An exclusive interview with Jasem Zeraei, aka Patekaholic
Jasem Zeraei founded Patekaholic, the number one Patek Philippe fan page on Instagram since 2015. Known as a brutally honest, fearless and occasionally controversial figure in the watch community, Jasem is someone that does not hold back his opinions. His expansion into Patekonomics and now patekaholic.com shows that he is not going to slow down as a global opinion shaper and Patek-obsessed collector. I recently had the chance to sit down with Jasem in Kuwait and this interview reveals some surprising information about Patekaholic, where it came from and where it is going.
JR: Jasem, you live and breathe Patek Philippe but you are not affiliated officially in any way and the company and its representatives have never communicated with you publicly. Is this a case of unrequited love?
JZ: But I think it’s natural – this is the natural progression of any passionate person. Take a 14-year-old kid in love with a pop star, the poster on the wall, the downloads of every single music release, the dream of that little girl is to shake the pop star’s hands. Sometimes, I do wish there was at least some communication, just a work understanding. It would be validating for all the years and work I put into this [laughter]. But if it doesn’t happen, then I’ve made peace with it because I think this obsession is shared by anyone who’s obsessed. If I’m fortunate enough to have a cigarette with Thierry Stern one day, that will be enough.
JR: Have you not met Thierry Stern yet?
JZ: I met him once before I was Patekaholic. In 2009, I was invited to visit the factory with the Kuwaiti authorized retailer. We did the tour, and then we met Thierry Stern for a meal at the headquarters.
JR: Do you think Patek Philippe is following you on IG? Maybe people within the company?
JZ: I know they’re following me. Don’t ask me how I know [laughter].
JR: Instagram is often a window into someone’s soul. And for many of your readers, you’re part of their daily lives. And I was thinking about this, in the most personal way. I think of some of my best friends that I might speak to twice a year. But you, I feel like I speak to you daily through Instagram. How does that affect your daily life? And, in your opinion, is it healthy?
JZ: I look at other Instagram accounts, and there are some really good new ones that are very technical and very subjective, which is good for us nerds who enjoy that kind of a read and find it interesting. But then there’s other accounts that are too non-subjective, non-official, non-serious. And these accounts, yes, they may have a big following, but unfortunately, they get the quick swipe – because their followers know what they’re going to see, and so it’s not exciting. I actually don’t think before I post. Sometimes, it gets me in trouble [laughter]. But when you see my posts and captions, that’s actually what I write. A lot of the time, my captions have spelling mistakes. It’s not because I’m ill-educated. I’m actually very well educated in terms of both languages, English and Arabic. But I never re-read because it’s literally an emotional post. I post, and then maybe I’ll read it later and do an edit, or someone tells me to [laughter]. But I think because I’m able to relate on a personal level, the posts allow for people to actually enjoy the page, so the page at times is very serious and informative, and at other times, it’s very casual.
JR: Your posts, as you said, are directly from your heart, and your Instagram stories share exactly what is on your mind. It literally shows the mood that you’re in during the day. Sometimes, you’re in a bad mood; sometimes, you’re feeling great. And you do the Q&As, which are just fantastic.
JZ: Well, that’s the thing. A lot of these accounts – I’m not talking in a negative way about anyone, I respect all the accounts and actually follow a lot – they’re either a thematic page, or they’re a business. Whereas Patekaholic, you’re literally watching me live and break down, at happy times, posting the newest sneak peek of what’s going to be released in Basel, and me being a little naughty at times. And I enjoy that, and I think the people who follow the page, they get it. It’s not for everyone. It’s just me.
JR: You spend a lot of time here in your home country of Kuwait. Do you think that this gives you a different insight than you might see in other parts of the world whether it’s Asia, the States or Europe?
JZ: No, I think anyone with an iPhone is blessed. Anyone with a phone and an Instagram account is even more blessed. But anyone with a phone and an Instagram account and a following, and people who love him and want to be friends and are able to communicate, are very blessed. I’m blessed for many reasons, but I think the one that I cherish the most is the friendships. I met you on Instagram. I met everyone that I know outside of my day-to-day activities on Instagram, and I’ve created so many good friendships. For me, the page is never about me. I don’t make money on it. I actually spend money to maintain it. But it’s these friendships that allow me to be happy. And if the question is related to the worldview, I want to say my account gave me access to the world, to people around the world. And that, for me, is special.
