Patek Philippe has been responsible for designing some of the most beautiful and sophisticated watches, and commands great acclaim across the globe for the fine craftsmanship and innovative technologies of every timepiece in their range. The company was founded back in 1839 by designers Antoni Patek and Francois Czapeck, though the name at that time was Patek, Czapeck & Co. They started out designing and selling high-end pocket watches, and in 1845 Francois Czapeck moved on from the company. Antonie Patek soon met a new business partner by the name of Jean Adrien Philippe, and in 1951 the company’s name was changed to Patek Philippe & Co.
In 1868, history was made when Patek Philippe created the world’s very first wristwatch. This would go on to become the preferred type of timepiece, with pocket watches gradually losing popularity ever since. Today, the iconic Geneva-based company is responsible for bringing a number of groundbreaking innovations to the industry, and retains its place at the top of the pile when it comes to luxury watchmakers. Numerous figures from the worlds of celebrities, dignitaries and even royalty wear a Patek Philippe watch, and some of the designer’s most complex and intricate watches are also among the most expensive that have ever been sold at auction.
Here are the top 10 Patek Philippe watches ever sold at auction:
10. The 1936 Pilot Watch
This timepiece first came into the world in 1936, and stood out primarily due to its revolutionary case size, which has a diameter of 55 millimeters. It is thought to be a prototype made on special request, and as such there is only a single model known to exist. The casing is made from chrome and nickel, the dial a superb black lacquer, and the scales are carved from the finest ivory varnish. The combination of these luxurious features culminates in a piece that is a work of pure art, and the auction price of the piece has reflected this. It sells at auction for around $1.7 million, and is a deserving member of this list.
9. The 1925 Grogan
There is one feature of this watch that is particularly unique: it is the only model to the Patek Philippe name that was designed specifically for left-handed people to wear. As such, the controls and keys are all fitted on the left hand side of the watch, and the chronograph is custom designed. In terms of design, it features a more square face with defined corners and the casing is fashioned from gold. When auctioned by Christie’s in 2006, the 1925 Grogan fetched $1.95 million and earned its place as one of Patek Philippe’s top timepieces.
8. The 1944 Model 1591
In 1944, the world was introduced to Patek Philippe’s model 1591; a timepiece with a bold, functional stainless steel case. It features a perpetual calendar and boasts a water-resistant design that was really quite innovative for the 1940s. It is an incredibly rare piece, with only two of them known to exist in the world. Few were even aware of the existence of this model until it first came to auction in 1996. Astonishingly, it came to the auction house via India’s Maharajah, who had given it as a gift to his wedding planner. The second known Model 1591 was auctioned by Christie’s in a 2007 event, where it made history by becoming the most expensive watch with a stainless steel case ever to be auctioned. The price there for the Patek Philippe Model 1591 was a staggering $2.26 million.
7. The 1957 Model 2499
The first series Patek Philippe Model 2499 is another diamond in the ruff, with only five known to have been produced. It is a rose gold marvel, bearing the signature Patek Philippe stamp and weighing in a 18 karats. In 2007, during a special event at Christie’s, a 1957 Model 2499 became one of the most expensive watches ever to be sold up to that time. The winning bidder parted with $2.28 million to become an owner of one of the rarest watches in the world.
6. The 1953 Heures Universelles Model 2523
Patek Philippe’s Heures Universelles Model 2523 first hit the market in 1953 and it’s a real stunner. Its face is adorned with a vibrant design that does full justice to the grand name. You will be hard pressed to find a more meticulously-designed watch amongst the brand’s proud and extensive back-catalogue, with the enamel dial representative of a map of the entire of north America. The case of the Heures Universelles Model 2523 is made from 18 karat gold, and the piece has fetched as much as $2.9 million at auction.
5. The 1923 Officer
The 1923 Officer is a peerless, one-of-a-kind timepiece that exudes classic sophistication and stylistic features. Its case is crafted from yellow gold with a weight of 18 karats, and its chronograph is distinctive and memorable. The piece incorporates an exterior chapter ring, which features calibration for 1/5th seconds, and two subsidiary dials: one at the ‘9’ position displaying continuous seconds, and a 60-minute register at the ‘3’ position.
