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5 reasons collectors love Patek Philippe

International Head of Watches John Reardon on why devotees of Patek Philippe never settle for less than the best

Patek Philippe collectors aren’t like other watch collectors. They aren’t flashy; they don’t have to be. That’s because Patek Philippe’s understated elegance bespeaks confidence. Simply put, Patek owners know that they have the very best in craftsmanship, heritage and design sitting on their wrists — and once you’ve owned a Patek Philippe, nothing else will do.

  • 1
  • The scarcity

Patek Philippe. An extremely attractive, very fine and exceptionally rare 18K white gold chronograph wristwatch with two-tone salmon-gilt dial. Signed Signed Patek Philippe & Co, Genève. Ref. 130, Movement No. 862334, Case No. 620575. Manufactured in 1939. Estimate CHF 200,000-300,000. This lot is offered in Rare Watches on 13 November 2017  at Christie’s in Geneva

Patek Philippe. An extremely attractive, very fine and exceptionally rare 18K white gold chronograph wristwatch with two-tone salmon-gilt dial. Signed Signed Patek Philippe & Co, Genève. Ref. 130, Movement No. 862'334, Case No. 620'575. Manufactured in 1939. Estimate: CHF 200,000-300,000. This lot is offered in Rare Watches on 13 November 2017 at Christie’s in Geneva

It’s said that fewer than 1 million Patek Philippe watches have been made since 1839. That’s fewer than some very high-end Swiss manufacturers produce in a year. Patek production is so detailed that it takes nine months to make its most basic watches, and more than two years to produce some of the more complicated timepieces. Meanwhile, demand is growing around the world. Some Patek Philippe watches are so sought-after that buyers must submit to an application process to demonstrate that they are sufficiently high-calibre collectors. (Alternatively, you could call the Christie’s Watch Department to acquire one in a private sale the following day.)

 

  • 2
  • The design

Patek Philippe. An extremely fine, elegant and possibly unique 18K gold, platinum, diamond, sapphire and emerald-set suite comprising a bracelet watch with concealed dial, matching ring and pair of earrings. Signed Patek Philippe, Genève, Ref. 3266101, Movement no. 982’325, Case no. 2’616’626. Made in 1962. Estimate CHF 50,000-80,000. This lot is offered in Rare

Patek Philippe. An extremely fine, elegant and possibly unique 18K gold, platinum, diamond, sapphire and emerald-set suite comprising a bracelet watch with concealed dial, matching ring and pair of earrings. Signed Patek Philippe, Genève, Ref. 3266/101, Movement no. 982’325, Case no. 2’616’626. Made in 1962. Estimate: CHF 50,000-80,000. This lot is offered in Rare Watches on 13 November 2017 at Christie’s in Geneva

The real beauty of a Patek’s design lives in its movements. Every individual part is hand-finished, which might seem an excessive detail considering that only a watchmaker can truly appreciate it. And yet even the lay admirer cannot help but be struck by its beauty. Dial design is similarly unrivalled. The faceted batons, the hand-polished hands and the little tells that distinguish a Patek Philippe can often go unnoticed even by the person wearing the watch, and yet they all add up to something that looks and feels perfect on the wrist.

  • 3
  • The investment value

Patek Philippe. An extremely rare and very attractive stainless steel automatic wristwatch with tropical dial, date, bracelet and Nautilus cork box. Signed Signed Patek Philippe, Genève, Nautilus Model, Ref. 37001, Movement No. 1’300’674, Case No. 532’648, Movement manufactured in 1973, finalised and sold in 1977. Estimate CHF 75,000-105,000. This lot is offered in Rare

Patek Philippe. An extremely rare and very attractive stainless steel automatic wristwatch with tropical dial, date, bracelet and Nautilus cork box. Signed Signed Patek Philippe, Genève, Nautilus Model, Ref. 3700/1, Movement No. 1’300’674, Case No. 532’648, Movement manufactured in 1973, finalised and sold in 1977. Estimate: CHF 75,000-105,000. This lot is offered in Rare Watches on 13 November 2017 at Christie’s in Geneva

Patek Philippe resale value trumps that of all other makers, whether vintage or modern. Watches completed and delivered within the last few months for Patek’s 175th anniversary collection are already trading on the secondary market for extraordinary prices. Pieces such as the 5131 Cloisonné Enamel immediately earned almost double their retail price at auction, straight from retail. (That they were recently discontinued in white and yellow gold may add even more value to these models.)

