Patek and Philippe. What is it about these two names that when seen together either prick up the ears, dilate the pupils, set the heart racing, or a combination of all three, for those with even a passing interest in watches? Founded in 1839 by Antoine Patek and Adrien Philippe and now led for over eighty years by the Stern family, it’s easy to wonder how the brand has come to dominate the luxury Swiss watch market so elegantly and seamlessly.

The answer lies in three words: heritage, expertise, and vision. Patek Philippe is one of the oldest watch manufacturers in the world, with an uninterrupted history of craftsmanship since its founding. The brand is regarded as the premier maker amongst all major Swiss manufacturers – no mean feat considering their competition. 

Fine Jewels & Timepieces Auction Melbourne
Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref 4819 a Lady’s 18ct White Gold Wristwatch Circa 1992
Sold for $6,875

Time and time again, Patek Philippe resale value exceeds that of all other makers, whether vintage or modern. In fact, Patek Philippe holds the record for the most expensive watch ever sold at auction, for a Grandmaster Chime Ref. 6300A-010 that fetched 31.19 million US dollars in Geneva in 2019. The timepiece took 100,000 hours to complete and features a unique steel frame with 20 functions. The accolades don’t end there, as of December 2020, eight of the ten most expensive watches ever sold at auction were Patek Philippes.

Putting these lofty distinctions aside, where does one start when looking to join those who, as the company puts it, “never actually own a Patek Philippe, but merely look after it for the next generation”? One of most accessible models is the iconic Calatrava, named after the Calatrava cross. The original Calatrava reference 96 was in production for more than 40 years, and its successor models are known for their simple and elegant design. The Calatrava wristwatch has been a flagship model of Patek Philippe since its introduction. Although Calatrava models are available in varying materials and complications, the overall design structure remains sleek, elegant, and a horological joy to behold from a purely aesthetic perspective as well.           

Fine Jewels & Timepieces Auction Melbourne
A Patek Philippe Open Face Pocket Watch
Sold for $9,920

The Calatrava model was introduced in 1932, inspired by the design principles of the Bauhaus movement in Germany: form follows function. A perfect symbiosis of purism and performance was born, and at a price point less prohibitive than other references. In fact, the Stern brothers introduced the Calatrava ref. 96 in 1932 to help the company survive through the Great Depression.   

Two supremely elegant Calatrava models were featured in our August Fine Jewels & Timepieces collection. The reference 2466 circa 1952 shines in 18ct rose gold and features a centre seconds hand, a rare addition for the period. Remarkably, the watch was accompanied by a comprehensive dossier documenting a meticulous service history undertaken by Patek Philippe Geneva from 1957-1980. In keeping with company’s motto that one merely looks after a Patek Philippe for the next custodian, this timepiece passed into the hands of its new owner for $10,625. 

Such is the heritage of Patek Philippe. Whether the allure lies in the scarcity, the design, the innovation, or the investment value, Patek Philippe timepieces hold an unrivalled place in horological history whilst forging it in the process.

PATRICIA KONTOS / Senior Jewellery and Watches Specialist 

Banner Image: Patek Philippe Ref 2466 an I8ct Rose Gold Wristwatch, Circa 1952 | Sold for $10,625

September 2021