The OAK Collection Exhibition presented for the first time an exquisite selection of 168 significant, very-rare or one-of-a-kind timepieces from the secret private collection of French businessman Patrick Getreide. It appears to have made quite an impression on the elite of the horological world during its world premiere at London’s Design Museum last month, often being described as a once-in-a-lifetime event.
For those who missed the exhibition in London, there is hope. The collection will now embark on a world tour, with the Bahrain National Museum at Manama scheduled to be the next venue, followed by shows in the USA and Asia.
If the list of attendees for the opening ceremony of an event is any measure of its significance, then the OAK collection is as big as it gets. Patrick Getreide’s invited guests for the opening ceremony included Thierry Stern – President of Patek Philippe, Jean Arnault – head of LVMH Group, Jean-Claude Biver and his son Pierre Biver, H.E Evelyne Genta – Gérald Genta’s widow, François Curiel – President of Christie’s Luxury, and numerous celebrates from the world of art and entertainment.
As impressive as the 168 watches on display at the OAK exhibition are, they are drawn from an overall collection that comprises over 600 timepieces, collected over a span of 40 years. The size of the collection, however, is not what makes it so unique in the world of watch collecting. It is the collection’s rare combination of diverse pieces (from vintage to contemporary), as well as their rarity, excellent provenance and exceptional condition.
In fact, OAK, short for ‘One of A Kind’, was chosen as the collection’s name because it consists almost exclusively of one-of-a-kind watches, limited-editions or bespoke commissions. It also includes many items worthy of being showcased in museums.
Patrick Getreide is a Paris-born French businessman of humble origins. He bought his first watch, an Omega, with help from his family while he was just ten years old. However, his father fell ill while he was still in school, causing him to quit school to support his family. His knack for acquiring and improving businesses meant he soon had sufficient surplus amounts to spend on his passion for watches.
“As soon as I achieved a moderate level of success, I began to buy watches at prices I could afford,” Patrick explains. “Gradually, that amount increased and, little by little, the watches became better, and the passion for collecting them became stronger. Perhaps strangely, I never thought of the financial aspect or that values might rise – but, thankfully, I seem to have bought the right ones at the right time.”
Over the decades, Patrick has built up a small, tight-knit network of experts whom he has come to know and trust and who are now the only people through whom he acquires additions to his collection. In the early days, however, he would seek out rarities everywhere he went. “It was at a flea market in France 35 years ago that I think I acquired my greatest bargain. It was a steel Patek Philippe Reference 130 Sector, and when I saw it, I began to shake,” he recalls.
Patrick Getreide definitely has a soft spot for Patek Philippe, as do most watch collectors of serious repute, but has also accumulated exceptional pieces from other brands, including Rolex and several independent brands such as F.P. Journe, Kari Voutinalinen and Akrivia.
In addition to possessing unique vintage and modern Patek Philippe timepieces, made bespoke for Getreide by the manufacture, he has amassed “the world’s largest concentration of iconic Patek Philippe ‘Calatrava’ watches,” according to the exhibition organisers. The OAK collection also pays tribute to Henry Graves Jr., Patek Philippe’s great collector of the 1930′, featuring the greatest number of timepieces that once belonged to him, outside the Patek Philippe Museum.
At the exhibition, the OAK Collection is displayed within a series of interconnected rooms that take the viewer on a horological journey comprising 11 sections, each encapsulates specific genres. The Patek Philippe models alone account for seven sections.
The Graves-Fullerton Patek Philippe Section includes Patrick’s collection of Henry Graves Patek watches, plus those that belonged to his grandson. The Calatrava Section features Patek’s dress watches. The Chronograph Section includes no fewer than 29 examples, all but six of which are rarest-of-the-rare vintage pieces. The Nautilus Section has no fewer than 16 examples on display.
The Perpetual Calendar / Complications Section makes up one of the largest and most comprehensive sections in the exhibition, despite these timekeepers being among Patek’s rarest and most difficult to obtain. Rare Handcrafts Section includes Patek pocket and wrist watches with exquisitely decorated dials. The World Time Section is a must-see for any high-end collector.
There are three Rolex Sections: Gmt-Master, Sports Chronograph and Sports Watch. The eleventh section is titled: The New Age Independents and Steel Sports Section. It includes some exclusive pieces from contemporary watchmakers such as Frenchman Francois-Paul Journe and the Fin Kari Voutilainen.
Commenting on the world tour of his exceptional collection, Patrick Getreide commented: “I see being able to send the OAK Collection exhibition around the world both as a reward to myself for building it and as a unique opportunity to share it with the many people who are just as passionate about watches as I am but have not been as fortunate as me in having the time and the means to acquire so many special pieces. I really do see owning them as an honour and, with that, comes an obligation to let others enjoy them.”