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02/07/2022
 3 minutes

Patek Philippe: The Best Watchmaker in the World?

By Thomas Hendricks
01-Patek-Magazin-2-1
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Many watch collectors spend decades studying Patek Philippe, but we’ll keep it brief for today. Patek Philippe was founded in Geneva in 1839 and quickly became an industry leader for its innovations in the field of complications like chronographs, perpetual calendars, and minute repeaters. Patek even made a custom pocket watch with 24 complications in a single timepiece called the Henry Graves Supercomplication. 

The Stern family acquired a majority of Patek Philippe shares during the Great Depression and is still in charge of the company today. Patek Philippe survived the quartz crisis by creating high-quality electronic movements, and during the luxury sports watch boom of the 1970s, they capitalized by producing the Nautilus designed by Gérald Genta. 

Even in today’s crowded watch market, with more brands, more technology, more collectors, and more capital than ever, Patek Philippe maintains its status at the top of the industry through a refined aesthetic and an unrelenting dedication to mechanical excellence. 

Is the Patek Philippe Nautilus the ultimate watch?
Is the Patek Philippe Nautilus the ultimate watch?

How much does a Patek Philippe cost?  

Today, the most popular watch from Patek Philippe is the Nautilus, particularly the 5711. This watch is a favorite among celebrities and commands high demand from the market at large. This model has now been discontinued, and the final Tiffany blue versions are breaking records at auction. On Chrono24, the blue version of this iconic watch sells for around $160K, but don’t be surprised if prices have gone up since this article was written (January 2022). 

But is Patek Philippe limited to the Nautilus collection? The brand itself would love to remind you that it has much to offer beyond steel sports watches. Patek Philippe’s specialty is precious metal watches, particularly those with complications like chronographs, calendars, moon phases, and minute repeaters. Patek created the first series-production perpetual calendar chronograph, i.e., the ref. 1518. More recent perpetual calendar chronographs produced by Patek Philippe start at around $130K on Chrono24. The Patek Philippe Calatrava dress watch line is also a favorite, creating a high level of balance and sophistication with only a few visual elements. Prices on Chrono24 for one of the most famous and sophisticated dress watches begin around $25K. If you are looking for an entry-level watch, Patek Philippe is probably the most difficult brand you can choose. But even this Genevan luxury watch manufacturer has produced some less popular models that you can get for reasonable prices. Why not try a two-tone watch or a smaller version? Or what about picking up a vintage Patek Philippe? Vintage two-tone Nautilus models, for example, sell for as little as $40K on Chrono24.

The Patek Philippe Calatrava: Patek is not limited to steel sports watches.
The Patek Philippe Calatrava: Patek is not limited to steel sports watches.

Why are Patek Philippe watches so expensive? 

You should expect to pay a premium for a premium watch. Patek Philippe watches are not cheap at boutiques, and they are certainly not cheap on the secondary market. There are some deals to be found on dress watches like the Calatrava, where there is relatively adequate supply and a less-than-insane amount of demand, but for their complicated watches and all their sports models, prices are the highest they’ve ever been. When Patek announced they were discontinuing the Nautilus 5711, prices on the secondary market jumped tens of thousands of dollars in a single day, and the final version of the 5711 with the Tiffany & Co. dial sold at Phillips in December 2021 for over six million dollars. 

Is Patek Philippe the best watch brand in the world? 

Patek Philippe is the best – and that’s all there is to it. Sure, there are other watch brands in the upper echelon, but Patek Philippe has been the industry leader for longer than anyone else, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down. Patek embodies what so many love about high Swiss horology, specializing in extremely complicated and precise movements wrapped in timeless case and dial designs. To make an automotive analogy: There are several brands of supercars out there, but Ferrari is Ferrari. A growing crop of independent brands are carving their own niche in the top tier of watchmaking, but more than any other brand, Patek Philippe is the ultimate grail. 


About the Author

Thomas Hendricks

I didn’t grow up a watch guy, but a few years after graduating from university, I landed a job at the online publication Watchonista as a writer and marketer. “Welcome to the watch world,” my colleagues told me half-jokingly, “no one ever leaves!” Now at Chrono24, I work as a private client advisor, helping people find the perfect watch for major life moments.

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