The men behind one of the world’s largest watch collections

On December 10, the Design Museum in London will present an exhibition of watches from a famous private collection. For aficionados, this is a unique opportunity to get a glimpse of what one auctioneer described as one of the top five collections in the world. For its owner Patrick Getreide, it will be a moment of pride, the opportunity to share with a wider audience a passion that has consumed him for 35 years.

The highlights are many and varied. The former is one of the best selections of Patek Philippe Calatrava models from the early 1930s to the 21st century. Another must-see is the section of five watches that belonged to the Graves family, which shed light on the tastes of the great collector Henry Graves Jr who took delivery in 1933 of the most complicated pocket watch made before the era of the Computer Aided Design. . And while the Patek Philippe Nautilus is almost impossible to find on the market, there will be plenty of them alongside great examples of trophy watches such as all the Reference 2499, Reference 1518, Reference 130 and some very sought. -According to enamelled dial watches including the “Phare” and “Île” pieces from the 1950s.

Getreide with the OAK collection © Torvioll Jashari

If you visit the exhibit and can look away from the treasures on display, look for a Frenchman with smart outfits and impeccable hairstyles, and better yet, try to persuade him to show you around the exhibit. Just make sure you’ve cleared an hour or two because once Geoffroy Ader, independent watch advisor and auctioneer who assisted Getreide with this exhibit, starts talking about vintage watches it’s hard to get him to stop. Since the beginning of the year, the two men have spent months reviewing the hundreds of pieces in the collection and gradually reducing them to the 160 on display.

Enamelled Patek Philippe Ref 2481

Enamelled Patek Philippe Ref 2481 “Le Phare”

Patek Philippe pocket watch 2013

Patek Philippe pocket watch 2013

Earlier this year, I spent a few days with Getreide and Ader as they did the final assembly of the watches and simulated each display case so that each watch could be viewed at its best. What struck me was the almost telepathic connection between the two men. Each was so familiar with watches that a short series of numbers and letters, say “530R” (denoting a rare chronograph) or “Gobbi” (a famous Milanese watch retailer) is enough to convey meaning.

However, it was not the most auspicious of the beginnings. Ader, fifty years old, is the aristocracy of the French auction houses; his father and grandfather were auctioneers at the historic Paris house Drouot, and the extent of his youthful rebellion was to say that he wanted to sell watches rather than antique furniture or fine art. He did an internship at Christie’s before going to work in his early twenties for the auctioneer specializing in watchmaking Antiquorum. It was here in his office that a disgruntled customer showed up holding up a Patek Philippe he had bought. As this was a rare waterproof model, he had worn it while swimming, only for the watch to stop and condensation to form inside the glass – the watch had not been properly closed after inspection before auction.

“Patrick can be quite alarming when he’s upset about something,” Ader remembers today with a smile, but his soothing ways and the quick and courteous manner in which he solved the problem impressed Getreide.

“He had just started his career, but he had the watch repaired and personally delivered it to me,” recalls Getreide. “I never forgot that.”

Geoffroy Ader (left) and Patrick Getreide with his OAK collection in Geneva
Geoffroy Ader (left) and Patrick Getreide with his OAK collection in Geneva © Torvioll Jashari

Getreide was also close to the start of his career as a watch collector. Until his meeting with Ader, he had tended to follow the model of the dilettante who bought on a whim or to commemorate major life events – his first significant watch, a Cartier Tank, which will be on display at the Design Museum. , was purchased to celebrate her horse winning a race at Longchamp. His damascene moment came when he saw his first Patek Philippe 3970, a classic perpetual calendar chronograph made for about 20 years from 1985. “I don’t think they were too happy because after paying the bond, it took me six months to pay off the balance, ”he laughs.

Then he meets Thierry Stern, president of Patek Philippe and descendant of the family that owns the brand. “It was during a cocktail party in Paris. Nobody was talking to him, so I went up and introduced myself and we started talking, and when I talk watches, I’m in heaven, ”he recalls. Stern invited him to Geneva and he got hooked. “My interest grew in two things: my knowledge and my money. When I made more money, I could buy better watches, more unique watches; that’s when I started to build a real collection.

c1948 Patek Philippe Ref 1518R perpetual calendar moon phases

c1948 Patek Philippe Ref 1518R perpetual calendar moon phases

Patek Philippe Ref 2523J World Time

Patek Philippe Ref 2523J World Time

Very quickly, he had also built a small museum in the free port of Singapore. “One of our activities is in the Asia-Pacific region. That’s why I chose Singapore, ”he says with the kind of pragmatically that others might describe a well-located restaurant or bar. And if it looks a bit like a Patek Philippe Salon, it is because it called on the same cabinetmaker to build the showcases. Patrick Getreide is not the man to do things by halves.

“We worked together in Singapore,” Getreide explains of how he came to work with Ader. His friend remembers it well. In particular, his attention to detail. “Patrick had built beautiful windows for each family: first Patek Philippe, then the Rolex section, and independent watchmakers,” recalls Ader.

While the majority of the watches on display at the Design Museum are Patek Philippe, there is an exhibit within an exhibit dealing with two of the hottest areas for collectors: Rolex steel sports watches and independent watchmakers. “Patrick chose the name OAK for this unique collection combining vintage and modern watches, because it is strong.

“But mostly because it’s an acronym for One of A Kind”, intervenes Getreide. His collaborator nods. “Patrick based this collection on rarity, quality and provenance,” he adds.

“The condition is crucial. It must be in very good condition, preferably new, old stock ”, emphasizes Getreide. “There are a lot of watches that I didn’t buy because they were damaged, restored or too polished. It’s hard because sometimes I want to buy something that can be really big, but I don’t because it doesn’t obey my rules.

The couple first worked together at a museum in Singapore

The couple first worked together in a museum in Singapore © Torvioll Jashari

However, he is above all a collector of emotions. He devours every new auction catalog with the greed of a voracious foodie in a three-Michelin-starred restaurant – and there are times he can’t control his appetites. “There are a few families of watches that I really like.” One of them is the 1579, a two-sub-dial chronograph introduced by Patek Philippe in 1943. “When I bought the steel one and the platinum one, I broke the world records for these two watches. “he said. “I wanted them very hard. I couldn’t stop, I had to have them. With the others already in the collection, they formed a complete family, which is extremely rare to see in a collection.

And as Getreide’s knowledge deepened, so did his passion for watches. “I used to collect paintings, but nothing gave me the pleasure and emotion that I found as a watch collector,” he admits. Thus, over time, works by Picasso and Bacon were auctioned off to be replaced by perpetual calendars, Universal Hours, chronographs and grand complications.

Organizing the exhibit during the pandemic was a logistical challenge. “The hardest part was deciding what not to display. In the end, there were a lot of nice watches that we didn’t take. But I think it’s good, ”says Getreide, comparing his Zoom marathon sessions with Ader to backgammon. “If you play backgammon, you think, you attack, you defend, and that’s how we chose. It took time but it’s not difficult. I might be crazy, but I’m not stubborn. When he gives me a good reason, there is no problem.

Ader also enjoys the process. “I love his enthusiasm, his generosity, but also the way he wants to share his passion with others,” he says, adding: “This is the first time that I have heard of a private collector exhibiting his watches in a large museum.

And it’s a collaboration that will likely continue in the future. “It’s easy to work with him,” Getreide says. “A lot of people who work in the industry don’t tell you what they think and they are unreliable. He is reliable. He’s honest. ”He pauses for a moment before giving Ader what must be the ultimate compliment a collector can give. eloquence than me. “

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