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A Beginner’s Guide to Every Patek Philippe Model

A Beginner's Guide to Every Patek Philippe Model

If you’re new to watches, which would make sense as you’ve clicked on this beginner’s guide, Patek Philippe is probably one of the brands you’re less familiar with than say Rolex or Omega. However, you should get to know them because they’re one of the holy trinity of watchmaking alongside Vacheron Constantin and Audemars Piguet.

With watches like the Nautilus, and Calatrava in their wheelhouse, they produce a higher proportion of ‘grail’ watches than almost any other watchmaker – highly sought after watches that earn pride of place in any collector’s collection. Not to mention their annual Grand Complication timepieces. With that being said, let’s get this beginner’s guide to every Patek Philippe model in their current range underway.

The Integrated-Bracelet Models

Nautilus Collection

Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5811/1G-001

Patek Philippe Nautilus ref. 5811/1G

Bow to the king. The Patek Philippe Nautilus is the premier sports-luxe watch, standing on a pedestal high above its competition. It’s instantly recognisable for its rounded-octagonal case and porthole bezel, which give it a strong profile and unique silhouette. Equally iconic is the dial, horizontally embossed for a sporty yet refined texture that suits rustic simplicity and over-the-top embellishment just as well.

There are numerous references of Nautili in the line-up from diamond-clad dress watches to sporty chronographs and basically any complication you can think of. Since the launch of the 5811 to replace the steel 5711, Patek Philippe has been stalwart in their belief that the Nautilus should only exist in precious metals. Despite the fact that steel it the model’s traditional material and suits its integrated bracelet sports watch design.

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Aquanaut Collection

Patek Philippe Aquanaut Ref.5167 1A

Patek Philippe Aquanaut ref. 5167/1A

The Nautilus’ younger sibling is the Aquanaut, which takes the same sports-luxe concept as the Nautilus but dials up the sportiness to a higher degree. Perhaps its most famous supporter is rock and roll royalty Paul McCartney, which makes sense because the Aquanaut’s sporty design makes it ideal for surviving the rigours of a stage show.  

It has a similar overall case design, but the dial is markedly different, eschewing the horizontal embossing for a grid shape that’s evocative of lines of longitude and latitude. Once again there are multiple dial colours and functions available, but we take our guidance from McCartney who opts for the black and steel 5167.

Housed inside McCartney’s is the Patek Philippe in-house calibre 324 S C, an automatic movement with a 45-hour power reserve. Other Aquanauts house a range of movements including GMT variations and quartz pieces, and even those are exceptional by most standards. The most recent addition to the Aquanaut line is the first ever annual calendar edition.

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The Complications

Grand Complication Collection

Patek Philippe Grand Complication Alarm Travel Time Ref 5520RG

Patek Philippe Grand Complication Alarm Travel Time ref. 5520RG

The term ‘haute horology’ or ‘high watchmaking’ gets thrown around a lot, to the extent that you’re probably as likely to hear it applied to a £100 quartz watch as a £100,000 watch with a handcrafted movement and insane finishing. However, if any timepiece deserves the description, it’s the Grand Complication. Patek’s most precise and complex range that they expand with a single watch each year. As such, they are some of the most anticipated releases that we see, fusing exclusivity with genuinely insane levels of watchmaking technology.

Every year yields a slightly different watch with various complications and materials and colours so picking one model to symbolise the whole range for this guide is a fruitless endeavour. As such, we’ve highlighted their latest timepiece, the Alarm Travel Time ref. 5520RG. A chiming complication paired with Patek Philippe’s take on the dual time zone. But there are also Grand Complications that feature perpetual calendars, chronographs, tourbillons and more, the variety and ingenuity is endless.

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Rare Handcrafts Collection

Patek Philippe Rare Handcrafts

Patek Philippe Rare Handcrafts ref. 995/143G-001 pocket watch

While Patek Philippe repeatedly show that they’re masters of calibres and complications, they also like to remind us that they are experts of other aspects of watchmaking like dial artwork. As such, each year they create an exclusive collection of one-of-one or limited edition wristwatches, mantle clocks and more to show off their arty side. Frequently these watches are Grand Complications with additional rare handcrafts.

