Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe stand at the forefront of luxury watchmaking, representing the peak of craftsmanship and desirability.
Patek Philippe is known for its conservative, classic designs, while Audemars Piguet is recognized for the innovative Royal Oak with its octagonal shape. Each brand excels in different aspects: Patek Philippe in complex, traditional movements, and Audemars Piguet in mechanical innovation.
This article provides an in-depth comparison and investment review of these renowned brands, offering insights into their unique qualities and their value for collectors and investors alike.
The histories of Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe are steeped in horological prestige, characterized by innovation and tradition in Swiss luxury watchmaking. They’re expectedly humble and take us through a journey of commitment and perseverance that ultimately climaxes to unmatched success and a permanent mark in watch history.
Audemars Piguet Origins
Founded in 1875 by Jules-Louis Audemars- a skilled watchmaker, and Edward-Auguste Piguet- a seasoned salesman in the Vallée de Joux, Audemars Piguet came to be as a Swiss luxury watch brand that superseded ordinary watchmaking standards.
Fans and critics herald it for its pioneering spirit that has contributed significant innovations to the watch industry, including creating the first-minute repeater wristwatch in 1892.
The innovative creation was originally a ladies’ piece and graced their necks as a stylish pendant. However, a rise in attention later caused AP to craft it into a unisex wristwatch. It helped wearers tell time in the dark by striking out the minutes, hours, and quarters on request.
Audemars Piguet watches are celebrated for intricate craftsmanship and attention to detail, particularly the Royal Oak collection, which became a defining series for the Swiss watchmaker, as we shall see later.
Patek Philippe Origins
Patek Philippe was established earlier, in 1839, by Antoine Norbert de Patek and François Czapek in Geneva, Switzerland.
The duo began making pocket watches for high society and royalty. However, Patek met his would-be partner, Adrien Philippe, in 1844, and together, they formed Patek Philippe in 1845.
The two brought notable technological patents over the years, such as:
- The precision regulator in 1881
- The perpetual calendar mechanism in 1889
- The first double chronograph in 1902
The world experienced a severe Great Depression on October 24 1929, which resulted in banking panics and deflation. This unfortunate phenomenon almost led to Patek Philippe’s closure due to insufficient funds.
Luckily, the Stern brothers-Jean and Charles Stern- also the brand’s dial suppliers- bought it and expanded its collection with jewels such as the Aquanaut, Calatrava, and Nautilus. More on them later.
The brothers went ahead to file additional patents in PP’s name, such as:
- The Gyromax balance in 1949
- The self-winding mechanism caliber 12-600at in 1953
- Time-zone watches in 1959
- Ultra-thin automatic caliber 240 in 1977
- A secular perpetual calendar with a retrograde date in 1986
The company gained recognition for its intricate watchmaking and has been responsible for some impressive innovations, such as the keyless winding mechanism.
It’s also highly respected for elaborate timepieces like the Golden Ellipse collection and for creating the world’s most complicated watch in 1989 (ref. 3974) featuring a minute repeater, perpetual calendar, and moon phase.
The luxury watch brand is renowned for producing timepieces with exceptional artistry and craftsmanship.
Craftsmanship and Innovation
In the sphere of high horology, both Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe stand distinguished for their commitment to craftsmanship and innovation. This section delves into the specific advancements and watchmaking excellence that each brand epitomizes.
Audemars Piguet Watchmaking
Audemars Piguet has established a formidable reputation predicated on precision engineering and a fearless approach to design. It’s credited with creating the Royal Oak, one of the first luxury sports watches made from stainless steel, disrupting the watch market in 1972. This piece exemplified the brand’s blend of ruggedness with elegance.
The brand’s craftsmanship is defined by intricate movements and exceptional finishing, which can be seen in their complicated watches, such as The Grande Complication models, which feature a minute repeater, perpetual calendar, and split-second chronograph.
Patek Philippe Innovations
Patek Philippe’s commitment to innovation is underscored by the company’s over 100 patents. A notable contribution it has made is developing the annual calendar mechanism in 1996, a complication that only needs to be adjusted once a year.
Patek Philippe excels in the refinement of their watches with features like the Gyromax balance wheel, improving timekeeping precision. The brand’s emphasis on longevity and value through generations manifests in their heirloom timepieces, which are considered investments rather than mere purchases.
Iconic Watch Models
Audemars Piguet has two main collections that place it on the horological map: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
Launched in 1972, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak shattered conventions with its unique stainless steel makeup in an era where gold dominated the luxury watch world.
It was constructed by the legendary Gerald Genta (who has also designed pieces for brands such as BVLGARI, Omega, Patek Philippe, and IWC) and was named after eight vessels commissioned by the British Royal Navy during the 17th-century English Civil War.
Plus, It had a 39mm case, was powered by the self-winding Caliber 2121 movement, and was more expensive than a Rolex Submariner or golden Patek Philippe upon its introduction at the 1972 Baselworld Watch Fair, going for S$5,096.
