Spend any time in the watch collecting world and you’ll see certain tastes come and go. Very often, they’ll bubble up when you least expect it – recent popularity of the Patek Philippe Nautilus is a great example of this. But the real knack is in spotting the sleeping giants; those underrated models that are punching well above their price tag.
With more than three decades in the business, David Duggan has just such a knack, so One To Watch asked him for his view on what the hidden gem of 2020 might be? The answer: the Patek Philippe Golden Ellipse. Here are David’s five reasons why this could be the luxury watch investment you’ve been looking for…
When you think about Patek Philippe and longevity, I guarantee one model will always come to mind: the Calatrava. But a lot of people don’t know that the Golden Ellipse, or Ellipse d’Or (more on this in a moment), is the second oldest watch model in the Patek family. It was first launched back in 1968 and has been in circulation ever since.
Patek marked the timepiece’s 50th anniversary in 2018 with the release of two models – the grand-taille rose-gold reference 5738R with an ebony sunburst dial and delicate rose gold hour markers and hands, and the stunning limited-edition reference 5738/50P-001 in platinum with a black grand feu enamel layer featuring hand-engraved volute patterns.
When I first started out, the Golden Ellipse was my aspirational watch and it remains of interest to die-hard collectors. However, I think it’s been rather overlooked in favour of the Calatrava, which, to my mind, makes it a real bargain at the moment. Even today I’m always on the lookout for the 18kt yellow gold with champagne dial because it’s such an unusual looking piece.
What really makes the Golden Ellipse stand out from the crowd is its unique elliptical – not quite round, not quite rectangular – shape. At the time, the market had never seen anything like it, and it was this distinctiveness that quickly turned the model into a cult classic. But this is no arbitrary oval. The shape is based on what’s known as the ‘golden ratio’ (hence the name) or the Fibonacci sequence. This mathematical proportion – approximately 1.618 – is found everywhere in nature, from seashells to beehives to flowers, and is replicated in everything from art (think Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus) to architecture (the Egyptian pyramids). The aesthetically pleasing effect of this ratio on our brain has even been proven by science. So, just looking at a Patek Philippe Golden Ellipse is a satisfying experience.
At its peak in the 1970s, Patek had 65 different versions of the Golden Ellipse out on the market, meaning that there was something to suit everyone’s taste. Models included a Nautilus version, several highly jewelled ladies’ models and some unusual dial colours. However, throughout its 50-year history, certain principles have held true. A lot of that is to do with the unusual shape, but it’s also the fact that the original blue dial has persisted, as has the simplicity of the hour markers and hands and the hidden lugs, as seen in the current reference 5738P. There’s no doubt the finishing and construction has evolved over time – that’s to be expected with Patek’s attention to craftsmanship – but it is these principles that give the Golden Ellipse a timeless quality. Frankly whichever model you opt for, you are literally buying a piece of Patek history here.
In the grand scheme of complicated watches, the Golden Ellipse is deceptively simple – this is a watch that unabashedly lets its shape do all the talking. And yet, this is still Patek Philippe and nothing is ever as simple as it looks when it comes to this remarkable brand. For a start it is the thinnest watch in the Patek family, which brings its own set of challenges - it takes around nine months to make one. And, since 1977, the model has featured the ultra-thin automatic calibre 240, which means somehow Patek manages to pack an eye-watering 161 components into a calibre that is just 2.53mm high.
Patek Philippe’s popularity amongst European royalty and aristocracy are well documented. Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert were fans, wearing them at the Great Exhibition in 1851. Almost 20 years later, the Comtesse Koscowicz of Hungary bought Patek Philippe’s very first wristwatch, kicking off a trend that would eventually lead to the marginalisation of the pocket watch. A little more recently, though, Queen Elizabeth II was photographed in 1984 wearing a beautiful reference 4975 in white gold and diamond bezel. So, if you do decide to invest in a Golden Ellipse this year you’ll be in esteemed company.
If you’re interested in buying or selling a Patek Philippe Golden Ellipse or any other watch, do get in touch to make an appointment or visit us at our showroom in London Mayfair’s Burlington Arcade.