Patek Philippe Vs. Vacheron Constantin Watches [ALL Aspects]
Vacheron Constantin and Patek Philippe are known to be the most luxurious watch brands in the world. These companies have a rich history – The Vacheron Constantin company is the oldest watchmaking company in the world (in continuous operation) while the Patek Philippe company is the oldest family-owned watchmaker in Geneva that is still operating today.
Timepieces from both companies have found abode place in some of the most prestigious wrists and homes in the world. They have been worn by kings, royals, celebrities, presidents, and billionaires who could afford the price point they command. It does not matter which brand you choose between the two. You are guaranteed to have an experience of a lifetime.
And the price you will pay to own a vintage Patek Philippe or Vacheron Constantin watch cements this adage of the two companies being the most luxurious and expensive brands in the world. In 2019, the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime Ref. 6300A-010 watch made history as the most expensive watch ever sold at an auction at $31 million.
The Vacheron Kalista (a 1979 custom masterpiece that featured 118 emerald-cut diamonds) sold for $11 million. The creativity, innovation, and man-hours that go into making Patek Philippe or Vacheron Constantin watches are, inarguably, over the top. Patek Phillipe and Vacheron Constantin’s watches are appealing and special. This article places these watches head to head to compare features and functionality and offers insights into the watch that offers the best value for money.
Founded in 1839 by Antoine Norbert de Patek and François Czapek, Patek Philippe is the oldest family-owned independent watchmaking company in Geneva. When the company began operations, its driving force was to create timepieces of utmost precision and accuracy without losing aesthetic value.
And they have achieved this perfectly over the years through consistent innovations that have earned the company numerous awards – including the 1844 award for keyless winding and hand-setting system.
In 1863 they made the first Swiss wristwatch for Hungarian countess Koscowicz. From this achievement, the company would later gain over 100 patents during its continuous 183 years of watchmaking. The notable patents and awards include;
- Patent for time-zone watches in 1959
- An award for the tourbillon movement that achieved the world timekeeping precision record for a mechanical watch at the Geneva Observatory in 1962 (The record is still unbeaten)
- Patent for ultra-thin automatic caliber 240 in 1977
- Patent for a secular perpetual calendar watch with retrograde date indication in 1986
- Patent for Annual Calendar mechanism technology in 1966
These patents solidified the company’s prestigious position on the totem pole of the watchmaking industry. Patek Phillipe’s clientele range from dignitaries, millionaires, celebrities, royalty, and top business executives.
Vacheron Constantin has over 250 years of continuous watchmaking history. The company was established in 1755 by Jean-Marc Vacheron and remains one of the most progressive and recognizable luxury watch brands. The company was passed down to generations of the Vacheron family until 1810 when Jacques-Barthelemy became the head of the company.
Jacques wanted to expand the business across the globe (before then they were exporting to Italy and France) and he brought in a strategic partner, Francois Constantin to help make this a reality. The company changed its name to Vacheron and Constantin. Francois Constantin was an ingenious businessman who took the business to America and other parts of the globe.
In 1887 the company became a joint-stock company after the death of Francois, Jacques, and other heirs who had taken over the helm of running the company. It would change hands several times with the latest ownership belonging to Richemont International – a successful and large Swiss watch manufacturing company.
Why compare the Patek Philippe Chronograph 5170G-010 and The Vacheron Constantin Harmony Chronograph Cal.3300 watches?
This article compares two classic watches in the same category – the Patek Philippe Chronograph 5170G-010 and the Vacheron Constantin Harmony Chronograph Cal.3300 watch. The harmony Chronograph 3300 caliber watch was the counter to the widely popular Patek Philippe 5170G-010 timepiece. Both companies spared no expense in the design and manufacture of these watches.
The Patek Philippe Chronograph 5170G-010 watch was released at BaselWorld in 2010. The Vacheron Constantin Harmony Chronograph Cal.3300 was released in 2015 at the SIH show to commemorate the 260th anniversary of the Vacheron Constantin brand. They manufactured a limited run of 260 pieces.
A Patek Philippe Chronograph 5170G watch costs north of $87,000. The Vacheron Constantin Harmony Chronograph Cal.3300 watch costs approximately $74,000. Custom pieces from either company can run into hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars depending on complexity, design, and the number of manpower spent. Most parts are assembled by hand by watchmakers with a wealth of experience in making luxury watches.
