Vintage Patek Philippe: Aging Like a Fine Wine
Thanks to its long history, Patek Philippe is well represented on the vintage watch market. The selection is diverse, ranging from entry-level models to rare collector's items. Exceptional quality and value retention make them sound investments.
Timeless Vintage Watches With Lasting Value
Patek Philippe has been producing premium-quality timepieces since 1851. Very few manufacturers have managed to maintain such a sterling reputation over time. Watches from this Swiss brand come with a promise of longevity and stable value.
Many vintage Patek watches are still in excellent condition after several decades. Therefore, even models that are no longer in production are still in high demand. The Geneva-based manufacturer prefers to use solid gold for their timepieces. If you're searching for a vintage watch that will retain its value, Patek Philippe is a great place to look. Watches from this manufacturer aren't just timepieces or status symbols, they're also relatively stable investments.
The respect Patek watches enjoy the world over is due in part to their classic designs. Older watches with subtle design features that aren't influenced by transient fashion trends are a hot commodity. The logic is: If a watch from 50 or 60 years ago is considered just as classy and attractive today as it was back then, it will probably remain that way over the coming decades.
5 Reasons to Buy a Vintage Patek Philippe Watch
- Solid investments
- Preferred material: gold
- Affordable entry-level Patek Philippe watches
- Rare models
- Large selection of watches in different shapes
How much does a vintage Patek Philippe watch cost?
|Model, reference number||Price (approx.)||Size, features|
|Gondolo, 4183||4,700 USD||25 mm, square case|
|Gondolo, 2488||7,000 USD||28 mm, square case, small seconds|
|Golden Ellipse, 3548||8,400 USD||27 mm, oval case|
|Top Hat, 1450||12,500 USD||25 mm, rectangular case|
|Calatrava, 96||14,000 USD||31 mm, small seconds|
|Gondolo, 2461||24,500 USD||22 mm, square case, small seconds|
|Calatrava, 565||46,000 USD||35 mm, sector dial, small seconds|
|Calatrava, 533||89,500 USD||33 mm, chronograph|
|Nautilus, 3700||252,000 USD||42 mm, date|
Vintage Patek Watches: Prices & Details
Vintage watches from Patek Philippe are a great place to start if you're interested in buying a timepiece from the celebrated watchmaker. Models from the 1970s and 80s are particularly affordable. In fact, you should be able to find watches in good condition for prices as little as 4,200 USD. Fan favorites such as the original Calatrava ref. 96 and Top Hat models are bargains by Patek standards, with prices around the 12,000 USD mark.
If you're in the market for a vintage Patek chronograph, you'll have to reckon with a much larger investment. Depending on the model and production period, prices can come in anywhere between 89,000 and 318,000 USD.
Earlier editions of the famous Nautilus demand similar sums. You can expect to find listings for between roughly 59,000 and 238,000 USD.
Vintage Calatrava: Simple Elegance
The Calatrava has an excellent reputation and is considered the hallmark of Patek Philippe's lineup. The Swiss brand has been producing this timepiece since 1932, so there are many vintage models on the secondary market. The Calatrava's design language was strongly influenced by the Bauhaus movement, which focuses on stripping things down to just the essentials. Most Calatravas feature dauphine hands, line indices, and a small seconds dial at 6 o'clock; however, there are also models with a central second hand and numerals available.
The original Calatrava bore the reference number 96, and was part of the manufacturer's catalog from 1932 until the 1970s. It was the first watch in company history to include an in-house caliber, namely the manual caliber 12-200. While its 31-mm gold case has always been on the smaller side, today it makes for the perfect women's watch. You can find well-maintained pieces for around 14,000 USD. If you prefer larger watches, you should look at the refs. 565 and 570 from the 1930s. These timepieces measure almost 36 mm in diameter, but are otherwise almost identical to the ref. 96. Prices for models in good condition run between 23,500 and 46,000 USD.
The ref. 1585 and ref. 2526 are another pair of interesting vintage Calatrava models. The 1585 was first introduced in the late 40s. Its lugs are shaped like rolls of parchment, making the watch seem much larger than its close relatives. Plan to spend around 10,000 USD for a timepiece in very good condition. The ref. 2526 is particularly special because it was the first Calatrava to feature an automatic movement (caliber 12-600AT). A yellow gold model from the mid-50s demands about 37,000 USD in good condition. Prices for timepieces on a gold link bracelet soar to 93,500 USD.
Patek Philippe added a chronograph to the Calatrava collection in the 1940s under the ref. 533. This 33-mm gold watch has a small seconds dial at 9 and a minute counter at 3 o'clock. It also features a tachymeter scale around the edge of the dial. This collector's item sells for a solid 89,500 USD.
Vintage Calatrava: Investment Potential
Like almost all watches from Patek Philippe, vintage models from the Calatrava line also offer very good value retention. For example, the ref. 96 increased in value by 44% between December 2021 and December 2022. Particularly rare pieces, such as the ref. 2526 on a gold bracelet, appreciated by an impressive 76% over the same period. Even the ref. 2526 on a leather strap, which is much easier to find on the secondary market, climbed by a respectable 12%. A vintage Calatrava in good condition is therefore an excellent investment.
