The Purist – The Patek Philippe Collector – OM Magazine Issue 27


A few weeks ago, the department of PP that manages the historical archive and releases extracts, has included four photographs of the mentioned watch among the information required for granting it. In principle it is good news, an indicative that will give more significance to the document, increasingly in demand for watches of average importance.

On the other hand I wonder if this will complicate the life of vintage PP fans.

I am not going to patronize the intentions of unscrupulous dealers who may take advantage of the lack of reliable information for “ building” watches that virtually never existed, getting undeserved and illegal benefits.

With the service of issuing extracts form the historical archive, they have demonstrated an out of the ordinary vision in recognizing the importance that the market of the time would take, and also its dramatic impact on future profits for manufacturing – it is assumed that PP sells about 10.000 extract a year, for approximately 900.00 CHF- and the credibility of the brand, together with the investments in auctions by buying back their watches for the museum, PP has consolidated the notion that it’s products represent a real commodity, getting to the point of having waiting lists for years for watches of hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Swiss francs: a unique example in the whole world.

However, the need for certainty from the buyers side led the little information reveled from the Archives Extract to have an importance that somehow, in my opinion, is beginning to affect the market in distorted way: and the novelty of the photos probably will inevitably intensify this phenomenon.

Let me explain: while at the beginning, sending a request to PP for information indicating only a small number on movement with or without a case number, or even a wrong one, you obtained an extract which provided the correct information, based on what is written in the original log. Today this no longer happens: if the provided numbers of movement and case do not match those of a watch made in the factory with the same exact combination, the required certificate is not issued. Thus, form a potential buyer’s (or public in general) point of view, that watch is not to be considered original: in other words, it is practically of no value. So, assuming that two PP chronograph ref.530, just to bring the example of an actually occurred situation, were assembled with reversed casebacks, the result would be that tens of years later, on the market, two watches would have a non corresponding case number, just for the last unit. Two worthless timepieces or nearly so, to be considered as spare parts. Does it make sense? It sounds impossible that a 130 chronograph with an immaculate and correct PP case, labeled ref.130 and mounting an original 13-130 mechanics, undoubtedly designed and built to be hosted in that specific case but mounted in another specimen, maybe just for a matter of a few month or weeks, may have a little value compared to what can be proved to have been originally sold with the two corresponding components. Well, it is possible, that’s it. However, I wonder if it would make sense, on the other hand, that PP issued a positive statement for every watch that has a case that would still fit that mechanics. Maybe just putting a remark to remember that the two were out together from the factory. So, let’s be clear: it is quite likely that the proper mechanics for that particular case, although originally mounted on a different one, has lost it’s trace forever… And if they could even reunify, how about releasing a new statement after inspection of the components to avoid a fraud? In all honesty, I admit I would continue to treat only intact objects since their construction and the value of those “reunify” ones at a later time should be lower, of course. However they would not be “pieces of iron” to be returned to the sender with indigniation: they are still precision instruments that continue to perform very well the functions for which they were made and maintain the same characteristics.  I wonder what would happen if a watch mounting a dial different from a previously mounted one, and with what already shown to the Maison for the issuance of a certificate, was presented for a second time with its “new” aspect; would the document be issued? And if the “second submission” mounted dial was the right type, corresponding to what is written in the PP source register, would it be released even if previously denied for the disagreement  due to the wrong dial? Would it be irreparably finished, or would it be “ rehabilitated”? It is a fact that a watch offered to the market in a correct case/dial configuration, but previously appeared at auction with a different or wrong dial, looks like “infected” and a little or totally undesirable.  I have always believed that this was a defect in the habit of utmost integrity required by PP collectors. But of course I am now speculating because it is known that for the conventional collector, a watch with a component replaced at a later time by the factory, the caseback, to give another example of real life, is hardly desirable, and it would be as well if PP equipped it with two pounds of certificates to legitimize it. But isn’t this absurd too? Using the world classic cars as a parralel, it is like a car in which the client has mounted a coloured interior different from the one on the assembly line, but absolutely original, was no longer recognizable as “true” by the mother company itself which manufactured the retrofitted interiors too; and a car in which, following the loss of a key component, like the hood, getting it replaced by the factory or by a common artisan makes no difference to the value thereof.

It is interesting to note the gap in viewpoints between PP and Rolex collectors. Even more, when it is the same person, in whom there is a real split personality! Notwithstanding that the object in the very first patina, obviously never touched, never even opened, has a different consistency and listing, apart from this exception, in Rolex all is interchangeble. The “Rolexist” will proudly show his own chronograph that originally had a white dial but now is black, thanks to a lucky purchase on ebay. And he will not be discouraged by the idea that his Oyster Paul Newman dial specimen is on a historically wrong case: it will be a part of the game finding a more suitable case or a cooler one rather than the one that originally came with that dial, putting the “right” bezel, equipped it with nearly original MK I buttons, and maybe even finding a nice “classic” warranty. Try and do this with a Patek Philippe!

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