The mysterious ‘Horology_Ancienne‘ has captured the imagination of the entire Patek IG collecting community, and I think an unnamed father and son team on IG sharing their love of watches as true collectors is a wonderful story in itself. They have never granted an interview before and prefer to stay out of the public eye. I am deeply honored that they very generously gave such an in-depth, honest and enlightening interview.
JR: I have heard fellow collectors refer to your Instagram feed as the ultimate education in watches. Words have been used to describe your work as visual, passionate, surprising, engaging, and even shocking but one thing that is consistent by all accounts is that your account is extremely informative. You often post boldly “Please do not ask me for the price. Nothing is for sale” and then show some of the most desirable watches in the world day after day. What is the purpose of the ‘Horology_Ancienne’ posts and who are you?
HA: We’re nobody special. Just a father and son who have a seriously unhealthy obsession for all things horological. Specifically, though not exclusively, our focus is on pieces made from the 20th century onwards. Primarily we collect from Patek Philippe, Omega, Audemars Piguet and Rolex. We do also enjoy and seek out other watchmaker’s works albeit not with quite the same fervour. Our academic disciplines were centered on historical endeavours, so for us, we take a keen interest in mechanical watches serving as one of the last bastions of the days of old. More than just a reminder of a more classical age, timekeepers in their various forms have an important and rich role in the development of mankind from navigating the treacherous oceans to regulating our work lives since the industrial revolution. The world of horology and the pursuit of mechanical timekeeping is one whose influence has touched practically everything around us. While we wear wristwatches for our enjoyment of the art, for the ease of information access and the historical tether as the last upholders of the classical age, it is and has been visibly instrumental in bringing us all to where we are today – as historians, there surely is no better object to collect! The fact that mechanical watches are still produced in quite the capacity, in the same towns, is as poetic as it is important.
Further, it would not be appropriate to leave out how watches have also been a fine demonstration of humanity’s strive for excellence. The mastery of complication stacking or the fine decorating techniques that adorn the movements, cases and dials represent the power of human will and our quest for the impossible – perfection. We suppose it is a little oxymoronic that we use watches to keep time knowing our iPhones are better. In response, we would like to cite a Patek Philippe advert that struck a particular chord: ‘But people who merely need to know the time of day will choose a watch – not a Patek Philippe.’
The primary purpose of Horology_Ancienne is, first and foremost, to give a totally unbiased look at horology. Should we upset any higher powers in the process, then so be it. We want to bring a little piece of the forums and opinion columns (back when they used to exist) to Instagram – the most popular platform for watches currently. We want to encourage debate and free thought so that we can all learn from one another and discuss important issues with concern to the modern epoch of watchmaking. Whether one asks for our thoughts on a particular reference or requires help in assessing a piece’s condition or understanding the history of their watch, our door will always be open. So long as the topic is horologically inclined, we are ready to help as best we can. The reason why we opted for the lexical choice “ancienne” in our name is because we felt that the watches we are primarily interested in turned from vintage to almost ancient in the minds of many. We did not want certain styles of watches to be lost to the world of relics. We adore more sporty variants, but certainly are further enamoured with classical interpretations and we wanted to explain in depth why that is.
JR: You literally took the IG watch community by storm when you started posting in late 2018. I recall being in complete shock seeing the amazing watches you were posting! What was it like starting with zero followers and having hundreds of new people joining you monthly?
The response has certainly been phenomenal. The discussions and participation of our followers is more than we could ever have imagined and we are greatly humbled. More than us teaching others, we have too learnt from them. The times we have been corrected we could only smile thinking this is what it is all about. We started the account with our favourite reference of all time, namely the 2499. The first 7 posts were all 2499s. Back then there were no write ups, a vague understanding of our thematic series and only one, usually quite awfully taken picture. Still, despite our lackluster images, the followers kept coming in, quickly making way for what can only be described as incredible levels of engagement. We are still in shock till this day and we really mean that. But the best part of it all? The quality of people we have been fortunate enough to engage with. From debating with scholars whose books we have in our library to delivering our opinions to collectors stuck between choices, we have developed lasting friendships that we hope will continue for life. You described yourself shocked to the pictures we put up. In answer to your question, take that same shock, multiply it infinitely and you’ll understand our reaction to seeing the growth of this account.