JR: For many people who have never traveled outside of their countries, they have very many preconceived notions of the Middle East. And you’re changing the view of the Middle East for tens of thousands of your followers. What does this mean to you?
JZ: I think one of the most beautiful lines ever used was from a colleague who came to Kuwait. I picked him up after his meeting and we went for lunch. The guy was from New York, first time in the Middle East. And I asked him, “So what do you think of Kuwait?”. He said, “I have never experienced a reverse culture shock.” And I said, “What do you mean?”. He replied, “Well, I came here with a preconceived idea of what to expect, and what I saw is the total opposite of what I expected. So, it’s almost as if I’m going through a reverse culture shock [laughter].”
And the Middle East is just like everywhere else: it has its own culture; it has its own challenges. I lived in Arizona for six years, so I’m very in touch with my American side. I like to think that there’s a part of me who’s still a West Coaster at heart [laughter]. I like to be in my shorts and flip-flops and a T-shirt and enjoy the sun. That’s my kind of thing. But this could be Arizona, it’s just the people are talking a different language.
JR: We’re sitting here at a Starbucks in Kuwait [laughter] right now. And I still can’t believe there’s a Shake Shack at the airport.
JZ: There’s many Shake Shacks everywhere [laughter].
JR: How much time do you spend per day on Instagram?
JZ: I think I suffer from a severe case of ADD because I don’t sleep much and my sleep pattern is very choppy. Plus, I’m a multi-tasker. I am a stockbroker by trade, but my role has become more of management/stockbroking. I’m always on my phone. My screen time [laughter] is nuts. I enjoy being relevant, and I enjoy knowing things first, so I cannot quantify it for you. But let’s just say, every once in a while, I need to shut the phone off or [laughter] I’ll implode.
JR: Have you ever considered shutting Patekaholic down and deleting this part of your life?
JZ: Many times. When I first started the account, I wanted to own the most viewed, the coolest account and I made many mistakes. I overspent and I learned the hard way. Social media is a double-edged sword. It can be a beautiful thing – connecting people together, sharing information – and a great educational tool. But it also can be a drug. It can be an addiction that overtakes someone’s reality. I learned the hard way and I changed immediately.
Also, the pressures of becoming relevant is tough. The pressure to always create content is tough. And for any Instagram account holder, not posting for a week or two or three until you take a great picture of yourself and you feel like you want to post it [laughter], can’t be the case because you start to worry about followers, or interaction and being relevant, etc.
But the thing that keeps me going is the relationships that I have with people and the friendships. And this is why, sometimes now, I just don’t care. If I don’t post for a week, it’s fine. Because whenever I do post, I want the post to be interesting. A lot of times, I’ll repost a great picture only because I have no content. Sometimes, people beg me to repost, and they nag and it becomes annoying, and I just want them to shut up so I repost [laughter].
JR: When did it begin? Just for a fact-check, when did this start for you? When was your first Instagram post?
JZ: I don’t know, actually. I think it was maybe seven or eight years ago.
JR: And at first, it was just casual, right?
JZ: Yeah. A friend of mine called me. He said, “I want your advice on buying a watch.” And I said, “Why are you calling me?” He said, “Well, you’re a Patekaholic.” And I liked that name. I actually called Anish [Anish Bhatt aka Watch Anish] and said, “Anish, I’m going to start a page called Patekaholic, and I’m going to post about everything.” Anish said, “Yeah, go for it. I’ll support you. I’ll repost.” And he did. He helped at least kickstart the page. And then it became what it is.
JR: Do you remember your first breakthrough number when you had 5,000 followers, or was there a number that really stood out?
I always wanted 100,000. I don’t know if I’ll ever hit a million because I think the account is too niche. But I would love to have a real following. I’m not in the business of buying any likes or followers as many people do.
JR: A two-part question. What’s the story of your logo, which is iconic now? And then, did you have a logo early on? I don’t even remember what it was in the beginning.
JZ: When I first started the page, the logo was a Calatrava Cross, and then it was Calatrava Cross with a few lines around it, and then it became a double P opposite of each other. Finally, it became a double P with Calatrava crosses in the background. And then one day, when I decided [laughter] to close down the account because this is my page, not paid for by Patek, I decided to get a new logo.
