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Used Watches - What's With The Patek Philippe Seal?

At 300watches, we know that shopping for used watches means grappling with the lingo of high-end horology. Shopping for the best values among used watches should be fun and rewarding, so we work to make the experience as seamless as possible.

Given the escalating buyer interest in used watches labeled with the “Stamp of Geneva” and “chronometer” marks, it’s natural that collectors would be curious about a relatively recent arrival to the lexicon: the “Patek Philippe Seal.”

Since its inception, the Patek seal has been a magnet for controversy. As of April 2009, Patek Philippe, arguably the most prestigious house in watchmaking, declared that it would cease its ancient association with the Geneva Seal and exclusively apply its own seal to all Patek timepieces. Since Patek had been one of the longest-running and unarguably most prestigious marques to rely on the Geneva mark, the watchmaker’s withdrawal from Geneva inspections ignited an enormous controversy.

The Geneva Seal is administered under the aegis of the Watchmaking School of Geneva. Established in 1886 and last modified in 2012, the hallmark is awarded to fully cased watches (i.e., movement, dial, case) that meet the standards as defined in the laws of the Canton of Geneva. However, when Patek Philippe abandoned the hallmark in 2009, the mark vouched for movement quality only – and this is a key point. Five years have passed since that watershed moment, and the intervening period has given collectors of used watches time to reflect on the impact of Patek’s decision.

The good news is that used watches from the post-4/09 Patek epoch are unlikely to suffer in the eyes of the market. Patek Phillippe’s used watches continue to be regarded as an absolute phenomenon among premium timepieces.

Many used watches offer the advantage of built-in depreciation discount, but only Pateks have demonstrated a routine ability to gain value after the initial depreciation period. Among investment-grade watches, the market clearly prefers to assess the value of used watches from Patek on a model-by-model basis, and not according to pre/post 2009 hallmarks. Moreover, concerns about Patek’s ability to “police itself” were unwarranted, and time has proven the company’s product quality undiminished since withdrawing from the Geneva inspections.

The bad news is that the Patek Philippe seal doesn’t add any value. 

Unlike true innovations in engineering, manufacturing procedure, or art design, the Patek seal is a marketing exercise. While Patek insisted and continues to insist that their trademark proves a higher standard of quality… doesn’t every company claim the same? Moreover, the Geneva standard expanded to encompass complete watches in 2012, effectively going blow-for-blow with Patek’s holistic criteria

The reality is that Patek’s seal is a harmless marketing exercise designed to sell new watches at MSRP; for all intents and purposes, it can be ignored. Regardless of manufacturing date or hallmarks, collectors are advised to consider used watches from Patek for their charm, mechanical refinement, and outstanding value retention.