JR: Can you tell me about what it is to collect as a father and son? You literally are the walking embodiment of a Patek Philippe advertisement.
HA: Hell on earth as the rest of the family would say. Dinner would be dominated with topics only two members of the family had any interest in. As father and son, we are lucky to have quite similar tastes though we certainly have our differences and occasionally this leads to arguments, especially if one or the other disapproves severely of the next purchase. ‘ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND.’ While we collect separately (mainly, though not only, in bracelet watches as our wrist sizes do not agree), we also collect together. However, by far the best part of being a collecting duo is that we learn from each other and on occasion have even reversed our stubbornly held positions. We are forced to look deeper into something we have refused to recognise. We take a second look (and sometimes a third) because the other adores it so dearly. Both of us have learned to love some references for their beauty because of one another.
Nothing is better than when we both agree. We can never forget when we both went to view a particular rare handcraft we had ordered. On pictures we were not sure if this would be for us. The father wished to never have placed the order while the son insisted, let it come, we might just be surprised. When the plastic seal was removed from the watch and we peered into the dial, we both uttered unwillingly some delightfully rude and improper acclamations. It’s amazing how a mechanical object can raise such striking emotions! The manager of the shop started laughing while we (father and son) both just looked at each other thinking did we really just say that? This was quickly followed by fighting over who got to try it on first. Of course, as always and as it should be, dad won that battle.
JR: By the way, what do you think of the concept of you never actually own a Patek Philippe, you merely look after it for the next generation?
HA: Well… err… what can we say? It worked for us!
JR: For the younger half of HA, what do you see as the role of social media in the world of watch collecting?
HA: Social media has certainly had a tremendously important impact in the world of horology in the best and the worst of ways. It has intensified the cult of the speculator brigade but also invited new collectors that may never have developed their passion had it not been for the platforms we are discussing. It is a double-edged sword. While social media has promoted watches and for that we should be grateful, it has to a significant extent been carried out by popular so-called ‘influencers’. The kind of chaps that put a bunch of watches around a steering wheel of an exotic car. For me that is toxic and utterly fails to draw to attention what is really special about these pieces. Yes, the watch is expensive, thank you for highlighting that, but why is it expensive? More to the point, why does no one care? One could follow a big account concerned with horology and still think the weight of gold is where the value comes from. That’s a problem. The ratio of influencers vs genuinely passionate accounts is appalling. However, regarding the latter, I am seeing it grow. I believe the community is rapidly becoming a little tired of the intense promotion of the status symbol in favour of exploring what these watches really mean and the techniques in crafting them. The role of social media has given watchmakers, both independents and established houses, a new voice through which to communicate and this has been impactful in reaching out to their potential end clients. Unfortunately, it has also seemingly given publications an encouragement to approach this world less as journalists and more as live advertisements. There are some good guys out there, just far and few between. I do think the current state of affairs is changing slowly for the better. We’ll wait and see.
JR: For older half of HA, what was it like raising a son within the world of watches? You are one of the most knowledgeable and discreet collectors in the world and you live and breath Patek Philippe. What was it like being both a father and a collector? (I think only obsessive collectors will understand the nature of this question.)
HA: My son, much like the younger Sterns, was practically born into Patek Philippe. He was raised around it. Before he could properly grasp what a watch meant, before secondary/high school, he was visiting the Patek museum and accompanying me on Patek’s generations events. As a young child he showed a keen interest in this world, perhaps, I suspect because it is what I love. During his early teenage years, he completely lost interest and for a long time I thought it would never come back. I cannot force it and did not want to push him. I feared I might have encouraged him too much during his formative years. When he reached sixteen, the passion slowly started to properly blossom. At first, he had no interest in vintage or dress watches. It was all about Rolex. This period was followed shortly by a fascination with the Nautilus. Then, slowly but surely, he found his passion for the same kinds of watches that I am ensorcelled with. It has been almost a decade now that we have been collecting together. Just as Philippe Stern had intended with the inception of the Nautilus, it encouraged my son during his younger years to foster a passion for Patek Philippe.
