What is the Value of a $2.6 Million Watch?
The Patek Philippe 5175R Grandmaster Chime Watch is clearly a work of art. It represents the top of the line and is undeniably beautiful. Yet one can ask: what purpose can it possibly serve if the majority of the population cannot buy it? How does it help society as a whole?
It is true that not everyone can afford the $2.6 million watch, but everyone can admire the craftsmanship that goes into an artistic masterpiece of this sort. There is a dedication to the perfection of the pieces that is mindboggling and reflects centuries of Christian tradition. The attention to detail is astonishing. The love of making something beautiful for beauty’s sake is clearly seen in the workmanship of those who assembled this amazing watch.
In our politically-correct world, such admiration counts for little. It is much more fashionable to write off this $2.6 million watch as a superfluous luxury using money that might be better spent helping the poor or some other purpose. The politically correct would say the watch has no social value.
However, the Patek Philippe 5175R watch offers all society something of inestimable value. It provides a standard of excellence that belongs to everyone.
The high craftsmanship of this watch is the model for all watchmakers. Thus, all watchmakers are inspired to foster in their own way a dedication to perfection and attention to detail. Looking at this watch’s beauty, they all sense the full beauty of their craft. Based on this watch’s design, other watchmakers find inspiration for their own beautiful watches proportional to the budget of those at all levels of society that prefer to buy their handiwork. Their watches become not just practical instruments, but works of art or even family heirlooms that could be passed down for generations. The spirit of craftsmanship of this fine watch permeates throughout the craft and, yes, to all of society.
But the watch not only provides a standard of excellence, it also provides a launching pad to dream of even greater things. It is only natural that when someone finishes making something beautiful, it prompts the person to think of creating even greater beauty. Every new creation triggers the same question: “How might I do this better and more beautifully?”
The role of the $2.6 million watch is not to be the plaything of the rich. Rather, in an organic society, it serves to push things toward higher perfection. And when something becomes more perfect, it elevates the whole class of things. The quest for a perfect watch pushes all watchmaking upward toward perfection. All society benefits from this constant push upward. This quest is in fact the basis of all culture.
Finally, beautiful things tend to appear in public places since they are made to be displayed. They tend to create a world of beautiful things that come to belong to everyone, not just rich people. Everyone is enriched in such a world of wonder. Christian civilization gave ample testimony of this role when it filled the world with rich and magnificent liturgy, art, architecture, and so many other marvels that were fully integrated into the lives of the common people, allowing them to live their ordinary lives in extraordinary ways.
The tragedy of today’s cheap culture of instant gratification is that it deadens people’s sensitivity to the beauty of crafted things in general. It is not that we no longer can afford craftsmanship; everyone buys terribly expensive gadgets and gizmos. Rather, craftsmanship is no longer so universally valued.
That is why a society that fails to admire the beauty of watches like the Patek Philippe 5175R does so to its detriment. When people admire great things, they acquire something of the stature of that which they admire. But when people become immersed in the cheap, superficial and sensational, they create a culture where more value is given to the material over the spiritual, the useful over the beautiful, and the common over the extraordinary. All culture deteriorates and people lose their capacity to dream of a more beautiful and better world.
The watch belongs to a fortunate individual who has decided to invest in a work of art. But the rest of society definitely benefits from its high standards. Some might claim that the Patek Philippe 5175R Grandmaster Chime Watch is not for everyone -- but, actually, it is.
John Horvat II is a scholar, researcher, educator, international speaker, and author of the book Return to Order. He lives in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania where he is vice president for the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property.