way. The path was considered a crossing for madmen. Especially since the tragic accident in 1929, preserved … Continue reading “Halina”

Wojciech Chmielarz

First, Marysia, a student of an exclusive private school in Warsaw’s Mokotów district, dies under the wheels of a train. Her teacher, Elżbieta, tries to find out what really happened. She starts a private investigation only soon to perish herself. But her body disappears, and the only people who have seen anything are Gniewomir, a … Continue reading “Wound”

Anna Kańtoch

A young girl, Regina Wieczorek, was found dead on the beach. She was nineteen years old and had no enemies. Fortunately, the culprit was quickly found. At least, that’s what the militia think. Meanwhile, one day in November, Jan Kowalski appears at the police station. He claims to have killed not only Regina but also … Continue reading “Penance”

Marek Krajewski

The year is 1922. A dangerous time of breakthrough. In the Eastern Borderlands of the Republic of Poland, Bolshevik gangs sow terror, leaving behind the corpses of men and disgraced women. A ruthless secret intelligence race takes place between the Lviv-Warsaw-Free City of Gdańsk line. Lviv investigator Edward Popielski, called Łysy (“Hairless”), receives an offer … Continue reading “A Girl with Four Fingers”

Ks. Tomasz Stępień

This question is closely related to the next one, namely: if any goal exists, does life lead us to that goal in an orderly manner? In other words, is everything that happens to us just a set of chaotic events that, combined together, do not form a whole? To understand how the concept of providence … Continue reading “Order and Love”

Jakub Małecki
Szczepan Twardoch
Wiesław Helak
Maria Wilczek-Krupa
Anna Kańtoch
Rafał Kosik
Paweł Sołtys
Dorota Masłowska
Wiesław Myśliwski
Martyna Bunda
Olga Tokarczuk
Various authors
Mariola Kruszewska
Waldemar Bawołek
Marek Oleksicki, Tobiasz Piątkowski
Wojciech Tomczyk
Urszula Zajączkowska
Marzanna Bogumiła Kielar
Ks. Robert Skrzypczak
Bronisław Wildstein
Anna Bikont
Magdalena Grzebałkowska
Wojciech Orliński
Klementyna Suchanow
Andrzej Franaszek
Natalia Budzyńska
Marian Sworzeń
Aleksandra Wójcik, Maciej Zdziarski
Józef Łobodowski

The work of Józef Łobodowski (1909-1988) – a remarkable poet, prose writer, and translator, who spent most of his life in exile – is slowly being revived in Poland. Łobodowski’s brilliant three- volume novel, composed on an epic scale, concerns the fate of families and orphans unmoored by the Bolshevik Revolution and civil war and … Continue reading “Ukrainian Trilogy: Thickets, The Settlement, The Way Back”

Piotr Zaremba
Wacław Holewiński
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