I always maintained I cannot force him to love watches. He has to learn on his own accord or not at all. I’m not going to hold his hand through this. He has to demonstrate to me that he is serious. So, when he used to ask questions, I would respond, if the answer is in a book, go to our library. If it is available online, research it. The only time you’re allowed to ask me a question is if the information is not available in any accessible public domain or if you should wish to debate a school of thought or ask for my opinion. It may be harsh but I felt it important that he finds his own way and develops his own positions. How could he possibly do so if my bias infected him? How can we grow together as enthusiasts if he is nothing but a puppet of my doing? I did not just want a son I could engage with but a fellow collector in his own right! For years he studied and now we can discuss together as (almost, haha) equals. It was my greatest dream and I am incredibly proud, especially when he started adding books to our library. Further, I owe him thanks for reinvigorating my passion for modern horology. As I am sure you remember, there was a time when I became very disillusioned with watches and disappeared from the auction rooms. His passion brought me back and after a series of friendly and not so well composed debates, I have come around to enjoying the modern epoch of watchmaking more.
Where I really felt it prudent to teach my son was when he had grasped the basics and needed some guidance in understanding balance and proportions. Further, it was also of incredible importance to guide him in assessing the condition of vintage watches. We still have some ways to go. One is only as good in evaluating vintage watches as the amount of redone dials and polished cases one has seen. Not only have my watches been passed down but more importantly, and I stress this, the knowledge has been too. I only wish when I first started I had a mentor. It would have stopped a lot of grave errors but then again one only learns from their mistakes. Occasionally, no matter what I’ve said, he’s been insistent on making mistakes. In hindsight I am happy he made them. It only served to strengthen his knowledge. The price we pay for education…
JR: As a leading voice to the collecting world, do you feel accountable to the brands (especially PP) or do you prefer to simply share your opinion?
HA: Absolutely not! Through our engagements with the Sterns we have always known them to be ready to listen and open to criticisms. We used to sit with them after Basel and go through the entire catalogue delivering our thoughts. It’s one of the many reasons why we have such great respect for Patek Philippe. Though they know where they stand, arrogance is not in their blood when it easily could have been. It is one of their most charming qualities. However, there is a way to critique. Some in the social world have clear preference for lambasting, berating and slandering the company. Sometimes the motives masquerade under more noble intentions when the reality of the matter is a little more sinister. Should intentions be honest, I do not think it is appropriate to swear at and ‘meme’ the watches. I suppose there is a place for that on the internet but it is absolutely not the way we like to do things. When we criticise, we try, as much as possible, to take an objective view of the matter. We try to look at proportions, balance and symmetry. We want to open an academic debate into the subject free from the toxicity we try to fight against. It is impossible to develop a collection that will be to everyone’s tastes. This is a point worth remembering, we are not expecting every release to be perfect for us. Further, we buy watches we like and for the most part only feature what we have or continue to own. Thus, we won’t always post a watch and be particularly brutal about it.
All that being said, there is, occasionally, room for improvement or perhaps some stylistic designs that are not to our tastes. This is what we do not shy away from talking about. Many have privately messaged to welcome our honesty. We can guarantee right here right now that our objectives will never change. We will never allow our voice to be lost to the abyss. In a world where journalists refuse to give honest takes, we will fill that void. We’re not here for the gold stars. We have always joked if a company wishes to blacklist us, then so be it. That gives us a platform to be free in thought. However, and we say this only because it has been asked so much, while we cannot speak for other watchmakers, Patek Philippe would never show resentment because of a criticism delivered. There are others who have blacklisted because they do not like opinions but never the Sterns. Patek is Patek. They’re above that. Or at the very least, they have demonstrated such to us. If there were any shoes to step on, trust us when we say we have. Remember our critic on the 5303? And yet nothing has changed. When Patek produces models we might raise our eyebrow to, it is never from a malevolent place that we comment. Significant others have and we can proudly speak of our long track record of combatting such behaviour since the early 2000s. It brings us more pleasure to write about what we love and thankfully courtesy of Thierry Stern, we are able to do so very often.