Tonneau and Ellipse: Entry Into the World of Patek Philippe
There is a wide range of uniquely shaped Patek watches on the vintage market, including barrel-shaped, square, rectangular, and elliptical. Many of these watches reveal the brand's emphasis on continuity. Certain designs have remained the same over decades with only minute changes; some even still appear in the current Gondolo and Golden Ellipse collections.
If you're on the search for an especially old wristwatch, make sure the models in the Top Hat series like the ref. 1450 are on your radar. This rectangular watch dates back to before 1950. It uses the manual caliber 9-90 and features a small seconds dial at 6 o'clock. Its name comes from its shape, which bears a slight resemblance to the cylindrical headwear. Be prepared to spend around 12,600 USD for a gold Top Hat. The platinum version with diamond indices costs a few thousand dollars more.
Rectangular cases are a common feature among vintage Patek Philippe watches. A large portion of these watches come from the 40s and share some features with the Cartier Tank. One example is the ref. 2461, which changes hands for around 25,000 USD on Chrono24. If you're looking for a smaller investment, the ref. 2488 with a gold square case costs about 7,000 USD. You can even find models from the 1970s and 80s like the ref. 4183 for as little as 4,700 USD.
The Hour Glass series dates back to the 1950s, and is very popular among Patek fans. These rectangular watches get their name from their case shape, which cinches in at the middle. The ref. 1593 belongs to this collection and costs roughly 22,000 USD.
Cushion-shaped watches were all the rage at Patek in the 1960s. Some examples include the ref. 3525 and the ref. 3527. The 3525 has a more classic feel thanks to its round dial and almost square case. Its sibling model, however, truly reflects 60s fashion. Its dial has the same cushion-like shape as the case and is a bit wider than it is tall. The differences between the two models go deeper than just looks alone. An automatic caliber powers the 3525, while a manual caliber ticks away inside the 3527. Depending on their condition, these watches sell for between 8,500 and 9,900 USD.
Produced Since the 1960s: Golden Ellipse
The Golden Ellipse, crafted according to the golden ratio, has been a staple in the Patek Philippe program since the 1960s. These gold, oval-shaped timepieces are highly renowned, but are still outshone by the Calatrava, Nautilus, and other mainstream models. This is a blessing in disguise, however, as vintage variants can usually be obtained at quite reasonable prices. The ref. 3548, for example, costs between 7,100 and 8,400 USD, depending on the version and condition.
Vintage Nautilus: A Classic Yet Youthful Sports Watch
The Nautilus is a relatively young series by Patek standards. Despite that, this collection has long enjoyed cult status and plays a sizable role in the vintage market. Models with the ref. 3700 from the 1970s are particularly coveted. These watches feature the automatic caliber 28-255 C, which is based on the legendary caliber 920 from Jaeger-LeCoultre. As of January 2023, you'll need to set aside around 252,500 USD for a copy in stainless steel. You can save a considerable amount by opting instead for the two-tone version, which combines steel and yellow gold. This edition comes in around 102,000 USD.
Models under the reference number 3800 are more affordable alternatives. At just under 38 mm, these timepieces from the 1980s are slightly smaller than their 42-mm predecessors. Patek chose to equip them with the caliber 335 SC. Expect to spend around 59,000 USD on a stainless steel or two-tone model. Gold versions of the ref. 3800 cost closer to 76,000 USD.
Like almost all Nautilus models, vintage editions of this celebrated watch have experienced roaring popularity in recent years. In fact, these stainless steel timepieces have more than doubled in value over the last two years in some cases. In December 2020, the ref. 3700/1A was valued at 94,500 USD, while the steel edition of the ref. 3800 was selling for approx. 35,500 USD. Although price surges have recently cooled off, Nautilus models – whether vintage or new – still have fantastic investment potential.
Pocket Watches: A Piece of Patek History
Pocket watches from Patek Philippe are evocative of the past and possess the charm of times gone by. Since the design of Patek pocket watches hasn't changed much in over 100 years, the line between vintage and retro watches is rather blurry. You can purchase a yellow gold pocket watch in good to very good condition for around 8,500 USD. That said, prices for rarer models can easily climb into the five or six-figure range.
Patek Philippe's Founders and Their Patents
Patek Philippe was founded in 1851. Antoni Patek (1811-1877), a Polish exile, began working with Frenchman Adrien Philippe (1815-1894) in Geneva in 1845. The year prior, Philippe had revolutionized the watch world with his invention of the crown used for winding and setting a pocket watch. Before that, a key was always required to give the movement more power.
Patek and Philippe traveled to the Great Exhibition in London in 1851 and gained a prominent client: Queen Victoria, who bought two watches, an important sale for the fledgling business. Other members of European nobility quickly became regular customers. There were even overseas orders: Tiffany & Co. ordered 130 watches to sell in the United States. Patek Philippe acquired many patents in the following years, such as a patent for the first double chronograph in 1902. In 1925, the company introduced the first wristwatch with a perpetual calendar.
Brothers Jean and Charles Henri Stern already had a business relationship with Patek Philippe as dial suppliers before they bought the company in 1932. Since then, Patek has belonged to the Stern family. Thierry Stern has been heading the company since 2009. Every year, Patek Philippe produces between 60,000 and 70,000 watches. Aside from Rolex, it's one of the few independent luxury watch manufacturers left.