Several design cues truly set it apart:
- A tonneau-shaped case
- An integrated steel bracelet
- A dial with a blue petite tapisserie motif
- An octagonal bezel with eight hexagonal screws (reminiscent of a deep-sea diver’s helmet)
As for pricing, the watch currently retails for between approximately S$23,062 and S$142,125, depending on the material. Golden options typically fetch a higher price.
On the private market front, WatchCharts indicates it sells for between S$8,411 and S$577,711 on the private sales market, depending on the seller, condition, and material. Again, gold usually sells for more.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore
Also known as ‘The Beast,’ the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore is a beefier and bolder version of the Royal Oak collection, aimed primarily towards younger Royal Oak enthusiasts (with some criticism from Genta).
It was introduced 21 years after its predecessor in 1993 and was designed by the then 22-year-old designer Emmanuel Gueit (who has also worked with big watch brands like Harry Winston, Rolex, Hermes, and Piaget).
The youthful and flashy collection boasts several key features:
- A chronograph function with gold, silicon, or rubber pushers, depending on the case
- A 42mm case size
- A dial with a Mega Tapisserie pattern
- Integrated and tapering bracelets or rubber straps with various textures, patterns, and colors
- Available in Ceramic, Pink Gold, Steel, Titanium, and White Gold cases
- A rubber gasket between the bezel and case
It maintains the octagonal bezel (diamond-set in models like the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore ref. 26231ST.ZZ.A178CA.01) with eight hexagonal screws, though, which we think is a nice nod to the more modest Royal Oak.
ROO watches typically retail between S$24,134 and S$402,240, depending on the material and condition.
Meanwhile, WatchCharts reveals it goes for between S$16,111 and S$184,860 on the private sales market.
Patek Philippe boasts a bigger collection of desirable models: Nautilus, Calatrava, and Aquanaut.
Patek Philippe Nautilus
Introduced in 1976, the Patek Philippe Nautilus has become a hallmark of sophisticated watch design. It’s the late Genta’s work as well, and, according to him, its design took five minutes to sketch.
The serious luxury sports watch is undoubtedly Royal Oak’s fiercest opponent. It’s also crafted from stainless steel and has an impressive 120m water resistance capability.
It borrows heavily from maritime influences as the first Nautilus- the ‘Jumbo’ ref. 3700/1A’s features- indicate:
- A rounded octagonal bezel inspired by the hermetically sealed portholes on transatlantic ocean liners
- A porthole-shaped case with ‘ears’ on the sides
- A dial with embossed horizontal grooves that resemble teak wood boat decks
- An integrated metal bracelet with contours
- A simple three-hand dial with luminated hands and hour markers plus a date function for easier time-telling even on the seas
The watch is shattering prices on the retail market, going for between S$40,224 and S$1,005,600 depending on the collection, material, and condition.
As for private market prices, WatchCharts indicates it sells for between S$37,800 and S$659,757.
Patek Philippe Calatrava
The Patek Philippe Calatrava is the epitome of a dressy, luxury timepiece with a timeless appeal. It’s one of the watch brand’s earliest dress watch (introduced in 1932) and got its name from a castle in Spain’s Castille region (Calatrava).
Interestingly, the Calatrava Cross is PP’s trademark symbol.
The first Calatrava- the ref. 96- came with a simple, minimalistic design featuring a clean dial, round case, and a black leather strap for the ultimate understated elegance allure.
Although various dress watches have been introduced into the collection over the years with new styles, complications, and high-precision mechanical movements, they stay true to the no-frills yet commanding design that has become the catalog’s cornerstone.
A Calatrava typically sells for approximately S$48,966 at retail. However, the exquisite timepiece sells higher on the private sales market, going for between S$13,383 and S$64,728, according to WatchCharts.
Please note these figures can be higher depending on the material, seller, condition, and collection.
Patek Philippe Aquanaut
The Patek Philippe Nautilus comes to mind for most PP enthusiasts upon the mention of the Patek Philippe Aquanaut since the two watches are so alike. Well, that’s because the latter was modeled after the former.
Launched in 1997, the Aquanaut was released during the ‘Dot Com Boom’ and was aimed at younger watch enthusiasts seeking a less formal, sporty version of the Nautilus.
Its first iteration, the ref. 5060A, had a 35.6mm case and had several design characteristics that proved its independence from its more experienced forerunner:
- A dial with a block pattern reminiscent of blocks of Swiss chocolate
- A ‘Tropical’ rubber bracelet that’s impervious to saltwater and bacteria with the same pattern on the dial
- A smaller case size
- A solid, screw-down crown and caseback
According to Luxury Bazaar, the Aquanaut retails for between S$30,838 and S$63,018 for time and date models, between S$53,632 and S$97,878 for complicated pieces, and between S$28,157 and S$268,160 for ladies’ gem-set timepieces.
WatchCharts further reveals that the piece goes for between S$27,726 and S$200,137 on the private sales market.
