Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet encompass two-thirds of the “Holy Trinity” of the watch industry (the third brand being Vacheron Constantin). Whilst AP is loved for its instantly recognizable porthole-design and its sporty octagonal-shaped case - Patek Philippe can contend with these models since it claims ownership of the famous Nautilus and the Aquanaut. Here’s how the two prestigious manufacturers go head to head in this comparison guide which should help you decide which brand you prefer the most.
Audemars Piguet was founded in 1875. Jules Louis Audemars joined forces with Edward Auguste and together then began making watches with complex mechanisms. They created the Grand Complication pocket watch boasting seven different complications in 1899. The brand claims other firsts too, like the smallest 5 minute repeater caliber, the thinnest pocket watch, and the first skeletonized pocket watch – all of which came before the famous Royal Oak watch in 1972. Throughout the decades of its success, the Royal Oak has kept its same design, cementing its popularity in the hearts of watch lovers all over the world. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore – another collectible watch – was released in the late 1980s.
Patek Philippe’s heritage began a little time before Audemars Piguet. The company was established in 1839 where Antoine Patek and his partner François Czapek began creating custom pocket watches. A few years later they joined forces with a man named Adrien Philippe – innovator of the keyless winding and hand-setting system. The brand took the name, Patek Philippe. The first pocket watch was made in 1845. When the company’s legendary founders passed away, Stern Brothers purchased the company in 1932. Patek Philippe debuted the Golden Ellipse collection in the ’60s and also created the world’s most complicated watch in 1989 which remained in production until the year 2000, featuring a minute repeater, perpetual calendar, and a moon phase.
The Royal Oak:
The most famous watch by Audemars Piguet is the Royal Oak (designed by Gerald Genta which took him just one night). It gained a cult-like following after launching in 1972 – long after the Nautilus but before the Aquanaut. Unlike the Aquanaut, which is geared more towards water-loving individuals, the Royal Oak is a sports watch for all collectors. Like Patek Philippe’s Nautilus watch it has the potential to appreciate, thus making it an ideal investment. The recognizable porthole-inspired design can feature complications like a perpetual calendar, a minute repeater, and a chronograph.
Case/Dial: 41mm Steel, Blue
Movement: 2385, Self-winding
Functions: Date, Chronograph, Small Seconds, 40h power reserve
The Royal Oak Offshore:
The Royal Oak Offshore models came after the success of the Royal Oak. Evolved into a more bulky and larger size - these models showcase a “tapisserie” decorated dial, a 43mm bezel, pushpiece guards fitted to 100-meter water-resistant cases, and sporty chronograph counters.
Case/Dial: 44mm Titanium, Black
100 meters / 330 feet
Movement: Audemars Piguet Calibre 3126, Self-winding
Functions: Chronograph, Date, Hour, Minute, Second, Calendar, 50h power reserve
Strap: Black rubber
Jules Audemars watches are tailored to those with a taste in classic dress watches. Compared to the Calatrava, these watches do come in a simple two-handed dial variation and with an ultra-thin case depth, such as the model ref: 15180OR.OO.A088CR.01. Some more lavish designs like the Jules Audemars Tourbillon Chronograph are crafted from platinum with a skeletonized dial that showcases an exquisite caliber through its dial side.
The Nautilus shows off Patek Philippe’s sporty side – the first models having been crafted from stainless steel. Their porthole designs were created by Gerald Genta in 1976. The basic models feature a simple three-handed dial, whilst complication watches boast annual calendars, moon phase indicators, second time zones, and chronographs. The Nautilus is one of the brand’s most highly sought-after models, especially the steel version.
Case/Dial: 35.2mm Steel, Smoke gray dial, gold applied hour markers and numerals with luminescent coating
Movement: Eco-Drive J290, Self-winding
Functions: Calendar, 45h power reserve
The Aquanaut was released 21 years after the Nautilus, featuring a more modern and less angular shape. Nevertheless, it keeps in line with the sporty feel of the Nautilus. These wristwatches are completed on a Tropical strap – a specially crafted water-resistant, corrosion-resistant, abrasion-resistant and UV radiation-resistant band crafted from a unique composite material. You can find automatic and quartz versions of the Aquanaut, as well as different colored dials and straps.
Case/Dial: 40mm Stainless Steel, Black
Movement: 324 S C., Self-winding
Functions: Date, Calendar, 45h power reserve
Strap: Black rubber
Patek Philippe Calatrava:
Calatrava watches by Patek Philippe are loved for their understated elegance. The simplicity of their dials promotes straight-forward, classic timekeeping. If you’re looking for a dress watch that showcases the brilliance of Patek Philippe as a manufacturer but without all the bells and whistles – the Calatrava watch is for you. There are dials with a small second counter at 6, yet the newest models with automatic movements tend to feature a date at 3 o’clock and a central second hand. The brand’s use of manual calibers enables these watches to remain so stylishly thin.
Case/Dial: 39mm Rose Gold, Ivory lacquered, gold-applied hour markers.
Movement: 324 S C, Self-winding
Functions: Calendar, Seconds, 45h power reserve
Strap: Strap: shiny alligator with square scales, machine stitched like hand, dark chestnut
Entry-level Patek Philippe and AP watches are almost the same, costing around the $12,000 mark (AP watches are just a couple of hundred dollars less) so investing in a starter watch from either brand will depend solely on which company you prefer. Audemars Piguet watches have excellent resale value, some higher than a Patek Philippe watch, however, this all depends on the model in question. New Calatrava watches retail at around 20-30,000 dollars. Second-hand they can be picked up for around half this price. For just a few thousand dollars more you can invest in the Millenary watch which sits at the bottom of AP’s price list. Mid-range timepieces include the likes of their Royal Oak Chronograph for around $23,000, whilst top-end watches are the Royal Oak Offshore models which start between 50 and 60,000 USD. Patek Philippe’s mid-range pieces include the Aquanaut and Nautilus – the same price as Ap’s most expensive models, retailing at around $70,000. Invest in a Grand Complication, however, and you’ll be paying for the highest level of horological expertise from Patek Philippe, with watches that can reach up to $583,000!
The entry price points for an AP or Patek Philippe watch is similar. Audemars Piguet watches are slightly easier to get hold of on the second-hand market because this brand manufactures more watches than Patek Philippe (who try to create models in as limited a number as possible to enhance their rarity). If you’re looking for an unusual watch, Audemars Piguet has a larger selection of watches that differ from the traditional look of a conservative Patek Philippe watch. AP watches have a more dynamic shape compared to the classic round bezel, lending themselves to such a distinct aesthetic with their octagonal-inspired, Avant-Garde look. Patek Philippe however, is the name that is instantly associated with the finest in Haute Horlogerie, so if you’re in search of a statement-piece – Patek Philippe watches are the perfect investment for you.