What Makes Patek Philippe Watches so Valuable? Seven Reasons for the Brand’s Success


Patek Philippe is generally regarded as the top brand among all major Swiss watch manufacturers. Why is this true? Rüdiger Bucher, Editorial Director of WatchTime’s German sister magazine Chronos, lays out seven reasons for Patek Philippe’s success.

Reason #1: Expertise

Patek Philippe has mastered every aspect of fine watchmaking – from the hand-winding two-hand watch and “standard” complications with functions like an annual calendar or second time zone, to sophisticated masterpieces with minute repeaters, tourbillons, and split-seconds chronographs. Masterful artisan craftsmanship goes hand-in-hand with the use of modern, high-tech machinery.

Patek Evergreen - Ref 5905 Annual Calendar
Patek Philippe Annual Calendar Chronograph

Reason #2: Tradition

This level of expertise cannot be achieved overnight. Patek Philippe has been in existence for 177 years and has produced watches continuously during this time, resulting in an immense amount of experience that is passed on from one generation of watchmaker to the next.

Patek Evergreen - Office Building
The home office of Patek Philippe

Reason #3: Vision for the future

Although Patek Philippe has such a storied tradition, the manufacture is not bound to its past. On the one side, the company maintains the values of the traditional art of watchmaking while investing greatly in the use of new materials, technologies and production methods. The brand has also made a conscious choice to create new designs like the 2015 pilots’ watch, the Calatrava Pilot Travel Time (which we cover in detail here).

Patek Evergreen - Pilot's Watch
Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time

Reason #4: Quality

Quality is the most precious resource at Patek Philippe. The entire company is designed to support it. With the introduction of the Patek Philippe Seal in 2008 the company imposed rigid standards that often exceed normal industry standards. But the commitment to quality does not just apply to the watches themselves. Patek Philippe places the highest standards on employee training – from the watchmaker to the salesperson, including customer support that extends from sales to service.

Patek Evergreen - PP Seal
The Patek Philippe Seal

Reason #5: Family-owned company

Patek Philippe began in 1839 and has been led for over 80 years by the Stern family, with the ownership now in its fourth generation. This provides a high degree of consistency in the company’s philosophy and policies. It also excludes the possibility of radical shifts in direction imposed by a changing management, so the path of success will most certainly continue. This ensures sustainability, which is closely aligned with the following point.

Patek Evergreen - Philippe Thierry Stern
Thierry Stern and Philippe Stern

Reason #6: Value

Anyone who purchases a Patek Philippe knows that he probably won’t lose any money if he chooses to sell it at a later date. And it’s entirely possible that the value of the watch will increase over time, though there is no way to predict this in individual cases. But it’s a reassuring fact, even when most people purchase a watch simply for their own enjoyment and don’t have immediate plans to resell.

Patek Evergreen - Caliber 300
Caliber 300 created for the Grandmaster Chime

Reason #7 for the success of Patek Philippe: Perfect decoration

The quality of hand-applied decoration in the manufacturing process is high, both in technique and style. About 40 to 60 steps are needed even for inconspicuous parts like wheels. Artisan processes such as enamel painting, extremely delicate engraving, the setting of precious stones and inlays all play a significant role.

Patek Evergreen - Metiers d'Art
Patek Philippe Calatrava with historical ocean liner in enamel

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42 Responses to “What Makes Patek Philippe Watches so Valuable? Seven Reasons for the Brand’s Success”

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  1. Sarah Elizabeth Munoz

    I think that the Patek Phillippe watches are stunning and I commend quality any day over quantity to the highest degree, however, I think some of it has to be put in perspective. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for watches to cost a couple of thousand dollars (especially if the craftsmanship is as good as Patek Phillippe says it is) but I do take issue with a watch costing as much as a high-end car or even a down-payment on a house. What is the point of creating such beauty when very few people can actually enjoy the sheer power and beauty of that watch. I hate to say this but this watch can be bought by only the elitist and the wealthiest or the 1%. I am definitely not going to be able to buy one as much as I love them.
    However, some people could argue that Porsche sold out by making their cars more affordable. I can remember in high school seeing a Porsche and realizing what a rare sight that was. I see more Porsches out on the roads today than I did 20 years ago.
    It dosen’t change the fact that Patek Phillippe watches are exorbitantly expensive but you can say they didn’t sell out…..

