Erik Grochowiak, President of Symbolic Watch in La Jolla



Patek Philippe Tourbillon

Photography courtesy of Symbolic Watch International

As the connection in San Diego and around the globe for luxury timepieces, industry veteran and watch collector Erik Grochowiak, President of Symbolic Watch in La Jolla (Update April 2015: Company emailed a customer stating, a move to 11425 Sorrento Valley Roadhas for the past two decades assisted clientele in amassing investment quality selections and collections.

From Patek Philippe and Audemar’s Piguet, to Cartier, Tiffany, Rolex and Vacheron Constantin, his collection is ever-evolving, spanning the globe for one-of-a-kind vintage selections to the latest trends on the market. With an ever-present interest in luxury timepieces, Grochowiak first began his own personal collection in the 90’s when obtaining a 1970s Breguet Chronograph. He has since handled the world’s most coveted collection selections – ranging from watches and pocket watches to rare clocks. By appointment only, clientele can either visit their showroom in La Jolla or by private consultation.

Sharing a passion for fine and rare timepieces with their clients, Symbolic Watch offers the expertise and industry acumen of more than 25 combined years. With a reputation established and maintained by the trust and confidence of their clientele, as well as by the respect of buyers and sellers of all the major auction houses, they hold association with both the International Watch and Jewelry Guild and the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors for more than a decade each.

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Interview: Erik Grochowiak

FINE Magazine: What first drew your interest to the luxury watch market?
Erik Grochowiak: The rarity and collectability of the pieces. Plus, having an exotic car dealership like Symbolic Motors gave us the type of clients who were already collecting high end luxury items and the connection between cars and watches was easy to put together. Our clients are always looking to add to their collection.

FINE: Any personal favorites?
Grochowiak: Well, Patek Philippe is the most sought after watch in today’s market. I have just recently added my first Patek to my collection. I am a big fan of oversized sport watches (i.e. Audemars Piguet-Offshore’s, Rolex GMT’s – both vintage and modern, Panerai, IWC and Breguet). 

FINE: As far as vintage timepieces, what has been the most coveted you have brought into your collection?
Grochowiak: Patek Philippe vintage chronographs and perpetual calendar models. Rolex Vintage Chronographs and dive watches, also have a huge following.

FINE: What are your most requested items?
Grochowiak: Patek Philippe modern chronographs in any color metal are almost impossible to keep in stock. When I am lucky enough to add a piece or two to my inventory, I usually have the watch sold before I can even get it photographed and on my website.

FINE: When considering a timepiece purchase, what factors should discriminating buyers keep in mind or even look for?
Grochowiak: For vintage timepieces, originality and condition are the two most important factors. Also, when a 30-year watch still has the original box and warranty papers, that adds extra value as well. Watches have become investments for experienced collectors. And in some cases have out performed the DOW and NASDAQ. There are many watches we sold less than 10 years ago that have more than doubled in value today.

FINE: What is the latest in watch trends, as far as features and design?
Grochowiak: Size and complication. Oversized watches have been the best sellers for most manufacturers for the past few years. Chronographs, perpetual calendars, skeleton movements and exotic metals are in high demand – [not to mention] platinum, titanium and PVD coated steel.

FINE: In traveling the world, where do you go and what recent finds have you brought home?
Grochowiak: New York is the center of the U.S. watch and jewelry world, and in Europe, Geneva has been my second home the past 12 years. But with the Chinese economy and their thirst for watches, Hong Kong has been my primary focus. I have heard several [industry] executives state that 30-50 percent of their watches will be sold in China this year alone! But in my own backyard here in San Diego, I recently purchased a 1920’s Patek Philippe single button chronograph, retailed by Tiffany & Co; I paid over $300,000 for the watch and sold it over the phone to an Italian collector within one hour of owning it!

FINE: What is it about the timepiece market that is most rewarding?
Grochowiak: Having clients with 50-plus watch collections say, “it’s time to add to my collection!”