JR: Did you ever comment or post something that you regret?
HA: Yes, only once. We misread a comment from someone and one of us snapped a little. The person who was targeted is a gentleman. He reached out immediately via direct message to explain his message and we directly apologised and retracted our remark. A very embarrassing affair but we now converse on a regular basis and we remain grateful that said individual did not abandon our account.
There was a post we made that was taken down. We don’t regret it so much as we feel it was inappropriate. Only a handful of people saw the post and we all still laugh about it till this day. We were disappointed that the Shakespeare dome clock received fewer likes than a Nautilus. We were absolutely not upset because we particularly care about how many likes we get but more frustrated that the community rejected a true and spectacular artwork in favour of something a lot more common and boring in comparison. While we felt it was tasteless to prefer one over the other, our response was also a little tasteless and (I’ll let you in on a secret) done after a few too many drinks! We left one image of the dome clock with a somewhat cryptic message referring to this situation. Can’t remember exactly what we wrote but it couldn’t have been more than a couple of sentences. The comments were a mix of confusion and understanding. We still think it was ridiculous that the dome clock could be a little overlooked, we say that openly. Just, a riddle of a post attacking our own followers probably was not the best way to address and voice our concerns.
JR: What is your take on ‘unique’ dials in the modern Patek world?
HA: From what we understand, it is now Patek Philippe’s policy to not make ‘piece uniques’ anymore. Should a request be made, they will typically make a handful which means the true ‘piece uniques’ of the past are going to become even more sought after. Truthfully, it’s a pity. Patek’s history has been greatly complemented by piece unique examples. Often, they’re the watches that command significant values and are proudly illustrated in the Patek magazine under their ‘Auctions’ chapters’. It probably serves as the most effective form of advertising the company could ever have wanted. Will pieces made in exceptionally small quantities of 5/6 also achieve good results? Of course! But we will have lost the magic of something being truly unique. While I lament that we were not born during the times interesting movements could be commissioned, it is understandable with today’s intense R&D costs. So, we are grateful that proposals for special dials are still, albeit rarely, accepted. It is not only a fitting gift to offer longstanding clients who have displayed exceptional loyalty to the watchmaker but it also commands a certain allure within the wisest amongst us sitting in the auction rooms. One only need look at the intense fanfare surrounding the 6300a or some of the Graves’s commissions to see the impact of unique pieces illustrated at its best.
All this aside, I think it is wonderful the Genevan watchmaker continues to offer the opportunity to the most discerning of clients. Special commissions are deeply rooted in the DNA of Patek Philippe and it ensures going forward that we will continue to be amazed and surprised every time an auctioneer discovers something new in a fresh-to-the-market variety. Surely, we speak for all Patek enthusiasts when we declare it is a treasured delight to learn of new articles of virtu. It is very important that Patek remains exclusive in their offerings but also that they continue to do them (tastefully of course) in the first place. In light of their history, should this be entirely lost, Patek will lose a big part of their identity that ironically only very few know about. There could not be a better gift to reward their clients than to offer a unique piece. If only we could put into words the proud feelings derived from wearing a piece that’s a bit recherché for the catalogue.
Unique dials to us are only special when they are born with the watch. Any later ‘service dials’ are not of interest. It is something we intensely collect and do not only own what was commissioned for us. There are, however, some pieces we will never touch. Any coming from those who have demonstrated that rampant profiteering was their objective will have left an energy around the piece that is personally not appealing.
JR: Your first post back in December of 2018 of a ref. 2499/100J with a Gubelin dial and four other ref. 2499s from your collection. This made quite the statement! Why did you start with this reference and what makes the ref. 2499 important for you?
