Diary of a Patek Philippe Collector – “Scratches of Life” (23rd February 2020)

“You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.” This ideology has been at the forefront of Patek Philippe marketing for decades. What does it actually mean?

Well, it can actually mean many things on many levels. However, this week I am going to look at one particular angle. In fact, it was something mentioned on Instagram by @Pateklust. I am going to quote some of what he wrote. @Pateklust was talking about a watch once owned by the great collector, Henry Graves Jr.

What I’m highlighting here is the memories HGJ had with his children in the course of his life. I remember telling my dad vividly to leave some scratches on the watches even though we both take great care of our belongings. But why? Would these actions affect the re-sale value? Well, yes! So? Without him, I wouldn’t have entered this community. Without him, this journey wouldn’t have been as interesting as it is now, because what fascinates me the most isn’t the moments when we acquire a watch. Instead, it’s the efforts and time that the two of us invested in, and that’s the joy of collecting. Remember! We don’t get to bring anything with us when we leave this world, and the only two things we can leave are the lifeless money and the memories we had with our descendants.

Let me be honest. When I saw what @Pateklust had written, it really hit me hard. It was a wonderful encapsulation of a philosophy of collecting. An ideology for passing on something (watches) to our children that had captured some of our history. In particular, the line “leave some scratches on the watches” is wonderful. @Pateklust is encouraging his father to live life fully so that the watches on his wrist carry (either metaphorically or physically) the history of that fully-lived life. The memories embedded into a watch can mean so much. It doesn’t have to be a split second perpetual calendar to carry such memories.

Memories are created. Not bought.

Let the watches become a part of your history so that when a son or daughter inherits a watch, that watch contains very explicit memories. It is also telling us that the watches are much more than pieces of metal containing extraordinary engineering and exquisite artistry. Of course, a Patek Philippe watch is that too. But it is also something more. For me, I want my watches to have the scratches that bear testament to the fact that the watches lived with me as a living, scarred, elated and experienced inanimate object that, could it speak, would tell some great stories of the history of its owner. That, to me, is a wonderful philosophy. It is not only captured by the Patek Philippe generational maxim, but very poignantly by @Pateklust who encourages his father to “leave some scratches on the watches.”

Of course, there are myriad ways of collecting watches. Keeping watches in pristine condition is not something I am criticising. I do that with some of my watches. And that methodology can also fit within @Pateklust’s philosophy. “Scratched” both physically and/or metaphorically.

My own son has badgered me to live more fully for some time. And, there comes a point when one needs to reflect. And often that reflection allows a new chapter to begin. Next week’s blog will look at this more fully.

I want any watch I own to have something special about it. When I wear it, it should bring as much pleasure as possible. However, in that process, I want my watches to endure some of the scars and dings that come with life. So, when the day comes, my son gets to wear them, he will not only remember but also see that it was a life lived with all the experiences and memories that this brings. It does, of course, beg the question as to what watches we want to carry this message?

Safe queen? I am not sure I see the point in not wearing a watch.

It also poses another interesting question regarding vintage versus modern. With a vintage watch, one acquires the former and usually unknown history of a watch. Vintage carries charm but it also carries an unknown history. With a brand new watch, the entire history of a watch gets created from scratch (LoL….see what I did there?)

On a different note, hat-tip to @theopencaseback for an interesting discussion on secondary market pricing. Also a hat-tip to @RussianWatchClub and @timeless.iconic for some consistently great content.