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John Reardon on Collecting Patek Philippe

In Bezel's exclusive interview, we sit down with the author, industry icon, and Patek Philippe cognoscente to explore his introduction to the world of mechanical watches, his career in watches to date, plus the most prized watch in his personal collection.


Team Bezel

June 23, 2023


8 min read

Without question one of the world’s foremost authorities on all things Patek Philippe, John Reardon is a bona fide industry veteran, and a true horological expert by all definitions of the term. After having reshaped the watch collecting world over decades spent at Sotheby’s, Henri Stern Watch Agency (Patek Philippe USA), and Christie’s, Reardon now operates Collectability – a passion and scholarship driven resource devoted to guiding collectors and dealers throughout the processes of buying and selling vintage and pre-owned Patek Philippe watches. 

In Bezel's exclusive interview, we sit down with the author, auction world icon, and Patek Philippe cognoscente to explore his introduction to the world of mechanical watches, his career in watches to date, plus the most prized watch in his personal collection.

In Conversation with John Reardon

Bezel: How did you get into watches? 

JR: It all started at age 14, when I was a volunteer at the American Watch and Clock Museum in my hometown of Bristol, Connecticut. I was so fortunate to learn how to properly clean and mechanically overhaul clocks as a teenager during my time at the museum. It was thanks to my now brother-in-law Erik Matthews that I started this life changing experience working at the museum. He was collecting pocket watches at the time, and introduced me to the world of horology.

One of the first clocks I ever overhauled was the Gambrinus “King of Beer” blinking eye clocks made in Connecticut in the 1860s. I still visit this clock at the museum whenever I get back to my hometown – it always reminds me to remember the people that originally made these objects, from factory workers to watchmakers, clockmakers, and all the artisans and craftspeople that make these horological works a reality. 

On John's wrist – a vintage Patek Philippe Ref. 130 Chronograph fitted with a rare sector dial.

Bezel: What was your first watch and what’s the story behind it? 

JR: My first 'real' wristwatch was a rose gold Waldan International Chronograph Calendar, which I was lucky enough to have purchased from the late Oscar Waldan himself.

Bezel:  A true insider’s watch if there ever was one. Have your relationships with noted watchmakers and experts guided your approach to working within the industry? 

JR: My closest friends are mostly from the world of watches. I guess this comes as a result of being so obsessed and dedicated to all things horological from such a young age! I’ve had the amazing opportunity to meet and interact with some of the most notable people in the world of watches from my time at various auction houses, to my time working for Patek Philippe.

The bottom line is, I quickly learned that you can literally learn something new from each and every person you meet in the world of horology. For four decades, so many people from the industry have helped me in so many ways. Today, I try to give back in any way I can and encourage anyone interested – young and old – to become part of the world of horology in a true and meaningful way.

Bezel: What’s your favorite watch in your collection?

JR:  That would have to be my grandfather's Hamilton wristwatch from the 1940s. It’s not all that valuable as a watch, but it’s a priceless heirloom by all definitions, and the sort of piece that’ll always remain in my collection.

Patek Philippe's famed Ref. 3970 Perpetual Calendar Chronograph

Bezel: That’s a permanent collection piece, for sure. What about your favorite Patek Philippe?

JR: Perhaps surprisingly, it's a quartz steel Patek. When I started working for the Henri Stern Agency (Patek Philippe USA) in 2001, I of course wanted a Patek more than anything else in the world. I remember asking the President at the time and was told with a smile that no Pateks are given to anyone for free, not celebrities, not employees – no one. You have to earn it.

I saved every last dollar to eventually buy the least expensive Patek available at the time, a Ref. 5064A quartz midsize steel Aquanaut. I still wear it often, and every time I run a marathon or half marathon I wear it for good luck. This Patek literally has some serious miles on it after over 20 years!

Bezel: Can you share 3 must-have modern Patek Philippe watches listed on Bezel right now?

JR:  Although my professional focus is vintage Patek Philippe, I am very much aware of what Patek is making lately, and am always speculating what pieces made today will be the most desirable watches tomorrow. After all, every watch will be vintage someday. The must-have current production pieces on Bezel now are as follows:

1. Patek Philippe Calatrava Weekly Calendar Ref. 5212A – this is my favorite modern Patek in current production. What a great value for such a beautiful and useful reference.

2. Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Ref. 5970 – these pop up on Bezel from time to time. It’s such a trophy for any modern Patek collection, and I love it in each and every case metal configuration. My dream is to own a vertical of all four colors!

3. Patek Philippe Calatrava Skeleton Ref. 5180/1R – such an underappreciated modern piece. Whether in white or rose gold, this modern skeletonized marvel is fitted to one the most elegant and comfortable modern bracelets produced today.  Regardless of who’s wearing it, it’s a statement watch of elegance that truly signals you’re in-the-know and appreciate a work of art of the highest standard.

Inside John's library of horological literature.

Bezel: Why do you continue to enjoy collecting watches? 

JR: I live for the hunt and for a good story. I'm not as excited about new releases since I’m personally focused on vintage, though I’m definitely inspired by the people who wear and enjoy these amazing watches today. Eventually almost every watch will become pre-owned then vintage – this is my wheelhouse.

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- Isaac Wingold, Senior Editor


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