From a broader, more historical perspective, you could have bought a Calatrava for $300 in the 1950s; today, they can command more than $20,000. There are perpetual chronographs — namely the 2499/100 fourth series — that cost less than $20,000 in the 1980s but which fetch well over $400,000 today. And an original Nautilus from the 1970s, which originally retailed for less than $3,000, now trades for more than $50,000.

  • 4
  • The archives

Patek Philippe. An exceptional and historically important 18K white gold automatic perpetual calendar wristwatch without moon phases. Signed Patek Philippe, Genève, Ref. 3448, Movement no. 1’119’585, Case no. 332’625, Manufactured in 1981. Estimate CHF 300,000-500,000. This lot is offered in Rare Watches on 13 November 2017  at Christie’s in Geneva

Patek Philippe. An exceptional and historically important 18K white gold automatic perpetual calendar wristwatch without moon phases. Signed Patek Philippe, Genève, Ref. 3448, Movement no. 1’119’585, Case no. 332’625, Manufactured in 1981. Estimate: CHF 300,000-500,000. This lot is offered in Rare Watches on 13 November 2017 at Christie’s in Geneva

Every Patek Philippe watch ever made has a searchable ‘extract’ available at the Patek Philippe archives. It instills great confidence knowing that you can source the date of production and original date of sale for every Patek Philippe made since 1839.

When you meet someone who owns a Patek watch, it’s a safe bet that they have done something extraordinary with their life. The extracts, which meticulously detail the history of each watch, evoke moments in individuals’ lives which have been marked by the purchase of a Patek Philippe. Patek doesn’t include the names of previous owners on its extracts, but most members of every royal family and countless heads-of-state and celebrities are in these archives. It’s wonderful fodder for the imagination. Perhaps the previous owner was celebrating the end of a war with your watch, the beginning of a new life with someone, or the birth of a child. Some of the most beautiful watches we see have never come up for auction before.

  • 5
  • The Patek Philippe DNA

Patek Philippe. An extremely fine and rare platinum automatic astronomical wristwatch with sky chart, phases and orbit of the moon including time of meridian passage of Sirius and of the moon, outer date ring, original certificate, sales tag, pin and boxes. Signed Patek Philippe, Genève, Ref 6102p, Movement No. 7’048’019, Case no. 6’135’710. Circa 2017. Estimate CHF 150,000-250,000. This lot is

Patek Philippe. An extremely fine and rare platinum automatic astronomical wristwatch with sky chart, phases and orbit of the moon including time of meridian passage of Sirius and of the moon, outer date ring, original certificate, sales tag, pin and boxes. Signed Patek Philippe, Genève, Ref 6102p, Movement No. 7’048’019, Case no. 6’135’710. Circa 2017. Estimate: CHF 150,000-250,000. This lot is offered in Rare Watches on 13 November 2017 at Christie’s in Geneva

The design, artistry and craftsmanship balanced in a Patek Philippe is peerless. Patek’s cases, for example, say it all: they may appear simple in their overall execution, but Patek takes no shortcuts. Among some other watchmakers, cases are cast and machine-finished, often at an outside shop; at Patek Philippe, cases are mostly made in-house, and often forged from solid pieces of gold or platinum.

Patek uses traditional case-making techniques that hark back to the 1800s, and which have been preserved by a select few contemporary watchmakers. To make one of its cases requires know-how that’s been passed from generation to generation, just like the watches themselves. And that’s the way it should be. That’s the beauty of a Patek Philippe.