Bernie Cornfeld was a former social worker turned investment guru who founded the IOS, Investors Overseas Services. In its heyday in the 1960s, his investment company controlled over 2.5 billion USD in assets and he had over 15,000 people in his sales force. His famous pitch was ‘Do you sincerely want to be rich?’, and he awarded his top salespeople very well for selling the dream. When a salesperson reached 1 million USD in sales, they were rewarded with a custom Patek Philippe ref. 3565/1J, a yellow gold automatic bracelet watch with the case back engraved: ‘Million Dollar Associate’. Female salespeople were rewarded with a ref. 855/1J, a ladies’ yellow gold and diamond pocket watch.
An American citizen, Cornfeld had mansions all around the world, including Geneva, London, and Beverly Hills. Before the collapse of his financial empire in the early 1970s, he spent most of his time in his Beverly Hills mansion, ‘flecked with fawning females, fabulous furnishings and fulfilled fantasies.’ His bedroom was ‘furnished in early swinger – vibrating bed, mirrored ceiling and piped-in stereo’ (March 2, 1995 New York Times Obituary). In 1973, he was accused of mismanagement of funds and fraud and arrested by the Swiss authorities. Cornfeld passed away in 1995 but his watches reappear from time to time and capture the essence of quick money, the rise and fall of an empire, and the hubris to have it all, right now.
A movement for people on the move
Produced from 1968 to 1971, the yellow gold ref. 3565/1 was made especially for Cornfeld and the IOS as a corporate incentive gift. Over 1,000 examples of this reference were made, making it one of the largest corporate orders in Patek Philippe’s history.
With an elegant and powerful caliber 27-460 automatic movement with 37 jewels, the ref. 3565/1 was made for function as much as beauty. Perhaps the statement ‘fully wound’ had a double meaning here as the salespeople who sold the IOS funds often worked 24/7 and it is a certainty that these watches were wound up during the nightclub-fueled, global rush to sell the IOS funds as fast as possible. The date at 3 o’clock was also a handy complication courtesy of this caliber.
Dial and case notes
The cases for this reference were all made by Baumgartner. The bracelet was welded to the case seamlessly and had a special belt loop buckle with a steel claw keeper. Not a typical bracelet system for Patek Philippe but it looked elegant closed on the wrist, despite hiding the ‘secret’ sharp steel teeth below. And, of course, the buckles had an engraved IOS logo and Patek Philippe logo.
The dials were made by Stern Freres and often had another IOS logo. The gilt dial with roman numerals was classic, bold, and very much late 1960s in its overall aesthetic. One can imagine this was the perfect watch for late nights at the disco and the drug-infused celebrations of the era.
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