Patek Philippe versus Rolex?

One of the very best aspects of collecting watches is not the watches one accumulates along the way. Rather it is the friends one accumulates along the way that really makes this hobby something special.

Some time ago, a friend of mine named Beejo made a comment about how he viewed collecting and it really resonated with me. We were talking about how we viewed the two manufacturers – Patek Philippe and Rolex. Should one ever compare Patek Philippe and Rolex? What Beejo then said was that there really should be only two types of watches in a collection, “Wow” watches and “Beaters” and there should be nothing in-between.

At the end of the conversation, I made myself a coffee and thought about what he had said. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense, for when I put a watch on my wrist it needs to fulfil a purpose. Either I want to stare at it and be mesmerised by it – something with a sense of occasion. Or I want it to be something that I can wear that goes under the radar, is totally reliable and can take the occasional ding without any issue. What I don’t want is to look at my wrist and see what Beejo described as a “meh” watch. For Beejo, anything in-between “beater” and “wow” was “meh”. This was watch wisdom to me. Life is too short for ordinary moments. There should be no “meh” watches in a collection!!

The result was a clarification of direction for my collection. The vast majority of my Patek Philippe watches fall into what I would describe as that “wow” category.

When I look at the Patek 3448J, I see something that excites. It is a “wow” for me.

There is no question, when I wear my 5970P, it is a thrill to behold.

The Patek 5575G is something with so much panache. It has a unique complication. Also, lets not forget that is an aesthetic bomb on the wrist. With something like the 5575G on my wrist, I don’t want to be going out to Pizza Hut. This is Michelin star horology.

Ref. 5575G

Within Rolex, I view my collection as “beater” category. I don’t want to suggest that “beater” is a derogatory term. In fact, what it means in this context is something that one can rely upon, is versatile enough to use in most circumstances, is tough and accurate. And it is going to be on my wrist a lot of the time. For me, Rolex makes the best sports watches in the world. Yet, for a collector, Rolex works perfectly for this “beater” purpose for the simple reason that within the broad genres of Rolex references, one can find special dial variations and quirks that also make a standard “beater” something rare and very interesting. The Reference 14060 “LGF” is such an example. A super-cool Submariner that has a dial quirk that makes it very rare. A perfect beater.

Rolex Submariner 14060M – a modern watch that retains its vintage cool.

Rolex Submariner 16610LV – the Kermit. Not sure I can think of a better “beater” than this.

Would I look at the Kermit and think it was boring? Not a chance.

That now brings me to the definition of “wow” watches. Defining something that is so personalised will always be difficult. What ticks the boxes of a “wow” watch for one person won’t be relevant for another. Hence the concept of “wow & beater” always needs some qualification. What is interesting to experience is to have something on one’s wrist that is neither wow nor beater. That, for me, moves uncomfortably towards Beejo’s “meh”.

So, what boxes need to be ticked for “wow”?

I have previously written an article looking at “6 Rules of Collecting”. That article goes some way towards describing what matters to me in buying a Patek Philippe. However, I would probably add that the over-riding factor for a watch in a collection to be a “wow” is that when one looks down at it, it mesmerises and causes one to stare. It is not about telling the time. Its about that special feeling of excitement that comes from looking at that specific watch. Its a watch that I want to wear on special occasions. By definition, there cannot be that many watches that can achieve this type of feeling. Anything that one considers run of the mill or ordinary that isn’t a beater has moved into Beejo’s “meh” zone.

Beejo’s theory of collecting won’t work for everyone. For many it will make no sense. However, for me, it represents a great framework for my collecting process.