05/10/2024
 4 minutes

Patek Philippe – The Pinnacle of Watchmaking

By Barbara Korp
Patek-Philippe-2-1

Patek Philippe – The Pinnacle of Watchmaking

Oh, Patek Philippe, what true watch lover can resist the charm of this prestigious brand? The name is synonymous with luxury, elegance, precision, and perfection. We’re taking a closer look at the watchmaker’s stellar reputation and seeing whether it’s really justified.

History of Patek Philippe

The history of Patek Philippe is riddled with records and superlatives galore. In comparison, the company’s origins are rather humble. Patek was founded in Geneva in 1839 by Polish watchmaker Antoni Patek. In 1845, he joined forces with Frenchman Adrien Philippe, the inventor of the winding crown. Since 1851, the company has operated under the moniker “Patek Philippe.” This same year also marks the firm’s appearance at the Great Exhibition in London. There, the watchmaker caught the attention of numerous prominent individuals, including Queen Victoria, who purchased a timepiece for herself and one for her husband, Prince Albert. Other royals soon followed suit, paving the way to Patek Phillippe’s reputation as the watchmaker to kings.

Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Chronograph
Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Chronograph

This company has never been one to rest on its laurels, continuously achieving notable milestones like the world’s first double chronograph and first perpetual calendar. The brand has also gained notoriety for producing some of the most expensive watches of all time. In 2016, a Patek Philippe masterpiece was auctioned off for a whopping $11 million, a record at the time. This was then surpassed by the hammer price of $31 million for a stainless steel Grandmaster Chime ref. 6300A-010 at a charity auction in 2019. This remains one of the most expensive watches ever sold.

While Patek Philippe is a pioneer of watchmaking innovation, the company simultaneously remains a stalwart traditionalist. The firm is family-owned to this day, namely by the Stern family. Not only does this ensure a degree of independence, but it also gives Patek an aura of classic values and tradition that only adds to the brand’s allure.

Notable Models and Collections

Patek Philippe offers watch enthusiasts a wide range of collections to choose from. First and foremost are the Complications and Grand Complications lines, both of which feature watches with exquisite complications. Just as classic, but less extravagant, is the Calatrava, which is the finest example of simple elegance. The Ellipse d’Or, in turn, boasts oval cases, while the Gondolo collection is home to tonneau-shaped timepieces.

Patek Philippe Nautilus
Patek Philippe Nautilus

Patek can also pull its weight in the sports watch category. The Nautilus, designed by legend Gérald Genta, remains the brand’s most famous model. The Aquanaut takes this sought-after stainless steel sports watch and carefully adapts it to the modern era.

Design and Aesthetics

Patek’s commitment to tradition is also reflected in their design language. All the watches have a distinctly classic aesthetic – some even have handwritten numerals on their dials! A Patek Philippe is certainly the watch you’d wear for a special occasion. Yes, even the sporty Nautilus feels more like a dress watch than a sports watch. It’s just too elegant to dress down. Alongside tradition, you’ll find a clear drive for perfection – masterful decorations, impressive attention to detail, and perfect finishing come standard.

Patek Philippe Calatrava
Patek Philippe Calatrava

Why are Patek Philippe watches so expensive?

Watches from Patek Philippe are among the most expensive in the world. It’s not just because the best watchmakers work on them, i.e., they have the highest level of craftsmanship available, but they also use the best quality materials available. A Patek Philippe is truly the best in class.

But why is the Patek Philippe Nautilus so expensive? My colleague René sheds some light on the topic here.

There are, however, comparatively affordable models from the brand. Prices for an Ellipse d’Or, for instance, start around the $10,000 mark. That’s probably your cheapest route to a Patek at the moment. A new stainless steel Aquanaut, on the other hand, will set you back closer to $25,000. Unfortunately, this is a highly sought-after timepiece at present, so you’ll likely have to contend with a long waiting list.

Patek Philippe Aquanaut
Patek Philippe Aquanaut

Patek Philippe vs. Rolex

Both Patek Philippe and Rolex are likely to come up in any conversation that veers to Swiss luxury watches. After all, both brands are known for their high-quality timepieces. At Rolex, you’ll mostly find sportier models that are made for everyday wear. You can play tennis or go swimming with your Rolex, no problem. A Rolex is meant for adventure. A Patek Philippe, on the other hand, will have a complicated caliber that requires a bit more care. They are the preferred choice for the watch lover with a bit more decorum.

Both brands have long waiting lists, but that’s were their similarities in supply end. While Rolex is rumored to produce around 1.2 million watches a year, Patek Philippe puts out just 68,000. Getting your name on a Patek Philippe waiting list can take longer than getting your hands on a Rolex! But once you have that Patek on your wrist, you’ll own a timepiece with a certain degree of rarity and rest in the knowledge that it’s not something a million other people are wearing.

Summary

I, too, cannot resist the charm of Patek Philippe. From the Nautilus and Calatrava to the Grand Complications, Patek Philippe watches make my heart beat a little faster. But I’ve also come to realize that as much as I adore Patek Philippe watches, they just don’t fit my lifestyle. I like to wear my watches without thinking too much about them, take them in for servicing every five years or so, and even lend them to friends from time to time. I couldn’t do that with a Patek Philippe, which is a thing of beauty of breathtaking complexity. So for now, I’ll continue to admire them from afar and enjoy my own watches, which are considerably less ornate and complicated, but much more authentic to me.


What do you think about this article?


About the Author

Barbara Korp

The moment I learned that watches were a lot more than just simple jewelry, I was hooked; I become enamored with the elegance of timekeeping. But there was one small hitch: most models were just too big for me to wear! That didn't discourage me, however. In fact, I developed quite a niche interest.

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