    Reply
  2. Patek has carved out its own place in history. Patek has always been known to concentrate on complications. They invented the annual calendar. In order to veer away from the stigma of making only dress watches they ventured into steel sports watches, two years after AP lead the way. This was in 1976 with the Nautilus, which has since become the most demanded Patek model range. No longer seen as a sports watch, Patek launched the Aquanaut in 1997, officially advertised at the time as “Nautilus Aquanaut”, to create some diversity. Also being the most affordable model range, it quickly became a smash hit. Indeed, a lot of other Patek models now trade below retail, for a variety of different reasons but ultimately as a reflection of customer demand. Other brands trade at even lower prices compared to their retail prices. In that sense one would generally be better off with Patek.

    Reply
  3. bahram panahi

    master craftsmanship and beautiful design and mr. stern s management for progress. i have met him two times years ago and i knew his very nice father when his son was at school.mr. stern always invited me for coffee when i visited geneva. i am 83 a retired iranian diplomat and a collector.regards to mr stern. bahram panahi

    Reply
  4. Nick Pitfield

    I can certainly appreciate their high quality, but I find their looks rather unappealing and never saw one that I would consider to wear – however that’s a subjective matter and we all have different tastes :-)

    Reply
  5. sam shamansky

    Own Pateks from the 1930s all the way to a new quartz 24. My favorite all-time brand in terms of style and grace. Just hope you never have to deal with their recent quality control issues as customer service is non-existent and repair can take a lifetime.

    Reply
  6. Jeffrey weisleder

    Most comments true except for increase in value. Except for Nautilus , aquanaut and a few limited editions most perpetual, anual calandres and minute repeaters are selling 30-50% below retail. Example 5101P , 5270G

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    • Matt M.

      Totally agree. The notion that you won’t lose value on any Patek is simply untrue. We are now in a time where steel sport watches are all the rage and precious metal dress watches are in the doldrums. Same is also largely true for Rolex. Stainless steel Daytonas, GMTs and subs are being sold on the secondary market at huge premiums while most of their gold offerings can be had at a discount.

      Reply
  7. William Hudson

    You forgot scarcity due to limited annual production did you not? And the company will always manage its production numbers very closely so not to outstrip demand. Rolex should take a page from Philippe’s business model and watch its value increase 10 fold in 36 months…

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  8. I’ll jump in with my perspective. The hands down, most accurate watch I ever owned was a PPC Ref. 3796 with Cal. 215 PS. This is the classic Calatrava. It ran to a net of +1 second over a 90 day period. I once had a Ref. 3802, automatic with calendar that never seemed to achieve full 48 hour wind capacity, even after PPC service. My favorite of PPC’s is the Ref. 3940, perpetual calendar. A truly beautiful watch, even though it never really appreciated in value as earlier perpetual calendar vintages as PPC decided to up production w/o significant revisions. And yes, last time I was at a PPC dealer and inquired about a watch, I was asked how many watches I had purchased recently. So sad. Needless to say I passed. And then there’s Rolex. They make a high quality, high tech watch and don’t care how many you’ve purchased previously!

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  9. The problem PP has is that they are known for their dress watches, and people don’t dress any more. That’s why, as some above have noted, many of their watches do not hold value well. PP is a savvy company, and I’m sure they will figure out moving the bulk of their product into a more casual look. In the meantime, you can get some really good prices on the traditional PP, especially in the smaller diameters.