HA: The 2499 is, for us, the very best watch ever made. For now and probably forever. It comes from a time where one typically did not have a collection. Many historical owners of 2499s would wear them on a regular basis. Which explains why so many have surfaced to the market in less than ideal conditions (especially given this is an expensive dress watch and not a diver). We get asked all the time how on earth does one set the piece with no leap year indicator? The answer? With great difficulty. It was usually handled by a watchmaker. There is no need for such an indicator for a man who only has one watch. However, what this did allow for was the best dial we believe we will ever see. So blissfully pure, so magnificently simple but yet daringly complicated given what lies underneath. The balance in proportions from the case (both Vichet and Wenger) to the dials (all series included) is a masterstroke of genius. This is the Renoir of complicated watches. Actually, this is the Da Vinci of watches period! Rare handcrafts aside, if a watch takes longer than a second or two to extract all its information, it has failed the primary purpose of watchmaking. To tell the time. The 2499 passes this test effortlessly. As our favourite watch, we absolutely had to start our Instagram with some of the examples in our possession or those previously held in our collection. Our very favourite series, incidentally Clapton’s too, is the 4th. There is beauty to simplicity that speaks to us fluently. Patek Philippe minimalism. A leading doctrine that is at the very crux of why we find them so preciously special.
JR: You have a methodical approach to presenting your posts and also your IG stories. You have divided your presentations in chapters divided by roman numerals so your followers can know where you are in a series. Can you explain your methodology?
HA: We wanted an easy navigation system for our followers to use to find what interests them. It also allows us to draw attention to particular pieces where needed. Not everyone may agree with what we designate as Holy Grails but it give us a platform to highlight and then explain why. It isn’t about rarity or market values but just what we think is exceptional watchmaking. Our Patek Philippe London Edition rare handcraft depicting the Houses of Parliament was explained to not be a Holy Grail because of the handful that exist but because it is probably the most fitting tribute to Her Majesty’s Governmental buildings we will ever see. We thought it would be helpful to separate pieces into categories but whenever the very best of a particular chapter is shown, such as some exceptional pocket watches to come, you will of course see the hashtag #beyondthewrist, but one will also find two little words to indicate when we believe X to be an extraordinary example… Holy Grail. Not all Holy Grails are Patek references, though most will be. It is a reflection of how we view their watches. We would also like to state that just because a reference does not feature in one of our themes does not necessarily mean it is any less important. We wanted to keep themes specific and not incorporate everything.
JR: How much time do you spend on IG a day? You engage with every comment to your IG and most impressively consistently post and comment on IG accounts across the board.
HA: It has very quickly become more of a job than a hobby if we count hours put in. However, unlike most occupations, we enjoy every minute of it. We had a faint idea that eventually our account would require some amount of work but never like this. The sheer number of direct messages we receive a day is astounding and an honour. The posts themselves come very naturally and are a pleasure to write. Occasionally we will have to research certain topics or individual facts and perhaps refresh our minds on some dates. That is part of the fun. From time to time, we are learning with all of you in the pursuit to put out accurate and very thorough knowledge behind the watches we display. We spend a little more time than we care to admit on this platform but the lasting friendships we have developed make it worth it.
JR: The first non-Patek you posted was a Rolex rainbow. You were literally attacked in the comments for ‘posting a bunch of grails that are timeless and classic and then this [Rolex]’. You answered so eloquently that your ‘attacker’ came around and said how much he respected that you defended your position and could both agree to disagree. You won hearts and minds that day by holding your ground and still engaging in a positive dialogue. What was that moment like from your perspective when the Instagram honeymoon seemed to be over?
HA: When that comment was received, being completely truthful, it crawled under our skin. The first draft response was not quite so polite. Thankfully it was redrafted and the end result is what you see online. The person who made the comment is now someone we are proud to consider a dear friend. We talk all the time. He’s bluntly honest and while we did not welcome it so much then, we are ten times happier about it now. Because he says it unfiltered exactly how he sees it and in a world where fewer and fewer do, it is enjoyed by us. I told him once, trust me, we don’t take anything you say lightly. It is a delight when he compliments, and when his comments are not so pleasurable to read, they will serve to spark interesting conversations for which we are grateful. We reach out to him occasionally if only to discuss references because of how much we enjoy his honest POVs. This is our policy from the beginning till forever: No matter how much we may dislike a particular comment, we will engage with it in a manner that our mothers could sign off on.
