When it comes to the world of luxury watches, one name immediately comes to mind – and that of course, is Rolex. An esteemed brand on a global scale for many years, it is a name that has become synonymous with quality, with its timepieces becoming some of the most coveted in the world, and a true symbol of status.
Despite its long history and long-standing domination of the luxury watch industry though, Rolex has a long list of competitors vying for the title of the world’s finest watchmaker – and one that continues to give it a run for its money is Patek Philippe.
This well-established and respected brand was actually ruling the roost long before Rolex enjoyed its meteoric rise to prominence, having launched in Geneva in 1839 – a whole 66 years earlier than Rolex, which was founded much later in 1905.
With both brands renowned for their expert craftsmanship and high-quality mechanisms, an investment from either brand would be a savvy one, with any Rolex or Patek Philippe timepiece certain to last the distance. But, when it comes down to making a decision, knowing which one to go for can be a challenge – so, let’s take a closer look at the two, side by side.
Patek may not be quite as iconic as Rolex, but for those who know a luxury watch from a lesser model, it is still considered a top of the line brand. Its elegant dress watches offer superb quality, outstanding complications and horological feats – making each timepiece a true piece of art.
When it comes to exclusivity, surprisingly, Patek Philippe manages to pip Rolex to the post. Far more selective about its choice of distributors, you won’t find this brand just anywhere – in fact, if you want to hunt down a stockist, you’ll need to do your research before setting out.
The brand started out making custom pocket watches for Royalty and elite members of society, at a time when it was known simply as ‘Patek’. Run by Antoine Patek and his then-partner, Francois Czapek, it wasn’t until 1844, when Patek crossed paths with Adrien Philippe – known for his newly created keyless winding and hand-setting mechanism, that the two came together to form Patek Philippe.
The duo launched an international campaign to grow their reputation further afield, and continue to work with some of the best marketing companies in the world up to this day.
In 1932, almost forty years after the deaths of its two founders, Patek Philippe was sold to the Stern Brothers, having been run by Philippe’s son for over three decades.
Patek Philippe’s many notable achievements include the invention of the wristwatch – starting with the Calibre 89 model, which, with 33 complications, is one of the most complex designs in the world. There are many who would happily declare Patek Philippe the ‘Rolls Royce’ of watches, and its empire of high-end timepieces, which have long focused on innovation, have won it terrific prestige.
Founded by Hans Wildorf in 1905, Rolex first set out to create tool watches, which are incredibly accurate thanks to their superlative chronometers. The brand achieved several horological milestones in its first thirty years of operation, and in 1910 their watches became the world’s first to be certified as a chronometer. In 1926, the technology for the first waterproof and dust-proof watch was developed – before later, in 1931, they patented the world’s first perpetual self-winding mechanism.
Today, the brand is recognised as the number one Swiss watchmaker in the world, and the third most valuable Swiss brand overall. Its watches are highly sought-after by collectors the world over, many of whom are willing to pay well over the odds at auction in order to get their hands on vintage and second-hand classics.
For those who have an appreciation for the toughest and most durable watches, Rolex is an obvious choice. Its watches have made it to both the highest point on planet earth, and the lowest depths of the ocean that man has ever been to, with flawless quality craftsmanship that has ensured they remain reliable in all conditions.
When it comes down to making a decision between the two, it’s really a matter of taste. It’s also all about finding a watch that meets your personal requirements, and supports the type of lifestyle you choose to lead.
Patek Philippe has continued to thrive under the Stern Brothers, who remain dedicated to the vision of the brand’s founders – and have continued to develop some of the innovative and complex timepieces on the market today. If you’re looking for the utmost in elegance and quality craftsmanship, then this is the brand for you.
Rolex has also continued to pioneer in the industry, although these days, it places a greater focus on key partnerships with sporting events. Even so, its opulent timepieces remain coveted the world over, and its dedication to a clean and classic aesthetic never lets it down. For those who live a more active lifestyle, this robust brand will serve you well – meaning you’ll never have to compromise on style or quality, whatever you happen to be doing.
Ultimately, if you’re looking to invest in a beautiful timepiece then you can’t go wrong with either of these brands. Both are guaranteed to last the distance, eventually becoming family heirlooms that can be passed down through the generations for years to come.
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