From Queen Victoria to Cardi B, how this legacy watchmaker discovered itself within the zeitgeist

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Written by Oscar Holland, CNN

From Joe DiMaggio to Albert Einstein, Princess Diana to Victoria Beckham, watchmaker Patek Philippe has lengthy been a star favourite. However the Swiss model’s popularity has taken an surprising flip lately.

Namedropping luxurious labels could also be nothing new in hip-hop, however lyrical references to Patek Phillippe exploded in 2017. That yr, one-third of the songs on the Billboard Scorching 100 talked about the model, in line with music web site Genius.
Travis Scott has rapped about his “two-tone Patek,” Cardi B (pictured high) “flooded” hers with diamonds and Gucci Mane suggested that his was “gon’ make this crooked choose attempt throw the guide at me.” Younger Thug, Migos and Future have all talked about their Patek Philippe timepieces, whereas Lil Uzi Vert has such affinity with the watchmaker that he launched two tracks honoring it, “Patek” and “New Patek.” (“New Patek on my wrist,” he stated within the latter, “white diamonds, them sh**s hit pink.”)
The phenomenon coincided with a wider surge of curiosity in watch accumulating, in line with Nick Marino, senior vp of content material at on-line watch journal, Hodinkee.

“Since Patek Phillipe has at all times has been one of the prestigious watch manufacturers, it stood to motive that it will be the one that everybody was speaking about,” he stated through video name.

“Hip-hop has an extended and storied historical past of shouting out manufacturers that artists like, going again to ‘My Adidas’ by Run-DMC, and it simply so occurred that watches caught hearth.

Rapper Future sports a Patek Philippe watch at the UNCF Mayor's Masked Ball in 2016.

Rapper Future sports activities a Patek Philippe watch on the UNCF Mayor’s Masked Ball in 2016. Credit score: Paras Griffin/WireImage/Getty Photographs

“Rappers are good,” he added. “They know what standing means and so they know what exclusivity means. You may anticipate rappers to speak about Richard Mille, as a result of that is a younger, flashy, ‘new cash’ watch model — and rappers love that one too — however I really like that they love the old-money watch manufacturers.

“By positioning themselves as Patek clients, rappers are positioning themselves within the lineage of elites going all the way in which again to the nineteenth century. That is energy.”

The model’s place in popular culture is a far cry from its Nineteen Nineties “Generations” advertisements, which featured predominantly White dad and mom and their youngsters bonding over treasured horological heirlooms. The memorable marketing campaign helped set up the well-known catchphrase, “You by no means truly personal a Patek Philippe. You merely take care of it for the subsequent technology.”

As a model that promotes historical past and heritage as markers of high quality, turning into a standing image for the Instagram technology may need sat uncomfortably with the 182-year-old firm. However, Marino stated, the watchmaker has not visibly repositioned its model — nor want it fear about turning into too standard: “In a number of methods, the younger viewers — the hip-hop viewers — has discovered Patek possibly quite than the opposite approach round.

“This model has been a logo of luxurious since 1839, so I do not suppose there’s any hazard of them being seen as a flash within the pan,” he stated, including: “Twenty-seventeen was a lifetime in the past in hip-hop, and persons are nonetheless speaking about these watches.”

A watch from the Nautilus range, which contains some of Patek Philippe's most sought after models, on display at 2019 Baselworld luxury watch and jewelry fair in Basel, Switzerland.

A watch from the Nautilus vary, which incorporates a few of Patek Philippe’s most wanted fashions, on show at 2019 Baselworld luxurious watch and jewellery honest in Basel, Switzerland. Credit score: Stefan Wermuth/Bloomberg/Getty Photographs

Certainly, in line with Sharon Chan, director of watches at Bonhams public sale home in Hong Kong, Patek Philippe’s place within the zeitgeist is “a really constructive signal” for its future.

“5 to eight years in the past, Patek Philippe watches have been largely purchased by older purchasers,” she stated over the telephone. “However not too long ago, it is all of the youthful technology — the second or third technology (down) from the primary collector purchasers we had.

“Their accumulating type and the categories (of watches they’re considering) are fairly completely different. Up to now, skilled collectors seemed for probably the most difficult variations of merchandise. These days, they have a tendency to go for less complicated features — one thing simple-looking or comprised of completely different supplies. Whereas up to now 80% of our Patek Philippe watches we bought have been (comprised of) valuable metals, now, most clients are requesting the stainless steel ones.”

“Hardly ever, do (the watches) actually simply go all the way down to the subsequent technology,” she added. “However it’s a model that connects the generations collectively.”

More cash, fewer problems

Celebrities’ fixation with Patek Philippe may mirror its standing because the world’s most costly watchmaker — if public sale information are your measure, at the very least. The model is chargeable for eight of the ten priciest watches ever to go beneath the hammer, together with a stainless-steel Reference 1518 that fetched over 11 million Swiss francs ($11.1 million) and a pink gold model that smashed estimates to promote for almost $9.6 million final September.
A Patek Philippe watch formerly owned by Andy Warhol on display at a Christie's auction house in June 2021.

