When it comes to luxury watches, two of the most coveted brands are Rolex and Patek Philippe. Both Swiss brands have a rich history and are renowned for their exceptional craftsmanship, quality, and prestige. Here we take a closer look at the differences and similarities between two iconic brands.
Rolex was founded in 1905 in London by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis. Following World War I they moved headquarters to Geneva due to the unfavourable economic climate in Britain. Over the years, they have become synonymous with precision timekeeping and durability. Pioneering achievements include the creation of the first waterproof wristwatch - the Rolex Oyster, and the first self-winding mechanism – the Rolex Perpetual.
The less prolific Patek Philippe, has a longer history dating back to 1839 in Geneva. Originally founded by Antoine Norbet de Patek and Francois Czapek, Patek later joined with Jean-Adrien Philippe. The turmoil of the Great Depression (1929 – 1939) led to the sale of the company to their then dial supplier, Fabrique de Cadrans Sterns Freres in 1932. Since when, the Stern family have owned a majority stake in Patek Philippe and remain one of the last family-owned independent watch manufacturers in Switzerland. Renowned for their excellence in intricate complications and timeless designs. They produced the first Swiss wristwatch in the world and were also granted several patents, including one for their precision regulator and one for their keyless winding and hand-setting function.
Whilst both brands operate within the luxury market, they have vastly different production numbers, putting them in slightly different markets within the watch sector. Rolex is estimated to produce almost a million watches a year, whereas Patek Philippe only produce roughly 60,000 watches a year.
“A Crown for Every Achievement”
Rolex is known for its robustness and durability. Their sports and tool watches are built to withstand extreme conditions such as deep-sea diving or mountaineering. Acclaimed for their luxury finish and stylish designs, they are also highly functional, durable, and accurate. Ideally suited for those with a taste for action and adventure, Sir Edmund Hillary, James Bond, and Steve McQueen all wore a Rolex.
"You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation."
Patek Philippe has a strong focus on haute horlogerie, grand complications and elegant dress watches. They excel in creating highly complicated timepieces with intricate movements that showcase their technical expertise. Additional complex functions include moonphases, minute repeaters and perpetual calendars. Creating these masterpieces takes a considerable amount of time, which can be directly linked to their exclusivity. Picasso wore a Patek.
Resale value and investment potential is an important consideration for many watch enthusiasts and collectors. Both brands hold their value well over time due to reputation and demand in the market. However, certain limited edition or vintage models from either brand often fetch significantly higher prices at auction. Patek Philippe holds all but one spot on the top ten most expensive watches ever sold, with Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona sitting in third place. It is also worth noting that the entry price point for a new Rolex at retail is significantly lower than that of a Patek Philippe.
Ultimately, personal style and preference play a significant role in determining which brand is more suited for an individual. Some may prefer the sporty elegance of a Rolex Submariner or Daytona while others may gravitate towards the classic sophistication of a Patek Philippe Calatrava or Nautilus. Both brands are highly sought after by watch enthusiasts around the world and as a result offer a lucrative investment opportunity.
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