We live in a world where a mechanical wristwatch is a luxury, a conscience lifestyle choice that many of use chose to be a part of. There are many brands to choose from, ranging from ostentatious and ornate timepieces to niche and quirkier watches. Nonetheless, the two brands that are arguably considered the kings of watchmaking are Rolex and Patek Philippe. Why is this? While both manufacturers produce two completely different type of watches, both share strengths that make them the kings.
Patek Philippe is one of the three watch brands considered the “Holy Trinity” of haute horlogerie. The company was founded on May 1, 1839 by Antoine Norbert de Patek and Francois Czapek, an ambitious watchmaker. This day laid the foundation of the legendary watch brand and marked the beginning of Patek’s dream to start his own watch factory, which became known as Patek, Czapek & Co. The name later changed to Patek, Philippe & Cie.
Today, Patek is well-known for producing not only some of the most important timepieces in history, but some of the most complicated, too. But what perhaps makes them so revered amongst watch aficionados alike, is their innovations and unwavering attention to detail, which truly make them a leader within the high-end watchmaking market.
Rolex, on the other hand, is a much younger brand with a different target audience in mind. It was founded in 1905 by Hans Wilsdorf, whose goal was to produce highly durable timepieces that not only looked sporty and distinguishable, but were also affordable (Remember, in these days, having a wristwatch was a luxury.).
In a quest to produce highly durable watches, Rolex focused less on finishing and ornate complicated pieces and more on watches that are considered simple but extremely effective, such as their diving and dual time zone watches that have earned cult-like status. Today, Rolex is known for producing a high number of well-engineered, iconic sport wristwatches that embody the same design traits those very early pieces made. While they never look back, they always strive to push boundaries further, not only making them a leader in the sports watch market but also making them king overall when it comes to wristwatches in general.
While Rolex and Patek Philippe are uniquely different, the importance of both brands in their respective markets is what makes them kings. That said, they share more in common than what’s initially apparent: both companies have coveted vintage wristwatches. Picasso and Warhol pieces rule at auctions and vintage Patek and Rolex timepieces are no different. They are well sought after and in some cases, you could even say they have defined the vintage watch collection market. Their excessively high auction hammer prices are indeed quite eye watering and require a very keen collector with pockets the depth of the Mariana Trench.
Recent auction results for both brands have reached quite dizzying heights due to collectors yearning for a slice of yesteryear’s great designs from these two kings. But you must remember that during these early years, the luxurious and somewhat innovative timepieces from Rolex and Patek were for the masses and for the elite, respectively. Often, these unattainable items from Patek were made in small numbers and some Rolex models received minor updates and tweaks after a short production period, which also makes those pieces seriously rare. Factor in these ingredients and today’s current climate of wealth and you pretty much have the perfect storm for a world record whenever any of these two brands’ rare vintage products become available.
Another shared trait is in the secondary market. In recent years, a handful of watches produced by both brands have not only become sought-after but some models are selling on the secondary market for much more than the official list price. No other watch brands have a production model with that kind of obscene popularity and increase in value. It just goes to show that their heritage, quality, and past iconic marketing investment have made both brands king in the watch sphere.
In summary, Rolex and Patek Philippe have well-established products that have gained cult-like status through constant refinement and perseverance. And because of this very important fact, when new watch buyers or collectors require the best and nothing but the best, Rolex and Patek reign supreme. We’ve likened both Rolex and Patek to car makers before, such as Porsche and Ferrari, respectively, and it isn’t hard to see why. I believe it’s true what they say: “Kings aren’t just born, but nurtured to greatness.”
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