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What you need to know about iconic luxury watch brand Patek Philippe

Learn what is important about the Swiss watch icon

Patek Philippe watches
Courtesy of Patek Philippe

Few Swiss watch brands are more revered within the watch community than Patek Philippe. From the watch company’s everyday pieces to their luxury watches that go for the price of a small country at auction, these watches are some of the most sought-after timepieces in the world. While those who follow the everyday market may not know as much about them as they do other Swiss watch companies like Omega, Rolex, or Tag Heuer, they are undoubtedly one of the most important watchmakers in the world. Patek Philippe is one-third of the Holy Trinity of Watchmaking, or the Big Three, along with Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin.

The Patek Philippe company is renowned as the last independent Genevan watch company (since Geneva is the French-speaking part of Switzerland, it would help to explain the French-sounding name in the Swiss watch community). Being independent allows them to lean into their creative angles and release some of the most innovative and trailblazing watches on the market. But that is only part of the story. Here is all you need to know about the Swiss watch-making giant Patek Philippe.

Patek Philippe watch dial
Courtesy of Patek Philippe

How Patek Philippe began

The University of Missouri became the first public university West of the Mississippi, the first law allowing women to own property was passed, and John D. Rockefeller was born. While all this was going on in the United States in 1839, Antoine Norbert de Patek and François Czapek were creating the company that would eventually become Patek Philippe, Patek, Czapek & Cie. Five years later, Jean Adrien Philippe developed the keyless winding system and a hand setting system that won him the Bronze medal at the Industrial Exposition in Paris.

Philippe got to add his name to the brand in 1851, thanks in large part to his innovation in the industry, changing the name to Patek, Philippe & Cie. The company then made the world’s first Swiss-made wristwatch for Countess Koscowicz of Hungary in 1868, solidifying them as one of the whales of the industry. Over the next 50 years, the company received patents for the precision regulator, the perpetual calendar mechanism for pocket watches, and the first double chronograph. The watch. company also released some of the industry’s most iconic custom pieces, like the Duke of Regla Westminster Chime pocketwatch, the first complicated ladies’ wristwatch with a five-minute repeater, No. 174 603, and its first wristwatch with perpetual calendar, No. 97 975.

From the pre-Civil War beginnings to one of the most renowned and luxurious collections in the world, Patek Philippe has found itself in the most rarified air, with a price point to match. Being a part of the Big Three doesn’t come cheap, and when you are one of the Holy Trinity of Watchmaking responsible for being the first to do, well, everything, your luxury market is exclusive to the elite.

Patek Philippe watch face
Courtesy of Patek Philippe

How much do Patek Philippe watches cost?

The exclusive price points for these watches mean they’re some of the most sought-after pieces on the market. The starting cost of Aquanaught is as much as your neighbor’s Honda Civic — $18,000. The Nautilus fetches as much as a semester of tuition at Harvard University at $27,000. Others can cost more than the house by skyrocketing to over $300,000.

While those are some pretty hefty price tags for a watch, they pale in comparison to the most expensive Patek watch ever sold, the Grandmaster Chime 6300A-010. The exquisite timepiece was made especially for 2019’s Only Watch Charity Auction in Geneva. It sold for a mind-boggling $31.19 million. The luxury item is made from steel and features 20 different complications, making it the most complex Patek Philippe wristwatch ever created.

Iconic collections

Patek Philippe Calatrava
Courtesy of Patek Philippe

Calatrava

This piece of watch history showed up in 1932 and became the most iconic collection in the Patek family, as it is now considered the essential dress watch. While many watch brands try to do more and get bigger and better, Calatrava has stayed true to itself, and the focus on simplicity makes it one of the most classic and useable dress watches on the market. Whether you wear it with a suit or with jeans and a sweater, this piece of Patek history will be the number one choice for you and the next generation.

Patek Philippe Aquanaut
Courtesy of Patek Philippe

Aquanaut

Luxury is what the brand is best known for, but that doesn’t mean Patek Philippe is not jumping into other realms. The Aquanaut is Patek Phillipe’s sportier attempt at timekeeping. While it is still a huge step up from every other sports watch on the market, the Aquanaut sheds the luxury dress feel of its predecessors and straps to your wrist with an unconventional rubber band that adds to the casual sporty look of the piece. The most beautiful aspect of this collection is the signal that Patek Philippe changes with the more casual times, one of the main reasons they are still relevant after all this time.

Patek Philippe Nautilus
Courtesy of Patek Philippe

Nautilus

When you hear the word icon used in the watchmaking community, they are typically talking about something like the Rolex Submariner or the Omega Speedmaster. The watches that have invaded popular culture and been seen on the wrists of those such as James Bond, Steve McQueen, and Paul Newman. But the Patek Philippe Nautilus is one of the more important icons as it is one of the first luxury watches in stainless steel and broke the mold of what most people defined as luxury. While it is still one of the most popular and most sought-after collections, the design hasn’t changed much since the 1970s, making it the perfect vintage piece for your collection.

While there are dozens of watch brands in the world, and many of them right down the street from Patek Philippe in Switzerland, if you have the money to pick up a piece from one of the members of the Holy Trinity of Watchmaking, this is the brand you can do no wrong with.

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Mark McKee
Contributor
Mark is a full-time freelance writer and men's coach. He spent time as a style consultant and bespoke suit salesman before…
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