I’m a passionate car lover. I love Ferraris and own a ton of books about Ferraris. It’s a terrible habit, but I love cigars. I’ve been smoking for more years than buying watches. I came to a crossroad, and I decided that the name Patekaholic should stand as a lifestyle brand. But the content needs to reflect who I am and what I like. The progression moved from me being very technical, to become a fun account about Pateks, and then to anything goes. So, you’ll see a Vacheron post one time, you see some Rolex posts, you see a cigar post, a car post, sometimes a political post. I try to refrain from politics because I get a lot of negative comments that really upset me. But sometimes it’s what I feel.
I wanted Patekaholic to be known as non-Patek, to be a brand, a page that you can trust. So, I wanted a logo that made sense. I’ve always liked rhinos, there’s something about a rhino that’s cool. A rhino is an animal that just doesn’t give a shit. No lion is going to attack a rhino. No human without a gun, with a spear, is going to go fuck with a rhino. Everybody wants to be around the rhino. There’s poachers that want to kill the rhino and take their horns off. I like rhinos: they’re rare, endangered, big, strong. I told the designer, I want to use a rhino, but I want the lines to be kind of Indian tribal and Samoan. And this is what came. And I like it, I think it’s cool.
JR: And everyone else does too [laughter]. And that leads to the next question. What’s the deal with the hat? What’s the story?
JZ: I was approached by Jalal Abdullateef, who owns a company in Oman called OM1970, asking to make me a hat, which they did, and I liked it very much. Then we took the discussion to the next level to become a collaboration, and this is why the first hat, which is the blue, red and the white hat, actually has the logo on the front. On the back, it has the name of their company in Arabic – and that’s the one Ed Sheeran started wearing. We didn’t know it was going to be a huge success. We’ve sold 2,000 units, which is, I think, very successful.
JR: You’ve been asked this before. Off the top of your head, what’s the most controversial post you’ve ever put out?
JZ: There’s a bunch. Any post that is pre-Basel, and I think Patek has been very good at hiding that new information from the public. In the past we were able to post sneak peaks by playing with time zones. Sometimes you beat an announcement by only 30 minutes. But then that 30 minutes can make all the difference in the world.
JR: You were first?
JZ: I was first a few times. I wasn’t first always. I was controversial a bunch of times.
JR: In some cases, you just repost the Basel new pieces?
JZ: And in some cases, I repost it. Last time, I reposted it, contrary to a lot of people’s belief.
JR: Have you ever made any mistakes with what you’ve said on a post? Do you have any regrets?
JZ: If I have regrets, I hit the delete button [laughter]. I’ve deleted a bunch of posts, a bunch of comments. I think it’s natural only because, like I said, I don’t proofread. I post immediately, and I want people to know that this is me. And so sometimes you can tell my mood from a lot of the things that I write [laughter].
JR: Do you read every comment?
JZ: Some. Not always, no.
JR: You must get a ton of DMs too.
JZ: I do. I get a lot of DMs, questions. I’ve referred a lot of people in the vintage world as I’m still learning. I think everybody’s still learning. I’ve referred a ton of questions to you because I know you can assist in ways that I can’t.
JR: You attended Dubai Watch Week last year and there’s some now iconic pictures of you and Jean-Claude Biver. What did you two talk about and how was the exchange?
JZ: I’ve always wanted to meet him, ever since the [Hodinkee] Talking Watches with him and Ben [Clymer]. I think Ben was wearing a yellow sweater [laughter] which I really liked. Ben, if you’re reading this, please send me a one of those yellow sweaters in a triple X [laughter]. Jean-Claude’s episode was amazing because he’s a showman. There are some people that, when they speak, they have a presence. I think in the watch world, he’s top three, top five. I have to say, Aurel Bacs is also one of those people that I admire, just their presence. You can feel their presence.
And you can feel JC’s presence without him even opening his mouth, so I’ve always wanted to meet him. In Geneva last May, he was actually at the next table from me with Claude Sfeir and Philippe Dufour having dinner at the Chinese restaurant in the Kempinski. I was sitting alone. Claude and I are friends, and I thought a thousand times about crashing the party and just saying “Hi,” and taking pictures and stuff. But I didn’t want to be classless [laughter], so I just walked away.
