“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” – Confucius

The OAK Collection exhibition

Patrick Getreide with the OAK collection

The OAK Collection, owned by Patrick Getreide, is part of the over 600 ‘One of A Kind’ vintage and contemporary museum-quality watches that include special orders, ultra-rare limited editions, the most valuable examples of particular models and the largest privately held ensemble of Patek Philippe pieces once owned by celebrated collector Henry Graves Jr. On 19 May, 162 fantastic examples embark on a four-stop exhibition world tour from the London Design Museum (19-25 May). We sum up the 11 exhibition chapters and give you updates as we participate in the pre-opening ceremony on 18 May.

Reaching beyond the necessities and sometimes the boundaries of the imagination, haute horlogerie is referred to as a form of art and expression by many. In the age of disposable smart devices which deluge with advanced functionalities and quantities, the endeavour for the highest level of sophistication and uniqueness in a mechanical timepiece cannot make economic sense only. The quest for encasing a piece of history brings joy to the creator and conceives an emotional bond between the human and the object as well as the customer and the manufacture. Such pieces are commissioned, collected, treasured and traded just like pieces of the traditional art genres.

Yet, while thematic exhibitions showcasing masterpieces from various public and private collections are common in the art world, timepieces from private collections are rarely found in exhibition halls. Auctions are always exciting as extremely rare pieces surface from time to time, and the examples can be admired on public viewing beforehand. But still, opportunities for enthusiasts to see iconic timepieces are very limited. 

Therefore, I got very excited when in 2021 I received an invitation to the Design Museum in London for the massive 162-piece exhibition of a mysterious collector. Up until then, I had never heard of any collector to showcase their prized treasures to a public audience for the love of their existence. The 162 units presented now are a carefully curated subset of the over 600 timepieces in the collection that consists of perfectly preserved, and in many cases unique examples of (primarily) Patek Philippe, Rolex and contemporary independent brands. Just as I got excited, I became equally disappointed when the exhibition was postponed to 2022 due to the pandemic. Yet, at last, here we are in sunny London in May 2022 browsing the mechanical wonders at the Design Museum.

In this article I’d like to provide a little background to the collection and the man behind it, while one piece will be dedicated to the Patek Philippe chapters and another to the Rolex and independent sections. I will participate in the opening ceremony and a private viewing with the collector just before the show opens on 18 May and will update it.

The exhibition is open for a limited time only: 19-25 May, 2022 in London. It will then move to the Bahrain National Museum, China and the USA later in 2022. 

The first stop – London

London has been a vibrant and enormous hub of art creation, collection and trade for centuries. If you look up the most visited art museums worldwide, there are always a few from London (the British Museum, the National Gallery, the Tate Modern and the Victoria & Albert Museum). On top of this, the city offers an amazing variety of art events, exhibitions, galleries, auction houses and performances. 

The Design Museum is relatively ‘young’ by London’s standards – it was founded in 1989 by English designer, restaurateur and retailer Sir Terence Orby Conran (1931-2020). The museum was originally located in a warehouse in the Shad Thames area of London but after a great transformation of a unique landmark from the 1960s, it moved to its new location in Kensington on 24 November 2016. A design team led by John Pawson and Willmott Dixon Interiors made the about 10,000m2 total space fit for a 21st century museum. It celebrates contemporary design in every form: from architecture and fashion to graphics, product and industrial design.

In 2018, the Design Museum won the European Museum of the Year Award for its contribution to increasing the quality standards of museums in Europe.

Exhibiting ‘The OAK Collection’ is a very exciting but rather unusual choice for a design museum. However, it sits very well with the endeavour of Director and Chief Executive Tim Marlow to show a wider perspective of what human beings fundamentally understand by design: ‘There’s much to be done in talking about design in its broadest sense. It’s so central to who we are as human beings and to our culture.’

The Collector

Throughout the decades Patrick Getreide achieved his goals as an entrepreneur and along the way became a truly exceptional watch collector. He has great taste for the finer things in life – he also collected paintings and vintage cars, but his real passion is fine watchmaking. 

His first collector’s piece was a Cartier Tank watch – also exhibited at the Design Museum – and as soon as his resources allowed he turned towards the highly collectable Pateks. 

A devoted collector needs a similarly devoted ‘partner-in-crime’. Mr Getreide met Geoffroy Ader quite some time ago. Geoffroy Ader is from a family of Parisian auctioneers and he began his career as a watch specialist at Drouot in 1995. Later he worked at the Geneva auction house Antiquorum, the French auction sales house Tajan or Sotheby’s. Now as an independent watch adviser, he also provides tailor-made consulting – advising collectors on private sales or acquisitions in the field of modern and vintage watches. 

The two gentlemen together not only defined a more focused collecting principle but set up a small watch museum in Singapore and reviewed the hundreds of pieces in the collection in order to select the final edit for this exhibition.

‘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.’ – shares Mr Getreide.

The OAK Collection

The ‘OAK Collection’ (‘One-of-A-Kind’) has been carefully curated over decades with a strong drive for finding true rarities in excellent condition. The collection is exceptional not only due to the outstanding state of the examples, but due to the great variety (technical watches, historical watches or watches owned by famous personalities) while maintaining an overriding orientation. 

Highlights include the largest collection of Patek Philippe Henry Graves Jr. watches outside the Patek Philippe Museum, unique commissioned pieces made-to-order for the collector and some of the greatest and rarest references from Patek Philippe, Rolex, as well as prestigious independents.

The collection is presented in 11 sections and is displayed in a series of custom-designed interconnected rooms. Each section encapsulates the collector’s appreciation for specific types of watches, from simple, three-hand models to more complicated pieces.

7 ‘chapters’ are dedicated to an outstanding collection of Patek Philippe timepieces: the Calatrava watches, the Nautilus Watches, the Chronograph, Perpetual Calendar and Complications, World time, Rare Handcrafts and the Graves Fullerton. 

Rolex timepieces are divided into the Rolex GMT, the Rolex Sport watches and the Rolex Chronographs sections.

Mr Getreide’s love extends to contemporary watches and therefore a chapter focuses on independent brands like F.P Journe or Akrivia. More than 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 from diverse brands like Kari Voutilainen, H.Moser and Chanel.

Please find more information about the Patek Philippe chapters and the Rolex & Independent chapters here.

Photo credits: The OAK Collection, Loupiosity.com
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