This is what makes these watches pricey. It is unheard of to find an original Patek Philippe or Vacheron Constantin watch going for less than $10,000. According to Wristadvisor.com, the most affordable Patek Philippe watch is the Aquanaut edition (with 5167A reference) which retails at $21,650. The most affordable Vacheron Constantin watch is the steel version of the FiftySix Edition watch (which debuted in 2018 at the SIHH) and retails at $11,700.
Design and Style
The Patek Philippe Chronograph 5170G-010 watch is meticulous and elegantly designed. The watch targeted the modern and contemporary clientele. It has a clean, simple design without the extra fluff and additions found in many luxury watches that debuted within this timeframe. It is a large watch but can still be worn with a suit or official attire comfortably.
The case has smooth, clean, and polished edges. The bezel is not exaggerated either, with the company choosing to stick to the simple polished outlook rather than the winding bezel you find in other luxury watches (such as the SBGA211G Grand Seiko diving watch). The Patek 5170G watch is made of white gold metal (also known as grey gold in the industry) and comes with either a black or white dial.
Both dials are also clean, without fluff, but nothing is boring about them. It does not have lots of inscriptions or added features. The black dial has well-polished Breguet Arabic numerous that allow for easy reading. The beautiful leaf-style hands are also simple, and functional, and may seem understated.
The inscriptions on the black dial (including the Patek Philippe signature at the 12 o’clock mark) are white, which increases the watch’s contrast. There is a Lancet-style counterweighted seconds mark for the chronograph. Each of the sub-registers features a miniature, railroad-style, white-printed track. The Vacheron Constantin Harmony Chronograph Cal.3300 watch has an ivory, bone-white dial with blue numbers and golden hands.
There is a ridged section underneath the tip of the lugs. The mid-case curves inwards at this point, making the watch look thinner than it is. The crown has a slash cut that makes it easy to tune the watch. It also has a coaxial mono-pusher in-built button. The hour and minute hands are rose-gold.
The hour-hand has an apple-head style while the minute-hand has a spear-shaped design. The counterweighted seconds-hand is blue and the chronograph section has a 45 minutes sub-dial. The chapter rings are red-gold and the hour markings are blue. There is a pulsation scale on the dial.
The Patek Philippe 5170G-010 watch measures 39.4mm in diameter (not inclusive of the crown) and is 11mm thick. There is a 21mm spacing between the lugs. This is pretty thin for a chronograph watch. This thickness means that the watch can fit under your cuff easily while resting flush on your wrist. The Vacheron Constantin Harmony Chronograph Cal.3300 watch has a 42mm case (not including the crown) with a square rounded look unique to this model.
It has a distance of 51.6mm from lug to lug and is 13mm thick. It is a broad watch with a lug spacing of 24mm. Although it is a big watch, its unique design makes it seem less overbearing when worn on small wrists. The overall design of the Vacheron Constantin Harmony Chronograph Cal.3300 was inspired by the model manufactured by the company in 1928.
The 1928 mono-pusher chronograph timepiece featured a bi-compax layout with poire-shaped hands, a pulsimeter scale on the white dial, and a shape that slightly resembles that of the Harmony chronograph (with the rounded white dial and square bezel). The Vacheron Constantin Harmony Chronograph Cal.3300 watch has a cushion-shaped, curved caseband with a circular dial enclosed inside a squarish bezel.
The single pusher on the crown was purely a design element. It was meant to give the watch a more sophisticated look, feel, and functionality. Placing all functionalities on a single element (the crown) made the watch more complex but elevated Vacheron Constantin’s company status as an innovative luxury watchmaking company. They added a power-reserve indicator at the base of the watch and painted the hour markers blue.
Straps and clasp
When you turn the watch underneath you can see the patented Patek Philippe de riguer pull-tabs spring bars. These tabs make it easier to remove both sides of the straps from the case to allow for deeper cleaning between the lugs. It also allows for easy changing of straps without the risk of damaging the watch by scratching when using a screwdriver.
The medium rectangular scale alligator leather straps have a single-fold grey gold clasp with the logo inscribed on the surface of the clasp. This clasp is beautifully polished and has a Calatrava cross to add panache to the mechanism. The Calatrava cross is also present on the crown. The two vintage-inspired chronograph pushes (for setting and resetting the watch) on the casing are also perfectly polished.
The Vacheron Constantin Harmony Chronograph Cal.3300 has matte dark brown alligator leather straps with a monotone stitch on the underside and a sheer-sided construction that shows you the layers of leather making the watch. The clasp is a single-fold, highly polished mechanism with a Maltese cross logo on the inner section.
