Rolex vs. Patek Phillipe

Rolex vs Patek Philippe luxury watch brand

There are a lot of brands in the luxury watch market. As a result, fashion experts and lovers of wristwatches usually have difficulty selecting the best out of these brands. While some buyers have settled for brands that they can afford, others want the best brand available.

This article reviews two of the top brands in the industry, Rolex and Patek Philippe. These brands have made a name for themselves and acquired critical acclaim over the years as some of the market’s top names.

Also, celebrities and business moguls have made these brands more popular due to their patronage. There have been many Rolex vs. Patek Phillipe debates in the industry.

This article will discuss the origin and features to discern which is better. At the end of this review, you will be able to select the better of the two brands based on features and other considerations.


Patek Phillipe is a watch brand made from a successful partnership. The company was started in 1839 by Antoine Patek and Francois Czapek. It began as a brand that makes customized pocket watches for famous figures and royalty. With these watches, the brand had a reputation among high-end clients.

In 1844, five years after founding the company, Antoine Patek met Adrien Phillipe, another watchmaking mastermind. Phillipe was still enjoying the popularity garnered from his innovative keyless winding and hand-setting system. After many discussions, the two men decided to go into business together, forming the Patek Phillipe brand in 1845.

However, upon establishing the company, they continued making watches using Patek’s style and methods. This continued with plans to diversify. Thus, they decided to extend their popularity outside their locality and decided to go international.

Antoine Patek traveled to the United States to set up another company branch while Phillipe stayed back to handle the business. Patek’s sojourn to the US was a success because he could collaborate with Tiffany & Co. This partnership still exists today.

While Patek was in America, Phillipe took an innovative turn with the company. He secured a patent right for his keyless winding technique and hand-setting system. He led the brand to produce its first pocket watch with a tourbillion complication with the patent.

He also led the invention of a mainspring known as slipping spring. The mainspring is a spiral torsion spring made from metal ribbons. Its purpose is to provide power for mechanical watches.

With the diversification led by Patek and Phillipe’s innovation, the brand rose to the top of the list within the luxury watch industry. Patek Phillipe held this position, even after the death of its founding partners.

Antoine Patek died in 1877, and seventeen years later, his partner, Adrien Phillipe, died in 1894. The death of the partners left Adrien Phillipe’s son at the helms of affairs. He ran the company for 30 years before its acquisition by the Stern Brothers in 1932.  

On the other hand, Rolex is a brainchild of a visionary and an innovative young man, Hans Wilsdorf. In 1905, when he was 24, he founded a watch company specializing in selling and distributing watches rather than making them. However, he had a completely different thought on what a watch should look like. Instead of pocket watches, he imagined watches worn on wrists.

To test his theory on the elegance of wristwatches, he acquired wristwatches in small numbers from Bienne, Switzerland, and he sold these watches to the elites of London society. After witnessing the favorable acceptance of the wristwatches, he moved to start making them. Thus, Rolex was born.

Despite his excitement for starting a watch company, he was patient enough to pay a lot of attention to the quality of his watches’ movement. This skill paid off as his watch was the first to receive the Swiss Certificate of Chronometric Precision. The award is one given for quality watch movements by the Official Watch Rating Centre in Bienne.

Rolex timepieces also got a Class A Precision Certificate, awarded by the Kew Observatory in Great Britain in 1914. This award is special because only marine chronometers get this award before Rolex watches broke the jinx.

By 1919, Rolex moved to Geneva, Switzerland. This move was to achieve the Swiss Made standard that almost all watch brands sought after at the time. Rolex became registered as a Swiss Brand in 1920.

It is evident from comparing the history of the two brands that Patek Phillipe started before Rolex. This is advantageous as it allowed the company to undergo numerous changes and innovations that positioned it as a foremost watch brand today.

Movement and Sophistication

Patek Phillipe is a fan of showcasing watch movements as a work of art. As a result, most Patek Phillipe watches feature a sapphire crystal case back that allows you to see the watches’ movement.

It is not surprising that Patek Phillipe as a brand allows you to view its watches’ movement. This is due to the amount of work and sophistication added to the movement.

Speaking of sophistication, Patek Phillipe adds a lot of complications to its watches. You will find sophisticated features such as minute repeaters, tourbillions, world timer, perpetual calendars, and power reserve indicators on many Patek watches.

You will also notice this sophistication in the numerous hand types used for its Calatrava collection. These hand types used in this collection are more than the hand types used by Rolex in its entire line of watches.

On the other hand, Rolex focuses more on the precision of its movements. Most of its movements have basic designs but high functionalities. Therefore, you cannot see the movement of Rolex watches. Also, Rolex doesn’t add any form of sophistication or complications to its watches.

From this comparison, it is evident that Patek Phillipe is a more sophisticated brand than Rolex. It places a lot of attention and details to its watch movements and adds complications to many of them.

Materials, Style, and Variety

Patek Phillipe reinforces the idea that its timepieces are for the rich and wealthy as it uses gold and platinum materials to make its watches. Almost all of the watches from the brand are made with these precious materials.

However, this doesn’t mean that you won’t find Patek Phillipe watches made with steel. But these steel watches bear marks or labels that make them less utilitarian. For instance, the Nautilus model, one of the Patek watches made with steel, is dubbed as “the most expensive timepiece made from steel.”

Also, Patek Phillipe offers a lot of variety with its timepieces. Watch lovers can choose from the Nautilus collection or Calatrava collection. There are also other collections such as the Aquanaut, the Ellipse, the Gondolo, the Twenty-4, and many other collections. You should not be surprised to know that Patek still makes pocket watches, clocks, and other timepieces.

On the flipside, Rolex watches are made from steel. They do not feature expensive and precious materials such as gold or platinum. While Rolex has many watch collections for buyers to choose from, the brand doesn’t make pocket watches and other watch types.

Comparatively, Patek Phillipe uses better materials and offers more variety to buyers than Rolex. This is another Patek advantage over Rolex.


Patek Phillipe uses less industrialized methods and some manual methods in making its watches. These manual methods are devoted to their movement’s designs. As a result of these manual aspects of production, Patek Phillipe produces between 60,000 watches per year.

On the flip side, Rolex uses a fully industrialized approach to making its timepieces. This makes the production process faster and allows Rolex to churn out between 800,000 and one million watches in a year.

Under this comparison, one would see that Rolex uses a better production method and produces more watches than Patek Phillipe. This allows the brand to stay one of the industry leaders and a competitive edge of Patek Phillipe in this regard.

Price and Prestige

Patek Phillipe is a brand that stands out as a prestigious brand with high-end watches. In its adverts, the brand claims that you never actually own a Patek. You simply look after it for the next generation. This advert strengthens the feeling that Patek Phillipe doesn’t advertise its products like watches; it advertises them as a prestigious heirloom.

Patek Phillipe watches are transferred from generation to generation, and they usually appreciate over time. The most expensive Patek Phillipe watch was a model named Patek Phillipe Grandmaster Chime. The watch was auctioned in 2019 for a whopping $31 million. With this price, it beats Rolex’s Daytona, which sold for $17.7 million.

While the Rolex watch was expensive because the actor Paul Newman wore it, Patek Phillipe’s watch was expensive because it was a masterpiece.  It also suffices to say that the entry price for Patek Phillipe watches is $120,000.


Despite the impressive history and features of watches under both brands, it is evident that Patek Phillipe is the better brand of the two.