Time to buy: Patek Philippe

Patek Philippe make achingly desirable watches, we know. But there might be another excellent reason to purchase one

Watches & Jewellery 26 Nov 2021

If the Patek Philippe Aquanaut in all its guises is your watch of choice, it could turn out to be a very handsome investment

They say hindsight is a wonderful thing. But when looking back at some of today’s values of watches that could have been bought a decade ago for relative peanuts, hindsight can make you weep.

To illustrate, I have just walked to my bookshelf and selected, at random, an Antiquorum auction house catalogue for a Hong Kong sale held on 26 February 2012 in which there were two examples of Patek Philippe’s now hugely hyped sports watch, the Nautilus Reference 5711.

The first, made in 2007, was estimated to fetch 15,000–20,000 Euros; the second, a 2010 model, at 7,000–10,000 Euros.

Fast forward nine years to 2021, and the discontinuation of the classic, blue dial 5711 – almost unobtainable new due to huge demand – sees pre-owned values soaring to the point that those who got hold of one at the ‘RRP’ of roughly £27,000 are easily able to “flip” it for four times as much.

The madness continued when, no sooner had the blue dial been axed than a green one arrived – and instantly became modern haute horology’s hottest property, with a brand new, bagged-and-sealed example selling at Antiquorum in Monaco a mere 12 weeks after the model’s April launch for $470,000. That’s 11 times retail…

Which is why it might be worth putting your name down for what is now the most affordable men’s watch in the Patek Philippe collection – the Reference 5167A Aquanaut in stainless steel on what the maker calls its ‘Tropical’ composite strap.

Not that you won’t have to wait for one, of course. The ‘journey’ to ownership (as my local Patek Philippe retailer calls it) begins with a ‘registration of interest’, after which it might be necessary to wait for several years (at least two, if you are lucky) for news that you have not only bobbed to the top of the Aquanaut list, but there’s actually a watch available for you to buy.

By then, of course, today’s £16,670 price tag is likely to have grown a bit. But (bearing in mind that “investments” can go down in value as well as up) the residual worth of your new and unworn Aquanaut will probably have grown considerably more – not that “flipping” is advised if you want to remain in Patek Philippe’s good books for further purchases.

As an heirloom watch, however, a new, steel Aquanaut bought within the next few years could prove hard to beat. Launched in 1997, it was initially regarded as a poor man’s Nautilus, an image not helped by the fact that it was the first Patek to be supplied on a rubber-like strap.

But gradually the model has emerged as probably far more wearable than the Nautilus for daily use – with interest being boosted, no doubt, when people began to notice its popularity among certain celebrities such as Sir Paul McCartney, Spider-Man actor Tom Holland and rap star Drake.

But the most important reasons for seeking out a steel Aquanaut, of course, are because you like it and you really do want it.

like it and you really do want it. Trying to get hold of one simply because there’s a good chance it will rise in value or because you like Tom Holland isn’t recommended – just don’t decide, with hindsight, that you rather wish you’d got one all those years ago ‘when they were so much more affordable’.

Patek Philippe’s Aquanaut range for men starts at £16,670 for a steel automatic version on a composite strap and rises to £53,280 for a white gold chronograph; patek.com