The straps can also be brown alligator leather accompanied by a pink-gold single-fold clasp. The spring bars that hold the Harmony in position are slightly curved. Despite the watch’s seemingly large size, this small (but innovative) feature makes it much more comfortable for the wearer.
The Patek Philippe Chronograph 5170G watch features an in-house movement (CH 29-535 PS caliber). The CH 29-535 PS caliber was an improvement of the previous movement technology on most Patek Philippe watches and features modern and better chronographic movements with a 65-hour power reserve.
The wheels have self-adjusting hammers, 33 jewels with 269 components, and a patented Patek Gyromax balance. This balance adjusts for isochronism, heat, and cold. All the levers inside the watch are satin-finished and fully visible. Every screw has been black-polished with its slot and circumference chamfered to a clean and neat edge. The watch makes 28,800 revolutions per hour.
Vacheron Constantin Harmony Chronograph Cal.3300 watch is a mono-pusher chronograph. You can make it stop, start, or reset using the same button (located at the crown position). The 3300 caliber movement is manually-wound with a spectacular finish seen through the back sapphire case back.
Underneath, the watch has 252 parts including 35 jewels enclosed in an engraved half-bridge balance structure with Breguet to help it keep time.
It has a column wheel lateral clutch mono-pusher featuring a brass polished Maltese cross. The Vacheron Constantin Harmony Chronograph Cal.3300 watch has 65 hours of power reserve. The power spent is observed from the subdial at the 6 o’clock mark. It makes 21600 revolutions per hour. The screws are black polished, satin 8 steel levers with beveled, chamfered bridge edges, and mirrored glass on top.
The balance cock with golden Fleurisanne engraving is the only decorative highlight inside this watch. This gives the Vacheron Constantin Harmony Chronograph Cal.3300 watch an old vintage, yet impeccable look. A column wheel controls the chronograph functions, effectively eliminating the jerking of the watch’s seconds hand when you start the watch.
The cone-shaped gear between the crown and the winding pinion allows for the smooth winding of the watch. You still have to push it in or pull it out with some force. This design was and it prevents unwanted and accidental winding or unwinding by the slightest touch of the crown.
Neither The Vacheron Constantin Harmony Chronograph Cal.3300 nor Patek Philippe Chronograph 5170G watch is designed for diving. Both have a 30m water resistance capacity. This gives the two watches decent exposure to rain, splashes, and shields against damage if they accidentally fall into the water. However, do not wear any of these watches when diving or swimming.
Extra features and information
Because of the highly intricate and complicated mechanisms of the two watches, it is recommended that any mechanical service or repair be done at the factory or designated repair centers. Patek Philippe Company encourages their clients to contact them when they want to service their watch. They have serviced their watches in-house or through regulated agents since the company’s inception.
When you have spent close to $100,000 on a timepiece, you will be hesitant to take it to a watch repair shop that opened recently around your block. These watches need to be handled by trained personnel with the tools and expertise to deal with such delicate pieces.
The watches we have looked at here command more than $70,000 apiece. The price has not fluctuated since the watches debuted. Only 260 pieces of the Vacheron Constantin Harmony Chronograph watches were manufactured and sold out. This makes it extremely difficult to access an original Vacheron Constantin Harmony Chronograph Cal.3300 watch (unless in the second-hand market). The rarity pushes the prices through the roof.
The Patek Philippe Chronograph 5170G-010 watch is also a rare watch and a beautiful piece to own. The older and rare a watch is, the higher the resale value. Watches from Vacheron Constantin and Patek Philippe companies hold their value well compared to watches from other luxury companies. Watch enthusiasts and collectors pay a premium to own these watches because they know they can flip them for a profit in the future.
As pioneers in the luxury watchmaking industry, Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin companies have come a long way and have created legendary timepieces. Consistent innovations (such as the in-house CH 29-535 PS caliber for Patek Philippe and the mono-pusher chronographic mechanism of the Vacheron Harmony watch ), adaptation to technology, and great marketing have made watches from these companies irresistible to the avid watch collector.
The Patek Philippe 5710G-010 and the Vacheron Constantin Harmony Chronograph Cal.3300 are among the most popular luxury timepieces ever manufactured across every spectrum. The same goes for the Patek Philippe nautilus and the Vacheron Constantin Overseas watch. Whichever watch you buy, you are guaranteed to get value for money.
They are elegant and rare. Patek Philippe makes less than 50,000 watches per year and only 260 pieces of the Vacheron Harmony watch were manufactured to celebrate the company’s 260th anniversary. This keeps the value of these watches high and makes them perfect conversational pieces and possible investments with an almost guaranteed higher ROI.
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