In the competitive landscape of luxury watchmaking, Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe exhibit significant results in market performance metrics.
Resale Value Comparison
Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe timepieces are known for commanding high resale values. A report notes that Audemars Piguet’s top-end watches can fetch prices from approximately S$67,040 to S$80,448.
In contrast, Patek Philippe has models that can resell for around S$93,856, reflecting both brands’ strengths in maintaining value over time.
Brand Prestige and Recognition
Regarding brand recognition, Patek Philippe is the third most recognized Swiss luxury watch brand globally.
Audemars Piguet follows not far behind, ranked seventh in terms of watch brand recognition.
Their marketing efforts and long-standing reputations have cemented their positions as leaders in the luxury watch market.
Price Range and Exclusivity
Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe command premium prices across their product lines, reflecting the brands’ exclusivity and status in the luxury watch market. Their offerings range from entry-level luxury to rare, high-end collectibles that often appreciate in value.
Entry-Level and High-End Comparison
Audemars Piguet: Entry-level models such as the Royal Oak series start at approximately S$26,816. The top-end watches, particularly in the Royal Oak Offshore collection, can begin at prices between S$67,040 and S$80,448.
Patek Philippe: The brand’s mid-range pieces, like the Aquanaut and Nautilus models, have entry points at around S$93,856, indicating a higher threshold for accessibility.
Their high-end watches can command prices well over S$134,080, underlining the brand’s positioning at the pinnacle of luxury watchmaking.
Limited Editions and Collectability
Both brands have produced limited-edition models that are highly sought after in the collectors’ market. The rarity and uniqueness of these pieces often lead to significant appreciation in value over time.
Audemars Piguet: Special editions of the Royal Oak Offshore have been particularly popular, with specific models being produced in very limited quantities.
Patek Philippe: Known for custom complications and bespoke creations, limited runs of Patek Philippe watches are renowned as good investments due to their potential to increase in value post-purchase.
Investment Potential and Value Retention
When comparing luxury timepieces, Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe stand out for their investment potential and value retention. Historical data and market analysis suggest that these brands consistently maintain high resale values, making them attractive to collectors and investors.
Audemars Piguet watches have shown remarkable value retention. In some cases, their timepieces were trading at a significant premium over their initial retail price. The Royal Oak model is particularly notable, as it commands high interest in the secondary market, affirming its stature as a prestigious investment piece.
On the other hand, Patek Philippe is synonymous with exclusivity and artisanal excellence, factors which contribute to its watches’ ability to hold and often increase in value over time. Long celebrated for their meticulous craftsmanship, Patek Philippe’s creations are a mainstay among high-value collectors’ items.
Recent trends have underscored their strong performance relative to other luxury goods and traditional investments. According to industry observations, certain models from these Swiss manufacturers have outpaced the S&P 500 Index in terms of yearly appreciation.
While market dynamics are subject to change, collecting watches from either of these esteemed brands can represent a substantive investment with the potential for considerable long-term appreciation.
However, buyers should be aware that market performance can vary significantly between different models and should conduct thorough research when considering a timepiece for investment purposes.
In this section, the reader gains insights into some of the most commonly asked questions about Audemars Piguet (AP) and Patek Philippe, two esteemed watchmakers with rich histories and significant market presence.
1. Is Patek better than AP?
When considering the craftsmanship and prestige of Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet, preferences might sway based on design and brand legacy.
While Patek Philippe is renowned for their conservative, classic designs, Audemars Piguet offers a more distinctive look with its octagonal shapes and avant-garde style, making the term “better” highly subjective.
2. Is AP worth more than Rolex?
The valuation of a luxury watch brand like AP is often linked to rarity and exclusivity. While AP maintains a highly prestigious reputation, Rolex is typically more recognized globally due to its broader market reach and iconic status. However, individual watch models can vary significantly in value.
3. Is Patek Philippe the best watch in the world?
Classifying a watch as “the best” can be subjective; however, Patek Philippe is often held in the highest regard for its commitment to excellence and the complexity of its timepieces. Watch enthusiasts and collectors frequently esteem it as one of the finest makers in the world.
4. Who is the competitor of Patek Philippe?
Patek Philippe’s competitors encompass high-end luxury watch brands such as Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin. Together, these brands—including Patek Philippe—are known as the “Holy Trinity” of watchmaking, highlighting their status at the pinnacle of the industry.
Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe are winners. As a potential buyer, you must weigh your style and values against these characteristics. Whether you opt for the cutting-edge persona of Audemars Piguet or the refined prestige of Patek Philippe, each choice is an investment in a legacy of unparalleled watchmaking.
- Patek Philippe is known for classic, elegant designs, appealing to traditionalists, while Audemars Piguet stands out with its modern, innovative Royal Oak series.
- Patek Philippe specializes in complex traditional movements, whereas Audemars Piguet excels in mechanical innovation and contemporary watchmaking.
- Both brands are prized in the collector’s market; Patek Philippe for its timeless value and Audemars Piguet for its unique design and rarity offer promising investment potential.
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