Diary of a Patek Philippe collector (5th January 2020)

31st December and my router decided to expire. Given the lack of mobile reception where I live, this resulted in no internet access for much of the last week. It was fantastic!

So often, at this time of year, we like to make plans for the coming year as well as reflect on the past year. Horologically, last year was a very good year. Most things that could go right did go right. Going into 2020, I wanted to reflect on what is perhaps a growing theme for me, namely deepening my collection within one manufacturer – Patek Philippe.

I have traded financial markets for 30 years. Right at the beginning of my career, a key mentor took me aside and gave me this piece of advice. “You have eight trades on your portfolio. Can you explain to me in a precise manner why you have each of them?”

You see, my mentor was trying to get me to explain and understand why I had made a decision. Only through knowing why I had actually done something could I possibly be able to evaluate whether of not the strategy was working. This was the very first rule in a longer list that I had from my mentor.

Now, I know this may sound bizarre to many people, but I would guess that something like 70% of financial traders would probably have difficulty answering my mentor’s first question. Sure, there could be a superficial “It feels right” type of answer, but a precise and detailed view is rare.

With some poetic license, it seems appropriate to use this framework for my watch collecting.

Why do I collect Patek Philippe?

History is very important to me as a collector. It matters to me that Patek Philippe have a deep and fascinating history. In 1941, Reference 1526 was the first ever serially produced perpetual calendar. In the same year, Patek Philippe also presented the Reference 1518 as the first ever perpetual calendar chronograph. Patek Philippe patented the Caliber 12-600AT – the self-winding mechanism – in 1953. And in 1962, Patek Philippe presented Reference 3448 as the first ever self-winding perpetual calendar. The annual calendar? Oh yes, that was patented by Patek Philippe in 1996.

Ref. 1518 catalysed a process that had been building for decades

The accuracy world record held for a mechanical watch at the Geneva Observatory? Yes…Patek Philippe. The Rattrapante complication? Patek Philippe.

World time? Louis Cottier was an independent watchmaker. He basically created the world time complication. Cottier worked closely with Patek Philippe and was inspirational in the development of the Ref. 515, the very first Patek Philippe world time watch, released in 1937.

Few would argue with the idea that Patek Philippe world time are the epitome of the genre

And on and on and on one could go. It often makes me smile when I see the focus of today’s attention on the Nautilus. Here is a question to ponder; would the Nautilus be anywhere near as iconic today if it had not been for all these prior historical horological achievements by Patek Philippe? The Nautilus stands on the shoulders of giants.

So yes, it is very relevant to me that Patek Philippe has a tradition of excellence and achievement throughout its history. This history provides a depth and context against which their watches can be gauged. As a collector, the ability to look at a watch and see lineage over the previous 180 years of Patek Philippe history is important to me and is one of the factors behind why I collect these watches. It is also relevant to me because I want the watches I wear to build a direct history with me. Whether it be through experiences, personalities or moments in time, I want each watch to have its own personal connection with me. So yes, history figures highly on my criteria.

Quality can be seen and felt. Originally, the Stern family were dial manufacturers. When they became owners of Patek Philippe, they brought the expertise of their dial manufacturing with them. Now, take a look at the “average” 60 year old Patek Philippe watch. I have looked at a lot. What I think I can say is that the quality of the dial is quite materially higher than any of the comparable manufacturers.

Don’t get me wrong as there are some sublime vintage watches in existence from other manufacturers. However, few have aged as beautifully and gracefully as Patek Philippe. Similarly, when one holds a Patek Philippe in one’s hands, there is a depth of quality that is overt. The finishing. Styling. Movement. Detail. It looks and feels very special. When I put a watch on my wrist, I don’t want it to feel like a piece of tin. I want it to feel extraordinary. That is what Patek Philippe do for me.

Customer service is something that seems to arouse a lot of negativity amongst some clients. Obviously we all have a different experience of it. In many ways, exactly the same customer service can be given to two clients yet they will each rate that service potentially very differently. All I can say is that I have experienced customer service from Rolex, Omega, JLC, VC, Breguet, IWC, Panerai and Blancpain. In comparison to Patek Philippe, not one of these other manufacturers comes close. For me, personally, the service I receive from both Patek Philippe as well as from my Authorised Dealer is head and shoulders ahead of the pack. Does that make me buy a Patek Philippe watch? No. Does it make me not buy an Omega? Yes.

The value for money fallacy? I have used this analogy before, but its relevant here. I love chocolate. 70% cocoa. A high quality 70% Lindt chocolate bar will cost me $2. My preferred chocolate is 70% Venezuelan made by Pralus. It costs almost five-times the price. The value-for-money buyer will take the Lindt as its almost as good at a fraction of the price. I won’t. I am happy to pay the premium to get something that does that little bit extra. That little bit extra is worth it to me.

When people tell me that its just not worth it, it always amuses me as how can they determine what is or is not worth it to me? When it comes to watches, I don’t want the best “value-for-money” watch. I want the best watch. OK, there can come a point when the price becomes prohibitive, but that is entirely my decision. In my view, for my taste, for my preferences and disposition, Patek Philippe make the watches that I appreciate most.

Diversity is something that I have discussed at length in the past. As a manufacturer, Patek Philippe covers just about every angle of diversity one could possibly dream of within a collection. As a collector, I like a certain degree of cohesiveness within my collection. Within the horological world, there is essentially no other competitor to Patek Philippe when it comes to complication and style diversity. From a platinum Pilot’s watch with (essentially) a minute repeater alarm down to a basic steel sports watch. Patek Philippe covers the whole spectrum.

So, could I give a proper explanation for why I am deepening my collection of Patek Philippe watches, both vintage and modern? Yes. My training remains valid.