Then Dubai happened. We were invited to a book signing by Jean-Claude Biver at the Cigar Lounge in the Four Seasons. A friend introduced me and told him who I was. He follows the account, apparently, so that was cool. And we talked very casually, and I mentioned that I heard he makes his own cheese and that I would like to try it. And he actually told his assistant to send me some. I thought he would never follow through with it, but a cheese block appeared at my house around Christmas time. And it’s the best thing ever. My dad and I devoured that thing [laughter].
JR: Can you give an example of how you may have moved the Patek market?
JZ: I think I have had some influence on the market, a lot to do with the Tiffany stamp. I bought my first Tiffany-stamped watch around 2012. I had no clue about Tiffany-stamped Pateks. One day at work, my boss was wearing a Calatrava with a Tiffany stamp on it. I looked at him and said, “What the hell is this?”. And he tells me, “Well, this is a Tiffany-stamped watch from New York. And I picked up this watch on one of my business trips.” Great. So, I call up the New York boutique and randomly, Kelly Yoch picks up and I ask if they stamped the Nautilus. She said, “Yes.” I ordered a blue dial ref. 5711. And she said, “Okay. It’ll take a few months.” The response then was months and not years, or worse, “Forget about it,” which is the case today. It was a different time.
Maybe a month later, I’m in Los Angeles at the London Hotel in the lobby, ready to go out when I got a call from a weird number. I pick up the phone and it’s Kelly [laughter]. And she says, “Your watch is here.” And I just paid over the phone with my credit card. It was shipped to me in California and I had the watch two days later. But then I started posting a lot about Tiffany stamps, I think, in 2013, just before that white Nautilus popped up at the auction and sold for 50-plus. I was posting a ton about Tiffany dials. Maybe in retrospect, I shouldn’t have [laughter] so I could buy more.
JR: We have you to blame. Any other cases of how you influence the market that comes to mind?
JZ: I found out that Patek used to make lighters. And being a cigar smoker, it was a dream of mine to be sitting in Saint-Tropez with a cigar in my mouth and lighting it with a Patek lighter. I mean, it doesn’t get any better than that. A really good one came up at a Dubai auction, yellow gold and green enamel. And I remember I called to ask, “Where is the market on these things?”. And I was told, “Maybe 5,000 USD.”
I got on a plane, went to Christie’s Dubai, sat at the auction with the intention to go home with a lighter. But the mistake I made was that I posted about my love for it and my intention to buy it [laughter]. At a certain point, I was furious in the auction, and I was standing on my feet with the paddle up, not wanting to give up. I was bidding against myself, essentially.
I was bidding right in the center aisle [laughter] because someone was bidding above me. I think Adel Rahmani from Dubai Watch Club pulled my arms down [from bidding]. And the thing was sold for 16,000. But the number was groundbreaking at the time. Now these lighters are traded for 25K, 30K USD in good condition? So yeah. I inflated the price of a lighter from 5,000 to 30,000 [laughter].
JR: That’s what you get for oversharing.
JZ: Yeah. And I still don’t have one, so maybe soon. Fingers crossed.
JR: What do you think of Hodinkee? And do you read it daily?
JZ: I love Hodinkee. There’s an element of professionalism and thoroughness that you don’t get with other media. I think SJX is also quite good. But yeah, I love what Hodinkee is doing, honestly. I met Ben for the first time at a restaurant in New York with you and a guy who was wearing a 5070G with a Tiffany stamp on it. And Ben had actually just picked up a 14k 6263. Ben is a cool guy – Ben is on my friends list.
I think what Ben did with Hodinkee is commendable. I enjoy their shop for straps and stuff and books. I hope they give me a discount code [laughter] for saying this. Yeah. I like Hodinkee.
JR: Now, I just need to ask you, is Patek really, truly your favorite watch brand?
JZ: Yes. As simple as that.
JR: Patek Philippe modern or vintage?