A Patek Philippe watch previously owned by Andy Warhol on show at a Christie’s public sale home in June 2021. Credit score: Cindy Ord/Getty Photographs

Thought of among the many most intricate mechanical watches ever produced, the Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication turned the world’s most costly timepiece when it bought for 23.2 million Swiss francs ($24 million) in 2014. That document was comprehensively smashed 5 years later by an unworn Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime 6300A-010, created particularly for a charity public sale in Geneva, that fetched 31 million Swiss francs ($31.2 million).
Based in Geneva as Patek, Czapek & Cie (the present title was adopted after Polish co-founder Antoni Norbert Patek partnered with Frenchman Adrien Philippe), the model claims to have been making watches “with out interruption” since 1839. Queen Victoria was among the many watchmaker’s early purchasers, buying certainly one of its “keyless” watches — the primary on this planet to function with out prior winding — at London’s Nice Exhibition in 1851.
An undated photograph offers a glimpse into Patek Philippe's factory in Geneva.

An undated {photograph} affords a glimpse into Patek Philippe’s manufacturing facility in Geneva. Credit score: Bettmann Archive/Getty Photographs

New expertise would proceed underpinning Patek Philippe’s enchantment among the many period’s wealthy and well-known. In 1868, the corporate produced what it believes to be the world’s first wristwatch for the Hungarian Countess Koscowicz (a declare hotly disputed by rival Breguet, which says a 1810 timepiece it made for the Queen of Naples was the world’s first). Patek Philippe has since been awarded over 100 patents, from the primary perpetual calendar mechanism for pocket watches to “time zone” watches that featured a second hour hand for worldwide jet-setters.

However its most unique vary has confirmed to be certainly one of its least difficult: the Nautilus.

Designed to resemble a ship’s porthole, Nautilus watches price upwards of $30,000 every, with costs on the secondary market typically considerably greater. Following standard ranges like 1932’s Calatrava, the gathering launched in 1976 and has been worn not solely by royalty and rappers, however enterprise moguls, athletes and Hollywood stars.

Extra not too long ago, Drake has proven off his emerald-laden Patek Philippe Nautilus Reference 5726, custom-designed by late dressmaker Virgil Abloh, whereas Kylie Jenner is usually pictured sporting a white gold diamond-encrusted Nautilus Reference 5719. The Nautilus additionally makes common appearances on Instagram, starting from the delicate (see John Mayer sporting his in a mirror selfie) to the not-so-suble (see actuality star Scott Disick waiting exterior a then-unopened Patek Philippe retailer alongside the caption, “What time ya opening @patekphilippe?”).
It’s the stainless-steel Nautilus Reference 5711, particularly, that has acquired cult standing in superstar circles. In 2019, the New York Occasions reported that solely “fastidiously vetted purchasers” could be added to a ready record — after which they would want to attend as much as eight years to buy one.

Then, final yr, the corporate supplied an surprising response to the demand: it discontinued the 5711.

Within the aforementioned Occasions article, firm president Thierry Stern, whose household has run the watchmakers since 1932, prompt that Patek Philippe didn’t need to be seen as a one-model model. “We make about 140 completely different fashions at Patek Philippe, and the essential Ref. 5711 in metal is only one of them,” he was quoted as saying. “We’ve many different fashions which are extra difficult and arguably extra stunning.”

The 5711 nonetheless made a short reappearance in late 2021, with the discharge of a limited-edition olive-green model and a Tiffany & Co. collaboration within the US jeweler’s iconic blue. However — for now at the very least — the mannequin seems to have been scrubbed from the model’s web site, the place the coveted 5711 is conspicuous by its absence amongst over 25 other types of Nautilus.

Aura of exclusivity

Ready lists and hovering resale costs clearly bolster the model’s aura of exclusivity. However the shortage could also be a real matter of provide and demand. Whereas Rolex is assumed to provide within the area of one million timepieces a yr, Patek Philippe’s annual output could also be as little as 50,000, Chan stated.

Actor Kevin Hart, seen wearing a Patek Philippe Celestial watch at the German premiere of "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" in 2017.

Actor Kevin Hart, seen sporting a Patek Philippe Celestial watch on the German premiere of “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” in 2017. Credit score: Brian Dowling/WireImage/Getty Photographs

“Everybody thinks (ready lists are) a advertising and marketing technique, however as a result of the demand has elevated in such brief time, they actually can’t meet it. Over the previous two years, my watch circles are seeing 10 occasions the conventional requests for the Nautilus or the Aquanaut,” she stated, referring to a different standard vary launched in 1997.

“That is simply my little circle, so are you able to think about, all world wide, how many individuals are attempting to get one or two or three for themselves?”

If the watchmaker have been to ramp up manufacturing, it would come at the price of high quality, which may itself threaten the model, added Hodinkee’s Marino.

“What any elite watchmaker will let you know is that they produce as many as they’ll to keep up the extent of high quality that their clients anticipate,” he stated. “Now, may Patek produce a ton extra watches and put their title on it? They might. However then it would not be Patek anymore. The restricted nature and the craftsmanship is what you are paying for to start with.”



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