It’s not often that watch enthusiasts get a view into one of the great private watch collections in the world. It’s downright rare. Serious watch collectors are generally very private, preferring to savor their treasure with trusted and select friends rather than trumpet its existence from the rooftops.
This partly explains what makes Patrick Getreide’s week-long OAK Collection exhibition at the London Design Museum in May 2022 so extraordinary: the fact that it was on show for anyone to see who was interested.
The other part of what makes it so interesting is, of course, the fill of extraordinary, museum-quality, one-of-a-kind timepieces, many of which are either historically important or unrepeatable special orders or rare limited editions.
Getreide’s private collection also contains the largest number (five) of Patek Philippe pieces once owned by Henry Graves, Jr., American industrialist and one of the most famous Patek Philippe collectors in history (still famous for “the Henry Graves Supercomplication,” which sold at auction in 2014 for more than 23 million Swiss francs). Between 1922 and 1951, Graves commissioned 39 watches from Patek Philippe. Of those, only around 30 are believed to have survived; five of them form part of the OAK Collection, while 13 are on display at the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva.
Getreide, who makes his home in Paris, owns more than 500 important watches that he began collecting in 1980 when he bought his first good watch, a Cartier Tank. The exhibition however “only” showed 160 of these, curated by the collector and a team of his horological advisers for their beauty, rarity, and importance to horology.
Showing one’s private collection in this fashion is a practice that is much more common in the art world, which is where Getreide received his inspiration for the undertaking – that and on the suggestion of his son, who has witnessed his father’s passion for this hobby for as long as he can remember.
“I see being able to send the OAK Collection exhibition around the world both as a reward to myself for building it and as a unique opportunity to share it with the many people who are just as passionate about watches as I am but have not been as fortunate as me in having the time and the means to acquire so many special pieces,” Getreide said. “I really do see owning them as an honor and with that comes an obligation to let others enjoy them.”
This exhibition was the first of its kind in the world of watches. The opening event on May 18, 2022, took place in the presence of horology’s glitterati, and is so far the most talked about event of the year.
“OAK” stands for “one of a kind,” an apt description for practically all of the timepieces in Getreide’s collection. The bulk of it comprises watches made by Patek Philippe, and many of these were made specifically for him in collaboration with the Genevan manufacture. Rolex is the next most common brand name within the collection.
In the eight editions of the biennial Only Watch charity auction, Getreide has been the most prolific buyer, successfully bidding on and winning ten unique pieces from makers as diverse as Kari Voutilainen, H. Moser & Cie, and Chanel.
The Patek Philippe models account for seven of the exhibition’s 11 sections: these are Calatrava, Nautilus, World Time, chronographs, perpetual calendar/complication models, and Rare Handcrafts in addition to the aforementioned Graves section. Three sections are allotted to Rolex (GMT-Master, sports chronographs, and sports watches), while one section is dedicated to independent makers such as F.P. Journe and Kari Voutilainen.
OAK Collection sections: Patek Philippe Calatrava
After spending two days with Getreide and having had the chance to sit with him and talk about his watches, I had the distinct feeling that the Calatrava – Patek Philippe’s classic time-only watch – was his favorite. Indeed, to me Getreide seems motivated by classic visuals, horological elegance, and exclusivity, so learning that he loves the Calatrava most came as no surprise.
The exhibition organizers confirmed that Getreide has accumulated the largest number of examples of Patek Philippe Calatravas in private hands. Twenty-four Calatravas could be admired in London, at least half of which are historically important vintage pieces. Many of the modern pieces are special orders and one-of-a-kind watches just for him.
A standout timepiece in this section is the only known Patek Philippe Reference 530A in stainless steel with a black lacquer dial. While it looks very classic now, this watch from 1941 was considered large for its time at 36.5 mm.
The unique Patek Philippe Reference 1504 in steel with black dial and pink gold indexes completes what Getreide calls “The Fantastic Four,” a quartet of one-of-a-kind timepieces boasting Breguet-style numerals.
OAK Collection sections: Patek Philippe chronographs
The OAK Collection exhibition featured 29 examples of Patek Philippe chronographs, all but six of which are exceedingly rare vintage pieces. And all of which are in stupendously good shape.
Among these is a unique Reference 130J featuring a yellow gold case, a single pusher to control the chronograph, and a remarkable two-tone dial in silver marked with a tachymeter scale.
Also exceptional is a Reference 530R pink gold chronograph from 1956 double-signed with the name of its original retailer, Gobbi Milano.
