If I was picking my all-time Top 8 watches from Patek Philippe, what would I pick?
Once again, I think some ground rules are needed. Is the budget limitless? Can I pick unique pieces? Or should the budget be limited and the watches from the regular production list? Obviously, it would be possible to find 8 uber-rare pieces costing more than the GDP of a small country, but that is really a fantasy collection. A more realistic game would be to focus on watches that I would pick if, say, I was given a budget of $2m and told to find decent examples of the watches I would buy. So, two simple rules. Budget of $2m to get 8 watches. And regular production watches only.
What criteria would I use to make my selections? I think the following factors would need to be taken into account.
Well, as a starter, I would want one watch covering each of the following categories; Perpetual calendar chronograph, Perpetual calendar, Rattrapante, Chronograph, Calatrava, World time, Aquanaut, Nautilus.
What about metal colour?
For an 8 watch collection, it would be ideal to have each metal colour covered. This would add variety to the collection and allow it to stay fresh. But ultimately, this is my “Fantasy 8” so for me it will err towards the white metals as that is more my taste.
Vintage or modern?
Some of my favourite vintage references now cost several million dollars. Even if I found a nice version of a Ref. 2499 at $1m, would I be prepared to sacrifice the quality of the other six watches in order to get the Ref. 2499? Ultimately, this is all about my taste proclivity. Others will have a different view. So my “8” is not meant to be THE BEST “8” but rather MY BEST ‘8”. So no offence intended to anyone who can’t believe I am going to leave out the Ref. 2499 from my list! So….. onto the Top 8.
Perpetual Calendar Chronograph
Although the Ref.2499 is often described as the most beautiful watch ever made, it was not the first perpetual calendar chronograph made by Patek Philippe. Indeed, the very first ever serially-produced by anyone was the Ref. 1518. And that would be my choice for my perpetual calendar chronograph. It was a ground-breaking technical innovation and one that came to signify Patek Philippe as at the vanguard of complicated watches.
The most recent price paid at auction for this watch was around $400k. At that price, one could see this as a relative bargain for buying the very first PCC from Patek Philippe.
Patek Philippe invented the perpetual calendar chronograph. The 1518 was the very first….
The Ref. 1526 was the first serially-produced perpetual calendar and was launched in 1941. Just 210 examples of this watch were made. The dial is the epitome of simplicity and purity. But at 34mm it is on the smaller side. The Ref. 2497 was launched in 1951, with 179 examples made. At 37mm, it has materially more presence on the wrist than the 1526 and is perhaps more wearable in today’s world. The Ref. 3448 was the world’s first self-winding perpetual calendar and was launched in 1962. Like its forebears, it is also characterised by the purity and simplicity of its dial. With its disco volante case and 37.6mm diameter, this watch wears very comfortably in the modern era. In fact, its bauhaus design has rendered it essential ageless.
It is hard to envisage a more perfect perpetual calendar than the Ref. 3448
Although Patek Philippe have produced several other perpetual calendar watches, none have eclipsed that purity of aesthetic that these vintage models managed. There is a beauty and panache to these vintage models that make them truly iconic. Obviously, all are very rare. A recent white gold version of the 3448 fetched over $1m. I would elect, instead, for a 3448J that I would expect to cost in the region of $250-300k for a nice example.
Firstly, round watches work best with my wrist. Rectangular watches just don’t. I want them to, but they don’t. C’est la vie. Secondly, when evaluating the 8 watch collection, I would need to own a platinum watch with a black dial as I just adore that aesthetic. These two factors together narrow my selection quite significantly. Fortunately, with he Ref. 5370P, Patek Philippe made one of their finest watches over the last 25 years. It is what I would consider close to the perfect Rattrapante. Black enamel dial, Breguet numerals, a stunningly high level of finishing throughout. The watch is a modern day marvel, and would set me back around $250,000.
Enamel dial. Breguet numerals. Manual wind. Platinum case. What more is needed!
