Inside the Archives: Patek Philippe Prices

Lot 249, Gentleman's 18k solid gold Patek Philippe wristwatch, c. 1948, Watches of Knightsbridge (September 17)


Tom Mulraney, Founder and CEO at The Watch Lounge, introduces his top Patek Philippe picks from the Invaluable Price Archive

Reaching the pinnacle of high-end Swiss watch-making has always been the lofty goal of any and every serious mechanical watch brand. Gaining entry to this exclusive club is notoriously difficult, however, and it can take decades, even centuries to earn a seat at the table. Harder still than getting to the top is staying there.

One brand, however, has consistently managed this feat for nearly two centuries: Patek Philippe. Considered the watch brand to collect by serious timepiece connoisseurs the world over, Patek Philippe is invariably the crowd favorite at every watch auction. To understand why, simply read the brand’s famous tagline: “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.” For any other brand this would be considered outrageous marketing hyperbole. For Patek Philippe it is seen merely as a statement of fact.

Different models fetch different prices at auction. While the Calatrava model may be purchased for $10,000-15,000, the Calendar Reference 3940 ranges in price from around $30,000-60,000.

Tom Mulraney’s Top Patek Philippe Picks

With examples sourced from the Invaluable price archive, here are a few of my favorite models that I think you should consider making your favorite models, too.

Patek Philippe Calendar, Reference 3940

The Patek Philippe Calendar Reference 3940 is arguably one of the most classic dress watches ever made. Complicated yet understated and beautifully designed, the curved 36 mm case and ultra-thin micro-rotor movement have made it a hit with collectors for decades. Philippe Stern himself – member of the 3rd generation of the Stern family to run Patek Philippe and the man credited with bringing the company into the 20th century – wore one for decades. When Ref. 3940 was launched in 1985, both Ref. 3448 and 3450 were discontinued. Ref. 3940 features a perpetual calendar complication with moon phase and comes in a several different variations with prices ranging from around $30,000-60,000 depending on the case metal.

Patek Philippe Calatrava, Reference 96

At the opposite end of the scale is the Patek Philippe Ref 96, a time-only masterpiece that measures just 31mm in diameter. Despite its relatively small stature, it still wears very nicely on a man’s wrist thanks to its elegant design. First introduced in 1932 and subsequently produced in a number of different variations and metals, the classic dial configuration of the original Ref. 96 inspired many of today’s Calatravas and is considered a precursor to many of Patek Philippe’s later classics. Best of all, good quality examples can still be had today for around $10,000-15,000 depending on the metal and condition.

Patek Philippe Nautilus, Reference 3700/1A

When most people think of Patek Philippe they tend to think of classic dress watches, like the two we’ve just looked at above. One the brand’s most arguably beloved models, however, is not a dress watch at all but a sports watch: the Nautilus. Conceived by famed watch designer Gérald Genta the Patek Philippe Nautilus Reference 3700/1A was the equivalent of Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak Reference 5402ST (also designed by Genta). In fact, the Nautilus Reference 3700/1A used the same movement as the Royal Oak, until the late 1970s, when Patek Philippe decided to replace it with an in-house movement. Most popular in steel, the Nautilus can be worn for just about any occasion and you can expect to pay anywhere between $20,000-40,000 depending on condition.

Patek Philippe Chronograph, Reference 1463

No list of Patek Philippe timepieces would be complete without a classic chronograph, and they don’t come more classic than the Ref. 1463. Launched in the early 1940s and produced continuously until the late 1960s, the Ref. 1463 was Patek’s first waterproof chronograph. Surprisingly, after production of the Ref. 1463 ceased in 1968, there was not a manually-wound, waterproof chronograph in the Patek line-up again until 1998 when its successor the Ref. 5070 was launched. Twin sub-dials at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock respectively and a tachymeter scale give the Ref. 1463 a slightly more sporty feel, although you could still wear one comfortably in the board room. Expect to pay well into the six figures for this collector favorite.

Looking for vintage and new Patek Philippe watches? Check out upcoming auctions here.

About Tom Mulraney
Tom Mulraney is the Founder and Editor of The Watch Lounge, a popular online luxury watch publication dedicated to enthusiasts and collectors alike.