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  10. Joe Ong

    I started buying PP watches 30 yrs ago and now own 10 pieces. In the last ten years it was impossible to buy one. The retailers all said I must be buying continuously like one every two years before they will sell me one. Isn’t it like the chicken and the egg problem. When I first started to buy Patek no one in my region knew about Patek. It was such a pleasant experience then. Nowadays it is no longer that case. I have to justifying how many I own and I must be buying watches from the retailers at least one piece every two years which is ridiculous. I have started to purchase other brands now.

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  11. Simple – Quality is remembered long after price is forgotten! I have a very basic 24K Calatrava that will never go out of style or diminish in value.

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  12. Richard Tucker

    I purchased my first Patek last year a 5712/1a after a long wait. I am 58 and have every intention of passing it on to my son. As the advert says ” You dont actually own a Patek Phillipe you merely look after it for the next generation” They are worth every cent.

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  13. Andy Dzenitis

    I have two Pateks and prize them highly (I intend to pass them as heirlooms).

    Reply
  14. Freddy Sultan

    Very interesting reasons. Never new of the family ownership and the pride they take on keeping their manufacturing with high standards.

    Reply
  15. Fortunate to own 2 PP watches. One purchased and one that was awarded to 10 folks randomly selected to celebrate the Millennial. I was one of the lucky 10. In addition to the watch gift we were treated to 2 round trip tickets to Geneva, beautiful hotel, visit to the factory with full explanation of the entire process, a fabulous dinner hosted by the Stern family. The way we were treated was like royalty and with the utmost class and respect. I have the citation hanging on my office wall and brag about the event and the brand at every chance I get. This event is a microcosm of the attention to detail and quality that goes into everything the company does. I think this is what collectors and those who appreciate the best of things recognize. You are not buying a brand but are purchasing a piece of a company that is unique in a way that is difficult to explain. In short show me a company that does all these things for their customers and I will give you one of my watches.

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  16. Many of the Patek watches you displayed are not doing well. The 5930? They can’t give them away – nearly 70 of them are for sale in Chrono24. Then again, what does a traveler do with a 30-min Chrono? Almost everything outside of their sports watches are not doing well. They just stopped manufacturing Gonodolo models for men! Their service (at least in NYC) remains outstanding and their ADs seem to be responsive to customers. However, Patek needs to up their game with regards to their non-sporting watches before A Lange & Sohn and many independent manufacturers leave them far behind.

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    • Michael Chang

      …but most models retain their value unlike ALS, I am afraid to purchase new…! The ALS Boutique (NYC) also offers excellent service, and I understand it being the same all over.

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  17. Gerry Dimatos

    I am a Rolex and Grand Seiko collector.
    I have always admired Patek and hope one day to own one – a Calatrava 5227G.
    For all those Patek haters – This is a family owned business which makes what it wants and sells everything it makes….
    It does not buck to trends and it sticks to it’s core values…
    For the minor things it gets wrong, the vast majority of it’s watches are masterpieces and Patek sit as the pantheon of watchmakers in the world – period….
    From Gerry Dimatos in Melbourne Australia.

    Reply
  18. Bill Crowell

    I have been buying and trading up Pateks for
    Over 55 years. As a custom builder I have modeled
    My business after quality and fine design like Patek
    And I still feel great wearing my various watches made by Pateks fine craftsmen

    Reply
  19. Don McKellar

    LET’S GET REAL. Patek is only where it is due to the relatively new markets in China (and to a lesser extent the Middle East). Staus seekers who don’t know any better. And that’s fine. But it is not a position which guarantees solid investment. Like the NBA, PP could be on shakey ground at any moment if they make the wrong move.

    Secondly, their Pilot Watch was a complete disaster among enthusiasts. It was just outright dumb and not in line with their history. It became a laughing stock on several prominent watch sites / blog commentors — the real buyers and audience.

    Third, several huge failures have downgraded them. The Grandmaster Chime, the molded ceramic model in particular, is an horrific example of how incompetent they are in the face of competition they have become compared to serious watch makers like Lang & S.

