Watches are so much more than mere timepieces, worn to give us a convenient way of telling what hour of the day it is. They are symbols of success, fashion statements, and investment pieces. In recent years they have become a communication tool, a fitness monitor, and a wrist-borne computer. And they all tell the time pretty accurately. So, what exactly is a good watch?

There is no doubt that Patek Philippe is a good watch. In fact, in many respects, it’s one of the very best. Design excellence, quality of workmanship, superb styling, and hand-finished detailing are just some of the reasons why a Patek Philippe watch is so highly sought after.  

The name, the Swiss watchmaking tradition, and the reputation of Patek Philippe are some of the intangible qualities surrounding the brand. Originating in 1839, the company is the last family-owned watchmaker based in Geneva, Switzerland. But it’s not just the past that makes Patek Philippe so highly regarded and their watches so prized – there’s much more to the name.

The History Of Patek Philippe Informs The Present

Antoine Norbert de Patek was born in Poland and was awarded the country’s highest military award for bravery at the tender age of twenty-one. Compelled to flee Poland after the Russian occupation, he finally settled in Switzerland, where he was fascinated by the various aspects of the watchmaking industry. In 1839 he formed Patek, Czapek & Cie with François Czapek, a Polish watchmaker.

The company was successful, but the partnership was not, and in 1844, Patek met Jean Adrien Philippe, an exceptionally talented watchmaker who had patented several inventions which made his watches unique. Patek invited him to join the company, and Patek Philippe was born.

So, both partners had a passion for watches, one more interested in the product’s decoration, appearance, and marketing, the other in the technology and mechanical aspect. This perfect combination persists in the company to this day, making Patek Philippe products so sought after throughout the world. 

After the death of both partners, ownership and directors were no longer family-oriented, but the company flourished until the Great Depression of 1929 to 1939. As clients defaulted and sales declined, the company came perilously close to bankruptcy. In 1932 they approached the Stern brothers Jean and Charles, well-respected suppliers of quality watch dials to Patek Philippe, who took a stake in the company and a year later became the owners.

The Stern family has remained the owner of Patek Philippe to this day, and Thierry Stern, a fourth-generation watchmaker, now heads the company. Innovation and excellence remain the keywords of the company’s philosophy.   

What Makes Patek Philippe A Good Watch

Many cheap watches keep excellent time, look good, and are reliable. What makes Patek Philippe a better watch than most?

  • All Patek Philippe watches are handmade. While the components are machined, they are assembled by a team of highly skilled master watchmakers. This means that each watch takes a lot longer to manufacture, but it ensures that quality is never compromised.
  • Patek Philippe has created their own quality standards, and the Patek Philippe Seal has even higher quality requirements than the highly respected Geneva Seal, the industry seal of approval.  
  • Innovation has always been a cornerstone of Patek Philippe’s business philosophy, and they have regularly won global recognition and awards for their complex and ground-breaking new designs.
  • Attention to detail is a hallmark of Patek Philippe watches. The company employs a team of fine art specialists to carry out the intricate engraving, sculpting, enamelwork, and painting that is to be found in and on their watches.  
  • Exclusivity has created a rarity value to all Patek Philippe watches. Only about one million Patek Philippe watches have been manufactured since the first watch in 1839 – that is less than some Swiss brands produce in a year.
  • Prestigious Marketing Policies have ensured that a Patek Philippe watch will retain its value and will be an excellent investment. Figures show that generally speaking, the value of a Patek Philippe has doubled in the last ten years. When a new limited-edition model is launched, it is sold only through a limited number of top outlets, and potential buyers often must apply to be considered for one.   

A Look At Prices In The Patek Philippe Range

Not all Patek Philippe watches are prohibitively expensive or made in a limited edition. Others are unique and made for a particular client with no expense spared. Prices in the latest catalog range from $21000 to $485000.

Patek Philippe Nautilus is a popular sports watch, starting at an MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price) of $34,890. On the used-watch market, it fetches three to four times this price. A special model of the Nautilus, the Tiffany Blue, was made to commemorate 170 years of collaboration with Tiffany, with only 170 being manufactured. One was auctioned recently and fetched $6.5 million, a world record for the online sale of a wristwatch!

Patek Philippe Aquanaut is the least expensive in the range, with an MSRP of $21,650 in stainless steel, up to $69,190 for the gold version.

Patek Philippe Calatrava is a dress watch epitomizing elegance and taste, priced from $24,600 MSRP to  $40,810 MSRP. For some reason, while it is a sought-after watch, the price for a pre-owned Calatrava does not reflect the same growth as for other models in the Patek Philippe range.

Patek Philippe Gold Ellipse is another dress watch in the current range, very understated and with a subtle vintage look that appeals to high-end buyers. Prices range from $34,070 to $72,150.

Patek Philippe Grand Complications is at the other end of the range, being the most expensive collection, ranging from an MSRP of $92,260 to $485,000 depending on the precious metal and the mechanism installed. The Grand Complications watch is more likely to be kept in the family than sold to the highest bidder.

The Gondolo collection was created in 1993 and consists of Patek Philippe’s form watches, with a strong Art Deco heritage, with square, rectangular, and other non-round shapes. The first Gondolo watches were produced in the early 1900s for the lucrative Brazilian market, where the company was so well-known that all luxury watches were known as Pateks. Prices of current Gondolos range from $12,080 to $37,808.

