Patek Philippe Doesn’t Want Your Money

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Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime

I didn’t see that one coming. Robb Report writer Lucy Alexander pulls the curtain back on the “false scarcity” driving sales of Patek Philippe’s most coveted products. It turns out the rich are like you and me. They can’t get their hands on the watches they really really want – unless they know how to play the game . . .

Michael Hickcox, an avid watch collector and CEO of executive search company Expedition Search, says that Patek Philippe allocates lesser models to new customers. 

Patek Philippe watch collector Michael Hickcox

“They want to hook you,” Hickcox explains. “People who try to go to the top straight away—they tend to be the ones who exit the hobby soon afterwards. They got what they want. They don’t spend 15 years saying, ‘I can’t wait until I have this one thing.’ Patek Philippe is going for the person who spends millions on watches.”

We shone a light on this practice in our earlier post: Daytona, Aquanaut, Royal Oak: How To Buy One. That article was written for your average punter. The clients in Ms. Alexander’s article are anything but. Those grail watches are just a starting point for “serious” collectors. Who are seriously determined.

Inside the inner circle, competitiveness does not diminish; it just becomes less purely financial and more about connections. At the dinners held by watch brands, executives toast their clients, who in turn make their cases for yet more coveted purchases.

Patek Philippe 5212A

According to one watch-industry insider, the North American president of a renowned watch brand told the insider that at one such dinner he turned down a well-known entrepreneur’s plea to buy a special piece, even though the man had bought several other models in order to qualify. Only after the entrepreneur offered to speak at the graduation of the executive’s son did he relent.

The anecdote is proof of the old adage it’s not what you know – or purely a question of how much money you have. It’s who you know. And that’s after you buy enough of the manufacturer’s product to establish your credibility as a ongoing cash cow.

G4 Boyz Feat. Tory Lanez Patek Philippe Remix

There’s a more insidious factor in play: ethnicity.

Ms. Alexander turns to the world of real estate – property in the Hamptons – to make the point that sellers of high price, high demand goods don’t always play fair – in a “birds of a feather flock together” kinda way.

Patek Philippe 5078G

Plenty of rappers and other African-American celebrities wear iced-out Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguets. Do they have the same access to limited “Price on Request” pieces – like the Patek Philippe 5078G above – as a white wolf of Wall Street or watch collecting beneficiary of “old money”?

By the same token (so to speak), how many black or brown faces attended the pre-Coronageddon Bulgari dinner in Rome, and other watch industry invitation-only events?

I’m with Groucho Marx: I don’t want to belong to any club that would want me as a member. If Patek wants to sell me a watch because I’m “the right sort of person,” I don’t want to buy it. In this I’m alone. As The Robb Report reported, the Swiss watchmaker makes millions from people for whom rejection leads to a highly profitable form of insanity.

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