For a number of years I was involved in a marketing enterprise, and my sponsor enjoyed wearing a diamond-studded Rolex that he picked up for about half-price, a mere $125,000. I always wondered how much sense it made to wear that much money around on your wrist, but whatever floats his boat.
Then I discovered this:
This video describes the design and manufacture of the Patek Philippe 5175R Grandmaster Chime Watch, which sells for $2.6 million… if the president of the firm thinks you’re worthy to own one. To celebrate the 175th anniversary of the firm, only seven were made, six of them to be sold to a very exclusive number of long-time collectors, the seventh to be displayed at the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva.
Now, Patek Phillippe is the zenith of the summit of the pinnacle of the watchmaking world to start with. They don’t let anything but perfection out of their factory doors. But this particular watch would make Jacquet-Droz blush with embarrassment and want to crawl into a hole for having produced such crude workmanship, and he was a world-class craftsman and a genius.
When I read the title of the video, I thought to myself, “why in the world would someone create, let alone buy, such an expensive watch? Well, the buyers will have their own reasons. But as for the creation… this is not merely a timepiece, this is art. People pay much more than a paltry 2.6 million for coveted artwork; remember that someone paid an estimated $259 million for Cezanne’s The Card Players.
Watch the video. You’ll see that this piece is lovingly crafted in the most excruciating detail by craftspeople who could rightfully be called national treasures. Designers, machine workers, watchmakers, artists, metallurgists, you name it – the skill and precision and absolutely insane devotion to a perfect product are visible here.
The movement before assembly
I’ll never be fortunate enough to hold a piece of art like this, and I’m not likely to see one in a museum either, so watching the video will have to suffice for me.
The Reverse Side
But from where I sit, this miracle of design and labor is worth every penny that the company charges for it.
Now, this whole adventure raises a few questions. Recently, redditor /u/mattertater calculated an estimate in raw dollars for how much it would take to end world hunger if every citizen of first-world countries contributed the same amount annually. (Thread with commentary)
With an approximate first-world population of 906,715,020 people, or 12.45% of the global population, the UN estimate of $30 billion annually works out to roughly $33.08 per year, or about 9¢ a day. For comparison’s sake, note that the US military, with an annual estimated budget of $640 billion, could come up with that amount all by itself by trimming 5% of its annual spending.
These are just some interesting raw numbers. It is understood that the problem of world hunger is much more than throwing dollars at it, involving as it does so many factors such as distribution chains, administration, corruption, agriculture, warfare, and countless others. But it’s intriguing to wonder if given the pressing problems of the world, owning a watch that costs this much money really makes sense. Still, on a much smaller scale, 8 people were willing to pony up $999.99 for the “I am Rich” app at the Apple Store before it was pulled down… and all it does is display a glowing, red gem which the rest of the world can’t have. Veblen goods have their appeal, usually for reasons of vanity.
The world is so full of a number of things…
The Old Wolf has spoken.