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Which Patek Philippe Ellipse Model is Right For You?

The Golden Ellipse might well be Patek Philippe's best-kept secret. Considered something of a 'fringe' piece, it's for years taken a backseat to the collection's better-known pieces like the Nautilus and the Calatrava. But the brand's second-oldest watch is actually a masterpiece. Sure, it's not as complicated as the Calatrava and it's not as flashy as the Nautilus, but therein lies its charm. There's beauty in simplicity - and mastery. Hiding a flaw in a watch with multiple complications and bling-tastic detailing is simple enough. Hiding a flaw in a piece as understated as the Patek Philippe Golden Ellipse is something else. Fortunately, the Golden Ellipse is about as flawless a design as it's possible to get. Since its launch in 1968, the Golden Ellipse has been a lesson to us all in the benefits of keeping things simple. In the process, it's become an icon - an icon few people have heard of, but an icon nonetheless. If you've decided to eschew Patek Philippe's louder (and rounder) pieces in favor of this elliptical beauty, you've made a great decision. But now comes the hard part - deciding which is the right model for you.

The Vintage Pieces

If you're willing to take your search for the perfect watch to the vintage market, you'll be spoilt for choice. The Golden Ellipse has been a fixture of the Patek Philippe collection since 1968: as you'd expect, then, there's plenty of pieces floating around the auctions. As writes, by the end of the '70s, Patek Philippe had already released dozens of different versions of the piece in a variety of different sizes and precious metals. Each variant bought something new to the collection, whether it be a new dial color or a new choice of bracelet. In the 80s, the brand began to push things even further, creating hybrids like the Nautilus Ellipse version and swapping out the distinctive indexes for Roman numerals. 1993 saw the launch of Ref 4834/12J, a lady's model featuring strap lugs that, as notes, echoed the case shape as elegant double ellipses. With the Ref. 5738P-001, we were treated to the first platinum edition of the jumbo model.

Is Vintage the Right Choice?

In total, there have been 28 different Golden Ellipse models made, only 1 of which is still available via the current catalog. Since 1977, all have been powered by the same ultra-thin automatic Caliber 240. Obviously, pre-owned comes with a list of special considerations. Not everyone is going to want a watch that's not box-fresh and fully guaranteed. Others are willing to take the risk. Providing you go into it with a full understanding of those risks, the vintage market will open up a world of possibilities.

As to which vintage Golden Ellipse is best... well, that's really down to personal preference. Over time, the collection was subject to subtle improvements - if you want to capitalize on those improvements, you'd be advised to consider later models such as the ref. 5028 and ref. 3738/100G. But regardless of the era, at the heart of each piece is the same essential form, the same shapely case, the same classic dial configuration, and the same rigid application of the golden ratio - the secret to those heavenly propotions.

The Current Catalog

If you don't want to dabble in the world of vintage pieces, choosing the right watch comes down to a simple decision - do you want the 5738R or the 5738P? As the reference numbers suggest, we're actually dealing with one model and two colorways. Which is the best for you is really down to whether you prefer the glamour of the rose-gold 5738R or the bold elegance of the blue dialed 5738P.

Ref. 5738R

As writes, the Ref. 5738R was introduced to celebrate the 50th birthday of the Golden Ellipse. Adorned with an ebony black sunburst dial, slender rose gold hands, and an 18k rose gold case, it pays homage to the legacy of the Golden Ellipse while updating its aesthetic to suit a more contemporary audience. The dial of the Ref. 5738R is emblematic of the Golden Ellipse: simple, unadorned, and all the better for both. Crafted in ebony black and featuring a starburst finish radiating from the center, it serves as the perfect complement to the elegant rose gold hands and markers. As with every Golden Ellipse since 1977, the beating heart of the piece is the iconic Calibre 240, a 161-part, 27-jewel movement noted for its ultra-thin design and off-center 22k gold mini rotor. Despite the age of the movement, it's lost none of its precision thanks to Patek Philippe's innovative use of the patented Gyromax balance with Spiromax balance spring. Slender, elegant, and gorgeously understated, the Ref. 5738R is a fine addition to the Golden Ellipse legacy. In terms of the full spec, key highlights as per the Patek Philippe official website are as follows:

  • Ultra-thin self-winding mechanical Caliber 240 movement.
  • DIAL
  • Ebony black sunburst with gold applied hour markers. 18K gold dial plate.
  • CASE
  • Rose gold. Solid case back. Water-resistant to 30 m. Dimensions: 34.5 x 39.5 mm. Height: 5.9 mm.
  • Crown set with onyx.
  • Alligator strap with square scales, hand-stitched, shiny black. Prong buckle.

Ref. 5738P

The Ref. 5738P showcases the perfect proportions the Golden Ellipse is known for while updating the concept for modern audiences. The look is bold in its simplicity: expect a large platinum case size of 34.5 x 39.5 mm, a simple 18kt gold dial in deep blue with white gold baton hands and applied index markers, and the same small diamond between the lugs at the 6 o'clock position that equips all Patek Philippe's platinum pieces. Accuracy is guaranteed by the extraordinary, ultra-thin self-winding mechanical caliber 240 movement.

Courtesy of the official Patek Philippe website, the full spec can be seen as:

  • Ultra-thin self-winding mechanical Caliber 240 movement.
  • DIAL
  • Ebony black sunburst with gold applied hour markers. 18K gold dial plate.
  • CASE
  • Rose gold with a solid case back. Water-resistant to 30 m. Dimensions: 34.5 x 39.5 mm. Height: 5.9 mm.
  • Crown set with onyx.
  • Strap: Shiny navy-blue alligator. 15-mm prong buckle in platinum.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of which model you eventually chose (and ultimately, that's going to be a case of deciding whether you want to go vintage or keep things current), you're going to end up with a great watch. The Golden Ellipse might be Patek Philippe's most understated creation, but it's also one of its most extraordinary. The golden ratio isn't golden for nothing... as this exquisitely proportioned watch proves once and for all.

Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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