OAK Collection sections: Graves-Fullerton Patek Philippes
The OAK Collection exhibition brings together watches owned by both Graves and his grandson, Reginald H. Fullerton, who inherited Graves’ watches and managed to collect many of his own. The OAK Collection contains five that belonged to Graves and two that were Fullerton’s.
Among the Graves watches, we find an observatory-quality, platinum-encased tourbillon pocket watch created by Patek Philippe to take part in the Geneva Astronomical Observatory Timing Contest of 1933 (which it won).
Other Graves watches on display include a gold minute repeater that was specially made for him and which he gifted to his grandson on the occasion of his marriage as well as a gold, hunting-encased minute repeater with enamel dial. Three of the Graves watches are engraved with his family crest and motto Esse Quam Videre (“to be rather than to seem”).
The two Fullerton watches comprise a round, officer-cased wristwatch and a cushion-cased, jump hour model, both of which were produced in limited editions to mark Patek Philippe’s 150th anniversary in 1989.
OAK Collection sections: Patek Philippe Nautilus
Famously, the Patek Philippe Nautilus was one of the first luxury sports watches to be made in steel, following on from the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, with which this timepiece shares the mind of celebrated designer Gérald Genta.
In recent years, the Nautilus has gained importance as the sportier Patek Philippe design, which fits modern sensibilities. Getreide, however, has always been a fan – and the exhibition includes no fewer than 16 examples of rare Nautilus models.
These include three early Reference 3700 models in different formats, the only known Nautilus to have been fitted with a “special request” quartz movement (Reference 3800) thanks to the needs of a doctor, and a selection of more recent models featuring chronograph and calendar complications.
OAK Collection sections: Patek Philippe perpetual calendars and complications
Patek Philippe’s perpetual calendar and high complication watches are among the firm’s rarest and most difficult to obtain. So naturally this is one of the largest and most comprehensive sections in the OAK Collection exhibition.
Among six vintage perpetual calendar chronographs, surely one of the highlights is the unique Reference 1518R “pink on pink” boasting a 35 mm pink gold case, a pink dial, and its original Gay Frères pink gold beads-of-rice bracelet. Getreide casually wore this piece – he wears all of his watches – and handed it around to interested parties the day we met in the bar of London’s Nobu Hotel to chat. Interestingly, that was not the only watch on his person that day: he seemed to pull million-dollar specialties out of every pocket!
Only 281 examples of Reference 1518 were made over 14 years, yet the OAK Collection contains another Reference 1518, one of just six featuring large Arabic numerals.
The OAK Collection also boasts a unique, first series example of the successor to the 1518: Reference 2499J with champagne-colored dial. Housed in a 36.2 mm yellow gold case, it was made in 1951.
Modern watches in the section, meanwhile, include a spectacular Reference 3970/2J perpetual calendar chronograph made as a one-off commission in 2019 with a yellow gold case, matching bracelet, and champagne-colored dial. Unworn and in new old stock condition, it is joined by a similarly remarkable (and fully unique) Reference 3970ER from 2015, which combines a 36 mm pink gold case with a pink dial set with diamond hour markers specifically made for Getreide.
OAK Collection sections: Patek Philippe Rare Handcrafts
Patek Philippe’s mastery of horology notably extends to the unique and exquisite decoration of its timepieces through the use of engraving, enameling, guilloche, and even wood marquetry.
Getreide’s appreciation of these unique enhancements has moved him to acquire a number of examples featuring rare handcrafts. Nine such timepieces are included in the exhibition.
Two of these are exhibits are wristwatches with lovingly enameled dials: References 2482 and 2481. Reference 2482 is a 35.8 mm yellow gold time-only watch with a tropical landscape painstakingly painted in cloisonné enamel, while Reference 2481 depicts a tropical lighthouse scene at night.
OAK Collection sections: Patek Philippe world time
The Patek Phillippe worldtime wristwatches first developed in collaboration with Louis Cottier during the 1930s always appeal to high-end collectors, but they become especially covetable when they benefit from rare dial variations such as one vintage Reference 2523J.
The two-crown Reference 2523J World Time from 1953 is from the second generation of this timepiece and is one of just four known examples to feature a dial center enameled in blue, Getreide’s favorite color. And it is probably Getreide’s favorite if he was pushed to name one. It is one of only three in 18-karat yellow gold and in mint condition.
The other vintage piece in this section is a 1963 example of the exceptionally beautiful Reference 2523. The collection also contains modern worldtime pieces, no fewer than four of which boast dials decorated with polychrome enamel maps.
OAK Collection sections: Rolex GMT-Master
Rolex famously made its GMT-Master double time zone watch at the request of Pan-American airlines during preparations for the first intercontinental passenger flights on the Boeing 707.
