As a maker of fine luxury watches, Patek Philippe is truly in a class of its own. The engineering prowess and sheer artistry embodied in every model that flows from the Geneva base is second to none, making each piece an event in itself.
From the extraordinary hand finishing on the movements to the exquisite dial designs and elegant cases, no other watchmaker enjoys such universal status as Patek Philippe. All of this comes at a price, however, in this case the price is actually the actual monetary price。
There’s really no getting around it – Patek Philippe watches are expensive. Even the cheapest ones, when purchased brand new, will still set you back over $20,000. Add to this the relatively small number of models produced by the legendary manufacturer each year, and it gives the brand a huge exclusivity factor that even further enhances their appeal – both among those who collect watches for the love of them, and among those who see them as an investment for the future. So, as the genuine article is very expensive, this has led to the emergence of top quality replica watches (beyond AAA quality watches) from China, which have quickly taken over the international market and have a place in the entire watch world
But of all the different styles and references, which is the most desirable? Here we look at three models that represent the most popular Patek Philippe watches in the world.
Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1A
The Nautilus 5711 is on another level entirely. If the rumours are true, the waiting list for a new watch from an authorised dealer will be between 8 and 12 years. It is a stainless steel chronograph and date sports watch that will retail for around US$30,000.
The 5711 was first launched in 2006 to mark the 30th anniversary of the first Nautilus watch (ref. 3700). 3700. Created by the legendary watch designer Gérald Genta, this piece has a largely nautical theme, with a hinged octagonal case inspired by portholes and a fluted dial reminiscent of a sailor’s stripes or the deck of a yacht.
As with many radical designs, it took some time for the Nautilus to catch on, and its price tag didn’t help. Patek Philippe made no apologies for the whole thing, marketing their new watch with the slogan: “One of the world’s most expensive watches is made of steel”. It was far ahead of its time compared to the brand’s usual collection of beautifully elegant gold dress models. Even so, after a slow start, the Nautilus grew in popularity until we have reached the point today where the 5711 is in any case unavailable through all official channels.
The 5711 is the model that comes closest to the original. The modern case is slightly rounder, the steel has been upgraded, the seconds hand has been added and the iconic integrated strap has been redesigned, but most of the aesthetic architecture remains. Inside, the Calibre 26-330 SC runs at 28,800 vibrations per hour, with all its beautifully engraved artisanal decoration and 21-carat gold rotor visible through the sapphire caseback.
So how much would you have to pay to actually own what is probably the most iconic watch of modern times? Well, the latest white dial versions on the pre-owned market cost around $65,000 to $70,000 and the blue dials cost around $70,000 to $75,000. That’s a lot of cash for anyone, but if you decide to sell your Nautilus 5711 in the future, the chances of losing money are slim to non-existent, and demand only seems to increase year on year (and rapidly). It’s definitely worth considering if it’s within an affordable range.
Patek Philippe Aquanaut 5167A-001
The Aquanaut range was launched in 1997 as a more ‘affordable’ alternative to the Nautilus (relatively speaking, of course). Although the old collection had been very avant-garde in the 1970s, it had matured in its run and its look had solidified. Patek Philippe wanted something that would appeal to a new generation, something fresh and more casual.
However, there was no need to deviate from the tried and tested foundations on which the Nautilus had been built, so the Aquanaut borrows a lot from its big brother. The bezel, for example, is very close, with a similar eight-sided smooth edge shape and satin finish.
But the dial was given a distinctive style, tapering from the teak deck pattern and gaining an embossed guilloché design, a visual effect that carried over to the then controversial rubber strap. Unlike the integrated steel straps of the 1970s Nautilus, this is a perfectly sporty watch that doesn’t take itself that seriously. All in all, the Aquanaut was a success and quickly became a favourite with a young, modern crowd.
For its tenth anniversary in 2007, Patek Philippe released the first model in the 516X collection, with the case size increased to 40mm (previously 38mm) and the all-steel 5167A-001 proving to be a must-have in the collection. The dial was also slightly redesigned, softening the tactile feel of the relief, and the strap was given a more uniform look with the case. Another simple time and date watch, it contains the brand’s own calibre 324 SC, which powered the previous generation Nautilus.
By far Patek Philippe’s most modern and casual offering, demand for this watch has soared in recent years, both from true watch aficionados and those who are tired of languishing at the bottom of the Nautilus waiting list. As a result, the waiting list for the Aquanaut has grown to an unmanageable length, and prices on the second-hand market are rising. For a watch that retails for just under $20,000, expect to pay around $40,000 for this year’s model as a starting point.
Patek Philippe Calatrava 5227
While we could fill out this list of the most popular Patek Philippe watches with various references to Nautilus or Aquanaut, let’s take a look at one of the sought-after watches that you might actually have a chance of buying at a near-reasonable price.
The Patek Philippe Calatrava collection was born in 1932, at a time when the German Bauhaus design movement was dominating. Minimalist style and a dedication to top-notch craftsmanship inspired British horologist David Penney to create the first Calatrava model for the brand, ref. 96. A very simple watch with nothing superfluous, it perfectly complemented the Bauhaus philosophy of form following function.
This is the line that the Calatrava collection has been charting ever since, and it remains the most restrained, elegant and modest collection in the brand’s entire portfolio; the absolute essence of elegant refinement. The Ref. 5227 is just another step in this long tradition, a fine formal watch launched in 2013 in yellow, white or pink gold.
At 39 mm in diameter, it is the largest of the current Calatrava watches – a concession to modernity. But otherwise, all the elements that have always represented the collection are present and correct. The round case incorporates delicate lugs, the stark dial is engraved with chiselled gold hour markers that glisten under 12 layers of lacquer and the double-edged prince hands are pure 1930s class.
Turn it over and you’ll see a slightly odd touch; an officer’s case back that opens on an invisible hinge that took Patek Philippe two years to perfect. Below is the same Calibre 324 SC that drives the Aquanaut from above, although you’d be hard pressed to find a different pair of watches.
This difference also applies to cost and availability. The reference price is around $35,000. 5227 (and the entire Calatrava range) is accepted by the brand as an entry-level product. As a result, (just as you will always find a Datejust at an authorised Rolex dealer) Patek Philippe boutiques will often have one or two Calatrava’s available for purchase. This convenience means that they keep their prices on the second-hand market in roughly the same range, avoiding the similar premiums that pile up on top of other products in the catalogue.
As a result, while they are not always the first choice for those who are conscious of appreciating their assets, they are probably the best watches of their kind in the world. In terms of exceptional quality, the Patek Philippe Calatrava remains unrivalled.