7 Iconic Patek Philippe Owners and the Stories Behind their Watches
Known for their quality, rarity, innovation, exquisite design and intricate construction, Patek Philippe timepieces have graced the wrists of a number of luminaries since practically the inception of the brand. From royalty and celebrities to leaders in their fields, here are the stories of just a few of these personages and their Patek Philippes.
Buy, Value or Appraise Your Watches and Timepieces
Bid or buy watches and timepieces for sale, value your item, or request a free appraisal to sell your collection.
1. Queen Victoria
Patek Philippe may not have risen to fame had it not been for Queen Victoria, who discovered the watch brand in 1851 at the Great Exhibition in London, helping to catapult the company’s success. Her husband Prince Albert organized the Great Exhibition, and the watch company’s founders Antoine Norbert de Patek and Jean Adrien Philippe were showcasing their timepieces at the celebrated event. Queen Victoria purchased watches for both her husband and herself.
What Patek Philippe Watch Did Queen Victoria Wear?
Hers was a blue enamel pendant watch with a floral design and diamond pendent. However, what made this striking watch unique was its innovative keyless winding system, the first of its kind. Queen Victoria’s purchase commenced a long tradition of royal patronage of Patek Philippe that continues today with figures such as Queen Elizabeth II. (1)
2. Pablo Picasso
One of the most significant artists of the last century, Pablo Picasso had a profound influence on the course of art history.
What Patek Philippe Watch Did Pablo Picasso Wear?
One of the three watches Picasso was observed wearing was a 1950s Patek Philippe Reference 2497-a triple-date moon phase with digital month and day aperture windows. Although Picasso is documented wearing this watch, it is unknown what happened to it (and the other watches in his collection) after his death, creating one of the great mysteries of the watch world. Who knows where or when this watch will show up some day- perhaps at auction? (2)
3. Elizabeth Taylor
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton ignited their fiery romance on the set of Cleopatra in 1962 while they were both still married to other people. At the time, the film was the most expensive ever produced at $44 million, and the affair one of the most scandalous to go public, sparking tabloid headlines.
Which Patek Philippe Watch Did Elizabeth Taylor Wear?
Burton gave Taylor a diamond and gold ladies’ Patek Philippe Nautilus on the set of Cleopatra. The watch had an oval black dial with a pave-diamond bezel surrounding it and an 18-carat gold link band. Taylor had the watch inscribed with the Welsh phrase “Wy’n dy garu di,” which translates to “I love you” in English, in honor of Burton, who was from Wales. The stars went on to marry and divorce twice, as well as make several more films together. (3)
4. Dalai Lama
U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gifted the Dalai Lama a Patek Philippe in 1943 as part of an effort to explore building a road from India to China through Tibet in order to support Chinese resistance to the Japanese during World War II. While FDR did not present the watch personally, it was presented along with a letter from him by Illia Tolstoy (grandson of the Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy) and Brooke Dolan, two intelligence agents of the Office of Strategic Services (later the Central Intelligence Agency) in Lhasa, Tibet. They, in turn, accepted a ritual “khata” ceremonial scarf.
Which Patek Philippe Pocket Watch Does the Dalai Lama Use?
The watch is a complicated yellow gold Reference 658 pocket watch model with a perpetual calendar with moon phase, split seconds chronograph and minute repeater. Features such as the smaller registers, Arabic numerals that go from 1-12 (with exception of the 6) and the longer signature reading “Patek Philippe & Co.” (as opposed to just “Patek Philippe”) indicate that it is an early example. The watch is exceptionally rare, as only about 15 examples of this reference were ever produced. The Dalai Lama, who was captivated from a young age by mechanical objects, still owns the watch. From cars to radios, he would pull things apart and put them back together, and has even stated that if he were not a monk, he would have been an engineer. A genuine aficionado, his interest is spurred by a fascination with watchmaking. However, he tries to play down his watches, such as replacing the original wristband with inexpensive stretchable bands and turning the watch face inward. (4)
5. John Lennon
Another great mystery of the watch world is whatever happened to John Lennon’s Patek Philippe.
What Patek Philippe Watch Did John Lennon Wear?
