More Money Than Brains: $11 Million Steel Patek 1518

I love watches, but if you read my posts you also know I'm not one of those Horological Douchebags (HDs), that is constantly pushing the pissing contest many people with more money than brains tend to have with great regularity.

And without repeating myself (you can read older posts for that), let me present to you the most recent example: the Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 in stainless steel, which set a new record at auction in Geneva. It sold for $11,136,642 million.

Now, let's be clear about one thing, my criticism is not about the watch. On the contrary, the 1518 is a master of a watch. It hits all the right notes: it's beautiful, it's made in my favorite material, it's not only a Perpetual Calendar with Chronograph, but the first anyone ever made, and in doing so, Patek Philippe made a really really good one and all this way back in 1941. In fact, it was almost a half century before anyone made another one, and that is amazing, plain and simple.

No, my criticism is the fact that this watch just sold at auction for over $11 million.

It's not my money, that's true, but there is no amount of substance to justify that high of a price (in today's dollars). This watch does not come with $11 million worth of function. Instead, it's only it's rarity supported by suspicious reporting and suspicious motives that convince the truly wealthy that this makes sense.

It's actually hard to explain. But basically, one's confirmation bias is used like a tool against themselves. Used to convince oneself this is how they should think, instead of using logic and thinking for themselves. You will hear expert writers (wink, wink), say things like "to the uninitiated, this seems strange, but..." and then proceed to tell us what they want us to think, and before you know it, $11 million.

Of course, there are other factors that add fuel to this fire. One such factor can be ownership by a famous personality. For example, the Albino Daytona Eric Clapton once owned and sold for over 3000% more than a Daytona of the same reference normally gets.

Other times it's literally the rarity alone. Not just as a rare reference, but as a combination of rarities. In this case, a rare Patek Philippe is not rare, but such a rare watch made in steel by Patek Philippe is.

Patek doesn't make watches in steel as often as they do in precious metals, so when a rare steel Patek comes to market, especially with a rare complication, well it literally goes through the roof.

The point is the details that make this watch special are real and valid, but do not justify this kind of money. Remember, nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so. In this case, justification came from the fact there were 7 bidders willing to pay this much for it at auction after surely falling for all the hype and false-truths as mentioned above.

A Valjoux ebauche expertly modified into a Perpetual Calendar with Chronograph

A Valjoux ebauche expertly modified into a Perpetual Calendar with Chronograph

Further frustration for me is that whenever you read anything about these kinds of watches, the media and majority of the discussion is not about the watch movement (in this case, it's a base Valjoux ebauche that was heavily modified and absolutely spectacularly decorated), or the engineering behind the watch, which contradicts the idea that form follows function. Instead, they push the myth that watch collecting is primarily about "rarity and style". And that's not how it should be. If that's how you think, then I'm calling you out as the worst kind of HD.

A watch is a tool, and instrument, a machine with a purpose. Focusing more on rarity or style (which is subjective at best), more than technical and mechanical merits is ridiculous.

You could even get me to accept this bastardization if it wasn't such an absurd amount of money. In other words, should rarity and even style (assuming everyone agrees the style is pleasant, not ugly), be worth more than a watch that is less rare? Even if the rarity is thanks to a less valuable material, because a brand like Patek Philippe hardly ever uses said material? Yes, without a doubt, but not 5000%+ more.

That's just plain stupid.