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.

Singapore Tatler Jewels & Time - - Feature - Text Ni­co­lette Wong BEN­JAMIN KIM

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!

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