Diary of a Patek Philippe collector – drinking tea, eating chocolate and wearing watches (11th July 2020)

Watch collectors are an unusual breed. It is often the case that a watch collector will have tastes in other areas that people who don’t collect watches would find somewhat esoteric.

Now, I am not talking about other types of collecting. For example, it is quite often that one sees watch collectors also have an interest in cars. I call this an associated interest. But I am not talking about other types of collecting or associated interests. I am talking about other types of unusual tastes.

I will discuss my version of this.

Tea and chocolate. And how, oddly, it shares a LOT of similarities with how I collect watches.

I don’t collect teas. I don’t collect chocolate. What I do is I consume both. I think I have probably tasted close to a thousand different teas. I have attended numerous tea tastings hosted by different houses. Tea is not just tea. One can have black tea. Blue tea. Green tea. White tea. Oxidisation can vary from zero upwards. Tea can originate from India, China, Japan, Taiwan or indeed a number of other places. Over the years, I have seen it as a goal to derive my favourite types of tea. To this end, my tea cupboard houses around 20-30 or so teas that represent my absolute favourites across each genre.

For example, within black tea, I have 3-4 teas that I consider the best of breed. They are teas that represent what suits my taste most. And every time I taste one, it is magical. Why go for mediocre? I visited New York once where one of the main objectives was to visit a specific tea house that held my favourite black tea.

The first tea of the day will typically be a black tea. Three mornings out of seven, I will probably err to Amba Ceyon. Oh, is that a Ref. 5065A in that shot……Black dial. Black tea.

My process with teas has taken time to evolve. I have tasted many teas that just don’t suit me. In fact, the vast majority of teas are what I would describe as very insipid and uninteresting. So I have instead focused on accumulating the best of the best so that each time I try one, it creates the type of joy that I want to experience from tea. For my taste, I consider the teas in my cupboard to be outstanding, and I always look forward to each visit to the tea cupboard, not knowing for sure what I will pick to drink, but knowing that whatever it is, it will be superb.

Blue tea ( Oolong), is perhaps my favourite type of tea. Iron Buddha or High Mountain – I find these teas to be extraordinary. Ref. 5650G…Blue dial. Blue tea.

Of course, along the way one gets to experience a lot of alternatives. Experiencing different teas allows me to have refined what I like and what I don’t like. Although there are many teas that have been quite lovely, they just have not matched up to the ones I consider better.

Diversity amongst different teas is important. But diversity should only go so far, and absolutely should not compromise on quality.

A similar process has been engaged with chocolate. I am fairly sure that I have not tasted anywhere near as many types of chocolate as I have teas. Having said that, my taste in chocolate became defined quite quickly. In terms of cocoa content, my sweet spot is somewhere between 60-80%, with 75% being most typical. I find myself buying a lot of single origin bars from Madagascar. Acidity. Fruit. Bitterness. Roast. These are all factors that influence preference. I consistently err towards high fruit and acidity and low roast. I find that bitterness is just a question of cocoa content. Like tea, I have refined what I like down to those bars that consistently deliver the joy. Through considerable “research” I have derived a group of chocolates that I consider to be outstanding. Each time I visit the chocolate cupboard, I know it will bring joy.

Taste in chocolate is just like taste in any domain. It is highly subjective. Yet, through “perseverance” and dogged determination, one can refine the collecting process into specifics. I do this with tea. With chocolate. And with watches.

Now, it strikes me that my process of buying tea/chocolate is not so different to how I collect watches. Another revelation hit me when I thought about this. I don’t collect tea or chocolate. I buy them to consume. And I think my view of watches is exactly the same. I don’t see a watch as an investment good. I want to consume my watch.

Once I have bought a watch, I consider it “consumed” and the money spent. I want to wear it. I want to enjoy it on my wrist. Obviously I want to keep my watches in as good a condition as possible, but I am just not too bothered if a watch loses its pristine NOS state. I am much more interested in enjoying it on my wrist and deriving a joy from wearing it. That is how I see it.

If I feel that my collection needs additional watches to benefit the enjoyment I get, then that’s what happens. When the lion is hungry, he eats. So, each time I visit the London safebox, I don’t know for sure which watch I will pick to wear, but what I do know is that whatever watch it is, it will deliver.

When I put together a stock portfolio of 23 or so stocks, by definition there is a pecking order of attractiveness. The 23rd most attractive stock is some way behind the No.1 most attractive stock, but it still adds enough to the portfolio to make it onto the list.

The same is true for my watches. I have a collection of watches that deliver joy to me when I wear one. However, I can only wear one watch at a time. Watches that sit in the London safebox do not give me any pleasure. It’s nice to know that they are there but only to the extent that I can look forward to wearing them. The joy is derived from what is on my wrist. Hence, I need to be fairly sure that each and every watch in my collection hits the spot.

Let me give an example of this. I once owned both a Ref. 5070G and a Ref. 5070P. There was never an occasion when I would choose the 5070G above the 5070P. The former just became a watch I never wore. Hence it left my collection. Because I knew I had the 5070P, the 5070G just could not hit the spot to the same extent. I want my teas to be best of breed. I want my chocolate to be best of breed. And, because I am primarily a consumer of watches in the sense that the only reason I own watches is to wear them, I want each and every watch that I own to maximise my enjoyment of wearing it.

I realise that this may not be how other people build collections. I also realise that others may have a very different view on how to collect. This is mine. People will agree and disagree with my process of thinking and collecting. All good.