Lennon, a co-founder of the Beatles, one of the most successful bands of our time, was pictured wearing a Patek Philippe Reference 2499 triple date moonphase on his 40th birthday, less than just two months before his tragic death. It is unclear if the watch was his, but the photos were taken by his wife, Yoko Ono. In the photos, Lennon shows off birthday gifts from her: a yellow and black tie she knitted as well as a ruby, sapphire and diamond American flag pin. The photos show Lennon holding his wrist up and pointing, indicating he may also be displaying the watch. Could this have been another birthday gift? And if so where is this watch today? (5)
6. Gianni Agnelli
Leading Italian industrialist Gianni Agnelli was a prominent figure in the elite European jet set and known simultaneously as “The Prince of Italy,” “L’Avvocato” (“The Lawyer”) and “The Rake of the Riviera.” The principal shareholder of Fiat was also known as a style icon, and his wardrobe exerted tremendous influence over men’s fashion. One of his most distinctive dressing habits was to famously wear his watch over his shirtsleeve. His friend, Taki Theodoracopulos, said that Agnelli wore his watches this way because Italian shirt makers at the time designed shirts so close to the wrist.
What Patek Philippe Watch Did Gianni Agnelli Wear?
One of the watches that can be seen prominently worn over his shirt was his Patek Philippe Reference 1415HU Heure Univerelle, or World Time. (6)
7. General George Patton
General George Patton is considered one of the most celebrated U.S. combat generals. Known as “Old Blood and Guts,” his military acumen allowed him to lead successful campaigns through the Mediterranean, France and Germany during World War II.
What Patek Philippe Watch Did George Patton Wear?
When Patton graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1909, his parents gave him a five-minute repeater by Patek Philippe made for Tiffany & Co. It is engraved: “Lieut. George S. Patton U.S.A. from his Father and Mother, June 11th 1909.” According to Patton, they purchased the watch for $350; the same watch recently sold at Heritage Auctions for $137,000, demonstrating the powerful return on investment these watches can generate. Patton brought the watch with him during his military endeavors, including on the Mexican Expedition against Pancho Villa in 1916, and then to the battlefields of Europe during World War I. Reminiscing about the gift, Patton remarked: “I carried it in Mexico and France, it keeps perfect time and is a great watch.” He kept the watch until he died, when it was then passed on to his son and subsequently his grandson, perfectly epitomizing Patek Philippe’s slogan: “You never actually own a Patek Philippe; you just look after it for the next generation.” (7)
What is the Value of a Patek Philippe Watch?
Interested to learn more about why memorable figures such as these wore a Patek Philippe? Take a look at this wrist watch price guide to learn more about what makes a timepiece valuable. Ready to sell? Request a free appraisal of your Patek Philippe watch.
- https://life.spectator.co.uk/articles/ones-watch/ , https://senatus.net/article/patek-philippe-peerless/, https://www.patek.com/en/company/history#1839-1877
- https://www.swisswatchexpo.com/TheWatchClub/2017/08/17/pablo-picassos-missing-watches/ , https://blog.crownandcaliber.com/pablo-picassos-watches/
- https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/in-depth-a-look-at-the-wristwatches-of-elizabeth-taylor, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/1998/03/elizabeth-taylor-199803, https://www.revolution.watch/past-time-richard-burton/, http://threadnz.com/fashion/iconic-style-elizabeth-taylor-jewellery/
- https://blog.crownandcaliber.com/dalai-lamas-watches/, https://www.esquireme.com/content/16056-rolex-patek-philippe-and-the-dalai-lama, https://patekwatch.blogspot.com/2016/06/dalai-lama-reveals-his-patek-philippe.html, https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/the-dalai-lamas-patek-philippe-gifted-by-fdr-via-an-oss-officer-who-was-the-grandson-of-leo-tolstoy-seriously
- https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/ten-watches-were-still-looking-for, https://patekwatch.blogspot.com/2011/10/john-lennon-yellow-gold-patek-philippe.html
- https://www.revolution.watch/gianni-agnelli-over-the-cuff/?archive, http://patekwatch.blogspot.com/2011/04/patek-philippe-coolness-gianni-agnelli.html
- https://www.biography.com/military-figure/george-patton, https://www.tiffany.com/watches/patek-philippe-partnership/, https://jewelry.ha.com/itm/timepieces/the-general-george-s-patton-watch-historically-important-andamp-very-rare-five-minute-repeater-by-patek-philippe-andamp-co-made-for/a/5242-56160.s?ic4=GalleryView-ShortDescription-071515