Patek Philippe timepieces are among the most sought after watches around. The brand is also part of an exclusive club of luxury Swiss watch manufacturers, often producing timepieces that actually increase in value as time passes, with Rolex serving as the other main example of this. However, the appeal of a Patek Philippe watch can be quite different from the appeal of a Rolex and it can be worth taking the time to understand these differences.
In this article, we will take an in-depth look at Patek Philippe as a brand, explore what the main characteristics of the brand’s watches are, compare Patek Philippe timepieces with other major luxury watch manufacturers, and pinpoint what it is about Patek Philippe that ultimately sets them apart from their main rivals.
The Legacy of Patek Philippe
Within the world of luxury watchmaking, it is almost impossible to overstate the importance of Patek Philippe or overhype the brand’s legacy. Patek Philippe was founded in 1839 and takes its name from two of its founders, Antoni Patek and Adrien Philippe. In 1868, the manufacturer created the world’s first true wristwatch. The 60 year period that followed that breakthrough saw the company develop a number of significant innovations.
Among the technological advances pioneered by Patek Philippe were a perpetual calendar mechanism and the first ever double chronograph watch. In 1916, Patek released the first complicated ladies’ wristwatch, while the first split-seconds chronograph and the first wristwatch with perpetual calendar followed in 1923 and 1925, respectively.
In the years since, the company has solidified its reputation within luxury watchmaking as an innovator, with a commitment to quality, precision and timeless design. The brand has a rich heritage, with its timepieces having been worn by figures ranging from Queen Victoria and Pope Pius IX, through to Victoria Beckham and Brad Pitt.
Characteristics of Patek Philippe Watches
In general, Patek Philippe’s watches are characterized by a combination of classic and elegant aesthetics, and cutting-edge watchmaking technology. Many of these timepieces feature complications, such as moon phase indicators and annual calendar displays, with both of these options being found within the Nautilus range; a line of luxury sports watches, which are instantly recognizable thanks to their porthole-inspired case shape.
One of the aspects that sets Patek Philippe apart from many of its rivals is the extreme attention to detail and exceptionally high level of craftsmanship on show. Patek Philippe watches also make use of premium materials, including white gold, rose gold and high-quality stainless steel cases, with some of these being adorned with diamonds.
The full Patek Philippe range varies from the more understated Nautilus Date models, with a simple date display window, right the way up to the more extravagant Grand Complications line, which focus on technological innovation and may have combinations of chronograph, date display, perpetual calendar, and moon phase indicator functions.
A key way in which Patek Philippe has achieved high value status is through relative scarcity, due to low production numbers and high prices. This helps to provide the brand with a sense of prestige and exclusivity, and this rarity is one of the reasons why many Patek Philippe watches often appreciate in value over time, rather than depreciating.
Such rarity has also led to extensive waiting lists for some of the most popular models. In fact, in recent times, these waiting lists have reached new lengths and it can take many years to buy a brand new Patek Philippe watch if you do not turn to a grey market dealer like Jaztime.
Comparison to Other Luxury Watch Brands
Until recently, Patek Philippe Nautilus models with the reference 5711 were the most popular models sold by the manufacturer, with the blue dial 5711/1A serving as the single most popular model. The waiting list for this model reached as long as ten years with some retailers before its discontinuation in 2021. All reference 5711 models were discontinued in 2022, including a short-lived olive green dial model (5711/A-014).
As a result, models with this reference have increased in value and it is not uncommon to see them being sold for upwards of $80,000, despite their initial retail price being between $25,000 and $35,000. The rarity of the olive green dial model has seen its value increase dramatically on the second hand market, sometimes reaching $500,000.
Meanwhile, the Grand Complications line features a number of models, including the Patek Philippe Grand Complications Split-Seconds Chronograph Perpetual Calendar (ref. 5204G-001), which retail for between $300,000 and $400,000. The most expensive Patek Philippe ever sold was also a Grand Complication – a rare Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime 6300A-010. This was the first Grandmaster Chime model made from steel and it sold at auction for $31 million.
When comparing Patek Philippe to other luxury watch manufacturers, it is essential to highlight this scarcity and the accompanying demand and prestige. After all, it serves as a fundamental part of the Patek Philippe brand and the company has used marketing to highlight its timepieces as collector’s items, which can be passed down the generations. Each year, Patek Philippe is estimated to produce around 60,000 watches.
Rolex is often highlighted as the main competitor to Patek Philippe and the Rolex brand is more widely recognized. In fact, Rolex is by far the largest and most popular luxury watch manufacturer in the world. However, the two brands operate with slightly different approaches, with Rolex gaining much of their prestige through famous brand ambassadors, which increases desirability, while Patek Philippe is more focused on exclusivity.
The two most popular Rolex product lines are the Rolex Submariner and the Rolex Daytona, with the latter having waiting lists of up to 10 years. Rolex is currently the largest luxury watch brand by revenue and the brand has an annual output of more than one million watches. The two contrasting approaches means that Rolex sells more watches each year than Patek Philippe. Yet, almost all of the top 10 most expensive watches sold at auction are Patek Philippe models, because the brand’s focus on rarity enhances long-term value.
Omega, like Rolex, produces far more watches each year than Patek Philippe. Omega is estimated to produce around 500,000 watches each year, compared to Patek Philippe’s 60,000. Again, this highlights a key difference in approach. Omega’s most popular models include the Omega Seamaster Diver 300m, which typically retails between $6,000 and $10,000 depending on the case material, and the Omega Speedmaster Professional (Moonwatch), which starts at a similar price point, but reaches up to $40,000 depending on the case material.
While Omega is arguably a more widely-known brand than Patek Philippe, it lacks the same level of prestige. It is much more rare for Omega models to appreciate in value over time, and they do not reach the same heights at auction.
Audemars Piguet is perhaps the brand that most closely resembles Patek Philippe’s approach. Watch production numbers are modest, in line with Patek Philippe, with Audemars Piguet producing approximately 40,000 timepieces each year. Its most popular and iconic model is the Royal Oak, with the most popular options retailing for $50,000 to $95,000.
As with Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet watches can attract high prices on the second hand market. However, Audemars Piguet is a less established and recognizable brand than Patek Philippe, Omega and Rolex. AP makes use of some interesting materials, such as rubber and leather whereas, generally speaking, Patek Philippe’s designs are more classic and conservative, with the possible exception of the brand’s Grand Complications line.
The Final Verdict
Ultimately, Patek Philippe is set apart from other luxury watch manufacturers through a combination of scarcity, which adds to prestige, a focus on innovation, and an emphasis on classic style and exquisite build quality. The brand produces fewer timepieces than rivals like Omega and Rolex, and this provides a sense of exclusivity.
With this in mind, if you are seeking a new luxury timepiece, a Patek Philippe watch can serve as the ideal investment piece or status symbol. Check out our listings to find the ideal Patek Philippe watch for your needs.