The 1923 Officer is the only chronograph watch from Patek Philippe’s portfolio which includes a 60-minute counter, and it is also the only model they have which features a dial of white enamel adorned with black Breguet numerals. It is also the world’s earliest know split-seconds chronograph born as a wristwatch from any watchmaking company. The chronograph function is controlled via the button on the band for stop, start and reset, while the split-second hand function can be controlled with the winding crown. The Patek Philippe Museum was the subject of a fierce bidding war, and eventually ended up in the hands of the Patek Philippe Museum for a cool $2.965 million.
4. The 1927 Minute Repeating Wristwatch
This enigmatically-shaped watch includes beautiful yellow gold and bears the coat of arms of the Graves family. Henry Graves had a close connection with Patek Philippe, and also owned their Super Complication piece, which carried a value of $11 million but wasn’t worn on the wrist. When auctioneers at Sotheby’s put the 1927 Minute Repeating timepiece up for sale, with a reserve price of $600,000, it actually ended up selling for a grand total of $2.99 million. One defining feature of the watch is that it was specially made for Henry Graves, and incorporated his personal “Esse Quam Videri” message, which means “To be, not to seem”.
3. The 1951 Ref 2499
The First Series of Ref 2499 Patek Philippe wristwatches is made from rose gold with a weight of 18 karats. Its many outstanding features include signature stamping, a moon phase dial and a perpetual calendar. A standard 1951 Ref 2499 First Series watch will cost at least $2.12 million at auction, but that’s not the piece we are interested in here. In 2012 a very special platinum Ref 2499 was auctioned; one of only two that were constructed with this platinum casing. But what made it truly special was that it came from the private collection of music icon Eric Clapton, known for his long-term commitment to collecting Patek Philippe watches. His piece sold for $3,655,757. It is special characteristics like this, or sometimes seemingly minute distinctions, that can make all the difference when it comes to auction price. Collectors love scarcity, and unique features are extremely in-demand.
2. The 1939 Platinum World Time
The platinum World Time wristwatch stands out as Patek Philippe’s absolute masterpiece in terms of design. There was only a single World Time model produced, which instantly sets it apart from most other watches out there. Meticulous, rigorous craftsmanship was poured into every element of the design, which incorporates a list of no less than 42 of the world’s most prominent cities and 24 time zones from all over the globe around the face in painstaking precision. It sold at the Antiqorum in 2002 for an impressive $4.03 million.
1. The 1943 Ref 1527
The most impressive Patek Philippe wristwatch ever to appear at auction also held the highest pricetag. The 1943 Ref 1527 sold for an incredible $5.5 million in a record-breaking sale at a 2010 Christie’s auction in Geneva – the home of the company’s headquarters for its entire history. It became the most expensive wristwatch ever made, with only two pocket watches topping its remarkable price. The winning bid was made by a Swiss museum that wanted to exhibit the timepiece for its unique features and Patek Philippe’s close connections to Switzerland.
The vintage timepiece includes a chronograph, an elaborate moon phase display and a relentlessly iconic perpetual calendar. Add to this some deluxe features like minute markings, gold Arabic numbers, bi-metallic compensation balance, a date indicator and no less than 23 encrusted gemstones and it’s no wonder this beautiful work of art fetched such a high price at auction. The 37 millimeter dial is silver matte, and larger than the vast majority of dials on watches produced around the same era. Its case is yellow gold and weighs in at 18 karats.
In a digital age where smartphones reign supreme, it’s encouraging that people are still willing to pay good money for the precision engineering of a deluxe clockwork timepiece. Whether the value comes from a tried-and-tested way of telling time or the beauty of wearing a work of art on the wrist, watch buyers are prepared to invest serious amounts of money in the most luxurious watches. Patek Philippe watches are some of the most in-demand as collector’s items, and the pieces listed here are at the very top-end of the scale in terms of what people have been willing to spend their money on at auction.
If you are looking to sell your watch in the LA or Beverly Hills area, then we will buy your watch from you today! For more specific information on each of over 43 brands of fine watches we buy or loan against please visit some of the pages of the individual brands: Harry Winston, Hublot, IWC, Jaeger Le Coultre, Omega, Piaget, Roger Dubuis, Nardin, A Lange & Sohne, Preziuso, AudemarsPiguet, Bamford, Blancpain, Breguet, Breitling, Bvlgari, Cartier, Franck Muller, Panerai, Patek Philippe, Richard Mille, Rolex, or Vacheron Constantin to name just a few of the many brands we buy or loan against.