I have been interested in watches for a long time, but only collected seriously in the past 10 years or so.
Over the years, I could not fail to notice the prominent and beautifully presented Patek Philippe adverts in the media. The watches, whilst impressive, were almost an understudy to the impossibly attractive people that modelled the watches. These portrayed various family combinations; father and son, mother and daughter and then the trio of grandfather, father and son – with clothes (usually casual) that oozed quality and impeccable fit. The accompanying slogan “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation” complimented the wholesome image. The overall message, of course, was of aspiration!
By 2017 I decided that a Patek purchase was long overdue. For me, the choice had to be a gold grand complication including a perpetual calendar. However, whilst I could acquire a new model, I could not really justify the significant outlay. Additionally, Patek did not offer a new version on a bracelet, which is what I ideally wanted. As such I began scouring the pre-owned market, and shortly thereafter came across a reference 5136/1J-001 that was offered by a boutique in Mayfair. The watch was from 2005, had one UK owner, full papers, winding box, plus accessories. So far so good!
A week or so later I found myself holding the watch in the boutique. The initial sensation was of weight. For a 37mm watch, it was heavy, really heavy! The other sensation that hit me, literally between the eyes, was that 18ct yellow gold colour – so bright and gleaming. Next, the slightly off-white dial with nicely positioned sub dials and including a moon phase. Then the case, with crown and four countersunk adjustment buttons. Could I really cope with so much going on and the setting-up intricacies? Frankly, not really – but I was smitten – so a deal was done! When I left the shop I insisted that the box be put in a Sainsbury bag I had brought with me, the theory being that I was unlikely to be mugged for supposed groceries! Despite this subterfuge I did glance behind a few times and walk with uncharacteristic speed.
So what had I actually bought? Well, reference 5136/1J has the longstanding 240Q movement that Patek uses in various perpetual models. This reference was in fact a variant of the 3940 but with a gold bracelet. It was produced from 2002 to 2006 and reference 5140 superseded it, but with a strap again. This is still extant, and as far as I can determine the 5136 case design and dial layout has not been offered again with a bracelet.
The watch has almost a full range of complications including; leap year and month, date and moon phase then day and 24hrs. The power reserve is an average but useful 48 hours.
All in all the watch is quite simply a miniature work of art – visually and mechanically, and I am proud to own it. Additionally, whilst I did not buy the watch as an investment per se, I did hope that it would at least maintain value so that if I hit skid row I could get my money back! I am gratified to note that since purchase the value has in fact appreciated by some 15%.
As the Patek was now a family member, I reasoned that as I have portraits of various ancestors, why should this not be immortalised too? So, I persuaded an artist friend of mine to have a go. They had never painted a watch before, but worked miracles and the result is extremely impressive – particularly as just photos were relied on. Now the timepiece can assume its rightful place within the Dennis lineage.
And finally: Whilst one cannot avoid spending a fair sum on a Patek, I am living proof that looking like a Patek model is not actually prerequisite to ownership!
Words: Karl Dennis.
Photos: Karl Dennis