Top 7 Most Expensive Patek Philippe Watches ever produced as of 2020
September 27, 2019
The history of Patek Philippe
Originally founded by designers Antoni Patek and Francois Czapeck as Patek, Czapeck & Co. in 1839, Patek Philippe has commanded great acclaim with their beautiful and sophisticated watch designs. Their innovative technologies and fine craftmanship applied in the making of each timepiece have been their main selling point enabling them to maintain their position as one of the word’s top luxury watch-makers.
Although the company originally specialized in designing pocket watches, their pivotal historical moment came with the introduction of the world’s first wristwatch in 1868. This was to mark the beginning of the end for the pocket watches which started losing popularity ever since, as our watch experts at New Bond Street Pawnbrokers can well testify. Based in Geneva, the company currently prides itself on its ability to meet the cosmetic needs of numerous figures including dignitaries, celebrities, and even royalties. Its most intricate and complex designs also hold the record of the most expensive watches that have ever been produced worldwide.
Antoni Norbert de Patek was a courageous and resourceful soldier who fought in the Polish rebellion against Russian occupation in 1830. After the conflict, Patek was forced to leave Poland along with many of his countrymen, and he eventually settled in Switzerland in 1833.
By this time, Patek had already begun cultivating his artistic skills, and he studied under a well-known landscape artist by the name of Alexandre Calame. Using skills he acquired during this time, combined with his growing passion for the art of watchmaking, Patek began purchasing his first watch components and then selling the completed watches to Polish buyers. As his business saw rapid growth, he began to consider the possibility of forming his own watchmaking company. In 1839, he did exactly this, choosing to partner with his trusted friend Franciszek Czapek.
The company they formed in 1839 was called ‘Patek and Czapek’. In its early days, the company had no employees so watch movements were purchased from various third-party companies that specialised in the manufacture of raw movements, known as ebauches. These were then sent to be cased by a casemaker, and the rest of the work was done by the two partners in their own shop.
Patek Philippe – big change
In 1844, an encounter would change the direction of Patek’s watchmaking business. He met the young inventor of the keyless winding mechanism; a Frenchman named Adrien Philippe. Patek decided to part ways with his previous partner Czapek to enter into a partnership with Philippe. This was a risky maneuver, which could have meant the loss of many clients and even bankruptcy. Nevertheless, in 1845 the partnership was confirmed with Philippe as the head watchmaker and a third partner on board in the form of Vincent Gostkowski.
One of the clauses of the partnership was that Patek would be in charge of the firm’s direction and marketing, Gostkowski would handle accounting and correspondence, and Philippe would take responsibility for watchmaking. Only Patek would have the power to make executive decisions, even though the company’s profits were evenly split between the three partners. During this period, the company purchased incomplete movements from prominent companies including Vacheron & Constantin, Louis Audemars, Doloche, Breguet, Piguet et Fils, Dupan et Haim and several others, still choosing not to produce its own movements.
There emerged a fierce rivalry between Patek and Czapek, who formed a company that would compete as the new partnership between Patek and Philippe began to prosper. In 1850, Philippe introduced the first ebauches distinct movements, thanks largely to the new machinery he had invested in for the company. The very first ones were stamped with ‘PP’ on the dial plate.
In 1857, a new level of prestige came to Patek & Co. when Queen Victoria ordered a new lady’s watch that would require no key for winding or setting. This watch would be on display for the world to see when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert attended the Universal Exhibition in London. The company changed its name to Patek Philippe & Cie, and its financial troubles quickly faded into memory as new markets opened up for their products in Rodanet of Paris, Pe’a in Madrid, and Elimayer of Leipzig.
Breaking new ground
Patek Philippe was one of the first watchmaking firms to establish prosperous business relationships with the USA, and has often produced the world’s most expensive watch, and various times throughout history, its distinct Patek Philippe pocket watch comes immediately in mind. An exclusive agreement was signed at Tiffany & Co. New York. The firm is also known in Latin America, due to its relations with distributors Gondolo and Labouriau of Rio de Janeiro.
As the advent of wristwatches became increasingly popular, watchmakers began pushing the boundaries of integrating additional features into their timepieces. Patek Philippe produced the first wristwatch with a perpetual calendar in 1925. Furthermore, the first bracelet chronographs came about through Patek Philippe, coming with or without a split-second mechanism. They also produced the first wristwatches with minute repeating (if you own one of these watches our expert team of watch appraisal can help you with a valuation).
After enduring the economic crisis of 1929, Patek Philippe’s outstanding innovation continued with such remarkable accomplishments as the ‘Calatrava’; a timepiece featuring triple date, perpetual calendar (including aperture), the age and phases of the moon, and minute repeating. This was the most sophisticated timepiece of its age, and ‘Calatrava’ was the name of the new design for the case it featured.
