Luxury Watches: Background information when reading The Senility of Vladimir P.

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The Senility of Vladimir P.

by Michael Honig

The Senility of Vladimir P. by Michael Honig X
The Senility of Vladimir P. by Michael Honig
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2016, 336 pages
    Aug 2017, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Gary Presley

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About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Luxury Watches

Print Review

According to Michael Honig's imagined life of Vladimir Putin in his novel The Senility of Vladimir P., the dictator-president could be impressed by the gift of a fine wristwatch – "fine" meaning anything beyond the standard Rolex.

In this era, a good majority of the younger generation keeps track of time by using a smart phone, completely accurate, automatically updated, no wristwatch required. But many of us still wear, enjoy, and sometimes even covet a luxury – luxury, defined on a variable scale – time piece. There's more than one man with a $30 Casio on his wrist who would drool over a Tag Heuer Monaco Calibre Chronograph. The $5,900 price tag would be mere walking around money after that big Powerball lottery win.

Vacheron Constantin Tour de l'IleAt the top of the prestige ladder there are chronographs like the Vacheron Constantin Tour de L'Ile, of which there are only seven in the world. The last sold at auction for 1.87 million Swiss francs (about US$2m). Who would want such a machine? Maybe a hedge fund manager. The top ten CEOs in that field together earned $10.07 billion in 2015. With that sort of ready cash available, I suppose it would make no difference if your wristwatch cost more than your fleet of Bentley limousines. At that level, we might assume connoisseurs would consider the Tour de L'Ile an artistic endeavor, and of course, there are few paintings by Picasso or Matisse that might be had for two million.

And yet there is this fundamental question: how does a person reconcile spending that much money on a wristwatch? Obviously, if it is a simple method to influence a dictator, it is money well spent, but otherwise, the shrinks have multiple opinions. People with "high personal orientation" seek the most in pleasure, and if pleasure in buying is to have the very best, why not a Tour de L'Ile? There are other motives: status, conformity, and outright materialism. It's a rare day there's no news story about the luxury-obsessed Chinese, money flowing like wine from that near insatiable consumer market, snapping up Ferraris faster than the Maranello factory can produce them. What use a Ferrari without a Patek Philippe Chronograph?

RM 027-01 TourbillonRafael NadalAnother reason someone might want to turn stacks of money into a wristwatch is that ephemeral thing called provenance – the possession of something with a link to history. A less-than-exotic Rolex Submariner once owned by the famous actor Steve McQueen was auctioned in 2009 for a mere $234,000. But wait. McQueen wore the Rolex, which probably cost only a few thousand dollars decades ago, and today Rafael Nadal, the Spanish tennis whiz, wears a RM 027-01 Tourbillon while on-court, a watch worth almost a million dollars. Shall we wait for that auction?

The timepieces that play a role in Honig's fictional novel were offered as tributes to Putin the autocrat, a bribe for attention or favor, a more corrupt intention than the Cloisonné liqueur set given to Richard Nixon by Brezhnev during the May, 1972 SALT talks. Even if Nixon's ambiguous ethics set teeth on edge, the liqueur set ended up property of the American people; in contrast, it's difficult not to believe Putin has prospered personally from his Russian rule.

Joux ValleyWant an exotic timepiece? Buy direct. BBC Magazine notes Switzerland's Joux Valley is the place to go. In that lovely vale work the artists who make watches sold under the marque of Breguet, Longines, Audemars Piguet, and Patek Philippe.

Vacheron Constantin Tour de I'Ile, courtesy of
Rafael Nadar and his RM 027-01 Tourbillon, courtesy of
RM 027-01 Tourbillon, courtesy of
Joux Valley

Article by Gary Presley

This article was originally published in August 2016, and has been updated for the August 2017 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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