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05/16/2024
 5 minutes

Three of the Most Affordable Patek Philippe Watches

By Aaron Voyles
Patek-Philippe-2-1

Three of the Most Affordable Patek Philippe Watches

A name synonymous with precision and prestige in the world of horology, Patek Philippe is a watchmaker typically associated with exorbitant price tags, VIP clientele, and exclusivity. For the most part, this is true. However, nestled within this luxury brand’s illustrious offerings are several watches that not only embody Patek Philippe’s exquisite craftsmanship and storied heritage, but do so at an accessible entry point for enthusiasts looking to explore and appreciate the brand. While the reference numbers and model names for expensive and very complicated watches may jump to mind when you think of Patek, I am going to take a look at three timepieces that I believe offer an exceptional blend of value and sophistication. So, let’s uncover some of these hidden gems and answer the question: What is the most affordable Patek Philippe?

Patek Philippe Golden Ellipse / Gondolo

I might be cheating here, but two of Patek Philippe’s most underappreciated and affordable collections are also perhaps their most closely related: the Golden Ellipse and Gondolo. There is so much to be seen within these two collections that I simply could not skip over them, yet they are similar enough that I feel like pairing them isn’t too brazen. However, to understand their value, you need to look back at their histories.

Both elegant dress watches, the Golden Ellipse and Gondolo collections are luxurious and understated, but the Gondolo easily has the more colorful history. Created as a line of pocket watches that Brazilian retailer Gondolo & Labouriau sold to a 180-member watch collectors club known as the “Gondolo Gang,” the Gondolo effectively started life as a membership card to the club. The watches were paid for in installments, which could be ended if you won a lottery. Gondolo Gangs became so popular across the country that by the 1920s, Patek Philippe had sold over 22,000 Gondolo pocket watches to Brazilian collectors. In the early 1990s, Patek tapped into this story and revived the Gondolo collection in wristwatch form, complete with smooth sweeping lines, curvy rectangular cases, and their typical impeccable craftsmanship. It was met with immediate success; however, as time has passed, the Gondolo has slipped into the shadow of obscurity and become entirely overlooked due to its size and dressiness. Full-sized mechanical examples in precious metal are readily available on the market for less than $10,000, e.g., the ref. 4224 and ref. 3494. 

Patek Philippe Gondolo Ref. 4224
Patek Philippe Gondolo ref. 4224

Similarly, the Golden Ellipse, launched in 1968 as a deliberately unisex model that was fresh but still uniquely “Patek,” has become underappreciated for the very same reasons as the Gondolo. With its unusual oval shape, rich history, and the aesthetic variety found in its dials, materials, finishes, and beyond, it represents the very best of what collecting watches from brands like Patek Philippe is all about – even if the majority of collectors have yet to see it. As a result of its relative obscurity, dozens of mechanical Golden Ellipse references in precious metal are available for less than $10,000, e.g., the ref. 3548. 

Patek Philippe Ellipse Ref. 3548
Patek Philippe Ellipse ref. 3548

Given the market’s growing appreciation for quirky vintage timepieces with interesting shapes, smaller sizes, and distinctive aesthetics, the Gondolo and Golden Ellipse collections both appear to be massively overlooked by contemporary collectors. As heads slowly begin to turn toward these overlooked watches, you can bet your bottom dollar that they will see a significant uptick in price and become increasingly more difficult to find, especially if you’re looking for a certain size or dial. 

Patek Philippe Calatrava

From two of Patek’s most obscure models to perhaps their most ubiquitous, we come to the Calatrava, Patek’s iconic dress watch. Launched in 1932 and embodying the essence of Patek’s elegant and sophisticated aesthetic, the Calatrava has grown from a financially-motivated idea conceived by Patek’s new owners in order to secure the brand’s future, into a collection that represents everything Patek Philippe stands for. Of course, irrespective of its history, dress watches have largely been out of fashion across the watch world for quite some time, and as a result, you can pick up a Calatrava larger than 36 mm for less than $15,000, e.g., the ref. 5119J. 

Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref. 5119J
Patek Philippe Calatrava ref. 5119J

If you’re happy to stay more faithful to the Calatrava’s roots and embrace an example in the 33–35 mm range, examples like the ref. 3468 can be snapped up for less than $8,000 – not a lot of money for a watch made by one of the finest watchmakers in the world, especially when you consider how timeless the Calatrava has been since it debuted 90+ years ago. 

Patek Philippe Neptune

I’ll finish this list with one of Patek’s most obscure offerings to date. In fact, its obscurity is both a positive and a negative in that even the slightest uptick in interest from collectors in the last six months or so has resulted in notable price increases. Still, its obscurity also means that it will always live in the shadow of another integrated bracelet model from Patek, the name of which escapes me – you probably know the one. Nonetheless, the collection that is often overlooked is the Neptune, an integrated bracelet sports watch from Patek that debuted in 1996 alongside the Aquanaut and was produced until 2005. 

Patek Philippe Neptune
Patek Philippe Neptune

Boasting a round case with an engine-turned bezel and unusual 7-piece link bracelet, the Neptune is stylistically unique, to put it lightly. This makes it the perfect option for someone who wants to embrace an integrated bracelet watch without the baggage of the much more expensive Nautilus – oh, that’s the name of it! So, for under $20,000, you can get yourself an automatic integrated bracelet sports watch from Patek that will be a conversation starter like no other. You will broaden people’s horological horizons with a watch that they likely would’ve never found out about otherwise. Sure, it’s expensive, but considering what you get for the money, the Neptune is easily one of the most underappreciated Patek models around, and it’s a pretty affordable alternative to the Patek Philippe Nautilus. 

Final Thoughts

It’s always an interesting thought experiment to see which watches from a given brand are underappreciated and comparatively affordable as a result. Sure, Patek Philippe and “affordable” don’t go hand in hand in the real world, but within the ecosystem that is the world of watchmaking, I think the Gondolo, Golden Ellipse, Calatrava, and Neptune go to show that there can be more affordable options from watchmakers that wouldn’t normally be known for affordability. You just need to look where others aren’t in order to find them. 


About the Author

Aaron Voyles

I love everything about watchmaking, from the artistry of their design to the engineering hidden within their movements and the history that breathes life into their stories.

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