A Patek Passed Down…

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It’s not a stretch to say Patek Philippe’s advertising campaigns are as legendary as their timepieces. I for one have always been a fan of their famous slogan: “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.” If only Patek didn’t always feel the need to use those well-to-do, well-coiffed families as their poster customers. It’s not like they’re the only demographic buying their wristwatches…

Recently I discovered an enlightening vintage Patek advertisement on Jake’s Patek Philippe World. It dates to 1949 and it clearly sets the table for the company’s current marketing strategy. In my opinion, the old ad suggests that the quality of a Patek is what makes it long-lasting – a potential family heirloom. Today, the tenor of their ads focuses much less on the technological prowess that made the brand the favorite of the likes of James Packard and Henry Graves Jr. and more so on a Patek simply being a right of passage for sons of well-heeled fathers.

In the 1949 ad I take the word “investment” to mean spending money on something that will last a lifetime (again referring to quality). Nowadays when we hear or read the word investment – mentioned in conversation or written in articles about watches – it takes on a more finance-related definition: When you sell it you’ll make a profit. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it just seems like more watches make headlines today for being sold than for being kept in a family.

Watch Patina looks for stories that have the power to restore faith in traditional values of watch ownership or collecting, like passing down a watch. And what better example is there to remind us of the way things used to be than a vintage Patek Philippe recently inherited by the grandson of the owner…

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Alex was only 13 years-old when his grandfather passed away – too young to fully comprehend the gravity of the object left to him. So his mom looked after Alex’s soon-to-be Patek until he was old enough to wear it and care for it. In the interim, Alex developed a love for watches – spending his spare time online reading mostly about tool watches. One day he did a Google search for the “most expensive watch ever sold” – completely out of curiosity. The Henry Graves Supercomplication turned up in the results. Of course, as most students of horology are well aware, this mega-pocket watch was manufactured by Patek Philippe – a name Alex vaguely remembered being printed on the dial of his grandfather’s square gold watch…

He finally asked his mom if he could have it. Through his mom, Alex heard – for the first time – the pretty cool story of how his grandfather came to own it: “He was the CFO for a now-defunt department store called Evans back in the ’70s and ’80s. He was great friends with the CEO, who noticed that my grandfather wasn’t wearing a watch. The CEO said: ‘a man of your stature should wear something nice on his wrist.’ Out of his desk draw he pulled this Patek Philippe [his personal watch] and gave it to my grandfather.”

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“I didn’t know what reference it was for the longest time,” Alex told me. He continued, “I searched ‘Patek Philippe square watch’ online and I wasn’t really coming up with anything. So in my infinite wisdom I decided to take a knife and open the back. On the caseback it said 2488; that’s how I figured out what reference it was…” Once Alex knew that crucial piece of information, he was able to perform more research on the model. He found out Patek produced the ref. 2488 in four metals: yellow gold, rose gold, white gold, and platinum. (a 1950s ref. 2488 with a platinum case recently sold on the HODINKEE Shop.) In addition to knowing about the four variations of the model, Alex also learned that it’s been around since the late 1940s. Before the year is out, Alex plans to submit the serial number on Patek’s website and request an extract from their archives that’ll confirm its date of manufacture and original sale information.

Growing up around his grandfather Alex never recalled seeing him wear this Patek… Alex remembered, “he would always have a Timex on – the only time I ever saw him wear this watch was in a video of him at a meeting at Evans discussing business.” In contrast, since the day he received it, Alex says he finds himself wearing it multiple times a week – even if he’s just in a t-shirt and jeans.

When Alex first took the watch in his hand, he said “it was on a Speidel stretchy strap from Walgreens” – how his grandfather wore it last. Of course he treasures this piece and treats it with the utmost respect, including recently shelling out new-watch-money on a genuine gold Patek buckle. And in case you’re wondering… the watch runs fine, but he knows the day will come when it’ll require servicing. Alex has already decided he doesn’t want to replace the chipped crystal or have the scratches buffed out because those wounds serve as a reminder of the life his grandfather led while wearing this watch…

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It’s nice to know the gesture of handing down a watch is still alive and strong today – with a Patek as the gift no less. But I’ll bet Alex’s grandfather wasn’t persuaded to leave his dress watch to his grandson because he read the copy of a glossy, full page Patek ad in a magazine. I’m sure his decision had more to do with wanting a bond to remain between them – even after he was gone. And I have a feeling that Alex will one day give this watch to his son – his grandfather’s great-grandson – just like the 1949 ad suggests can be done with a Patek…

2 thoughts on “A Patek Passed Down…

  1. I think I met him at the RedBarMidWest for the Bremont event, if I’m not mistaken.
    Such a nice guy and the watch is pretty beautiful!!!

    Cheers,
    Pedro (IG: Paguiarneto)

    Like

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