The Queen Victoria
In 1851 the Queen of England purchased a blue enamel-and-diamond pendant watch with Patek’s keyless winder. Soon after, she named Patek as her horologer, and other royals followed suit.
Considered the “Mona Lisa” of timepieces, the 1933 Supercomplication contains 24 complications, including a celestial chart. In 1999 it was sold at Sotheby’s for a record-breaking $11 million.
Calatrava Reference 96
In 1932 — the year the Stern family acquired the company — Patek launched the Calatrava Reference 96. It remains the Patek ideal of understated elegance and a connoisseur’s favorite.
Only 349 of this model were made between 1951 and 1986, and it remains the most sought-after among collectors. In 2012, Eric Clapton sold his rare edition — in platinum — at Christie’s for a record $3.6 million.
The Nautilus Ref. 3700/1A
At the height of the quartz crisis in 1976, Philippe Stern introduced this departure for Patek, a sporty stainless-steel wristwatch — and its $2,850 price tag ($11,149 in today’s market) created a sensation.
This story is from the June 16, 2014 issue of Fortune.