A few months back, we were fortunate enough to arrange the meeting of two exceptionally rare watches, from two prominent collectors over a game of backgammon and cigars at the Bvlgari hotel in London. The watches in question were two white gold Patek Philippe 5970s perpetual calendar chronographs with Salmon coloured dials, which were recently created in an edition of just five pieces for the London Patek exhibition. Often times, when watches of such low editions leave the Patek Philippe atelier, they are never reunited, so we decided to get these pieces together and have a chat with their respective owners about how they came to own such special watches.
Tell us about your first serious watch purchase, the game changing piece…
A: For me it was an Omega Seamaster that I received for my 18th birthday, the same year Golden Eye was released in cinemas. At the time, I didn’t know so much about watches, and so when I took the piece to school, a friend of mine had asked why I had the quartz version and not the mechanical automatic. Quite frankly, I didn’t know the difference, and so when I later came to understand, I visited the boutique while my parents were away, to switch it for the automatic version. I still have it to this day.
M: Mine was a Casio Digital 8, which I was given at the age of eight. I remember being completely in love with watches, the second I got my hands on that thing. The next, and arguably first big purchase, was a Rolex GMT at the age of seventeen, which I still have in my collection.
Do you guys prefer vintage over modern, and what is it about either that you prefer?
A: The majority of my collection is modern, vintage watches are often-times too difficult to authenticate, and servicing issues come along with them too. I also find that a lot of vintage watches are a little too far on the small side, as I prefer wearing pieces in the region of 37 – 40mm. It’s very hard to find vintage pieces that I like, which are of a suitable size.
M: I only tend to have modern Patek and vintage Rolex, as I’ve had nearly every Rolex out there in my collection at some stage or another. It was only when I got interested in the Paul Newman Daytona’s that I began to switch to only Patek, as there are a lot of faked Italian dials surfacing on these things, which trade at very high prices. It was the rise of this that made me a little concerned that the dramatically inflated value for vintage rolex may burst.
And do you typically buy to keep in the collection forever, or for what reasons might you sell a piece?
A: I sell to upgrade, or if it just doesn’t get any wrist time. When a watch is no longer making its way onto your wrist, that’s a sure sign that you’ve fallen out of love with it, and it’s time to let it go.
M: I would tend to be the same, when you have too many of the same reference, that’s a good time to sell. For example, keeping multiple variations of something as seemingly basic as a 5513, that can feel a little over the top.
Do you prefer to buy at auction or through dealers?
A: I buy at authorised dealers, generally don’t sell through dealers and I occasionally would sell at auction or through a friend. I managed to snap up a few great pieces during the financial crisis of 2008/9, as a lot of collectors were offloading a lot of their assets.
M: I always buy with an authorised dealer because I can’t stand some dealers. I haven’t bought a watch from a dealer in at least ten years.
Tell us about your grails, what grails you’ve picked up and which you’re hunting for?
A: I want a Patek Philippe Minute repeater 5208.
M: I’ve had all the Rolex grails I ever wanted. So I’m waiting for the right moment to go and buy a 5208 also.
So, the reason we are all in a room together, is because you both bought the Patek Philippe 5970G Salmon dial London edition, did you buy any of the others?
A: Yes, I picked up the officers calatrava reference 5153G with the engraving on the case-back. I must admit, I’m not the biggest Salmon dial fan, but this one just worked for me.
M: No I didn’t. For me, the 5970G Salmon dial was the must have watch. I had to get this watch at all costs. Not getting it was not an option, and fortunately it worked out.
And how did you both manage to get allocated pieces, as there were only five made?
A: It was during the Patek dinner at the Saatchi Gallery. A tour around the exhibition was organised, where Thierry Stern was also present, and I had seen some dial variations on that reference, so I expressed an interest and my authorised dealer called me the following week and that was that.
M: A Patek Official had sat next to my wife Alison during the dinner at the Saatchi Gallery, and so he had then given her a tour of the exhibition and told him about my passion for the brand, and I think it was her charm that made it happen. 18 months later, after a couple of delivery delays, the watch was mine. Apparently I received the 3rd one of the five, and that it was being built using vintage parts.
Did either of you own any discontinued Patek Philippe 5970 references before?
A: No, none of that reference.
M: Yes, I had the platinum version already.
So the story of how many actually exist has been questioned a few times, how many have been made?
A: I could write a book about how cloudy this whole limited edition business is. The story I have been is that five were ordered by a Hollywood producer and the delivery was never made, for one reason or another. The watches were then sent back to the vault, with three then to be offered during the London exhibition.
M: I’ve heard more or less the same thing. Three pieces made.
Limited editions aside, what are your current favourite watches in your collections?
A: Even though it’s a limited edition, the 5711p anniversary Patek and the Rolex 6263 white dial.
M: Also a limited edition, my Patek Philippe 5970G Salmon dial and also my 6263 white dial, which I plan on never selling. I’d like to pass this onto my kids.
The best value for money in your collection?
A: Yes, 5960P is the best value in my collection too… and amongst my favourites is the non-limited and non-anniversary 5711P (the one which was available without the anniversary engraving)
And a future classic?