THE SEARCH FOR THE GRAIL
A holy grail watch is the one timepiece that a collector prizes above all others. It’s the crown jewel in their collection—or possibly the one that got away. We speak to seasoned collectors about their holy grail watches.
What is your holy grail watch? That’s a tough question. Depending on one’s perspective, the term holy grail can be viewed from vastly different angles. For me personally, functionality, legibility and aesthetic beauty are the sine qua non for a fine watch, leaving me with the following three watches: Greubel Forsey’s Quadruple Tourbillon Invention Piece 2, A. Lange & Söhne’s Grand Complication and Patek Philippe’s Grandmaster Chime Ref 5175. But if I had to choose one, my holy grail watch would be the Ref 5175.
Why do you like this watch more than any others? I love this watch because it speaks to me—no pun intended—even though it’s a minute repeater! It possesses a timeless feel to it and has this je ne sais quoi. The first time I saw it, I immediately fell in love with it. In terms of mechanics, while it is Patek’s most complicated watch, it certainly isn’t the most complicated watch ever made. (That honour goes to Vacheron Constantin.) It is the case that distinguishes this masterpiece. At a glance, it already grabs your attention with an intricate laurel wreath engraved around the bezel, case, crown and pushers—it’s absolutely stunning. Every detail, leaf and letter have been painstakingly etched out. I am not one for superlatives or hyperbole, but this watch is truly breathtaking. It invokes the same emotions as looking at Michelangelo’s sculptures and paintings. Does the rarity and exclusivity of the watch add to its allure? I suppose an instinctive answer, given that there are only seven of these beauties on the planet, would be a resounding yes. But upon deeper reflection, I concluded that I would not have thought any less of it had there been 10,000 such watches. An object of beauty is an object of beauty, regardless of its availability or quantity. Too often people mistake rarity for beauty and this is true for other collectibles such as cars, jewellery, art and so on.
Do you think that you will ever have a second holy grail watch? To me it’s not a matter of if but when. Unlike vinyl records, instant Polaroids, Kodak film and horse saddles—all of which have been relegated to the annals of history and places in the Smithsonian—mechanical watches survived the quartz invasion and I wholeheartedly believe they will continue to survive the onslaught of smart watches and excel too. People are inherently drawn to the marvels of the mechanical watch as a feat of precision engineering and aesthetic beauty, as opposed to a device driven by an integrated circuit board that exists merely to tell you the most accurate time on a pseudo analogue-dialled screen. As such, with bated breath I anxiously await the next wonder that will supplant the Ref 5175. Perhaps the bicentennial 200th anniversary Patek!