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Interview: Patrick Getreide Discusses a Lifetime Curating the Finest Patek Philippe Collection

Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref 530A, One of a kind, stainless steel 1941

Many of us consider ourselves collectors, with a few pieces dotted across a few decades, perhaps even with some serious auction-worthy rarities here and there. Patrick Getreide’s array of 163 timepieces, gathered over the course of 35 years, isn’t a collection. It’s the stuff of legends and is, after being postponed last year, the basis for The Design Museum’s OAK Exhibition in mid-May.

Yet while he’s in possession of one of the greatest watch collections in the world, Patrick certainly didn’t come from money. As he says when we caught up with him virtually ahead of the previous exhibition date, “as a young boy at boarding school in Switzerland, I lived among the children of some of the world’s wealthiest people – but all I had was a small, weekly pocket money allowance. I didn’t feel envy, but I did want to be like these people and their parents. It gave me what I call ‘the Count of Monte Cristo syndrome’, a determination to achieve a level of success that would give me freedom to do the things I loved.”

Patek Philippe Ref. 982_140G Unique Pocket Watch 2013

Patek Philippe ref. 982/140G unique pocket watch, 2013

It was a drive that cultivated an entrepreneurial mindset, swooping in to acquire then improve businesses with an almost prescient level of success. Yet like most collectors, Patrick never set out to create one of the top 5 collections in the world. Like many a buyer, he bought on impulse. Indeed, his first watch was a Cartier Tank, bought to celebrate his horse winning a race. That was the case right up until he bought his first Patek Philippe and met the inimitable Thierry Stern.

“We share the same Philosophy on life,” says Patrick of their continued relationship. “We don’t think ourselves so important. We’re not like some people who are too well known or too rich. He’s normal. Like me, he’s really relaxed and we both respect people.”

Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref 3800/123A

Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref 3800/123A, a one of a kind Nautilus quartz made upon special request in 1984

Evidently, it’s a relationship that goes beyond merely buying the occasional Patek, to the point where Stern has actually advised Patrick on pieces he should buy. “This is a one-of-a-kind 3800 which has been done with quartz for the doctor of Mr Stern. When he died, Mr Stern proposed that I buy it. It’s mighty rare.”

Honestly, ‘mighty rare’ is an understatement if ever there was one – an understatement that works for the entirety of the OAK Exhibition – which, incidentally, stands for One-of-a-Kind. That little fact alone should be enough to make the upcoming display a site of pilgrimage for any respectable collector – and Patrick was more than happy to give us a bit of a preview.

Patek Philippe Ref. 2523J World Time

Patek Philippe ref. 2523J World Time

There are 11 sections in the exhibition, six of which are dedicated to Patek Philippe. In the Calatrava section you’ll find the Patrick calls his ‘fantastic four’, a quartet of unique takes on the flagship dress watch, including the only known Reference 570J. The Chronograph section shows off a unique Reference 130J monopusher with a two-tone mirror dial while the World Time section includes a The Reference 2523J two-crown World Time, one of just four known examples.

Given the hype behind the Genta-designed sports watch, it’s no surprise that the Nautilus Section is visiting by itself and, as well as that aforementioned quartz 3800, includes a recent highlight. “I like modern Pateks too – and this is the famous green that everyone wants!”, he says, referencing the ‘final run’ 5711/1A.

Patek Philippe 1579A, circa 1950
Patek Philippe Calatrava 1518R, 1948

Patek Philippe 1579A, circa 1950 / Patek Philippe Calatrava 1518R, 1948

Unlike most Nautilus buyers though, Patrick actually has a personal connection to the legendary designer: “I actually knew Genta you know. I had a business dealings with him. He was a genius. It was unfortunate he went bankrupt multiple times. If I had been here, that wouldn’t have been the case!”

Perhaps the most important section however stands on the shoulders of one of the greatest collectors in history. In the The Graves-Fullerton Section you’ll find five of the pieces originally commissioned by the legendary Henry Graves Jr – a full sixth of the railroad tycoon’s surviving commissions. The only larger collection of Graves pieces is the Patek Philippe museum itself.

Rolex Daytona Paul Newman ref. 6239
Rolex GMT Master modèle Blueberry

Rolex Daytona Paul Newman ref. 6239 / Rolex GMT Master modèle Blueberry

It’s not all Patek though and there’s a fair amount of space reserved for – you guessed it – Rolex. Three whole sections in fact – but not just your usual Daytonas, either. Prestigious as the collection is, Patrick evidently like the occasional oddity.

“This is the Sky-Dweller,” Patrick says, proudly holding up a modern version of the most complicated Rolex to the camera. “Nobody wants the Sky-Dweller! I Find it fantastic nevertheless.”

Patek Philippe Ref. 530R

Patek Philippe ref. 530R

More than anything else, that perhaps encapsulates the OAK Exhibition and Patrick’s approach to collecting. Yes, there are more unique Pateks than all but a scarce handful of collectors in the world can lay claim to, but it’s not driven by price or prestige as much as it is Patrick’s own love of fine timepieces. He doesn’t care about trends or hype – because honestly, when you’re this calibre of collector none of that matters – but about what strikes a chord with him, whether that’s an incredible quartz Nautilus or an often-maligned Rolex.

The OAK Exhibition will take place at The Design Museum 19- 25 May 2022.

More details at The Design Museum.

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About the author

Sam Kessler

Legend has it that Sam’s first word was ‘escapement’ and, while he might have started that legend himself, he’s been in the watch world long enough that it makes little difference. As the editor of Oracle Time, he’s our leading man for all things horological – even if he does love yellow dials to a worrying degree. Owns a Pogue; doesn’t own an Oyster Perpetual. Yet.