Within a collection, certain watches matter more to me than others. I suspect it is true for most watch “collectors.” Why is this the case? It may seem a banal question, but I suspect it will vary from one collector to another.
What is it that makes a collector value a watch? For me, I think the answer falls into three categories.
At the end of the day, any watch is metaphorically a piece of tin. It may be made in platinum or gold. Or tin. But the watch itself is nothing more than a tangible good that is essentially inert. However, when a watch has an emotional attachment to it, then it can become a lot more. For a watch to become meaningful to me there needs to be an emotional attachment to it. For example, an inherited watch would carry a strong emotional attachment. So too would a watch that evokes a particular moment or achievement in life.
Purchased by me in 1991 from my first decent bonus. Cost of £2100.
When a watch has such an attachment to it, then when I look down at it on my wrist, I have much more than a tangible good. I have an intangible memory of something that brings me joy. I cannot stress how big a factor this is in terms of how much pleasure this aspect of watch collecting brings. For so many, it is all about monetary value. For me, it is all about emotional value.
When I look down at my wrist, by far the most important factor for me is what type of memories and emotions emerge. These two Ref. 5167s certainly do that.
A few years ago, a friend who I met through watch collecting explained to me that he only ever bought brand new watches from his AD. I asked him why he had not dipped into some of the vintage beauties that exist. His answer was revelatory. He explained that he owned what many considered vintage Patek Philippe watches. He had bought them from new. But some 25 years later, they had started to become vintage. He explained further that he wanted to create their history and embed in them a lifetime of memories that he could call his own history. He was in it for the long haul.
This had quite a pronounced effect on my thinking. I am also a Patek Philippe collector for the long haul. I am not interested in flipping watches for a quick buck. Nor am I interested in a constant rotation of watches within my collection. I can see the attraction of that, but it is not for me. However, I am interested in building a collection that will be marked by the history I create with the watch. Call it old-fashioned? Old school? Perhaps. However, there is something quite special about owning a watch from new and building a rapport and history with that watch. Imbuing it with my own unique history and scratches of life. Of course, one can still do this with a vintage watch but one adds to an unknown history rather than create an entirely new history. Both ways work. But I prefer the former.
This type of thinking has dominated my approach to Patek Philippe watches over recent years. However, implicit in this process is the need for the watch to be highly wearable. A safe-queen watch that is never worn but kept in pristine condition may well retain its financial value more but it will have no soul. Like a tiger bred in captivity and caged. I need my watches to have soul.
Yes, I need my watches to have soul. And to have that soul, it needs history. And to get that history it needs to be on my wrist a lot. It needs to be eminently wearable. It needs to be a watch that I feel comfortable wearing. Recently, I have been looking at the Ref. 5711R. It is a beautiful watch. Stunning. However, I just cannot see myself wearing it. As much as it would be nice to own, I would never create a rapport with the watch.
Although I cannot see myself wearing the Ref. 5711R, I do find myself wearing the Ref. 5167R rather a lot. In fact, I wore it throughout most of the summer lockdown.
OK, I found a definition for it on Wikipedia.
“Frisson ….. is a psychophysiological response to rewarding auditory and/or visual stimuli that often induces a pleasurable or otherwise positively-valenced affective state and transient paresthesia, sometimes along with piloerection and mydriasis”.
For the record, piloerection means goosebumps. Just saying.
Frisson is a great word. It describes very well what I want to feel when I look at whatever watch is on my wrist. I want something special. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe purportedly suggested that “Life is too short to drink bad wine.” I think the same is true about watches. If I am going to have a watch strapped to my wrist throughout the day and night, I want that watch to be special. I want to feel that frisson when I look at the watch. And I don’t want “meh” on my wrist ever.
I was asked whether the name Patek Philippe creates a frisson in any watch they make. My answer to that is, for me, no. Everyone will differ here, clearly, but within Patek Philippe, the vast majority of watches do not create that frisson for me. However, some of them really do. And when they do, it makes me want to own it.
For me, not many watches have that frisson of energy that come from the Ref. 5650G. It is my favourite modern Patek Philippe by a margin. If I picked one watch from the last 25 years…..it is this one.
I would say that within my collection of Patek Philippe, the extent to which each of these three factors mentioned above occurs varies quite a lot from one watch to another. It is why I have personal favourites and why some of my collection will likely always stay in my collection.
Ref. 3448 certainly has that frisson of energy. I am also creating a rapport and history with the watch. Its first 50 years of history, however, are unknown to me.
Each collector will differ in what makes them tick and why they have specific favourites. It is a part of what makes collecting watches so enjoyable.