The individual who has amassed the remarkable OAK Collection (which comprises more than 500 pieces in total) declines to be named, but is happy to share the story of why and how he came to covet, and eventually own, many of the finest watches in the world.
“As a young boy at boarding school in Switzerland, I lived among the children of some of the world’s wealthiest people-but all I had was a small, weekly pocket money allowance. I didn’t feel envy, but I did want to be like these people and their parents. It gave me what I call ‘the Count of Monte Cristo syndrome’, a determination to achieve a level of success that would give me freedom to do the things I loved.”
The collector achieved his goal as an entrepreneur by exploiting a natural flair for commerce that enabled him to acquire companies that he believed had the capacity to realise far greater potential if their existing business models were intelligently improved upon. Almost invariably his methods were successful, and he eventually attained the freedom he had dreamed of as a schoolboy.
“As soon as I achieved a moderate level of success, I began to buy watches at prices I could afford,” he 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,” he explains.
Over the decades the collector has built up a small, tight-knit network of experts who he has come to know and trust and who are now the only people through whom he acquires additions to the OAK Collection.
In the early stages of creating it, however, he would seek-out rarities everywhere he went.” As I travelled the world on business, I would always look for watches-but 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.
“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.”
THE FATHER-SON CONNECTION
Although the collector has long wanted to show his watches to other enthusiasts, it was his son who originally suggested doing so by means of a global exhibition having spent a lifetime observing his father’s undying passion for horology.
“I have not been involved in acquiring watches for the collection, but I have been on the margins of it for as long as I can remember,” he explains.
“It has taught me that true collectors are a rare breed who simply never lose interest in the subject they love, but only want to learn more about it. There have been many occasions when I have found my father, very late at night or in the early hours of the morning, poring over watch books either alone at his desk or lying in bed, with dozens of reference works spread out around him.
“As a boy, for example, I quickly grew to understand that when he suggested we looked at a few watches on a Saturday afternoon, it would be a case of spending five hours at his side hearing about every detail and every nuance.
“And as for shopping for watches with him-that was always a painfully embarrassing experience for me, because he would ask endless questions to ensure that whatever he was considering buying met with his exceptional standards. Nothing must have been tampered with, cases must not be polished, dials must not have been retouched. Originality is key and the overall condition must only be pristine. These have always been the golden rules.”