We’ve all heard the slogan “You never really own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation”.
It is a classy and compelling slogan. One that gets you thinking. Thinking about your life; about those who came before you and the things they carried, that they passed on, that you now carry. Things covered in that filmy layer of time. Things that whisper stories and echo events long passed. Things that inspire you to go forth boldly and carry the torch high illuminating the way forward.That’s how I felt when I strapped on this particular Patek Philippe Calatrava at 18 karat gold, and made especially for the House of Tiffany. The most peculiar thing is that the watch is older than I am. This watch was made before I was born. Someone wore it then, and here it is again: reminding me of my heritage, gently informing me that I don’t really own it. In fact, I will never ever own it, nor will my child, nor her child. Ever. The family, our family, will own it.
This watch changed my concept of family but also amplified the reality of my own mortality. Not because of the catchy slogan, nor the fact that it is a serious instrument but simply because it said one thing to me: Be responsible. The future is as much yours as is your past. Step into it with a vision and a purpose; use your time wisely and kindly.
It’s a remarkable watch. Subtle. I think it’s the low bling factor that makes this watch so profoundly elegant; so quiet, plush and hushed. Even when it is riding the gold bracelet that comes with it, and even when you realize that it is one of a kind.
It was commissioned especially for Tiffany &Co, America’s icon of high luxury. I mean, have you ever seen Breakfast at Barneys? Or Breakfast at Saks 5th? Or Breakfast at Ralphs? I don’t think so! But, I can bet that you’ve at least heard of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Heard of Audrey Hepburn, heard of the song Moon River, or at least heard the story.
Think Tiffany’s, think Jackie O, think John F. Kennedy, think the Vanderbilt’s and the Rockerfeller’s, think American aristocracy. It makes complete sense that there should be a marriage between Patek and Tiffany, and it is logical that the offspring of such a marriage should be so beautiful, in such a legendary way.
You’re not going to find this watch at the Patek Phillippe store. You just won’t. They stopped making it over 50 years ago. That, by the way, is half a century ago. Obviously you know that 50 years is half a century, you are smart. What I am trying to say is this: think about it terms of time. Think about all the changes that have happened. If someone had told the people then that there would be such a thing as the internet, 3D printing, and self driving cars today, they would have laughed.
Laughed and shook their heads, and then laughed again. In the meantime, as it all came to pass, this watch ticked through it all, ticked through it quietly, while all the time keeping its impeccable integrity and pedigree.
And here we are, all of us, including the watch. All of us apart from the ones who laughed and scoffed. You may even be reading this over your phone, or on your tablet. Wherever or however you are reading this, you are here. So is the watch. The only difference is that unless you are an elderly person, this watch has lived about as long as you have or, quite frankly, longer. Need I say more?
It makes me really appreciate what I do for a living. In my day job, where I restore historic landscapes, and design city parks, I have come to realize how important it is to have vision, how essential it is to have foresight. How important it is to think while designing or restoring a park: “How will this be used in a hundred years and will this space still be relevant? Will this park still make sense? Will it still serve people in the right way?”
There is a man who had this extraordinary capacity: Frederick Law Olmsted. You might never have heard of him, but I am confident that you’ve heard of New York’s Central Park. Perhaps you even like to go there from time to time. Well, Olmsted designed Central Park, along with many other parks in different parts of the United States. I am currently working on the restoration of one of his projects – the last of his projects, the one where he brought it all together into one opus. 120 years later it is still here, still serving people.
I like to think that the people at Patek Philippe feel the same way about the watches they make and have felt this way for a long time. I am also sure that 50 years ago, when this particular watch was made in collaboration with Tiffany, it was made to stand the test of time and it was made for a family. One family.
This is your family’s chance to start a tradition, to bolster heritage, and build a legacy. These qualities are priceless. The watch merely reflects a fraction of their worth.
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