The Most Iconic Patek Philippe Watches

The Most Iconic Patek Philippe Watches

For luxury watch enthusiasts, A-list celebrities, collectors and those who appreciate the finer things in life, a classic Patek Philippe watch will be amongst their most prized assets. Rare early models in particular are coveted investments that stand as a testament to the brand's fine craftsmanship and the dedicated artisans who developed them.

However, that's not the whole story! With Patek Philippe being one of the oldest watch manufacturers in the industry, first established in 1839, their timepieces have played their part in history. From Queen Victoria and Countess Koscowicz to Albert Einstein, not to mention the richest person in the world (Bernard Arnault), Patek Philippe has long been associated with exceptional wealth, prestige and people of influence.

Both President John F. Kennedy and John F. Kennedy Jr were aficionados of Patek Philippe. The latter had a rare desk clock, while President Kennedy owned the first water-resistant chronograph wristwatch, the 18-carat Patek Philippe timepiece reference 1463. He is thought to have been wearing this at the time of his assassination in 1962.

Iconic designs

Let’s look at five of the most iconic Patek Philippe watches:

  • Patek Philippe, reference 1518 original 1941 – With 281 examples produced from 1941 to 1954, this is the brand's first series-made perpetual calendar chronograph. The 1518 design set the template for Patek Philippe's perpetual calendar design line, which continued with the 2499, 3970, 5970 and now the 5270. Finding a 1518 in mint condition will be a challenge, as most major collectors already have one in their collection and are still on the lookout for rarer ones.
  • Patek Philippe, reference 3448, original 1962 – When the 3448 was introduced, it was the only self-winding perpetual calendar produced by the company. Known for its clear, contemporary dial and visible moon phase indicator, the wristwatch would remain popular for years to come. While regular 3448s regularly appear on the market, those with a leap year aperture and made in white gold with a ‘red dot’ are extremely rare and hold a significant place in Patek Philippe's history.
  • Patek Philippe, reference 3605, original 1971 – From 1971 to the early 1980s, fewer than 1,200 of these Automatic Oversized Ellipses were produced in yellow and white gold. Using the exact same calibre as the Nautilus reference 3700, these Ellipse watches also feature the calibre 28-255 C automatic calendar.
  • Patek Philippe, reference 3700, original 1976 – When legendary watch designer Gerald Genta designed the 3700 in the late 1970s, it was deemed too expensive, too large and too cutting-edge at the time. However, it is now an extremely desirable watch for many collectors. About 5,000 steel examples were produced from 1976 to the 1980s. The Patek Philippe Nautilus sports watch (1974), inspired by transatlantic ships and featuring a porthole-like bezel, was another of Genta's original designs. The watch was named Nautilus in tribute to Captain Nemo’s submarine in Jules Verne’s novel ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’. As the story goes, he sketched the watch in five minutes on a paper napkin in a restaurant. Genta also designed the Golden Ellipsis for Patek Philippe in 1968.
  • Patek Philippe, reference 5970, original 2004 – Replacing the popular 3970 in 2004, this 40mm perpetual calendar chronograph lives up to its provenance, which dates back to the reference 1518. Between 2004 and 2010, when it was discontinued, the 5970 quickly developed a cult following among collectors who were desperate to own one. In total, less than 3,000 of these watches were produced.

Is a Patek Philippe watch worth the price?

As with many luxury goods, demand far outstrips supply, ensuring that every watch sold carries a high price, and this will only increase in the pre-loved market. Patek Philippe timepieces demonstrate such exceptional quality, durability, precision timekeeping and handcrafted design that, no matter which collection you buy into or what model you own, an authentic piece from the brand will prove to be a very worthwhile investment.

An investment for the future

In 2023, amongst the world's top ten most expensive watches ever sold at auction, nine were Patek Philippe. Perhaps the brand's slogan - "You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation" holds some truth.