Ten things I learned from super-collector Patrick Getreide – the man behind the OAK CollectionZach Blass
If you have been tuned into the watch world of late, the name Patrick Getreide must ring a bell. His unveiling of the OAK Collection, and its subsequent exhibition, has caught the eyes of enthusiasts and collectors around the world – most of whom have been itching to get a closer look at his pieces. If you didn’t catch my introduction to the OAK Collection, OAK stands for “One of a Kind” and, while it is natural to be sceptical, the reality is that the collection truly is home to truly unique watches. Whether comissioned by legendary figures like Henry Graves Jr, or Mr Geitrede himself, all of the pieces in his 600+ watch collection (estimated to be worth over $300M) are incredibly rare, whether highly limited or commissioned unique pieces and in museum-grade condition. Naturally, I was eager to sit down with Mr Getreide to talk watches. Here are 10 things I learned from the disciplined collector.
None of his friends knew he collected watches until now
With such an incredible collection, you would think Mr. Getreide would be a household name in the watch community. But it was not until a French magazine introduced the OAK Collection and its exhibition that people discovered his decades of acquiring incredibly rare and coveted watches. Mr Getreiede explains: “Ninety-nine per cent of my family and friends didn’t know actually. I told no one.” Since the announcement of the collection, many of his friends have contacted him, noting their surprise and sharing their love for watches as well. I’d imagine some are also coming out of the woodwork, wondering if he can help bump them up the queue for unobtanium references.
The watch that launched the OAK Collection is a precious Cartier Tank
All collections have a starting point, and the OAK Collection began with a Cartier Tank LC made in 1980. The watch is special to Mr. Getreide not only because it marked the start of the OAK Collection, but also because he purchased it with the winnings he earned when his family’s horse won a race – winning him 39,000 French francs. Yet another example of a watch immortalising a moment in time that’s special to the owner’s heart.
If you could only see one watch in the collection, Mr Getreide’s pick is…
His Patek Philippe 5320 QP in steel. Mr Getreide explains: “The 5320 that Patek made for me in steel. It was the second time they have done that in 20 years, a big gift for personalised steel – and this is incredible. They made me a huge gift. I went to have lunch with Thierry Stern and Patrick Miller and there was a box… they didn’t tell me that the watch was ready or whatever… they never do… and I see a box you know. So you know I look, and Thierry said ‘Yes, there is something maybe for you’. After that, they open it. They said ‘You don’t believe it’. I said ‘no’.” When I asked Mr Getreide how long he had to ask for such a one-off commission, he explained that he waited five years for Patek to relent and finally agree to make such a piece for him.
Mr Getreide has his own dedicated watchmaker who services his watches regularly
A great collection means great responsibility. Mr Getreide regularly ensures that all of the watches he owns are not only in top-condition externally – but internally as well. Mr Getreide explains: “I have a watchmaker who sees them all the time, every month, and every four months, we do the big thing, 24 hours, to see which ones go to him [to be serviced or repaired]. If he can do it, he does it himself; otherwise, we send them to Patek. All the watches in my collection are working. It is normal that when you come a few months later that one who is 70 years will suddenly stop because of the age, but when we finish the check, everything runs as it’s supposed to.”
His Henry Graves Jr. Observatory Tourbillon has never been overhauled, only re-oiled
Not all of his pieces require extensive repairs, however. Amazingly, one such watch that has never been overhauled, at least since he acquired it, is one of the five Henry Graves Jr. commissions he proudly owns in his collection: the Observatory Tourbillon in platinum. The watch, commissioned by Henry Graves Jr. in 1932, was awarded first prize in the Geneva Astronomical Observatory Timing Contest 1933-1934. A testament to its build quality, and craftsmanship, is the fact that, while it is regularly checked by the watchmaker it has never needed a full-service – just a simple re-oiling to ensure it keeps running smoothly.
He actually wears all of his watches
Considering the how diligent he is about maintaining the functionality of his timepieces, it becomes less of a shock that Mr Getreide actually wears all of the watches he owns. In fact, he often wears multiple pieces at once – a practice he began to do regularly when COVID-19 struck. Although, I, perhaps, should caveat this claim with the fact that while he wears every reference he owns, some references he purchases two of to ensure at least one is in the condition required of his OAK Collection. Mr Getreide explains: “I have two of some watches, one for my collection and one for me, because some of those I wear a lot and I need a little respect because I really use them.” What blew my mind further is the fact that he even swims with some of his modern high complications, including his platinum Patek Philippe Advanced Research Projects Minute Repeater ref. 5750 which was a limited edition of 15 pieces and carried a “Price Upon Request” retail price.
Mr Getreide gravitates towards white metals
While he owns watches of all metals, he expressed a partiality towards white metals such as platinum, white gold, titanium, and steel due to their more discreet nature. This is a common phenomenon nowadays, as these metals are known for having the benefit of “stealth wealth”. With such an incredible collection – one the world was not really aware of until now – it makes sense he stayed under the radar by wearing white metal watches more often.
He enjoys watches at all price points
Considering the worth of his collection, and the number of incredible pieces he owns, it came as a bit of a shock to find out a piece he regularly wears as well costs 160 euros: the Bristol Clubmaster Chic Steel. It has a bit of a Panerai aesthetic, but comes in a 36mm cushion case with a Japanese Miyota quartz movement – a very solid daily beater all things considered. He believes there are certain instances when wearing such costly watches would not be appropriate, whether due to risking the condition of the pieces or during events such as a funeral. The Bristol is also a go-to piece he gifts people as a token of his thanks.
Even a Patek collector of his status does not receive early intel on novelties
You would think that someone with his level of clout and purchase history with the brand would get early intel on what they are releasing, but even a collector of his stature remains in the dark. He explained that he has never had more advance notice on a release than two days, and, for example, has no idea as to what the future of a Nautilus, such as a 6711, holds.
While he has never sold a watch (with only one exception), he anticipates his children will sell the collection eventually
Decades have been spent amassing such an unrivalled collection, and, with the exception of a rare Breguet commissioned by a historic French family, he has never sold any of the watches he buys. But it appears to be inevitable that the collection will eventually be sold by his children. According to Mr Geitreide, they do not particularly share his interest in watches, and that is ok with him. There is no trust or legal requirement for the watches to be kept in the event of his death. The watches will never be sold while he is alive, but some have speculated that this exhibition, while born from a genuine desire to share his passion and convey the art of watchmaking, is also a means to familiarise other top-bidders and buyers around the world with his pieces if/when they are sold.
All in all, the OAK Collection Exhibition and my time with Mr. Getreide are moments I will never forget, and I hope the exhibition makes it way to NYC so I can look at the pieces all over again.
The OAK Collection travelling exhibition opened at the Design Museum, 224-238 Kensington High St, London W8 6AG on May 19th and will run until May 25th