Bring out the big guns. In this edition of our Versus Series we pit two Swiss super brands against one another, as we look at the investment value of Vacheron Constantin versus Patek Philippe. They are two of the most desirable brands and with good reason.
Big Guns of the Watch World
Their names, heritage, and craftsmanship are known the world over. While Patek Philippe may well be the Rolex of the well heeled (a comparison grounded in their relatively similar practice of supply limitation and seemingly bankable appreciation), it does not necessarily walk away with this title without a fight.
The investment value of Vacheron Constantin has a few things in its favour. Firstly, the aesthetic is quite different. There is often a little more flair surrounding a modern day Vacheron Constantin, especially in their enamelled and bejewelled pieces.
That’s not to say Patek Philippe are boring exactly, but they are the masters of subtlety. And if I’m being honest, the only reason I’d wear a Calatrava is for its undeniable build quality.
Group Ownership Advantage
In a strange way, the investment value of Vacheron Constantin benefits from being the Swiss Jewel in the Richemont Group’s crown. Sometimes brands suffer from positioning issues when consumed by a group, if, like A. Lange & Söhne, they are required to play a certain role at odds with their independent identity (in Lange’s case, the dedication to precious metal housings over the more traditionally steel).
Vacheron Constantin does not suffer from the same problem. The advantage of being owned by a group (especially when you’re the top marque) is that the larger scale and more wide-ranging manufacturing capacities means you can get some really interesting stuff for a much more reasonable price.
To illustrate this point, let’s take a look at a couple of each brand’s latest offerings.
Aquanaut Debut at Baselworld
The Patek Philippe Aquanaut Chronograph 5968A made a strong impression at this year’s Baselworld. The flashy orange accents on the dial are a congruously sporty touch, which is nice to see. Sometimes I think Patek holds back too much for fear of alienating their faithful, but I’ve never believed they need to be so cautious.
FIFTYSIX day-date Debut at SIHH
SIHH saw the debut of the Vacheron Constantin FIFTYSIX day-date in stainless steel (reference 4400E/000A-B437). This piece offers a great example of the brand and comes in at around $20,000.
That’s a lot of watch for the money, and eminently more wearable than some of their less robust cases of old.
Investment vs. Aesthetics
So does the value of the Vacheron, or the vividness of the new Aquanaut (especially on its included orange strap) steal victory in today’s clash?
As much of a VC fan boy as I admittedly am, I struggle to overlook the uncommonly interesting Aquanaut. It seems to have come at the perfect time, with this particular family managing to up Patek’s appeal with the younger crowd.
At $40,000, it’s certainly a big investment, but its unusual styling means it could well become very collectible further down the line.
That said, it’s twice the price, and far less versatile. If I was buying a watch to wear, I’d take the Vacheron Constantin FIFTYSIX; if I was buying a watch to sell, the Patek Philippe Aquanaut Chronograph 5968A would get the nod.
And therefore, ladies and gentlemen, we have a tie.
About the Author:
Fell Jensen is a Swiss-trained watchmaker working as an industry analyst.