Diary of a Patek Philippe collector – a new watch enters my collection (18th July 2020)

A few months ago, I put in an order with my AD to buy a new watch. It was going to be a watch that marked a particular point in time for me. I wanted to customise the clasp so that it reminded me of the occasion. Today, the watch arrived. The 5167R.

If I include family watches, then my Aquanaut collection has grown from owning just the Ref. 5650G to now include since the beginning of the year, the 5167A and 5065A. Added to this family is now the 5167R. The latter is something of a paradox in the sense that it feels odd to have an Aquanaut in a coloured metal. But, I think this one is going to become a firm favourite.

5065A is top left. Centre-left is 5167A and centre-right is 5650G. And bottom is the new addition to the Aquanaut family, the 5167R.

Over time, I have come to appreciate that watches, per se, actually mean a lot more to me when I have an attachment to them that is poignant. For me, it deepens the relationship with the watch.

And this watch has been 30 years in the making for me.

Back in 1990, I sat with a group of guys at work and we discussed financial markets and how we saw the future developing. We were all graduate intake and very naive. None of us anticipated working for the next 30 years trading bonds, stocks and currencies. We all came up with our “number.” This was the amount of money needed before we would exit financial markets and “be free”. Funny to think that is how we viewed our future careers.

Those who do not trade for a living see it as an easy life. Indeed, it is incredibly easy to place a single trade and see it make money. Even several trades. The difficulty comes in achieving consistency. Those who do trade financial markets for a living will usually testify that the job is far from cushy. The attrition rate amongst traders is high. According to a Forbes article, 75% of traders leave the industry within 2 years. By year four, 90% have gone. By year ten, it is up to 95%.

Well, as I sat around with my colleagues in 1990, I decided my “number”. I hit my “number” nine years later in 1999. Now, this was not because I did especially well. Rather, you see, in 1990 I just didn’t have anywhere near enough imagination!

I also found that I actually really liked financial markets. I liked the process and psychology involved. So, I set another “number”.

I hit that number too.

I repeated this process a few times in fact. By 2010, I had put together a highly mechanised and rule-based trading methodology that produced very consistent trading results. However, the very nature of trading takes its toll. It requires time to monitor and update. Research must be read. New ideas tested. Drawdowns can be painful. Yet, trading had become habituated for me. I would even say addicted.

And then I had this revelation. What if I just removed all the rules to see what would happen? How would I feel?

And, what has all this got to do with watches? Well, to break the rules, you must first master them, right? I think I reached that point with my trading some time ago. I reached the point where I was almost totally confined by the rules I had created. These rules obviously produced the desired outcome….so long as that desired outcome was consistent profit.

But what about the freedom that was meant to arrive? Wasn’t that the whole point?

The recognition that it woud never arrive was my revelation. Originally, it was all about celebrating (yet another) number. The revelation was the acceptance that another number is irrelevant.

Sorry for all the psychoanalysis this week!

Financial traders tend, by nature, to be competitive animals. And the nature of financial markets allows the potential for most pursuits to be satiated. One would guess that eventually the “freedom” must arrive. But it doesn’t. It becomes a treadmill that is in fact no different to any other treadmill.

So, this watch is not some form of self-congratulatory humblebrag on hitting yet another number in a sequence of numbers. It has come to be something very different to celebrate.

There is a massive difference between pride and humble-bragging. Pride is not about showing off. It is about feeling satisfied about a job well done. It is about reaching decisions that create happiness. Clarity. And in that sense, I have some pride. And in that sense, I found my unknowable number. As a Professor friend of mine would say…..Zen. The Ref. 5167R will be a constant reminder for me of that moment.

Zen