It almost goes without saying, circles rule the wrist. This sensible design is largely due to the cyclical nature of time, but convention and conservatism also play equally important roles. The luxury fake watches that don’t conform to the circular mould are either short-lived, fashion-led objects or, more rarely, transcendent icons; bold shapes that literally stand out from the pack and have proved their place in a collection many times over.
Patek Philippe has its share of unconventionally shaped stars in its stable, including the Art Deco-inspired Gondolo, the blockbusting Nautilus and the somewhat more classical star of today’s feature, the Golden Ellipse.
At the heart of charm and enduring appeal of the Golden Ellipse is its universality. The design is timeless, genderless and offers an admirably blank slate for perfect fake Patek Philippe to showcase their many and varied skills. The Golden Ellipse is also a watch with quite a pedigree, with this year marking the design’s 53rd anniversary, making it the second-longest-running line in the collection, bested only by the more conventional Calatrava.
Patek Philippe expert and noted Ellipse enthusiast John Reardon of Collectability, and former Head of Watches at Christie’s, describes the reaction to the watch in 1968 and its initial importance to the brand: “I have been told by people who were around back then that the Ellipse was well received at the time of release. There was a significant presence of the Ellipse at the Basel Fair, and retailers globally were introduced to the “the next big thing”.
The marketing around the Ellipse was also significant. By the early 1970s, people were clamouring to be part of the “exclusive circle of Patek Philippe” as the marketing described the Ellipse. It was at the height of luxury watchmaking and fashion – and the relatively thin watches were a significant counterpoint to the thick quartz watches of the 1970s.”
For all that the Ellipse has proved itself over the years, it fits right into the broader design landscape of the late 1960s – this was the decade of Eero Aarnio’s Ball Chair after all. Examined through a lens of socio-cultural change, the subtly non-conformist shape of Patek Phillipe’s newest hero can be seen as the brand literally pushing the boundaries of convention. If the design of the Ellipse was only driven by the spirit of the times, it is unlikely it would still have relevance today. But the underpinnings of the design speak to something far more fundamental – mathematics.
It’s easy to assume that the “Golden” in Swiss movement copy Patek Philippe Golden Ellipse refers to the precious metal of the case. The reality is a little more fundamental, the Golden Ratio. This ancient mathematical formula describes a ratio widely believed to be aesthetically pleasing. It’s visible in the fronds of a fern, the architecture of Le Corbusier and the art of Da Vinci. It was this timeless series of numbers that inspired the softly curving case of the Golden Ellipse.
Aside from its mathematical underpinnings, the case design of the Ellipse was significant for another reason. It was conceived within the house of high quality replica Patek Philippe. While today that is not a remarkable concept, at the time, it was far more common for elements of the habillage, such as the case, to be designed by external suppliers responding to the watchmaker’s brief. It would be decades before the concept of vertically integrated, or “in-house”, design would become pre-eminent, but we can see the seeds of it sown in the Golden Ellipse.