JZ: I’ve always said this. If I am able to wear a vintage watch that doesn’t look too small on my hands, I’d buy vintage. I’d buy vintage not because modern is not great. Modern is great. It’s beautiful. It’s shiny. It’s new. It speaks to the times. But there is something about vintage watches – an emotion that you do not have with current models. And it’s not the emotion of happiness because you do get that when you pick up say a 5930 or any watch today from an authorized dealer. But it’s the emotion of storytelling. That watch that you buy from the ’30s or the ’40s or the ’50s, or even the ’60s and ’70s, whatever, that watch has so many stories. That watch has exchanged hands, maybe crossed continents, maybe – the stories that are stuck with that watch is what makes them beautiful. Couple that with the fact that those iconic designs are no longer. I think vintage is what I love but at the same time is what scares me because I don’t understand it, and I think what people don’t understand is scary for them.
The vintage market can be challenging to enter and to start a collection. I think it’s very important to have the right partners, the people you trust to build the collection for you. But I think if you’re able to strap on a 1518, a 3448, even a 1526 – you’re a lucky guy. I tell my collector friends there are these dreams that I have that I would sell my entire collection, all of it, and all I need is a 2499 first series. But maybe a clean, beautiful 1518. It doesn’t have to be steel or white gold. It could just be a nice yellow, but mint. Also, a 3448, but it has to be white. And that’s all I need. And I’ll be content.
JR: Have you ever owned a Patek Philippe pocket watch?
JZ: I’ve owned a couple. I’ve sold a couple through Christie’s for a charity and donated the money. I’ve bought maybe six or seven pocket watches over time. There was a time when eBay was the greatest tool on earth because nobody bought anything on eBay, so I bought a lot of good pocket watches on eBay, cheap too. The one that means the most to me – thank you for helping me get it – was brought in 2012 at Christie’s. It’s pink on pink, with Le Palais Royal Habana on the dial. The significance for me is that I’ve been to Havana twice and I love cigars, that whole culture is exciting to me. That one will stay with me forever.
JR: What’s your favorite modern Patek Philippe to wear?
JZ: The 5968 Aquanaut chronograph. And I’ll tell you why. I know a lot of people enjoy 5711s but I have big wrists, and I have hairy wrists [laughter]. A steel bracelet does not like hair. And a steel 5711 looks rather small on my wrist. The 5968 is perfect. Actually, I will tell you a story. I was sitting with Kelly [Yoch] once in New York on a rooftop. And I told her, “Kelly, if they ever make an Aquanaut with orange hands, strap, something cool, and if you don’t give me the first one, I’m going to throw you off [laughter] this rooftop.” And years later, they announced it. And Kelly had to give me the first [laughter] one to buy.
That watch is perfect. It’s a rubber strap, so it’s comfortable on the wrist. The size is perfect for me being a bigger guy. It’s just a legible, all-day, all-year-round Patek. You can put on an orange strap and go swim and have fun in the summer and put a black strap on and wear a suit, and it looks really good.
JR: What’s your grail watch?
JZ: There is a story that a 5070 exists in a steel case with a steel bracelet, a black dial, dagger hands. If that watch exists, I’m willing to sell everything to buy it, and maybe keep one Apple watch or something, and that watch is going to be worn and beaten up and enjoyed and loved every day and handed down to my kid.
JR: What do you think of the Patek Philippe Instagram account? In an interview a couple of years ago, you said they’ll eventually get there.
JZ: I predicted correctly that they would have an IG account. I think it surprised all of us when it came out. I think their IG could be a bit less corporate and they have to be more relevant. Such as in the way they post those multi-posts that make up a big picture, people are over that now.
That’s one. Two, I’m sure Patek has thousands of great documents and things of the past. They don’t have to just post these amazing, polished videos with amazing videography and stuff. If they can find a really good photographer to photo these things and just write a nice caption where it describes an old receipt, an old delivery, document – something from the past – it would be super exciting for people who love the brand. But I also understand what the direction they’re going with because they’re not there for us. They’re there to get more of us [laughter].
JR: But for the record, Patek Philippe, if you’re listening [laughter], one day a year, I suggest you give up your account and have Patekaholic do a takeover.
JZ: I wish. It may never happen – but we can imagine [laughter].
JR: Most recently, the Grandmaster Chime broke a world record that many of us didn’t see coming. Can you comment on your personal reaction and what you think of that result?
JZ: If you watch a video of the auction, the minute it hits 11 million, you can hear someone shout very loudly, “Yes!”. That was me [laughter].
