Clever marketing used by Patek states that "You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely take care of it for the next generation." So true.
The history of the Patek brand goes back to the late 1830s when Antoine Norbert de Patek began selling high quality movements, complete with decorative cases, to discerning individuals. His philosophy was to make the best quality watch movement that was technicaly possible and then find a buyer. In 1845 he was joined by Adrien Philippe and in 1851 the present company of "Patek Phillipe" was formed. The two men were a superb match of creativity and business acumen, Patek being responsible for the branding of the Patek name and the push for quality, while Philippe concentrated on the inner workings of the product. Indeed, Philippe was the creator of the stem-wind mechanism as it came to be in all pocket watches.
A huge boost for the company was the purchase by Queen Victoria of two Patek Philippe pocket watches for herself and Prince Albert at the 1851 exhibition of timepieces in London. Following on from this purchase other prominent people made similar purchases, such as albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Clark Gable and the composer, Tchaikovsky.
For the collector, you will be lucky to find any Patek Philippe Pocket Watch for under $2000, and even then it may not be in particularly good condition. Below are pictures of three Patek pocket watches. These are good examples of well priced watches that would be an excellent addition to anyone's collection and are shown here as examples of what is available on the market today:
Gold Half Hunter. Gilt keyless bar movement with going barrel, steel wolf's teeth winding wheels. Club foot lever escapement, the lever with counter-balance extensions to the arms. Signed white enamel dial with subsidiary seconds, Roman numerals, blue steel hands. Plain 18 carat half hunter case with blue enamel chapter ring, maker's mark "PP.Co."This is worth about $3,700.
Gold lever. A 19th Century Swiss lever made by Patek Philippe for a South American retailer in a gold open face case. High quality damascened keyless bar movement with going barrel. Steel wolf's teeth winding wheels. Plain cock with polished steel regulator, compensation balance with blue steel overcoil hairspring. Club foot lever escapement, the lever with counter-balance extensions to the arms. Escape and lever pivots with endstones. Signed white enamel dial with subsidiary seconds, Arabic numerals, gilt hands. Eighteen carat open face case with ribbed middle. Gold cuvette inscribed "Jose Kahn Rio de Janeiro - No 24094 - Patek Philippe & Cie a Geneve." A very nice Patek for around $3,000.
Hopefully the above examples will give you hope that you too can really afford to buy a good quality Patek.
A friend of mine once asked the company for a repair quote for his Perpetual Moonphase Patek Philippe pocket watch repeater. The quote was for about $15,000! (The watch is worth about $80,000 so everything must be viewed in context). Even then, it is a lot of money. If you can, always get a guarantee from the seller that the watch is in good working order before you pay for it. Quality repairs are not cheap.
A Patek Philippe watch is often typically a very understated watch to look at - it has none of the flashy, glitsy extras that adorn many modern day watches. The value of any Patek lies in the intricate workings of the watch. Each part must be technically perfect to meet the approved standards in order to be awarded the Geneva Seal - a stringent set of standards met by only a few watchmakers.
The World's most Complicated Watch
In true Patek tradition, they made a Patek Philippe pocket watch with 33 complications; the Calibre 89. This watch contained 332 screws, 129 rubies, 429 mechanical components, 68 springs, 24 hands, 184 wheels, it has a perpetual and secular calendar, phases of the moon, a chronograph and it chimes too! There are only four of these Patek Philippe pocket watch in existence. On the 24th April, 2004 one of the four watches, a white gold example sold at auction for over US$5m.
It is possible to buy some Patek pocket watches that, in my view are incredibly good value. Some of the later 1/4 hour repeaters and chronographs are selling for less than $10,000, which for a Patek, is a fair price to pay. Anything housed in a solid gold case will undoubtedly fetch more but these are watches that will always hold their value, through most financial downturns.
In short - If you can afford the best, buy the best - buy a Patek Philippe watch.
All images reproduced with the kind permission of Pieces of Time
Today's U.S. Auctions of Sale Items on eBay.
Not a member of eBay? - Sign up here: