You might recently have come across a story about a watch currently up for auction, a Patek Philippe grand complication with the name “Vladimir Vladimirovic Putin” listed as owner on its official papers. This comes hot on the heels of record-setting auction results of watches connected with national leaders, so people are kinda excited about this watch, obvy.
Christie’s did the Haile Selassie watch just last month and Phillips scored bigly with the Rolex previously belonging to the last emperor of Vietnam. Now it’s Antiquorum’s turn, with the Patek Philippe ref. 5208 of Vladimir Putin — allegedly. Because here’s the thing, a Bloomberg article did some digging and it seems that the Kremlin are denying that such a watch ever belonged to Russia’s president. The plot thickens — but wait, there’s more!
According to the Bloomberg piece, Monaco Legend Group, the auctioneers co-organising the July 19th sale with Antiquorum, have stoutly defended the provenance of the watch. They claim that the watch was bought as a gift for Trump’s BFF and the retailer (Watches of Switzerland in London) performed their due diligence as to ascertaining the ownership of the watch. The plot now thicker than a Kardashian in bodycon.
It’s difficult to get this past a “he said, she said” sort of conversation, so let’s look at what we know. Putin loves high-end mechanical watches. At least, we know he has a lot of them. We also know that Patek Philippe are particular about who gets one of their minute repeaters, and that retailers are anxious to maintain this exclusivity so that coveted pieces don’t end up being sullied by grey-market transactions or being flipped by opportunistic dealers. This supports the claim that proof of ownership was carefully established at the point of sale.
Then again, we have the official refutation from the Kremlin (not that any government organisation would ever lie to the media, of course). There is the possibility that the watch just never made it to its intended owner. There is the fall in global watch sales, creating an atmosphere in which selling began to take priority over safeguards of exclusivity. Obviously, we’re not suggesting that the ref. 5208 was sold cavalierly, just that the transaction happened to take place in a cynical global sales climate.