I was super excited because I had bet everyone that this would be the new world record because no one thought that it was possible. Obviously, a lot of it has to do with the charity. And people have debated whether it’s a fair comparison between the Rolex and the Patek given the charitable component. But Patek is finally back at number one, and it makes me happy.
JR: What do you think of the state of the retailer network today globally? Does the system work?
JZ: No. This is going to be harsh and you are not going to edit this.
I think if Patek does not want to see their watches go to the secondary market then they have to address it properly. I think the retailers’ responsibility to the brand ends at the end of the training sessions. Then the real world happens. Then client acquiring happens. Then client appeasing happens. The issue is, not every client is a good client. Not every person shows their true self and their colors when they come through the door. And the problem is, when one watch goes to the wrong client and ends up in the gray market, it deprives an honest, true lover, collector, long-term wearer from having that watch. This is what annoys me because there’s a lot of people that deserve watches that they are no longer able to buy.
That’s number one. Number two, the brand cannot continue if there’s no way for a newbie to access the brand. Let’s assume you started following Patek and their watches, or you saw your father, your cousin, whoever, wearing one and you wanted to own a Patek. And you have $30,000. There’s no way you can buy a Patek Philippe that’s not a Calatrava. I’m hearing now that now even some Calatravas are hard to get.
Something has to be done, there has to be a system, such as a centralized allocator in Geneva. I don’t know how they can build it or whether it can be done. I don’t know what algorithm they should use or if it needs to be human based. But what good is it if you’re unable to sell your watches to first time buyers? I was lucky that when I bought my first Patek in 2008, I could walk into any authorized dealer and pick up whatever I wanted. Anything. I could buy from Nautiluses all the way to any complication. But why should we penalize the person who’s as passionate as me, maybe more, to take his hard-earned money and not get what he wants. As a brand, you do want the younger crowd to start buying so they still buy when they’re 60 and 70 and 80, that’s the vision, right?
But if you deprive them of that ability – guess what? They’re going to Audemars. They’re going to Rolex. And we are seeing the elements of that, what I call spillage. We’re seeing Rolexes double in price. We’re seeing Audemars watches go up in price. I’m not talking negatively about the other brands. Great brands. I buy them – I’m actually talking to you wearing a Rolex now. But I think something needs to be done. I think maybe Patek needs to tell the authorized dealer, “We’re sending you ten 5711s in 2020. We want to see five of them go to new collectors. And we want you to give us a valid reasoning.” And maybe there’s a system. It’s as if you’re applying for college.
JR: What do you think of the current state of the watch auction market today?
JZ: It’s interesting. You know I love being in auctions. I think it’s exciting. I love seeing records broken. I like seeing the dynamics of buying and selling and fighting over watches. It’s exciting for me. But I think the auction world needs to change. I’m seeing the elements, the beginnings of it, here in Kuwait. Some people have started something in Kuwait called Instagram auctions.
An Instagram auction works this way. The lots are announced from Thursday to Tuesday, constantly, flooded on one guy’s page. Auctions happen on Wednesday. They start at 9:00 PM and they run all the way to 6:00 AM. They go on Instagram Live, and you see an auctioneer or you see a watch, and on the comment section, people make bids. And bids are verified by them sending you links of 10% of the final bid. And you have to pay the deposit. Some of the auctioneers have made good money doing it, let’s call them the ‘new’ auction houses. You see elements of decentralizing the auction world.
I’m not a Bitcoin believer, but the Bitcoin effort is to decentralize the money system. And there are people who argue that Bitcoin will come back, the idea of peer-to-peer, that there is no centralized system, the breaking down of big institutions that make no sense, and we’ve seen it with maybe the airline industry and everything else online. The days where you used to call your agent and make bookings and stuff and walk to the airport with tons of documents is over. And maybe, I think, auction houses need to become more online, more accessible, less institutional, more friendly. And I hate to say this, but I think if they don’t start paying attention, things will change. The last IG auction in Kuwait just sold a hundred Pateks.
JR: Is this happening anywhere else in the world?
JZ: It started in Kuwait. Now, it’s spilling over to Dubai and Saudi. All these mini auctions are happening.
JR: Do you think of watch collecting as an investment?