Before putting the 707 into full service, Pan-Am asked Rolex to develop a wristwatch that enabled its wearer to tell the time at a glance in both the home and destination time zones. This resulted in the Reference 6542 GMT-Master with a rotating bezel calibrated into 24 hours and designed to be used in conjunction with the 24-hour hand. This model carries the nickname “Pussy Galore” due to it being worn by Honor Blackman’s character in the 1964 James Bond movie Goldfinger.
The bezel is in steel with a Plexiglas insert, one-half of which is blue to represent night while the other is red for daytime. One sets the 24-hour hand to show the time at the destination on the bezel, while the main time displays shows home time (or vice versa if desired).
The GMT-Master has become one of the most collectable Rolex sports watches. Therefore the OAK Collection exhibition includes 11 pristine examples ranging from an early version with a Bakelite bezel to highly desirable variations such as the so-called Chuck Yeager. Each one is in virtually unworn condition.
OAK Collection sections: Rolex sports chronographs
Sports chronographs by Rolex are among the most popular and sought-after high-quality watches today. The OAK Collection celebrates their ongoing development and significance with a display of 13 examples, eight of which are vintage pieces.
Among the former, particular highlights include an exceptionally rare 1961 Daytona Cosmograph issued to the Fuerza Aerea del Peru, Peru’s combined military and naval group, and a 1966 Cosmograph Daytona that not only features a sought-after Paul Newman dial but is made additionally collectible by the fact that it was originally owned by NASA astronaut Walter Cunningham who wore it while piloting the Apollo 7 lunar module.
Measuring 36.5 mm, it has one of the earliest serial numbers of any “Paul Newman” Daytona.
OAK Collection sections: Rolex sports watches
This nine-watch selection represents several of the most coveted Rolex sports models made by the firm since the Explorer was launched in the 1950s.
By their very nature, vintage Rolex sports watches are notoriously difficult to find in excellent condition, let alone in the virtually unused form in which they appear in the OAK Collection.
All of Rolex’s key vintage models are represented in the OAK Collection, from the early Explorer to a 1980s Explorer II (known as the Steve McQueen) to a perfectly preserved 1969 Submariner Reference 1680 with red script and a “tropical” bezel and a 1972 version originally supplied to the COMEX underwater engineering firm.
OAK Collection sections: independents
Much more recently, Getreide discovered an appreciation for the world of contemporary independent watchmakers and boutique brands, though in my opinion this section of his collection is very much in need of some real work if he intends for it to be a contender as one of the world’s best collection of horological indies.
I understand that the collection of Patek Philippe and Rolex exhibited here is practically unparalleled – and who wouldn’t be wowed by that? – but this collection without any masterpieces by the likes of Philippe Dufour, George Daniels, or Vianney Halter is lacking if it intends to be representative of the best independents of the modern era, which the beginnings seem to indicate.
It is however clear that that the independents were never Getreide’s focus and that he simply bought what he liked. And what he has acquired is indeed masterful.
Chief among his independent acquisitions are timepieces by F.P. Journe; the OAK Collection exhibition gives visitors the rare chance to see François-Paul Journe’s Ruthenium set, which comprises a Chronomètre à Résonance, an Octa Calendrier, a Tourbillon Souverain, an Octa Chronograph, and an Octa Auto. All date from 2002 and all have movements made of ruthenium-plated brass, making them rare and very collectable. Remarkably, each of these watches is in new old stock condition.
Getreide has also managed to collect seven timepieces by Kari Voutilainen, all in pristine condition. While all of Voutilainen’s timepieces are unique in one way or another, one stands out even among those: the Voutilainen GMT-6 was one of the 44 watches in the sixth edition of the Only Watch charity auction held in 2015 to raise funds for research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy. According to Getreide, it was the first of Voutilainen’s GMT models to be encased in steel.
Even though Getreide carefully expressed to me that he isn’t very interested in many of the “new-age” independents because of the futuristic looks of their watches, he did manage to collect two of Akrivia’s very rare timepieces: the AK-01 and the AK-06, each of them personalized to make them unique.
It did surprise me, however, that there is no Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Contemporain (RRCC) in the OAK Collection, which would seem like the perfect fit for him to me with its classic looks and practically unobtainable status. Perhaps it’s still on the way?
Due to the success of this inaugural event, the OAK Collection is set to travel to other parts of the world in the future, with the next exhibition taking place in 2023 in an as-yet undisclosed location.
For more information, please visit www.oakcollection.watch.
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