Diary of a Patek Philippe collector – Watch Regrets (5th April 2020)

I have often been asked about which watches I regret buying. It is an interesting question. However, the answer is not straightforward.

I want to share a short story about a car I once owned. In 2001, Aston Martin released the Vanquish V12. When I saw the car, I knew I wanted to buy it. It was just stunning. At £170,000 it was also not cheap at all. But, I was in my mid-30s, financially secure and clearly going through a car phase. I visited an Aston Martin dealership and I bought one.

About a month later, it was 4am and I was heading into London. The motorway was basically empty. I was in my Aston. I thought I would give it a go. So, I put my foot down. It literally took my breath away. I reached a speed that I will say was somewhat irresponsible. However, I then decided to push it further. My foot pushed down on the accelerator. To my astonishment, the car re-accelerated with a renewed vigour to an even more irresponsible speed. At this point, I realised I was in “no-mans land”. Fast enough to be “fast” but slow enough to be “not that fast.”

So, I did it again. I slapped my foot down further on the accelerator and the speedometer lurched rapidly higher. I was astonished at just how much torque this car had. It reached a specific speed and all I can remember was seeing the motorway lights flash past so quickly that it seemed there was just one long trail of light – like when Hans Solo jumps to hyperspace. At this point, I decided to call it a day, so decelerated and pulled into the slow lane and cruised the rest of the journey into London.

I ended up selling the car about 18 months later. It sold for just under £120,000, crystallising a loss of about £50,000. A good friend of mine asked me whether I regretted buying the car. Its automatic gearbox had jammed twice during this phase. The car had definitely tried to kill me on one occasion. My reply to my friend was that I was certain of one thing. Namely, that when I was finally on my deathbed with little time left on this planet, a feeling of regret about buying that Aston Martin Vanquish V12 would not be the thing on my mind.

The thing is, I have never regretted buying that Vanquish. It gave me experiences and memories that were priceless. Of course, how life has subsequently turned out no doubt shaped and framed how I view that past experience. But the way the cards turned out, I have nothing but great feelings about the car. Sorry for the poor picture…..I had nothing on digital.

Anyway, a couple of years ago, I bought the Patek Philippe 5370P. Ironically, it cost about the same as the Vanquish. Ironically, it has also not fared so well in the secondary market in terms of pricing. The similarities continue. It, too, brings a feeling of total exhilaration when I use it. It, too, induces a sharp intake of breath when I wear it. And it, too, is something that I have absolutely no regrets about. Not one.

Ref. 5370P

The issue is, I just don’t look at my watches or my cars with the expectation built into that of seeing price appreciation. I do not embrace the idea that watches are investments. To do so would entail believing that one buys a watch using logic that leads to an anticipation of it rising in price.

To be honest, I have done that in the past but it just doesn’t work for me. I end up with watches I don’t want to wear that sometimes go up and sometimes go down, but ultimately I end up just getting rid of the watches because I never wear them and don’t especially even like what they look like. That realisation was an important one for me. It made me realise that I regretted buying watches that I viewed as “investments.” Nowadays, I will not buy a watch unless it delivers to me something that is very specific. A watch has to bring me joy with it on my wrist. It has to signify important events, moments or indeed people. It needs to attach happy memories. I have to look at it and smile.

So yes, there have been several watch regrets in my collecting experience. All of them have been watches I saw as investments rather than because I liked them – regardless of whether they were successful investments or not. I saw this week a very well-known dealer detail the reasons why watches are great investments. Some watches inevitably are great investments. The vast majority are not. What I do know is that the fun and joy from watches is, for me, NOT about whether they go up in value or not. That V12 exhilaration joy is worth far more. Viewing my own collection like this allows me to have no particular interest in whether the price of a watch in my collection goes up or down. It actually feels really good to view it that way. Once the current crisis passes, I do hope that watches lose this “investment” persona that many of the dealers now push so hard.

As a one off, if anyone wants to sign up to this blog site and send me an email guess of my top speed, I will (once lockdown is over) send a Patek Philippe travel box as a prize. Top speed from the above story in miles per hour. Closest wins.