JZ: Yes. Okay. I’ve said this about a billion times. This is only my personal opinion, and I’m going to piss off a ton of dealers, maybe including yourself. Please do not delete this. I’m from the school of thought that there are investment instruments in the world and investment asset classes, real estate, futures, stocks, bonds, the things that we know. Every once in a while, a new asset class is born. And I think we are witnessing the infancy or the infant years of the watch portfolio asset class. Now, the problem with this asset is supply. You can sometimes control demand, but you can never control supply. And this is the scary part.
But are watches in today’s world an investment? Yes. But with every rule of anything that you invest in that you can touch, buy something you like, buy something you believe in, something you like because if the poop hits the fan, you better enjoy putting that watch on and going out for a drive. I remember my professor at university said, “The best investment you can make is real estate.” I was arguing with him non-stop as I’m an equities guy, I like the markets. And he said something that made me shut up, he said, “If things go bad, you lose all your money. If things go bad for me, I put a tent on my land, and I sit and smoke a cigarette [laughter].” And I couldn’t argue with that. So, if things go bad for your investment, because not all investments make money, you better be able to say, “I’m okay with putting that watch on and enjoying it.”
JR: You were on the Grand Prix, the GPHG jury this year for the first time. What was the experience like for you? And did you generally agree with the final results?
JZ: Can’t answer the second part of your question.
JR: Okay. Very diplomatic.
JZ: I have to respect the process. The experience was very interesting, nice, and challenging at times because you have to argue. However, you have to sit through 12 hours of judging – and it’s not fun sitting and doing anything for 12 hours [laughter]. But yeah, giving the prizes and seeing how proud and happy it made people was very, very nice. Now, if Patek participated, it would be much nicer…
JR: I don’t know if you could answer this, but who else on the committee stood out in your mind? Did you make new friends and relationships?
JZ: Gary Getz has presence. Gary’s a nice guy. I would love to visit Gary in the States. I think he’s a cool guy to just hang out with [laughter], knowledgeable, passionate. You can feel it. And just a decent, good guy. I consider him a friend.
JR: Who is the greatest Patek Philippe collector today?
JZ: Hmm. Interesting. I think in the world that you and I are in, just the watch world in general, we kind of tend to follow the money and we forget the passion. I think the greatest collector doesn’t have to be named as a person. I’m sure there’s a lot of people with a lot of watches. And I know a lot of people with huge collections. But maybe that’s not the criteria that we need to look at.
For me personally, I would prefer to sit down with a person who owns five watches and who worked very hard to acquire them. Someone that has done every imaginable research that he can do to own them; who throughout owning them, has been taking care of them, appreciating them, knows the history, knows the background, versus a guy who has a safe with shiny bolts and a thousand watches. It means nothing because that guy is a collector, but he’s not a passionate collector. And I think if you have a conversation with a passionate collector, like you and me being nerds, the conversation is much more fun. The guy with a lot of watches is more of a showman, trying to impress.
So I think if you’re out there reading this, and you own one watch, and you can, honest to God, sit and tell us how you bought it, how happy you were, why you got it, what sort of convictions you had when you purchased it, what do you feel when you put it on every day and you see it on your wrist, what sort of history you know about the watch, that discussion alone, for me, is worth everything. You are a collector in my books.
JR: Reminds me of Gary talking about his ref. 1526.
JZ: I know. And this is why I love the guy because of the way he talked about it. Actually, our first discussion was about the 1526, which is a great watch.
JR: Do you have any hobbies outside of watches?
JZ: Cars, watches, cigars. Food, I like. I consider myself a quasi-foodie. Travel. Nothing else. Nothing too drastic, too exciting.
JR: That’s pretty much some of the most exciting things in the world. Can you tell me about Patekonomics?
JZ: I wanted a platform that was easy for people to enjoy and to give the prices of watches at auction. Then it grew into me obsessing over the results. And since then, I have built up an Excel file that’s rather large with results. I think I have covered every reference that I like that Christie’s has put on its website. I don’t cover every Patek, only the ones that I care about.
JR: Lastly, what’s next for the brand of Patekaholic?
JZ: A website. I want to take Patekaholic to a lifestyle brand, just fun things, hats, T-shirts. We’re launching a new T-shirt that I think is really funny. It’s cool. It’s a play on a very big event that we covered in this conversation.
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