Patek Philippe Buying Guide
Patek Philippe’s watches speak for themselves. The brand has never invested in ambassadors or ad campaigns. They simply create exceptional timepieces and let them be the star of the show. Today, Patek Philippe continues to employ traditional processes that have served the brand for nearly two centuries. Their models are instantly recognizable for their hand-finishing and artisan techniques from the inside out. The result is highly accurate, stunning timepieces. Here, we look at some of the most popular Patek Phillipe watches.
Key Features of Patek Philippe Watches
- Hand-finished, in-house mechanical movements
- Incorporation of grand complications
- Classic dress watch design cues
- High-quality, hand-applied decoration
- Artisan processes, like enamel painting, engraving, and gem setting
- Intricate dials with faceted batons and hand-polished hands
- Cases made in-house, often forged from solid precious metals
Most Popular Patek Philippe Watches
Patek Philippe has built a reputation for their dress watches. Models like the Calatrava have withstood the test of time and continue to be highly sought after. However, Patek Philippe has ultimately developed a wide variety of models in their history spanning nearly 200 years. From the creation of the first serially produced perpetual calendar to the debut of their first luxury sport watch, the Nautilus, Patek Philippe has designed a model for every wrist. Let’s take a closer look at some of the brand’s most popular watches.
The Calatrava has become synonymous with the Patek Philippe name. The model marks one of the brand’s earliest memorable collections, first debuting in 1932. Its minimalist design draws inspiration from the Bauhaus art movement in Germany. While most models are time-only, later variations incorporate complications. If you want a more ornate take on the classic, look to one of the newest additions to the collection. In 2020, Patek Philippe introduced the Calatrava Pilot Travel Time. We’ve seen variations on this reference in the past. However, the new iteration boasts a more modest 37.5mm white gold build with navy dial and leather strap.
Patek Philippe’s Complications also date back to the 1930s. Some of the earliest models boast a world time function. By the next decade they had launched the world’s first serially produced range of perpetual calendars. Today, Patek Philippe continues to focus on complications that are useful in everyday situation. Their modern Complications collection incorporates world time displays as well as annual calendars, dual timers, and more.
When the Golden Ellipse launched in 1968, it marked a bit of a departure from Patek Philippe’s traditional styling. The collection showcases a one-of-a-kind case shape that’s not quite rectangular yet not quite circular. For its design, Patek Philippe drew inspiration from the Greek principle of the “golden section.” This “divine” proportion forms the basis of some of history’s greatest works of art and architecture, including the Golden Ellipse. For its monumental 50th anniversary in 2018, Patek Philippe introduced a modern “Jumbo” variation. It features larger portions yet an equally sleek presence on the wrist thanks to the brand’s ultra-thin caliber 240 movement.
The Nautilus is likely Patek Philippe’s most highly coveted model, with waitlists in both the new and pre-owned markets. Once more, the Nautilus carried in the trend of the Golden Ellipse, challenging the brand’s traditional aesthetic. Following in the footsteps of his own Royal Oak, Gerald Genta’s design for the Nautilus reflected the times. It boasts a more subtle take on the octagonal bezel and porthole shaped case. In addition, the softer edges of the Nautilus provide higher contrast for the horizontally embossed dial.
After the Nautilus, it would be nearly another two decades before Patek Philippe would introduce a new collection. That collection was the Gondolo in 1993. The Gondolo continued the direction the brand had taken with the Golden Ellipse and Nautilus. Models in the line boast an array of unique case shapes, including rectangular, tonneau, and cushion. Yet, the Gondolo is equally classic, drawing from Art Deco principles. The result is a line with the perfect blend of retro and contemporary elements.
Patek Philippe followed up the Gondolo with the launch of the Aquanaut in 1997. This collection builds on the design of the Nautilus with modern updates, bridging the twenty-year gap between the models. That said, the Aquanaut reflects the times: the dot-com boom of the late 90s. This new era of wealthy, tech giants had a more casual approach to luxury. The Aquanaut offers just that with a similar case to the Nautilus but two important updates. It showcases an all-new dial design with a raised guilloche pattern. This carries through on the “Tropical” strap, made of a composite material that’s resistant to saltwater and UV radiation.
The Twenty-4 is Patek Philippe’s premier line of ladies’ watches, first introduced just two years after the Aquanaut. The Twenty-4 began as a relatively contemporary sport line with rectangular cases. It marked the brand’s first ladies’ collection of stainless steel bracelet watches. Later, Patek Philippe updated the Twenty-4 with the addition of more traditional round models in precious metals. Still, one of the biggest updates wouldn’t come until 2018. That year, Patek Philippe gave the collection a major upgrade in the form of an automatic movement in place of the original quartz caliber.
Last but certainly not least is arguably the defining collection for Patek Philippe: their Grand Complications. Here, the brand brings two centuries of tradition, ingenuity, and know-how together to create horological works of art. Models in this collection combine complex functions like tourbillons, striking mechanisms, minute repeaters, moonphases, and split-seconds chronographs. With over 120 patents to their name, Patek Philippe has revolutionized the accuracy, reliability, and efficiency of these magnificent timepieces.
Who Wears Patek Philippe Watches?
Over the years, Patek Philippe has attracted many famous wearers. From musicians like John Mayer, Jay-Z, and Ed Sheeran to athletes like J.J. Redick and Steph Curry, Patek Philippe is the choice of some of the most influential celebrities in the world. The Nautilus is undoubtedly the most popular model among today’s entertainers. Its iconic wearers include Brad Pitt, Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Ellen DeGeneres, and even Elizabeth Taylor. The Calatrava is another classic and favorite of Aaron Rodgers and the late Anthony Bourdain.
Still, quite possibly one of the most famous Patek Philippe watches belonged to Eric Clapton. His Chronograph Perpetual Calendar was the only one held in a private collection – the other is on display in the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva. In 2012, he auctioned the illustrious model and broke records, fetching $3.6 million. Yet, it’s worth noting three other Patek Philippe watches have since shattered this record: the Ref. 5016, Ref 1518, and the Henry Graves Jr. Supercomplication.