The luxury watches market: Patek Philippe or Rolex?

The luxury watches market: Patek Philippe or Rolex?

Why are Patek Philippe watches so expensive when compared to other luxury brands like Rolex and Omega? Are they worth the money?

Well, now you are comparing apples and oranges.

Patek Philippe operates in a different market than Rolex and Omega

The major part of Patek Philippe product line is comprises luxury watches, while it's not the the same for Rolex and Omega. I understand that most of the people who do not have a clue about horology would think I am mad, but Rolex - product-wise - makes refined tool watches that are built to withstand use and abuse without skipping a beat.

The first Rolex transparent caseback

In the course of time, Rolex worked very well on its marketing, and today enjoys a reputation that goes much beyond its undeniable merits. Also, in the past Rolex has tried many times to breach into this luxury market. Therefore, during the 2023 edition of Watches and Wonders in Geneva, it has presented a new collection of dress watches, the 1908, which - for the first time of its history - has a transparent caseback, to show the movement.

As you can see, the finishing of the movement is a hallmark of the kind of space Rolex wants to get into - and the movement is well-finished.

Now take a look at what Rolex did before:

Finishings on the movement are one of the elements that spell the difference between high-end horology and true luxury horology. Sure, there are many others, but still this is one of the most striking. Just to show you, here’s a typical Patek Philippe movement.

Which price for an expensive watch? 

I could go on almost forever telling you the specific elements that are different between the two, but I think you got the idea. The majority of these finishings are hand-made, so there must be a human doing them, not a machine. This explains also why Patek Philippe makes around 60K watches per year against the Rolex’s one million with a similar workforce.

So, if we would apply Rolex markup to Patek, a typical Patek should cost around 20 times the typical Rolex. But Patek is modest - the typical Calatrava costs only 3 times the typical Submariner.

Oh, it is just me or the new Rolex 1908 has a lot in common with the Patek Philippe Calatrava?

Of course it was a rhetoric question: almost all elegant dress watches derive from the Calatrava (née in 1934).

The new luxury watches

But you can find luxury in many other areas: complications (that is, different features of the watch showing other things than just the time) or mechanical wonders like a tourbillon - for example, at Aventi.

The Ghost Tyamine by Aventi

As you see, also Aventi applies other surface finishings on the movement, like this DLC carbon coating to make it more modern and industrial-looking (and to protect the plates).

So the conclusion is: the value of an object depends on your perception of the same object. Patek Philippe makes beautiful luxury watches, and sells them for a premium. Rolex does the same: so you can choose if any of them are worth your money!

But in the end, you should consider every watch for its real characteristics, without “believing” too much the marketing hype. I have tried to explain, in layman’s terms, horology in my series of e-books called The Watch Manual . You can check it out if it’s something that you could be interested in, and buy it here


The Watchonomicon is an independent blog, written and managed by The Watch Manual. The Watch Manual is NOT affiliated in any way with any brand mentioned in articles. 

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