Diary of a Patek Philippe collector – Appreciating a collection (15th aug 2020)

For the first time in a very long time, I do not have a watch I am looking to buy. It is a weird feeling. For so long, as a watch collector, there has always been the next target. At the moment, however, that is not the case.

The Ref. 5167R was the most recent addition to my collection. Bringing to the table my first coloured metal Aquanaut. A casual cool for the summer.

For many collectors, a big part of the fun is seeing a constant rotation of their collection. The thrill of the chase. That is not my way. Once upon a time, it was how I used to collect Rolex. But that has never been my mentality regarding my collection of Patek Philippe. Indeed, my Patek Philippe collection has remained essentially intact from the start. Today, I own about 80% of the Patek Philippe watches that I have ever bought. That is a fairly low turnover over 11 years of collecting Patek Philippe.

The Ref. 5970P was the very first watch I bought from my AD. Not my first Patek Philippe, but the first that was born with my name on it. 2010.

The Ref. 5070P was my very first Patek Philippe. April 2009.

Adding this Ref. 5070P in 2019.

Further, I think it dawned on me a year or two ago that the constant urge to accumulate more and more watches wasn’t actually leading to a greater enjoyment of my collection. In fact, it was having the opposite effect. Accumulating bag loads of tin in an endless quest to nowhere? Accumulating for the sake of it truly does not appeal to me. It would be easy to do so. Indeed, to create a very diverse and broad collection of Patek Philippe certainly has a number of potential positives.

Creating a diverse group of watches can certainly bring pleasure. Ref. 5650G on the right…. my favourite modern Patek Philippe. Vintage 5065A at the back….with two 5167s.

However, in economic terms, when the marginal utility of the next watch is zero, there really is no point in buying it. So, this week’s blog is really all about appreciating that which we already have.

When I use the term “marginal utility,” I use it very specifically. In relation to watch collecting, a watch has a positive utility to me when it adds something “net” to my overall collection. It has nothing to do with financial merit. Clearly, if I added a Ref. 5711A to my collection that would be a net financial addition to my bag. However, I don’t look at watches in that way. Rather, it is all about the net pleasure I get from wearing a watch and the option to wear a watch that is in my collection that makes all the difference to me. And the Ref. 5711A did not add value in that sense.

Ref. 5711A sits as one of the very few watches to have left my collection.

A friend of mine recently asked me what I considered to be my favourite vintage Patek Philippe. I replied that I thought the Ref. 3448G was probably my favourite. My friend then asked me if I was going to buy one. I may well buy one. However, I may well not. I own the Ref. 3448J. That watch gives me tremendous pleasure. Is it necessary to own a 3448G?

Ref. 3448J – the very first self-winding perpetual calendar. The reference sits as my favourite from the vintage era.

No. It is not necessary. There will always be a bigger fish. There will always be that “ultimate” watch that has a new allure. What if I bought a Ref. 3448G and subsequently found a unique Ref. 3448G that had never surfaced before? Would that then become the ultimate watch for me? What if Patek Philippe manufactured a new watch that became my new favourite must-have watch. Would I have to buy it? The hamster wheel of desire can be endless.

Indeed, just because one can buy a watch should not imply that one does buy a watch. For a start, doing so deflects attention away from what one has towards what one does not have. It creates a particular type of mindset. And it also perpetuates the concept that there will always be something of desire to be had. And the hamster wheel continues. The focus on current experience rather than the attachment to future desire is actually something deeply embedded in Buddhist thinking.

A few weeks ago, I talked about the Ref. 5167R that I had purchased and the inscription on its clasp. I have to say, I received many questions about it. One could say that one interpretation of it was a recognition that just because one can satiate a particular desire does not mean that it is healthy to do so. In fact, it quite literally isn’t healthy always to do so. I can buy a lot of cake. Just because I can, does it mean I should?

To recognise what one wants is in many ways a great discovery. Choosing to not be on the hamster wheel is something that I think is worth celebrating. I use the word choosing rather than accepting as the two are very different. This is another interpretation of my Ref. 5167R clasp. To those that enjoy the hamster wheel, I can see why you enjoy it. However, for those that step off the wheel, I can see why you enjoy that too.

Which leaves me feeling very happy as I am now appreciating the watches in my collection more than I have ever done. Each watch is treasured and valued in a way and in a detail that has risen measurably. And that feels absolutely good. It makes me wonder why I wasted so much time hunting stuff I didn’t have rather than appreciating the incredible stuff that I did. And I do believe it was time wasted.

And it is the act of truly appreciating what one has that deepens the appreciation of watch collecting for me.

So, does this mean my collection has been completed? Absolutely not. Well, probably not. I am fairly sure that over the coming years I will see many watches from within Patek Philippe that I will consider. But, crucially, my focus will always be more on what I have rather than chasing something that I do not. For me, that is a clear shift in emphasis. And it is one that puts a big smile on my face.

Possibly one of the simplest watches ever made by Patek Philippe. Yet, it is a watch that delivers a lot of joy for me.