Ex-Christies Patek expert John Reardon is going on a deep dive into vintage Patek, and he’s taking us with him.
Does Patek Philippe even *need* a marketing division anymore? In the internet era, the venerable brand’s many diehard collectors really are the best advertising Thierry Stern could wish for. Indeed, Patek’s ironclad reputation for exquisitely-made and highly collectable pieces seems to have reached a whole new apex lately- Nautilus explosion and Travis Scott’s World Time aside, anyone who types “Collectability.com” into their address bar will find themselves transported into a vintage Patek wonderland, courtesy of former Christie’s watch don Mr. John Reardon.
When the Senior Vice President and International Head of Watches at one of the world’s most pre-eminent auction houses likens a brand to a religious experience and, upon stepping down from this prestigious position, wastes no time in launching an unprecedented, deep-diving passion project into that same brand (one that, I feel I must stress again, is *literally* “Collectability.com”)- I mean, what else is there to say? Can any other brand say they command the level of scholarly obsession amongst collectors that Patek does?
“Obsessive” is very much the word as you begin to wade into Collectability, and there’s something for everyone, whether it’s Ed Sheeran showing up to gush over the 59703, or the many different bite-size educational articles, all on different levels of what I’d affectionately refer to as “maximum nerd shit”- ever seen a “Nautellipse” before?
Ever heard of an APRIOR dial? How about the US-market Patek buckles that managed to misspell “Philippe” (you had one job, guys)? Even if you’re not all that interested in Patek (and, from my experience, that changes pretty quickly), Reardon’s palpable enthusiasm is infectious. Who among us can truly say they have no interest in a bit of a geek-out?
One immediately noticeable aspect of Collectability is its uncanny aesthetic resemblance to Hodinkee’s website. This is no coincidence, as Reardon himself has long-running associations with Hodinkee, and has contributed to them many times over the years as something of an unofficial Patek Philippe correspondent. Furthermore, Collectability seems to be emulating Hodinkee’s fusion of journalism and retail- the website boasts an in-house store with a whole tonne of weird and wonderful Patek pieces and accessories. It’s quite something. This model was, and very much still is, controversial for Hodinkee, and I’m sure it won’t be to everyone’s tastes. However, I’d argue that, much like the case of Ben Clymer & Co., there’s really no doubting Reardon’s passion and knowledge- I could certainly think of worse people to buy your first vintage Patek from.
Here’s another thing: the timing, format and retail component of Collectability make me suspect that it may be shrewdly anticipating new developments in the collector market. With the steel sports explosion so dominating the watch world right now, it seems likely to me that collectors are going to start exploring alternative avenues. Is a vintage gold watch on a strap going to become the new secret handshake, the iconoclastic statement of a discerning collector? Is the enormous back catalogue of vintage precious metal Pateks, largely insulated from the absurd price hikes hitting the Nautilus, coming to represent an enticing new avenue for jaded enthusiasts?
If so, the timing of Collectability couldn’t be better- if the world of vintage Patek is poised for a whole new renaissance, John Reardon has already set about laying the groundwork. I can’t wait to see where it all goes.
Edwin McLachlan is a musician and audio engineer based in Edinburgh’s bustling city centre, with a particular fondness for Soviet, Chinese and Japanese watchmakers. You can Instagram him at @edwin_mclachlan, and work with him at www.edwinmclachlan.com.