Now we are coming to the crux of it: ‘Notable Watchmakers P-R’ may not be the most glamorous blog title ever composed, but the watches we’re discussing within it certainly are. It’s almost shameful how many times we have muttered the words Patek Philippe in this series, but once again, along with Rolex, we’ll be discussing these 2 behemoths of the watch industry, aiming to shed new light on these über-popular brands.
Watch Manufacturers We’ll Be Discussing:
- Parmigiani Fleurier
- Patek Philippe
- Philippe Dufour
- Roger Dubuis
Beware the False Advertiser
You may well have heard of Panerai and Perrelet, brands that, on the face of it, go hand in hand with horological innovation and strong prevalence… or so it would seem. From previous blogs in this borro watch guide series, we have seen that prestige and heritage not only sells watches, but heightens their value. Brands are aware of this, but consumers need to be aware of the clever marketing ploys certain watchmakers undertake.
Take Perrelet as an example. One would be forgiven for thinking this company must have a fantastic history, probably founded by Abraham-Louis Perrelet, the inventor of the automatic pocket-watch. Yet it was Perrelet’s grandson, Louis-Frédéric, that lay the foundation for the company, some fifty years later. And although the Perrelet website is happy to divulge this, there is then a gap in its ‘history’ section, from 1834 until now. What we know to be true is that the company we see today was actually founded in 2004, and while they do make some lovely watches, the value of them based on their supposedly 250-year heritage is less than tangible.
Then we come to Panerai. Again, the PR and marketing department have done an excellent job here, with close association to cutting-edge Italian design. However, we all know that the centre of the horological universe is Switzerland, and while these watches have been successful in the USA, they are yet to compete with their European contemporaries. Then there is the somewhat shaky history: the company was indeed founded in 1860, going onto specialise in their Radiomir luminous timepieces. However, between 1938-93 the company is reported to have made just 300 watches, supporting the widely-held opinion that the watchmaker had actually gone bust. It wasn’t until 1997, when the Richemont Group acquired Panerai that things began to change. While they have started to create a bit of a cult-following, particularly with the Pam 88, one must be careful to separate the advertising bumf from true watchmaking credentials.
Talking of clever marketing, there are undoubtedly two manufacturers who have got the art down to a T: Patek Philippe and Rolex. These brands have become buzzwords in the world of luxury watches, used as frequently among watch aficionados as the general public. In this section, borro aim to shed some new light onto these well-known brands.
For instance, you’ll know from our blog on the importance of ‘Swiss’ watches, that Rolex actually originated in London, not Switzerland, somewhat of a latecomer to the party. And while the brand is still producing high-quality watches, there is some room for the argument of style-over-substance. What they do, they do well, but have they featured in any key prizes of late? Take the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève as an example: in the past 10 years Rolex hasn’t even been nominated, let alone won, any of the competition’s categories. Yet the brand’s reputation continues to grow worldwide. For Rolex, the mainstream is its saviour. They are known as the king of bling, but that’s not just bling for bling’s sake – it’s bling with heritage. As such the value of a Rolex watch will continue to hold and grow.
To find out more about the value of your Rolex, contact a member of the borro team today.
Then we come to Patek Philippe. Like Rolex, they tend to make everything in-house, which bumps up the value. But did you know they too have suffered in the competition stakes? In fact the last time they won at the GPHG, it was for lady’s watch the Gondolo Gemma Ref. 4991 in 2007. Having said that, there is an argument to say prevalence is enough to outweigh innovation. Patek certainly have that in abundance, accredited for creating the world’s first ever wristwatch. The subtle class and elegance of these watches still sets them apart from the competition to this day.
Innovation & Complication
Sometimes it’s the independents who have the last laugh – small companies, perhaps even singular watchmakers, who make everything in-house, all by hand and in incredibly small numbers. Philippe Dufour is the pinnacle of his profession, a universally respected master of the art of watchmaking, perhaps explaining better than anyone why it is that mechanical watches will always prevail over their admittedly more accurate quartz counterparts:
‘they belong to a team: the watch and the guy. Because the watch, without the guy, is dead. He knows that every morning he has to do this little thing and it’s a great pleasure for him. He looks at the moment – he sees the click working, the tick, tick, tick and he’s happy for the day. You see? It’s a different approach’
The essence of his watches then, while incredibly well-made, is simplicity – and this so happens to be the title of his latest line of watches. Added to the fact Dufour’s watches are so rare that for some models, only 4 were ever made, these have the potential to reach phenomenal prices – as seen by this Sotheby’s article.
Also of note in the independent watch stakes are Roger Dubuis and Parmigiani Fleurier, whose Toric Capitole won the GPHG for ‘Watch Complication’ in 2011.
Next week we’ll be rounding off our watchmaker blogs, going on to new topics including antique watches and the value of other timepieces, including carriage clocks and pocket-watches. In the meantime do let us know your opinions on the watches we’ve covered. We’re always keen to hear your experiences and incorporate them whenever possible – after all this blog is for you, our readers!
Until next time…
Clocking off, Ed Hallinan and the borro team.