In May 2022, 168 pieces of the over-600-strong OAK Collection — a bewildering, one-of-a-kind collection that reflects French businessman Patrick Getreide’s 40-year horological passion — were presented for all to see at the British Design Museum in London. It was quite the event with around 700 watch business VIPs, fellow collectors, and press coming in from around the globe to meet the man behind the collection and inspect the watches. And guess what? The show was a warm-up for the auctioning of the OAK Collection in several stages. Part I, featuring 142 watches, will take place at Christie’s auction house and is scheduled for November 26th in Hong Kong. Will the Patek Philippe Nautilus quartz watch, an odd one-off that I know is in Mr. Getreide’s possession, also come up for auction?

The scale of the privately funded event/party was as bewildering as the 168 watches from the OAK Collection that were on display at the British Design Museum in London. Last year, Getreide said that he regards sharing his collection as “a reward to [him]self for building it and as a unique opportunity to share it with the many people who are just as passionate about watches [he is].” In retrospect, it was also a live advertising campaign for the sale of this one-of-a-kind collection. The collection has been valued by various experts at between US$100 million and US$300 million. Christie’s (perhaps laughably) low estimate for the 142 watches in the auction this time is well above US$9.5 million. That amount will more or less take care of the 2022 event/party, and Parts II and III — all good things come in threes, right? — can be used to fund plenty of other things.

OAK Collection Patek Philippe Ref. 992-108J-001

Patek Philippe Ref. 992-108J-001

Is the Patek Philippe Nautilus quartz watch also up for grabs?

After scanning the OAK Collection during the London presentation, I noticed that one of the watches that I was most excited to see in the metal was not there. The watch in question is a unique Patek Philippe Nautilus with a quartz movement. That watch was a one-off made for a Swiss doctor. After the doctor’s passing, the watch went back to Patek, and the brand then offered it to Mr. Getreide. He bought it, of course. But that piece, the one that would arguably surprise the watch world the most, was left out of the collection that wasn’t for display only after all.

When I got the chance, I asked Mr. Getreide about the quartz Nautilus. He confirmed the story about the doctor and Patek Philippe selling him the watch. But, other than saying it was a quartz watch and all the ones on display were mechanical, he didn’t provide me with a clear answer to why it wasn’t there.

OAK Collection Akrivia AK-06

Akrivia AK-06

Christie’s has the answer

For the upcoming auction in Hong Kong, Christie’s prepared a press release highlighting some of the watches that will go under the hammer (more on those later), but the battery-powered Nautilus is not featured. So I emailed Alexandre Bigler, Christie’s Senior Vice President and Head of Watches for Asia-Pacific, inquiring about the mysterious and illustrious Nautilus, and his response was short and clear. “The watch won’t be featured in Part 1,”  it read. That learns us two things: Christie’s has the watch, it’s part of the auction, but we will have to wait for it. My best guess is it will the showstopping star of the Part III auction. I’m sure Christie’s will send a press release once the rest of the OAK Collection comes under the hammer..

OAK Collection Patek Philippe ref. 1436

Patek Philippe ref. 1436

“Patek-heavy” but not just Patek

Back to reality. During the London exhibition, timepieces by Patek Philippe dominated. There were plenty of one-of-a-kind, special-order Calatrava models, chronographs, perpetual calendars, world-time watches, and Rare Handcrafts models to go around. What’s also remarkable is that Mr. Getreide managed to acquire the largest number of timepieces once owned by American banker, railroad magnate, and collector Henry Graves Jr. outside the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva. One of the highlights of the first auction is, without a doubt, the 1950 Patek Philippe ref. 1436 split-seconds chronograph. This watch is rare for two reasons. First, only 59 yellow gold examples are known, and second, just a handful of them feature a black dial.

Yes, the OAK Collection is very a “Patek-heavy” bunch. Still, there are watches from several other prominent brands in the lineup as well. Since Mr. Getreide was one of the most active bidders during several Only Watch auctions, his collection also holds no fewer than ten unique watches from brands like Voutilainen, H. Moser & Cie., Chanel, Hublot, and Roger Dubuis.

OAK Collection Voutilainen GMT-6

Voutilainen GMT-6

Does that seem like a random selection of brands and watches to you? Well, as writer Nick Foulkes said about the collector in May 2022, “If you drop Patrick Getreide on a deserted island, within no time he will find a watch dealer, and he’ll be shopping.” The over-600-piece collection does indeed look a lot like the result of a very rich man with all the right connections going on a 40-year shopping spree. There’s nothing wrong with buying whatever you like, of course, but it does make for a somewhat incoherent collection.

Breguet Type XX

Notable highlights and my pick of the bunch

Other interesting pieces include a rare 1950s Audemars Piguet ref. 5516. Just nine of these very elegant perpetual calendar wristwatches with leap year and moon phase indications were ever made. Jack Brabham’s old Breguet Type XX chronograph from 1959 is also not bad. And it’s not just because the watch once belonged to a former Formula 1 world champion. No, it’s also because it looks like the Type XX of my dreams. Something more contemporary is the Akrivia SS AK-06 Cadran Spéciale Bleu. There’s also Kari Voutilainen’s stainless steel GMT-6 that he built for Only Watch.

My pick of the bunch, though, is a Breguet No. 1646 dive watch from 1965. Only 60 pieces were ever made, and it’s the dial that does it for me. The large-sized hour markers filled with discolored lume are not only functional but also a geometrical feast for the eyes. Other especially attractive elements are the prominent Bakelite dive bezel and the remarkably thin case for an instrumental timepiece. This Breguet diver with an A. Schild automatic movement is not a well-known watch. Surprisingly, though, Breguet has the name of the first No. 1646 buyer in its archives. The archives also have the price. In 1965, this particular Breguet diver was sold for 595 Swiss francs. It was quite an expensive watch at the time. But it would have been well worth the investment because Christie’s estimated this watch to fetch a price between US$306,560 and US$613,120.

Did you see anything here that you would like to complete or start your collection? Let me know in the comments.