Patek Philippe vs. Rolex: Comparing Elite Watch Brands
Patek Philippe and Rolex are two very different watchmakers. Yet separately, they’ve both become two of the most highly regarded and highly coveted brands in the industry. Patek Philippe is one of the oldest and longest standing watch companies. By the time Rolex was founded in 1905, Patek Philippe had already been in business for over 60 years. Still, Rolex has a rich history of its own. And although their stories differ, both Patek Philippe and Rolex share a drive for innovation and a passion for the tradition of classical watchmaking.
Patek Philippe’s Early Years
In 1839, Antoine Patek and his partner François Czapek began creating custom pocket watches for royalty and other high-class clientele. Five years later, Patek met Adrien Philippe. Philippe had recently gained recognition in the watchmaking community for his new keyless winding and hand-setting system. By 1845, the pair decided to go into business together and form the brand we know as Patek Philippe.
They continued with Patek’s business model, serving the most elite members of society. However, they knew they needed to diversify. They decided to hone their efforts on growing their international reputation. So, Patek traveled to the United States and was able to form a partnership with Tiffany & Co., a collaboration that still continues to this day.
While Patek focused on expanding the business, Philippe continued to innovate. He secured a patent for his keyless winding and hand-setting system, produced the brand’s first pocket watch with a tourbillon complication, and invented a mainspring called the “slipping spring.”
The next few decades brought about significant changes for Patek Philippe. Founder Antoine Patek passed away in 1877, and Adrien Philippe passed away in 1894. Philippe left the business to his son. He continued to run the company for the next three decades until the Stern brothers purchased Patek Philippe in 1932.
Rolex Enters the Market
Rolex was established just after the turn of the century. Its founder Hans Wilsdorf shared Philippe’s passion for invention. Similarly to Patek Philippe, Rolex achieved several horological milestones in its first thirty years of operation. In 1910, one of their watches became the world’s first to be certified as a chronometer. In 1926, they developed the technology for the first waterproof and dustproof watch. And in 1931, they patented the world’s first perpetual self-winding mechanism.
The Golden Years
The remainder of the 1930’s until the 1970’s were the golden years for both Patek Philippe and Rolex. During these decades, both brands created some of their most iconic wristwatches—the models that continue to be the cornerstones of these brands today. Patek Philippe debuted the Calatrava in 1932, the Golden Ellipse in 1968, and the Nautilus in 1976. And, Rolex released the first Datejust in 1945, the Submariner in 1953, the GMT Master in 1954, and the Day-Date in 1956.
Choosing the Best Brand for You
In more recent years, Patek Philippe has continued to thrive under the Stern family’s leadership. They remain dedicated to the vision of their founders and have developed some of the most innovative and complex timepieces on the market. Rolex also continues to be a pioneer in the industry but has shifted its efforts to focus on key partnerships with sporting events and other industries. Still, both brands share a traditional approach to watchmaking, producing timepieces with a clean, classic aesthetic. Given the choice between them, it’s hard to pick! You can’t go wrong with either of these outstanding brands.