There are intricately detail trains produced in cloisonné enamel as well as hand painted vistas of Geneva. My personal favourite is the Swallows in Flight minute repeater, which features enamel swallows in a sky of intricate guilloché. And once again the calibre is still great, the R27 automatic movement with a 48-hour power reserve. Patek are nothing if not consistent, and constantly excellent at that.

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Complications Collection

Patek Philippe World Time Flyback Chronograph 5330G-001

Patek Philippe World Time Flyback Chronograph ref. 5330G-001

Considering we’ve already looked at the Grand Complication you can probably make a solid guess about what the Complication is. It’s a more accessible version that use fewer and simpler functions. Instead of perpetual calendars you’re more likely to find GMTs, annual calendars and chronographs.

Again, you could pick any Complication to show off, but we’ve selected the World Time with date in white gold with a denim blue dial featuring a carbon motif pattern. In addition to the date which is linked to local time, it also has the names of 24 prominent cities around the periphery, allowing you to time events from the shortest margins locally to those globally around the world. In fact, Patek have a storied history with World Time complication, which you can read about here.

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The Dress Watches

Calatrava Collection

Patek Philippe Calatrava 24-Hour Display Travel Time Ref. 5224R

Patek Philippe Calatrava 24-Hour Display Travel Time ref. 5224R

The Calatrava is a retro style watch with precise lines and an elegant round case, which makes it a classic dress watch that oozes character and charm. This is a true heirloom timepiece and can be found on the wrists of those who appreciate vintage refinement, including celebrities like Paul Bettany.

In 2023 Patek Philippe expanded the Calatrava range with a new 23-hour display travel time number, the 5224R. The display is simply gorgeous. 44 individually hand-crafted rose gold applique numerals create a wide arch around the edge of the dial, marking off the 24-hours of the day.

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Gondolo Collection

Patek Philippe Gondolo Sereta Ref. 4962-200R-001

Gondolo Sereta ref. 4962/200R

A golden period of watchmaking was around the 1920s and 30s when Art Deco styles were all the range – Patek’s Gondolo collection is an homage to the period and the brand’s Art Deco heritage. Off the bat, the Gondolo watches stand out for not using a traditional round case, with rectangular, tonneau and cushion cases all finding their place in the range.

As befits the era of razzle dazzle, each of them is embedded with dozens and dozens of diamonds The relatively 4962/200R has a beautiful gradient of reds, russets and yellows encrusted on its flowing gold case. It houses a Patek Philippe quartz movement, which is to regular quartz what haute horology is to a date function.

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Golden Ellipse Collection

Golden Ellipse Ref 5738 1R

Patek Philippe Golden Ellipse ref. 5738/1R

Every now and then watchmakers go out on a limb to try a new piece of technology, or a new material. With the Golden Ellipse Patek created an ellipse case that is very unique, rarely seen from any other watchmaker, a halfway point between a rectangle, a circle and the classic tonneau.

However, the success of the Golden Ellipse was all but guaranteed because it is based on the Golden Ratio. A mathematical formula that dictates the ideal shape of beautiful objects that is widely used in architecture, even in ancient times like the Greek Parthenon. What’s more, for 2024 it received a new reference in rose gold with a black dial and a gold chain bracelet.

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Twenty-4 Collection

Patek Philippe Twenty-4 4910/1201R

Patek Philippe Twenty-4 4910/1201R

Twenty-4 is Patek’s dedicated women’s collection, which feels faintly ridiculous because there’s nothing overtly masculine about their other watches that would necessitate a separate women’s line. And frankly, if Patek Philippe could see it in their hearts to remove the diamond bezels on the Twenty-4 they’d be perfectly lovely gender neutral watches.

They’re typically 36mm although a variety of case sizes including rectangular versions are on offer. Originally the collection featured Patek’s quartz movements although more recently they’ve been upgraded to have proper automatic numbers. They’re fairly simple designs that, while cool, don’t quite have the same flair as Patek’s other watches and at Patek prices, anyone would prefer a Complication model.

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About the author

Michael Sonsino

As Digital Editor for Oracle Time, Michael needs an eye for detail, which makes it a good thing that his twin joys in life are miniatures and watches. He's a lifelong fan of fine timepieces, especially those of a more historic nature - if it has a twist of Art Deco, all the better. Recent purchase: Seiko Prospex 1959 Alpinist Modern Re-Interpretation. Grail watch: Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921.