JR: What is your favorite post to date? Most viewed? Most controversial? Most personal?
HA: Easily our most controversial post has to be one of our four articles that launched a very blunt upbraiding on the manner in which Rolex conducts themselves. As we have touched upon before John, we are not afraid to criticise and where appropriate, fully condemn a particular type of behaviour such as authorised dealers accepting bribes or selling models above the RRP. It’s the kind of post where when our friends read it, they’ll often joke, “So tell us what you really think”. I suppose they aren’t so controversial given they are simply an admission of facts that dictate the awful predicament we are in, but where they did spark debate (aside from with the few that had always had pleasant experiences with ADs) was in how Rolex should operate. It was a joy and a pleasure to engage with so many carefully conceived thoughts.
The most viewed post was our dissection of the 5270. Of all the posts we can’t say we are too thrilled that it was this that received the most traction, but nonetheless we are grateful anyway. As for our favourite post? Not a fair question! Too many that we adore. Though our account has become practically synonymous with the 5970p Clapton with its very interesting story, it was not our favourite. We really enjoyed writing the posts on Louis Baudit and explaining his influence on the Sterns – a part of their history rarely discussed. It serves as a poignant and strong testament to the artistic direction at Patek Philippe and one that seamlessly embodies some of the core values of our favourite watchmaker. It was also a pleasure to share stories such as that of our Ethiopian Omega, where royal pedigree coloured the backstory but the provenance was overshadowed by what the watch meant as a symbol. Sharing Philippe Stern’s very rare collection of thoughts with his declarations of the values of Patek and his favourite watches of all time was also another immense pleasure. It’s all good and well discussing ‘well, I heard him say that,’ over dinner, but something different entirely to reveal the elusive work where he puts his thoughts in writing.
However, and excuse the preamble but we really felt it worth mentioning several posts, our absolute favourites boil down to two posts. The first being the ladies Nautilus unique commissions exchanged between two matriarchs of our family. I suppose what we enjoyed about them so dearly was when we were making the posts, we noticed all the little scratches on the watches as they were worn in quite the capacity. It demonstrated aptly the power of the gift of a Patek Philippe, one that follows the recipient wherever they may go. Further still, they stand as a testament to our long and beautiful history with Patek Philippe, one that has touched all members of our household. Now the second we’d like to discuss, and this is by far my (the son) favourite, has caused a little debate with my father as he initially would have preferred to feature a 2499 or perhaps one of the rare enamel works. He’s since come around, I hope! It is the 2497 post. While the watch is an exceptional example it is not so much because of what we showed but what we wrote. In a world of rapidly emerging independent watchmakers, whose quantities are very few but are extremely proficient in their craft, questions have been raised around Patek Philippe. There are those who do anglage better, or cotes de geneve better, so Patek have been somewhat ridiculed on social media platforms by a few. This was our letter in response. An impassioned defence of our favourite watchmaker to explain, in light of very interesting points, why we still firmly prefer them over all else. We fondly discuss how they excel at every single facet of watchmaking, and while some might slightly better them in certain areas, Patek is able to bring everything in a harmonious unison unlike all others. Beyond this and alongside the other unrivalled crowns (such as world timers or lug crafting) they hold, dial design must surely be one of them. They’ve created timeless concepts that quite clearly have had an influential touch felt by all in our world. ‘As far as dial proportions and balance are concerned (I’d argue case making too), Patek are the undisputed horoloweight champions of the world.’
JR: Your post on the ref. 5270P offered a constructive criticism of the watch in respect to its lineage. 5000 likes later and over 200 comments, you hit a nerve in the Patek Philippe community. Can you comment on this experience?