Although Patek Philippe have produced a number of vintage chronograph, my choice for this complication goes very clearly to a more modern iteration – the Ref. 5070P. Between 150-250 examples were made in the 5070P making it one of the rarest production watches alongside the ones mentioned above. A recent review here describes why I think the 5070P is a rock star of a watch.
I would expect to pay $150-170k for a nice example. Other than the unique Ref. 2512 that sits in the Patek Philippe museum, there is absolutely nothing within Patek Philippe history that look like the 5070. Having one of these as part of the Top 8 makes complete sense to me.
Patek Philippe have made a large number of different references of Calatrava. To be fair, there are some stunning examples that could easily make it into my list here. However, my choice is the Ref. 3417. Very few references made by Patek Philippe have been JUST in steel. The Ref. 3417 comes only in steel. In total, some 900 were made but just 400 with the caliber 27-AM 400. Another reason I like this watch so much is that there is nothing in Patek Philippe history that looks like a Ref. 3417. Yes, many with similar cases but none in steel, manual wind, with Amagnetic written on the dial. That makes it a very special Calatrava. Price of this watch depends a lot on whether original papers are available and also the condition of the watch. One could easily expect to pay $100k for a fine example.
As beautiful as the vintage world timers are, their cases are of a different dimension to today’s tastes. For this reason, I would look to a modern iteration as part of my “8”.
It would be tempting to say that the 5131P is the natural choice. However, I would actually err to the 5131R as I feel it would suit the fit of the overall collection in a better way. Firstly, it would be the only rose gold watch in this grouping. Secondly, I like the fact that the 5131R does not have a metal bracelet. As beautiful as the 5131P bracelet is, it is stunningly heavy and for me is one that is ideally suited to very formal black tie events. The 5131R, on the other hand, is also stunningly beautiful but perhaps a more versatile watch. I select the 5131 over the 5231 purely because I find the case of the 5131 more desirable. One could expect to pay comfortably over $100k for a nice example.
There is a very strong case to be made to include the Ref. 5575 rather than the Ref. 5131. The Ref. 5575 has a unique complication and is also stunningly attractive to look at. Its close, but I take the 5131R … just.
Is the Ref. 5131 the only Patek that does not have Patek Philippe written on the dial?
Maybe I am biased, but to be fair, I have said the same thing since it was released at Basel. The Ref. 5650G is the greatest Aquanaut that has ever been made. It is a stunning watch that ushered in two new and ground-breaking patents. These technical innovations will increasingly become a part of Patek Philippe manufacturing. The cut-away dial, the vibrancy of the blue, the scarcity of the production (just 500 were made) and the fact this watch was a part of the Advanced Research SWAT team make it the ultimate Aquanaut and a must-have component of this Top 8. In today’s market, one could expect to pay $200k-300k for one.
Of all the decisions, picking THE Nautilus for this collection is probably the hardest. The range of complications within the Nautilus genre is stunningly wide. It is certainly true that certain references have become iconic. The 5980A, for example, comes to mind as an absolutely iconic must-have Nautilus. I also think that the recently-released Ref. 5740G is also a classic-in-the-making. In fact, there are several Nautilus that could make it onto this “best of Breed” list. However, I think for me, I would go for the very first Nautilus ever made – the Ref. 3700A. It is the watch that launched the entire series and it is the original Gerald Genta creation. I place a lot of store in owning the very first of a genre and this is no exception with the Nautilus.
The watch that started the Nautilus legend – Ref. 3700A
With these 8 watches, I would see myself as having, essentially, the ultimate collection. Of course, for each of the watches mentioned, there are specific examples that take the game to a different level. For example, some versions of the above come in very rare configurations. Some have retailer marks on the dial. Some have been made as unique pieces by Patek Philippe for their clients. Yes, it is always possible to find something rarer and more exclusive. Having said that, within the confines of the rules of this game, those 8 would represent quite a stunning collection from my perspective.