It is hard, and maybe impossible, to buy a Patek Philippe at the recommended price at a retail outlet unless you are a particularly good client of that store.

It’s an interesting fact that a pre-owned Patek Philippe is worth more than a new watch. There is always a greater demand for Patek Philippe models than supply, which is why prices will continue to increase.

The World’s Most Expensive Timepieces

Patek Philippe watches have obtained some of the highest prices ever achieved at auctions. Records in  2018 show that forty-six of the top fifty-eight most expensive watches sold at auction were Patek Philippe.

In 2014 a unique Patek Philippe pocket watch, the Henry Graves Supercomplication, was auctioned for $24 million, more than twice what it fetched in 1999.   

In 2019 a Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime 6300A-010 was sold at the Only Watch charity auction in Geneva for $31,19 million – the highest price ever achieved for a timepiece. A brief description of this amazing watch will give you an idea of why it fetched this astronomical price:

  • It has nine hundred twenty individual parts, including  70 jewels, over 400 screws, 110 wheels, and 120 additional parts, each one of them crafted by hand.
  •  It is the only Grandmaster Chime to be cased in stainless steel, with two rose gold dials on each side of the reversing case.
  • It has the chimes of Westminster Cathedral and a perpetual calendar accurate to the year 2100.
  • It can sound a preprogrammed alarm or date on demand.
  • It shows moon phases, sunrise and sunset times, and a star chart for the night sky of New York City.

Notable Patents And Inventions Registered By Patek Philippe

As mentioned, innovation is one of the reasons for Patek Philippe being recognized as one of the best watches in the world. Some of these include:

  • 1845, keyless winding and hand-setting
  • 1868, the first Swiss wristwatch
  • 1889, the perpetual calendar
  • 1925, the first perpetual calendar wristwatch
  • 1933, the Henry Graves Supercomplication, the world’s most complicated mechanical watch
  • 1956, the first all-electronic clock
  • 2014, the Grandmaster Chime Ref. 5175, one of the world’s most complicated wristwatches

These are just some of the over one hundred patents registered by the company, and they give an indication of the drive to innovate that has always characterized Patek Philippe.

Some Famous People Who Have Owned A Patek Philippe

A mark of a good product is the people who recognize its quality, and the list of famous people who have owned a Patek Philippe is truly impressive.  

Some famous names from the past who have owned a Patek Philippe include Queen Victoria, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Nelson Mandela, John F. Kennedy, Joe DiMaggio, Leo Tolstoy, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Pablo Picasso, and Princess Diana. James Packard, the famous American automobile manufacturer, commissioned Patek Philippe to create the most complicated watch “to never be outdone” but was beaten by rival Henry Graves in 1933.

Interestingly, although one might be forgiven for associating the name with an older, more sedate generation, the Patek Philippe name has become synonymous in the 21st century with the hip-hop and pop music industry. In 2017,  more than one-third of all songs on the American Billboard Hot 100 featured the brand in their lyrics. Patek Philippe watches are owned and worn by the likes of Eric Clapton, Ed Sheeran, John Mayer, Victoria Beckham, as well as some famous rappers such as Drake.

Other stars of stage and screen who own a Patek Philippe include Brad Pitt,  Angelina Jolie, and Ellen De Generis.     

The Manufacture of Patek Philippe Watches

To ensure the quality of Patek Philippe watches, the company has from its inception manufactured most components itself, and all assembly is carried out by its own highly trained watchmakers. Whereas some of their Swiss competitors produce over a million watches per year, Patek Philippe only manufactures in the region of sixty-two thousand timepieces annually, each one being handmade.

In 2020, the company moved its manufacturing facility into a $600 million building in Geneva that now houses all aspects of production but also allocates the entire fourth floor to training its craftsmen in engraving, enameling, and the other rare skills that have given Patek Philippe such a unique place in the market.

Research and development, the basis for the brand’s emphasis on innovation, remains a crucial part of the company’s operation in their new facility, and this department occupies the whole third floor.

While the new building is designed to allow for future expansion, there are no plans to exceed the present production level. Instead, the intention is to concentrate on more complex and complicated timepieces, so each will take longer to manufacture.  

Patek Philippe Marketing Is A Reflection Of Quality

First flighted in 1996, the “Generations” advertising campaign for Patek Philippe has remained largely unchanged because of its success and also because it continues to reflect the values of the company and generate the right response in the marketplace.

The core message of Patek Philippe’s marketing material is summed up in their motto, “YOU NEVER ACTUALLY OWN A PATEK PHILIPPE. YOU MERELY LOOK AFTER IT FOR THE NEXT GENERATION.”

The message is clear and reflected in press statements given by Thierry Stern, the President and CEO. A Patek Philippe timepiece is a heritage, an object to be passed from father to son, and something to be treasured – it’s not seen as a fashion statement or a symbol of wealth but rather as a perfect example of a craftsman’s skill and a watchmaker’s genius.


Patek Philippe is a very good watch. Other brands of the watch may be more fashionable, more sought-after by those who like to own the latest name in vogue and are prepared to pay the price.

 But when comparing the quality of workmanship, timeless elegance, and innovative technology, there is very little to compare with Patek Philippe. With so few being produced every year, with no compromise of standards allowed by the family who owns the company, the value of a Patek Philippe will undoubtedly continue to grow and provide owners of these timepieces with a genuine heritage.


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