HA: Regarding the 5270, we wanted to show respect to the innovations achieved by the technical prowess of the movement but also offer some critiques of the dial and size. It’s a sensitive topic for us given that the Perpetual Calendar Chronograph is not just our favourite family in Patek Philippe but our favourite watch type of all time. We felt the 5270P, while we do proudly own one, does not evoke the same emotions as that of her predecessors. Our words on the matter are only to make the case why it fell a little short and encourage a move towards what made Patek’s perpetual chronographs a magisterial force to be reckoned with. To be clear, and as we hope was shown with the multi-part posts, we do not dislike the watch, but we cannot class it in the same way we do the 5970 or the 2499. The comments in response were overwhelmingly supportive of our dissection and that is reassuring. Of course, if you’re the only one singing the song in the choir, it does make one think, have I picked up the wrong music sheet?
The experience was phenomenal. So many likes and long thoughtful comments were rolling in, we had to take several days just to respond to everyone. It really was a “can you believe it” moment. The post had, at the time, almost as many likes as we had followers. To be completely honest, we did not think this would gain the attention that it did. If anything, it only serves to support our points. It is a delight that should we wish to engage openly in a conversation usually only held behind closed doors, we can do so.
JR: You posted an Ellipse letter opener timepiece earlier this year made in 1982. I melted. Why did you only use it once?
HA: Since Her Majesty, The Queen has stopped including us in her personal contact list, there was never a need to use it again! In all seriousness, most of our correspondences are now communicated via electronic mediums. One day I received a spontaneous letter from a dear friend and figured this would be the perfect time to use it. I would hardly wish to employ this Ellipse’s services in any capacity that could be likened to a work horse. I reserve it for what will surely serve to be treasured occasions. It adds a colourful dimension that I do not wish to tarnish through overuse; the product of which will be a desensitised attachment. Perhaps, John, one day you should write to me. If only to give me another excuse!
JR: One of my favorite series is #BeyondTheWrist where you feature clocks. Can you share what you love about Pateks made for the wall, dome, table, etc?
HA: Patek Philippe clocks certainly hold a very special place in our hearts. If we talk first exclusively of their enamel dome clocks, they are a tour de force in the world of rare handcrafts. On large panels, the artist is allowed a freedom of expression not restricted by a smaller dial. The result is some of the most magnificent works of enamel we will perhaps ever see – in and out of the world of horology. I would like to cite our post on the Shakespeare dome clock as the perfect example. The Limoges painted enamel technique has won not just my heart but captivated the minds of many others. The comments we received were more than we could have ever hoped for with various individuals wonderfully proclaiming that this is nothing short of museum worthy. I agree wholeheartedly. Sometimes when I see it in my residence I chuckle thinking this really shouldn’t be here. And that is the magic of Patek Philippe and something in all our years of collecting we have noticed that only they can do. The very fact that they can produce a piece like this says it all. It stands as a testament to the notion that the glory days never really ceased. Patek still continues, in the modern epoch of horology, to produce pieces that hold hostage one’s heart and mind. After all, it is impossibly difficult to finely craft an artwork and it be immediately dubbed a Holy Grail without having time on its side to mature. The museum has since requested should we ever sell, we think of them. But I believe they knew when they asked, an owner of such an example will never part with what is treasure today, a treasure tomorrow and a treasure for the rest of time. Call us crazy, we take greater pleasure in having a gilt brass baroque styled wall clock, or an impressively difficult enamel dome clock adorning our walls and tables far more than any art piece. For us, they evoke stronger emotions. Besides, the texture that enamel produces is in our opinion richer and more interesting than any other style of painting.
Further, we all owe our thanks to Patek Philippe for aggressively protecting the world of enamel. Like a mother to a cub, against all odds they refused to let it die. Chapeau bas! There was a time when these pieces were not so popular. Still they produced them knowing their investment would be locked for some time. Why? Because safeguarding these important techniques by requesting their commission kept enamellers in work and allowed for new generations to join the trade. History was tough but the present and seemingly the future looks to be kind. A gamble that paid off but I suspect, even if it did not, the Sterns would not have cared. It was far more important to protect what they hold dear. After all, the art of enamel very much runs deep in their veins. This poignantly illustrates why Patek Philippe is so tremendously special to us. They do not operate or behave like any typical company. In nearly all sectors and throughout their history, the Sterns have followed their passion. A philosophy that has paid off greatly and one we encourage others to look towards in light of the crippling state of the watch industry.
