To delve deeper into the history, models and collections in Patek Philippe’s history, we turned to the Head of Watch Buying at Watches of Switzerland Group, Mark Toulson. He not only highlights his favourite pieces but gives us an insight into what makes Patek Philippe one of the greatest luxury watch brands of all time.
Patek Philippe was founded in 1839 and has since become synonymous with luxury timepieces. It is one of the most fascinating powerhouses, and the manufacture of the watches is something of a horological marvel, with their special processes being handed down from generation to generation in the family owned company.
Patek Philippe ensures that each and every piece in their collection is exquisite, from the very initial sketches, right through to the assembling of the movements. If you are lucky enough to be able to own a Patek Philippe, you will own it for life, as not only are their timepieces built so carefully and with such skill but the brand also proudly declare that the restoration and maintenance of any Patek created at any time can be accomplished by them. Treasures for a lifetime.
Hello Mark, thank you for talking to us today. In your opinion, what makes Patek Philippe one of the greatest luxury watch brands?
Any person or company gains a reputation over a long period of time and it’s achieved by being truthful and consistent in one’s belief or vision. Patek has been manufacturing watches for 181 years and achieved a consistently high standard of design and quality that few other brands have, and you really only earn that almost mythologic status by tangible achievements – of which Patek has many. Over 100 patents for their movements attest to that.
What can people expect from Patek Philippe timepieces and what sets them aside from everyone else in the market?
The glib answer might be that you shouldn’t expect to own it as you’re simply looking after it for the next generation – to paraphrase the strapline from their advertisements! More seriously though you should expect a beautifully designed and exquisitely manufactured timepiece that genuinely will be something that can be passed through the generations of your family. To emphasize the longevity aspect of the brand and to illustrate their class-leading position in the market it’s worth remembering that many Patek watches achieve incredible values at auction and on the pre-owned market. Indeed, seven out of the top 10 most expensive watches sold at auction are Patek’s, with the Number 1 spot being the $31M USD Patek Grandmaster Chime that went under the hammer at Christies in 2019. This was a relatively new watch but ranked in fourth place is Patek’s 1518 steel perpetual calendar chronograph from the 1940’s that realised $11M USD in 2016. Patek’s overall annual production is low at just ove 60,000 so scarcity is built-in and whilst there are other manufacturers producing at a similar level none have achieved the auction values that Patek has. It is the most special of brands.
If I was looking to buy a Patek, where would I start / what should I look for?
I’d speak to people who understand the brand. Patek have several levels of training and in order to be able to sell Patek in our stores you must have at least completed the basic level, but most escalate through the program very quickly. You’d then have an expert guide to help you navigate the range, establish what you want, and set you on the path towards Patek. For a first purchase, something such as a Calatrava for men or a Twenty-4 for women would be ideal. That might be your only purchase but what is interesting is that most clients become multiple Patek owners. They may mark landmarks in their life with another watch purchase to celebrate a marriage, promotion or significant birthday and establish a collection. Our teams are expertly qualified to take you on that journey.
Which Patek Philippe model is the most sought after?
From the current collection it must be the steel Nautilus 5711/1A. A beautiful watch, with it’s roots in 1976 and 44 years later it’s an icon with incredible desirability due in part to it’s scarcity.
How long does it take to make/design a Patek Philippe?
It depends on the model, but would be an absolute minimum of 9 months but far longer for the really complicated watch.
Which is your favourite ever Patek Philippe piece or collection, and why?
That’s a tricky one because it does change over time. From the current collection I love the 5172G which came out in 2019. It’s a blue dial chronograph and is a fantastic looking watch. Going back in time though I really love some of the rectangular watches from the 1940’s and ‘50’s. Models such as the 1593, 2441 and 2442 are beautifully designed and you know when a watch has reached cult status because it gets a nickname. The 2441 is known as the Eiffel Tower because the flared lugs of the case look like the base of that famous Parisienne landmark. Similarly, the waisted case design of the 2442 earned it the name “Marilyn Monroe” for reasons that need no further elaboration! With perhaps the exception of Cartier not many manufacturers are making rectangular watches so it would be wonderful to see something of that nature coming back into the current collection.
What would be your pick of the newness launched in 2020?
From a professional / commercial perspective the refresh that the steel Twenty-4 recently got was pleasing to see. It’s a great watch for women and is equally at home as an everyday watch or as a sophisticated and glamourous timepiece for the evening. For me though the 5370P is my absolute favourite. Like the 5172G it’s a blue dial chronograph but this has the added complexity of a split seconds or rattrapante function that takes it’s chronograph functionality to an even higher level. It’s “grand feu” enamel dial and “Breguet style” numerals are simply exquisite.
Where do you think Patek will go in 2021
From strength to strength! From a product perspective it’s difficult to predict. My hope is a refresh of the men’s Calatrava collection. Several years back there were many options. Models such as the 5119 and 5153, whilst being “classic” round watches had a certain style about them. The 5119 with it’s hobnail bezel and the 5153 with it’s officer’s style case and charming guilloche dial were great watches. So, I’d welcome a Calatrava that sits somewhere between the current 5196 and the 5227 to provide another accessibly priced watch.