Patek Philippe Auction records
We take a look at some of the multi-million dollar auction stars from Patek Philippe.
The incredible prices realized by vintage Patek Philippe models at auction have long helped to boost the image of the independent Geneva-based watch manufacturer. But at Baselworld this year even the brand itself communicated on the success of its vintage pieces at auction, appending a list of “the most eloquent records” achieved at auction since the turn of the century. We decided to take things a little further, drawing up a list of Patek Philippe watches that have sold for over 500,000 Swiss francs at auction in recent times. At least as far as the ultimate vintage Patek Philippe watches sold at auction are concerned, our list tallies more or less with that published by the brand in March 2016.
At the top is the Henry Graves Supercomplication – the ultimate record holder across all categories that was sold by Sotheby’s for an eye-popping 23,237,000 Swiss francs in 2014 (read Aurel Bacs’s detailed analysis on the superlative nature of this watch). A unique stainless-steel model of Reference 5016 beat another supercomplication from Patek Philippe into second place on the list when it was sold at last year’s Only Watch auction for 7.3 million Swiss francs, setting a new world record at auction for a stainless-steel wristwatch. Other stainless-steel models feature high up on our list, including two offered by Phillips in association with Bacs & Russo in 2015 and a Reference 1526 sold by Christie’s back in 2008 for a respectable 4.14 million Swiss francs.
The Veblen spiral
Such prices may appear beyond comprehension to all but the most savvy (and wealthy) watch collectors, but an explanation may be found in the work of Thorstein Veblen, who gave us the term “conspicuous consumption” back in 1899 and whose name is now used to refer to goods for which demand increases in proportion to their price, in contradiction to the usual laws of supply and demand. If considered as so-called Veblen goods, the more expensive that Patek Philippe watches become, whether vintage or modern, whether in mundane stainless-steel or precious metals, the more they become sought after. Complications and rarity no doubt come into play at auction, of course, as the sheer unbeatability of the Henry Graves Supercomplication and two top ten placings for the Calibre 89 show. But the popularity of a model such as the Reference 2499, a perpetual-calendar chronograph, of which at least twelve pieces have sold at auction for in excess of half a million Swiss francs since 2002, suggests that there may well be some Veblen effect in the auction world, even if prices for the Reference 2499 have dropped in recent years.
Selected Patek Philippe models sold at auction for in excess of 1 million Swiss francs*
Patek Philippe enjoys outstanding renown and rare prestige, due to the constancy with which the Manufacture has applied its philosophy of excellence ever since it was founded.Find out more
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