    Reply
    • Patek is on “shaky ground?” And you know this how exactly? Most companies would kill to have the financial success of Patek. And the distinction you make between “real buyers” and “status seekers” is what exactly? If one is paying for the watch that by definition makes them a “real buyer.” And the idea that those in the know (the true enthusiasts) don’t buy Patek for status is ridiculous. Patek sells status, that’s their business model. It doesn’t mean they don’t also make a great watch. The elitism of some in this hobby is a real turn off. Patek makes a great watch (and the Pilot by the way, while controversial, is hugely popular and has held firm on the secondary market.). I guess all of us dilettantes and know nothings are keeping the industry (and Patek) alive.

      Reply
  20. Bob Welch

    True craftsmanship is not cheap. Although, financially, I cannot purchase one at this time but I enjoy the beauty when I meet someone who wears a Patek. I learned to enjoy fine craftsmanship from a friend (who has passed away) that created fine Western style saddles.

    Reply
  21. Bob Welch

    True craftmanship does not come cheap. Although I financially am unable to purchase one at this time, I can enjoy

    Reply
  22. Mohammed AlSaihati

    Thank you for the feedback on Patek Philippe watches . I tend to agree that Patek Philippe watches is an excellent choice, however it’s a very expensive one to own. Only certain modules will keep their value , and some like the world time no 5930G world time has dropped significantly in no time and when asked the experts I was informed is because PP had increased their production. I attend to agree that quality of watches repairs for example is excellent; however PP take at least 4-6 months to repair or a maintain their watches . Last but not least is that you have to get PP approval for a watch that you like to wear but you cannot due to CEO approval and that you have to have 10 watches in one time to own certain type of models, which it’s not right in my opinion. Thank you. Best regards

    Reply
  23. Joao Bosco Cabral

    Definitely, is the perfect balance of Tradition/Value. I believe that based on the premise Family Owned Company, its 10 core values are keeping the lifetime value in control (flexibility vs. creativity); a extraordinary example is the Patek Museum.

    Reply
  24. Walid Younes

    I have to agree to a certain extent with you Sam, I have had a similar negative experience with after sales service, though my case got finally positively resolved, I found the attention to customer satisfaction close to non-existent. Patek owners would expect, if nothing else, to feel friendliness when in correspondence/talk with Patek team members. As a matter of fact, investing to implement a friendlier atmosphere with PP owners will most certainly boost their brand value to sky rocketing levels.

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  25. Stewart Novinger

    Completely agree Patek is very expensive but you get what you pay for in quality, reliability, and brand support. I always thought they were overpriced but then I bought one and was amazed at the finishing compared to other brands. It blew me away and reinforced that in this case you get what you pay for in a very positive way.

    Reply
  26. These are very general comments. Unfortunately, there are Patek models that don’t hold value that well and in fact, will loose value over time

    Reply
  27. Sam Shamansky

    Patek quality? Mr. Bucher does his readers a great disservice by failing to address that which every Patek customer knows. Quality has plummeted as production has increased. As the owner of eight Pateks, I can personally attest to the pathetic and virtually non-existent customer service and interminable wait times for repair and service. Address this issue Mr. Bucher and maintain a modicum of journalistic ethics.

    Reply
    • Erik Behrendsen

      Hi Sam,
      I would like to hear more about your recent experience with the repair/service end of things. I’ve been looking at the purchase of a PP, but I now have some reservations/concerns. If you could elaborate on this, it would be most appreciated! Thank you.

      Reply
    • Peter Lui

      I experienced shoddy service at Patek’s owned / operated service center in Hong Kong. After paying upfront of nearly US$2,000 for a Nautilus I purchased from a authorized dealer (AD) less than 2 years earlier, accuracy was often 5 – 10 minutes lagging. After nearly 5 months, the time pierce came back as ‘serviced’, along with a very nice travel case (my US$2,000 probably had something to do with such nice ‘gift’). But I noticed the same problem persisted. When I questioned such with the service center, I was told to bring the time piece back for further inspection. This HS HARDLY excellent service in my book!!

      Reply
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