We are off today to London to preview this magnificent exhibition showcasing one man’s passion for watchmaking which spans some 40 years. The collection comprises of 160 creme de la creme selected from a collection of some 600 watches, many which are “one of a kind”.
The Oak Collection: an invitation to the exhibition
Exhibition logistic details
Venue: Design Museum, 224-238 Kensington High St, London W8 6AG, UK
Dates: May 19 to May 25, 2022.
The exhibition is free to visit, with no pre-booking required.
It will then move to the Middle East, the Far East and North America. It will end in the USA in the spring of 2023 with a final show and gala closing party.
More details, and our first hand reports, impressions and live photographs to be out as soon after we have had time to recover from the trip, possibly by the end of this week. In the meantime, here are the highlights from the press release.
* What is also most interesting is that the Oak Collection Press Release states that the aim of the exhibitions is to bring together the watch community, the high-end collecting world, the experts, the media and watch aficionados around a shared passion. An objective which we whole heartedly support as the exhibition is mounted without any intent of a commercial purpose.
This is the inaugural display of The OAK Collection: a one of a kind collection that reflects a four-decade long watch collecting passion.
Divided into 11 sections, each of which could be described as a ‘chapter’ of time, each section encapsulates the collector’s appreciation of specific types of watches – from simple, three-hand models to more complicated pieces.
The display will show the finest examples of watch making – varying from unique limited-edition and personalised contemporary models to handcrafted and vintage rare pieces by exceptional makers such as Patek Philippe, Francois-Paul Journe and Kari Voutilainen. The display ends with a look to the future and the contemporary watchmakers that the collector supports as the next generation of master craftspeople.
THE COLLECTOR Patrick Gertreide
The individual who has amassed the remarkable OAK Collection (which comprises more than 500 pieces in total) declines to be named, but is happy to share the story of why and how he came to covet, and eventually own, many of the finest watches in the world.
“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.”
The collector achieved his goal as an entrepreneur by exploiting a natural flair for commerce that enabled him to acquire companies that he believed had the capacity to realise far greater potential if their existing business models were intelligently improved upon. Almost invariably his methods were successful, and he eventually attained the freedom he had dreamed of as a schoolboy.
“As soon as I achieved a moderate level of success, I began to buy watches at prices I could afford,” he explains. “Gradually, that amount increased and, little by little, the watches became better and the passion for collecting them became stronger. Perhaps strangely, I never thought of the financial aspect or that values might rise – but, thankfully, I seem to have bought the right ones at the right time,”
Over the decades the collector has built up a small, tight-knit network of experts who he has come to know and trust and who are now the only people through whom he acquires additions to the OAK Collection.
In the early stages of creating it, however, he would seek-out rarities everywhere he went. “As I travelled the world on business, I would always look for watches – but it was at a flea market in France 35 years ago that I think I acquired my greatest bargain. It was a steel Patek Philippe Reference 130 Sector, and when I saw it, I began to shake.
“I see being able to send the OAK Collection exhibition around the world both as a reward to myself for building it and as a unique opportunity to share it with the many people who are just as passionate about watches as I am, but have not been as fortunate as me in having the time and the means to acquire so many special pieces. I really do see owning them as an honour and, with that, comes an obligation to let others enjoy them.”
THE FATHER-SON CONNECTION
Although the collector has long wanted to show his watches to other enthusiasts, it was his son who originally suggested doing so by means of a global exhibition having spent a lifetime observing his father’s undying passion for horology.
“I have not been involved in acquiring watches for the collection, but I have been on the margins of it for as long as I can remember.”
“It has taught me that true collectors are a rare breed who simply never lose interest in the subject they love, but only want to learn more about it. There have been many occasions when I have found my father, very late at night or in the early hours of the morning, poring over watch books either alone at his desk or lying in bed, with dozens of reference works spread out around him.
“As a boy, for example, I quickly grew to understand that when he suggested we looked at a few watches on a Saturday afternoon, it would be a case of spending five hours at his side hearing about every detail and every nuance.
“And as for shopping for watches with him – that was always a painfully embarrassing experience for me, because he would ask endless questions to ensure that whatever he was considering buying met with his exceptional standards. Nothing must have been tampered with, cases must not be polished, dials must not have been retouched. Originality is key and the overall condition must only be pristine. These have always been the golden rules.”
THE EXHIBITION FORMAT
Visitors to the OAK Collection exhibition will be taking part in a ‘world first’ event, because never before has a privately-owned collection of such exceptional watches, all in impeccable condition, been made available to the public.
It is also unlikely that such a comprehensive and carefully curated collection encompassing the best of the best of both vintage and modern watches will ever be compiled within the lifetime of current generations.
As a result, the exhibition will undoubtedly set a new benchmark for quality, rarity and scholarship in the field of watch collecting.
The OAK Collection will be displayed within a series of bespoke-designed, interconnected rooms that will be recreated at each location and will take the viewer on a tranquil horological journey comprising 11 sections, each of which could be described as a ‘chapter’ of time that encapsulates the collector’s appreciation of specific genres of watch, from simple, three-hand models to high complication pieces.
The maker most strongly represented in the exhibition is Patek Philippe, with many examples owned by the collector having been made specifically for him in close, creative collaborations with the manufacture – a process available only to a small number of the firm’s most respected clients.
Vintage Patek Philippe models, meanwhile, include references once owned by noted individuals including the musician Eric Clapton and the actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, as well as pieces that were developed for particular uses or which display the maker’s mastery of rare hand crafts such as enamelling and engraving.
Also remarkable is the OAK Collection’s extraordinary holding of Patek Philippe watches that once belonged to the legendary patron Henry Graves Jnr, the late banker and railroad tycoon who, between 1922 and 1951, commissioned no fewer than 39 watches from the revered maker. Of those, only around 30 are believed to have survived, five of which form part of the OAK Collection. The only larger selection of Graves watches belonging to a single entity is that on show at the Patek Philippe museum, which holds 13.
The Patek Philippe models in the OAK Collection account for six of the exhibition’s 11 sections, covering Calatrava, Nautilus, World Time and perpetual calendar/ complication models in addition to the aforementioned Graves and rare handcraft pieces.
But while the collector focuses strongly on the work of Patek Philippe, he does not do so exclusively. As a Rolex connoisseur, he has allocated three significant sections of the exhibition to its pieces, and has also dedicated an area to watches made by the ‘new age’ independents, notably Francois-Paul Journe and Kari Voutilainen.
The collector’s commitment to modern makers is further demonstrated in the fact that, during the eight editions of the biennial Only Watch charity auction, he has been the most prolific buyer, accruing no fewer than 10 unique pieces with dial names as diverse as Kari Voutilainen, H.Moser, and Chanel.