JR: How many times have you been to the Patek Philippe Museum?
HA: For a while we must have been considered permanent residents! Certainly, more times than we can count! The younger half of HA has been attending since before he could properly pronounce tourbillon and neither of us have stopped since. It does not really matter how many times we have seen the pieces or read the briefs, with the historical treasures that are housed in the world’s best horological exhibition, one can never tire of the astounding marvels on display. Moreover, what I find so preciously special about the Museum is that this is not the work of a conglomerate or charity but rather one family’s dream (and how lucky we are that they chose to showcase it). It is an example we aspire to that strengthens our love for Patek. Our ultimate Holy Grails reside within the museum, the kind of pieces we would sell everything to get. So, visiting is the only way we get to view what we believe to be the very best watches the world will probably ever see.
I respect deeply how they do collect pieces from other watchmakers since before Patek’s inception in 1839 so that the Museum can obtain the very best watches throughout history. Of course, from 1839 onwards, they, rightfully so, maintain they were and are the very best. Consequently, you won’t see another company’s product from 1950! I agree with this position. After all, surely if one sets out to do something, what is the point unless one intends to be the very best? It is a commitment to quality and craftsmanship that is the very identity of Patek Philippe. Not just in their watches, but throughout Patek in its entirety. It would be odd if such a philosophy stopped with the Museum.
What perhaps makes the Museum particularly special to us is through the pieces we have loaned, gifted or sold to the institute. To see watches we have owned or continue to own displayed in the Mecca of watch exhibitions is a pleasure that is ineffable. It is the greatest honour and privilege we have and will probably ever have for the rest of our lives.
JR: Where do you see Horology_Ancienne in the coming years? Will you ever run out of pieces you own to share?
HA: Eventually, as we continue to hunt our favourite examples from the world of vintage, we will run out. There are only a finite number of pieces to explore. The hunt never really stops, new discoveries emerge all the time but the frequency in which we see ‘fresh-to-the-market’ pieces from before the 1980s will naturally slow down. Thus, we rely on the current and future caretakers of Patek Philippe to continue to push boundaries with respect to their DNA. To continue to bring us examples that will be remembered lovingly amongst the very best. It is difficult when one (in my opinion) is responsible for making the archetypal perfect watch and then has the daunting task to better it. However, Patek’s modern history has continued to give us references that will be fondly remembered as not only the best for its time but perhaps, amongst the best of all time. The 5970 is the greatest example we can give. So long as Patek Philippe continues to produce watches worthy of the most intense of admirations, we can, with confidence, state we will never run out of pieces to share.
As for where we see ourselves in the future, there was a loose set of objectives in bringing forgotten pieces and styles of watches to light. There was an idea to assist others and contribute the pieces of history we are well versed in to our little sphere but there was never a very focused roadmap. In the beginning we were just some guys posting some ‘things’ with more hashtags than actual writing. Since then we have now organised themes and maximum word count write ups for every piece. We hopped on a boat and travelled the stream to wherever it will take us. This account was established in a spur-of-the-moment conversation one evening between father and son. We were browsing through Instagram and felt something was missing. A void we tried to fill, though whether we did that successfully or at all, we shall leave to our followers to debate. So, a lot of this journey has been a little random and we can’t tell you that there is a blueprint for the future. After all, we always politely declined interview requests until you asked. Whatever the future holds, we don’t envisage stopping what we do. Too much enjoyment has been derived from Horology_Ancienne to ever suddenly cease our activity. To the community that has thoroughly supported us, you have our deepest and sincerest thanks. With every thanks we deliver, it is done so sincerely and truthfully. We take the time to individually respond to everyone to show how grateful we are! Without you our words would be the tree that fell in the forest with no one to watch.
On behalf of the entire Patek Philippe watch community, THANK YOU.
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