What is the Cheapest Patek Philippe Watch? 3 Entry-Level Choices for Men and Ladies

What is the Cheapest Patek Philippe Watch? 3 Entry-Level Choices for Men and Ladies

To be honest, most people in the know would agree that “cheapest” and “Patek Philippe” don’t really even belong in the same sentence together. That said, for many serious watch collectors, even those just starting out, one’s first Patek Philippe is both a Holy Grail and a milestone purchase to be carefully, thoughtfully planned out and saved for. And most of those aficionados are still going to be entering the brand’s world at the ground floor rather than the penthouse. So what are these “entry level” Patek Philippe watches, i.e., the models actually priced with a first-time buyer in mind?

Patek Philippe HQ GenevaFirst off, we should establish why Patek Philippe watches are so coveted in the first place by laying out a bit of history. Since its founding in 1839 in Geneva, Patek Philippe has been a leader in high watchmaking, pioneering many complications and design elements that are now seen widely throughout the watch industry. Polish watchmakers Antoine Norbert de Patek and Francois Czapek partnered to form the original company, Patek, Czapek, & Cie.; French horologist Jean Adrien Philippe, who invented the keyless winding and setting system still standard on watches today, joined in 1845, and the Genevan manufacture has been known as Patek Philippe ever since. Among its many horological milestones are the first annual calendar watch and the first wristwatches with perpetual calendars and split-seconds chronographs. In 1932, brothers Jean and Henri Stern acquired Patek Philippe and the same year launched the watch that would become its signature, the Calatrava, inspired by the ancient Calatrava cross that had served as the maison’s logo since 1887.

Patek Philippe Graves Supercomplication

The following year, Patek Philippe made timekeeping history when it commissioned a record-setting complicated pocket watch for American banker Henry Graves. The so-called “Graves Supercomplication” (above) was for decades the world’s most complicated watch, eventually selling at auction for $24 million in 2014. In the 20th Century, Patek Philippe helped usher in the era of the luxury sports watch with the release of the now-iconic Nautilus in 1976, whose smooth octagonal bezel, integrated bracelet, and horizontal-grooved sunburst dial would assist in making it one of the most coveted timepieces in the world, even more so since Patek’s recent decision to discontinue its core reference 5711. Patek continues to push the envelope in the area of multiple high complications in the 21st Century, as in the Grandmaster Chime timepiece that it launched in commemoration of its 175th anniversary in 2014 — a double-faced wristwatch with no less than 20 complications, which sold for $31.19 million in 2019. Yes, entering Patek Philippe’s rarefied world is an intimidating prospect for many, and it certainly comes at a premium however you slice it, but the three models detailed below — one sport-luxury, one men’s traditional dress, and one dress watch for ladies, and spanning the gamut of movement from automatic to manual-wind mechanical to quartz — are ideally positioned for a prospective Patek buyer eyeing an entry-level watch. 


Patek Philippe Aquanaut Ref. 5167A-001 ($24,250, Automatic)

Patek Philippe Aquanaut

The original Patek Philippe Aquanaut was launched in 1997. Imagineered by the company’s then-president Philippe Stern as a more “accessible” version of the Nautilus, it was aimed from the beginning at a younger audience, a demographic that was also, presumably, a bit less affluent than the target Nautilus customer. The Aquanaut features a simpler three-part case construction than the elaborate two-piece “porthole” design of the Nautilus, and the first models were mounted on durable composite rubber straps rather than their predecessors’ costly and difficult-to-manufacture, integrated steel bracelets — though several Aquanaut models are available on metal bracelets today. The Aquanaut’s slightly rounded octagonal bezel, with vertically satin-finished flat surfaces and chamfered, polished edges, was similar to that of the Nautilus, but not paired with the latter’s signature “ears” on each side of the case. Replacing the parent model’s horizontal wave textured dial with baton hour markers was a dial with a distinctive embossed checkerboard pattern and bold, applied Arabic numerals that helped forge for the Aquanaut a sporty identity of its own. 

As just about everyone who follows watches knows, Patek Philippe made the decision to stop making new Nautilus models in 2022, which has undoubtedly focused even more interest on the model’s “little brother,” the Aquanaut, which remains in production and has expanded into a respectably sprawling family in the Patek portfolio, with both steel and precious-metal models, numerous feminine-targeted Luce models with jewels, and several chronographs. The Aquanaut Ref. 5167A-001 is by definition, and by virtue of its price, the most entry-level Patek Philippe: its steel case comes on the hallmark integrated textured rubber strap and contains the in-house, self-winding Caliber 26-330 S.C., holding a minimum 35-hour power reserve and bearing (like all the maison’s movements these days) Patek’s in-house quality seal ensuring both technical excellence and an elite level of decoration. 

Men’s Dress:

Patek Philippe Calatrava 6119R ($31,940, Manual-Wind)

Patek Philippe Calatrava

As mentioned above, the Calatrava has been a mainstay of Patek Philippe’s collection since 1932, the year that ushered in the maison’s longtime ownership by the Stern family, which continues to this day.  Today’s Calatrava collection is vast, comprising numerous high complications, but the basic time-only dress version remains the gateway drug for many a budding Patek enthusiast. The current most affordable model debuted in 2021 and is noteworthy for its hobnail “Clous de Paris” bezel, first used on the classic Ref. 3919. That watch, the Calatrava Ref. 6119R, essentially replaced the discontinued Ref. 5119R and its round case, offered in either rose gold or white gold, is 39mm in diameter, a bit larger than its 36mm predecessors but still elegantly sized, and also very thin at just over 8mm high. The harmoniously balanced dial — silvery grained with Roman hour numerals on the rose-gold model, gray-to-black with applied indexes on the white-gold — hosts dauphine-style hands and features a recessed small seconds subdial at 6 o’clock and a railroad minute track on the periphery. The movement inside is Patek Philippe’s in-house Caliber 30-255 PS,  which is manually wound (likely explaining this model’s price point coming in lower than those of the various automatic Calatravas) and boasts an extended power reserve of 65 hours in its redesigned twin-barrel system as well as the host of high-end finishing for which the maison has become renowned.

Ladies Dress:

Patek Philippe Twenty-4 Ref. 4910/1200A ($15,970, Quartz)

Patek Philippe Twenty-4Patek Philippe introduced the Twenty-4 collection, its first family of watches dedicated exclusively to female customers, in 1999. The collection’s name refers to its stated mission of being a watch suitable “for modern active women, at any time of day or night.” The first Twenty-Four models were distinctively designed in an Art Deco “manchette” or cuff style that stylistically set them apart from every other Patek Philippe model, and they all contained Swiss-made quartz movements (Yes, Patek Philippe does make some watches that use quartz.) In 2018, Patek Philippe finally added an automatic version of the Twenty-4 that was also visually very much a departure from the quartz-powered models, in a more traditional round case, with a central sweep seconds hand and a date aperture; the cuff-style quartz Twenty-4 has neither. As one might surmise, it is the Twenty-4 with a quartz movement that takes the prize for most affordable Patek Philippe ladies watch. The Reference 4910/1201R-001 model debuted in 2021, uses 18k rose gold for its emblematic two-tiered case and bracelet and introduces a chocolate-brown sunburst dial into the series. Decorating its bezel are two vertical rows of Top Wesselton Pure diamonds (total: 34 diamonds, ~0.57 ct)

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