The Calatrava name originates from the middle ages when the Calatrava Citadel was defended by a Spanish religious order against the moors. By the end of the 19th Century, Patek Philippe had adopted the sigil of those brave Spanish knights as its branding logo, which still adorns Patek Philippe watches today.
The company was bought in 1932 by brothers Charles and Jean Stern. From that day, it became a family company under President Philippe Stern and his Vice President and son Thierry Stern. The famous Nautilus sports watch joined the Patek Philippe collection in 1976, and the great Gondolo collection joined the roster in 1993.
In 1999 we saw the arrival of the elegant Patek Twenty-4 ladies watch, a reimagining of the Gondolo timepiece.
Today, Patek Philippe continues its research and development work into innovation in the watchmaking industry. Many connoisseurs consider the watches of Patek Philippe to be the greatest timepieces ever made, including their worldwide renown Patek Philippe pocket watches. If you have a Patek Philippe timepiece that you would like to sell, NBSP can offer you extremely competitive rates and will ensure your piece is going into good hands.
Below is a list of the 10 most expensive watches in the world in 2019 and 2020 that Patek Phillippe have produced, as marked by their prices in auctions in Geneva, Christie’s and in many cases in “only watch” auction events, and charity auctions. If interested we have also written articles on the Top 10 most expensive Rolexes ever sold , Top 10 Most Expensive Watches ever sold, and Top 10 Brands of Fine Watches you Should Invest in
7. The 1957 Model 2499
This is a rare model with only five pieces known to have been produced. The model weighs 18 karats and is made of a rose gold casing with the signature Patek Philippe stamp engraved on its casing. In a 2007 Christie’s auction event, a 1957 Model 2499 watch made history as the most expensive Patek Philippe piece to have been sold at $2.28 million.
6. The 1953 Heures Universelles Model 2523
This stunning model was first introduced in the year 1953. Made from 18 karat gold, the casing of the Heures Universelles Model 2523 is meticulously and vibrantly designed to match its grand name. The enamel dial of this piece is a representation of the map of North America adding to its artistic design. The model fetched $2.9 million at auction.
5. The 1923 Officer
This is a rare piece with only one of its kind made. The piece exudes a feeling of classic sophistication with its 18-karat yellow gold and a memorable and distinctive chronograph. The model has an exterior chapter ring which has two subsidiary dials and calibrations for 1/5th seconds. Its unique feature is the fact that it is the only Patek Philippe’s watch with a 60-minute counter, and also the fact that it is the word’s first split-seconds chronograph made out of a wristwatch. It was sold at $2.965 million at the Patek Philippe Museum auction.
4. The 1927 Minute Repeating Wristwatch
This piece was specifically designed for Henry Graves, a close associate of Patek Philippe and is engraved with his personal message, ‘Esse Quam Videri” which can be translated to “To be, not to seem”. It features a unique shape with a beautiful yellow gold casing and bears the coat of arms of the Graves family. It was sold for a grand total of $2.99 million at an auction by Sotheby’s.
3. The 1951 Ref 2499
The first series of this model featured wristwatches made out of rose gold with a weight of 18 karats. Some of the outstanding features of this model include a moon phase dial, a Patek Philippe signature stamp, and a perpetual calendar. Although a standard piece of this model cost not less than $2.12 million in an auction, two members of this model fetch way more. At a 2012 auction, a platinum Ref 2499 from music icon Eric Clapton’s collection was sold at $3,566,757.
2. The 1939 Platinum World Time
In terms of design, this model stands out as an absolute masterpiece by Patek Philippe. Only one watch was produced of this model, instantly making it a very rare piece. The model features painstaking craftsmanship in its design, with the icing being the fact that on its face, 24 time zones and over 42 of the world’s important cities have been incorporated with rigorous precision. The model was sold for $4.03 million in 2002 at the Antiqorum.
1. The 1943 Ref 1527
This is the most impressive Patek Philippe wristwatch owing not only to the high price it fetched on auction but also its breathtaking features and design. This vintage features an elaborate moon phase display, a chronograph, and an iconic perpetual calendar. Other deluxe features of this model include a date indicator, bi-metallic compensation balance, minute markings, gold Arabic numbers, and over 23 encrusted gemstones. It has a yellow gold casing weighing 18 karats, with the largest silver matte dial (37 millimetres) produced at the time. The watch fetched a record-breaking amount of $5.5 million at a 2010 Christie’s auction.
0. The Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime 6300
Fine assets are always in big demand as prices at auctions around the world continue to grow every year. We have written comprehensive articles on most expensive items ever sold on auction for assets like fine wine collections, expensive jewellery, luxury handbags, classic cars, diamonds or fine art.
In this digital age where time can be checked from a variety of devices, it is very encouraging to see that the precision engineering and class of these deluxe timepieces still enable them to fetch serious amounts of money. Patek Philippe watches like the Patek Philippe Henry Graves not only offer a tried-and-tested was of telling time but also a sense of artwork which makes them some of the most in-demand collectibles.
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