Inside a $450 million watch collection


Patrick Getreide amassed the one-of-a-kind OAK Collection over five decades. Now the French entrepreneur believes the time is right to sell 142 of his rare treasures at Christie’s this month.
Mr. Big Time: Getreide’s collection includes some 200 Patek Philippe timepieces, including the one watch he will never sell: a Patek Philippe Ref. 530J, a chronograph from the 1940s. Image: ALEX TEUSCHE FOR FORBES

When he was 12 years old at boarding school in Switzerland, Patrick Getreide would walk past a local watch store, dreaming of one of the expensive Omega timepieces in the window. One day in 1966, he offered to pay the owner 10 francs per week (about $2 at the time) from the pocket money his parents sent him. The owner agreed, but months later, Getreide called his father and begged him to buy the watch for him.

His father, who owned a tannery outside Toulouse, France, agreed. That first CHF400 Omega (about $1,400 today) began a collection that now contains some 600 timepieces and is valued by Christie’s at more than US$300 million (AU$458m). A few years after that first purchase, Getreide left school because his father was too sick to run his business. “I was young and made mistakes,” he says. But he made it work and was later able to sell the company.

inline-digital cover_Photograph by Alex Teusche for Forbes _Man of the Hours

Photo by Alex Teusche for Forbes

Several years later, at around 21, he won 39,000 francs (about $6,400 today) on a horse race and bought his first “nice” timepiece. “It was a Cartier Tank, which I still have. Cartier was heaven; the most chic people in the world had a Cartier,” Getreide says from his private watch museum in Geneva. That’s where he keeps the majority of his collection, including seven pocket watches once owned by the renowned 20th-century collector Henry Graves.

To support his watch habit, Getreide eventually had a string of businesses after selling his father’s tannery in 1990. He built a cab company in Paris with his cousin, growing the fleet from 30 to 1,200 vehicles over 16 years. After selling the taxi firm in 1996 for €100 million (about $200 million today), he started flipping several businesses, including a real estate com-pany and a chain of 80 retail clothing stores. Today, Getreide and his son Roland, along with CEO Daniel Bloor, own a lithium refinery called Livista in Germany.

But business is not how people know Getreide best—it’s for his OAK Collection of rare timepieces. In 2022, the watch world got to see some of the OAK (an acronym for “one of a kind”) Collection up close when Getreide staged a world tour of 168 pieces, beginning with an exhibition at the Design Museum in London.

Now, after five decades acquiring vintage wristwatches, antique pocket watches and rare clocks, the 69-year-old Get-reide is ready to part with some of his treasures—starting with some 140 pieces from the OAK Collection that go up for auction at Christie’s in Hong Kong on November 26: “I’m aware that many people would love to have my collection.”



Among the OAK Collection watches up for auction are (left to right) a Patek Philippe split-seconds chronograph, a 1962 diver’s watch by Breguet. and a semi-skeletonized Akrivia wristwatch.

When you’re collecting, he says, “the most difficult part is to buy it. When you own it, it’s fantastic, but it’s not my primary concern anymore.” He employs a watchmaker to keep his collection running and properly serviced. “They are not furniture,” he says. “They are living pieces, and if they don’t work, what’s the use?”

And the watch world is ready. “The buzz around the collection is big because it is definitely one of the biggest collections that any auction house has ever handled,” says Alexandre Bigler, Christie’s head of watches for Asia Pacific. The watches going up represent something for everyone, he adds.

“Everybody could get a piece of the OAK Collection; it’s not just super-exclusive watches.”

Given the overall value of Getreide’s collection, the OAK auction has a rather conservative presale estimate of just under $10 million. Some watches are expected to fetch between $2,000 and $4,000 and go all the way up to $1 million for a one-of-a-kind Akrivia watch. The collection is one of the most diverse offerings of timepieces and includes some rare finds ranging from Hermès and Chanel to Audemars Piguet, F.P. Journe, Zenith and more. Among the lots for sale is an early-19th-century Breguet pocket watch that once belonged to Pauline Bonaparte, sister of Napoleon, that’s estimated to sell for between $200,000 and $400,000. Getreide is even parting with some of his beloved Patek Philippe watches—he owns some 200—including a stainless-steel chronograph, circa 1938. “I was at a flea market about 20 years ago,” Getreide recalls with a smile, “and I saw this watch. The price was ridiculous, [low], like $1,000 or $2,000. But I had to bargain with them anyway.” The watch is expected to sell for between $200,000 and $400,000 at auction.

Also on the block are several important Breguet wristwatches, including one once owned by the late French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo and another owned by Sir Jack Brabham, the 1959 Formula 1 champion. Each is expected to sell for between $150,000 and $300,000.

Despite being ready to part with some of his timepieces, Getreide has not lost his passion for collecting. In February, he’s taking possession of the ultracomplicated Patek Philippe 6300 Grand Master Chime, which he says costs about $2 million. And he says he still pines for a Philippe Dufour Simplicity—one recently sold for $1.3 million—that got away. “I didn’t buy it. I was stupid,” Getreide says. “You don’t always do the right thing at the right time.”

This article was first published on and all figures are in USD.

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