Is a Patek Philippe really worth the money?
It’s the most famous watchmaker in the world, but is buying a Patek Philippe a wise investment?Peter Iantorno December 8, 2014
"You never actually own a Patek Philippe, you merely look after it for the next generation."
The smooth advertising line is certainly a smart way of making people feel less guilty about spending the vast sums of money it costs to buy a timepiece from the famed Swiss horology house. But beyond having an intricate watch to pass down to your son or daughter, does a Patek Philippe make a wise investment?
The brand has an unrivaled reputation for quality and currently has the proud accolade of being the makers of the most expensive watch ever sold. In the world of horology, there's no bigger player than Patek Philippe. Widely regarded as one of the most prestigious watchmakers in the world, to own a Patek Philippe is perhaps the ultimate statement of wealth, style and appreciation for genuine heritage.
But why exactly do they cost so much? To truly answer that question, we must go all the way back to 1839, when a Polish immigrant by the name of Antoni Patek (below) moved to Geneva and started making pocket watches. He partnered with fellow immigrant Franciszek Czapek, and the pair began rolling out production, making around 200 pocket watches per year.
Although the watches they made were of high quality, disagreements between Patek and Czapek meant that the partnership was rather short-lived, and in 1851, Czapek decided to withdraw from the company with his place being taken by 30-year-old Frenchman Adrien Philippe, who was already an established watchmaker, having invented the keyless winding mechanism in 1842.
United by the common ideals of always maintaining the highest possible quality and always looking for new inventions - which would go on to form the vision that has made the company the success it is today - the partnership flourished and the brand went from strength to strength.
We've established that Patek Philippe has got the heritage, but a long history is hardly rare among luxury Swiss watch brands, so to truly stand out it also helps to be a leader in innovation. Having filed more than 80 patents to date - including some of the most important advancements ever in watchmaking such as the perpetual calendar, split-seconds hand and minute repeater - the brand has always been at the forefront of innovation.
When you're paying upwards of AED 100,000 for a watch (and that's at entry level - a Patek Philippe Minute Repeater could easily go for many millions of dirhams), the very least you expect is high-quality materials. Obviously Patek delivers on that, using only the very best to make every single component that goes into its timepieces, but where it really excels is with its workmanship.
The company employs more than 200 specialist craftsmen, whose job is to ensure that every timepiece is assembled with exact precision. And the process doesn't end there, as the testing procedure sees each timepiece put through months of observation and examination before finally leaving the factory.
The final piece of the puzzle as to why a Patek Philippe costs so much is the fact that they are produced in such limited numbers. While there are more than 200 models in regular production, the company only produces around 45,000 watches per year. Compare that with the likes of Rolex - which produces around 1 million per year - and you begin to realise just how exclusive a Patek is.
Is it worth it?
In simple monetary terms, it stands to reason that anything with so much heritage, innovation, high-quality craftsmanship and exclusivity is going to be worth a great deal of money, and yes, it will hold its value for when your grateful child takes ownership. But when it comes to owning a Patek Philippe - or any super-luxury watch for that matter - whether it's a good investment or not is actually beside the point.
If the idea of owning a beautiful watch with a rich heritage isn't exciting enough in itself for you to write a blank cheque, a Patek Philippe is probably not for you. But in reality, you don't buy a Patek Philippe because it's worth it, you buy one simply because you want to and most of all, because you can. Do you think a Patek Philippe is worth the money? Let us know in the comments below.