Greed Isn’t So Good

The Countess extols the virtue of being satisfied.


I’ve got a thing about greed, probably because I’m the greediest of them all. I have a dear uncle, Siegfried, who really has his greedy hang-ups, especially about watches—Patek Philippe to be exact.

Sitting by the fire at the Sloane Club in London one day, he was reading a magazine published by Patek Philippe. The fire was roaring, and suddenly Siegfried was roaring too: “Mon Dieu, Louise! Do you realize what I have?”

He showed me a photo of a watch that had sold at auction for $518,000. “I have the exact same watch. I’m rich!” he said, almost hysterical with glee. “Louise, two tickets to New York immediately. I must auction my watch.”

Once there, he took his limousine straight to Sotheby’s—with the watch in his pocket. The minute the doors of Sotheby’s opened, he dashed inside and went upstairs, where there was an exhibit of Princess Grace’s belongings. “Where’s the watch department?” he almost screamed to a nearby security guard.

He was directed around the back of the evening dresses to a rather run-down office, where he was kept waiting another 15 minutes. Finally, in came Mr. Watch Auctioneer, followed by a severe-looking woman. Siegfried gingerly removed the Patek Philippe from his pocket, then showed the duo the watch in the magazine.

The two Sotheby-ites looked at the watch, the photo and then at each other. They turned to my uncle and said, “But, Count, this is not your watch. Your watch is model number 3940.”

“But it’s the same watch!”

“I’m sorry to disappoint you, but it isn’t,” the woman said firmly. “Look at the picture. See on the left-hand side of that watch there’s a bulge?”

Siegfried looked, holding the page a few inches from his eyes. There was a tiny bulge on the watch. The magazine read: “The watches produced by Patek Philippe to mark milestones in its history attain instant collectible status. This Ref. 3974 minute-repeating, astronomic, self-winding watch proved to be no exception, comfortably exceeding its presale high estimate. The model was launched in 1989 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Patek Philippe.”

The Sotheby’s auctioneer explained that “minute-repeating” meant the watch could chime every 60 seconds if the wearer wanted.

My uncle looked at his watch. No bulge. And it had never chimed. “How much is this watch worth then?” my uncle asked.

The duo looked at each other again: “Well, maybe $25,000.”

“Mon Dieu,” my uncle groaned. He’d already planned to spend the money on a yacht—a small one.

Even after the recent incident, my uncle’s watchaholicism isn’t sated. But he’s not the only one. Siegfried has a friend in London whose grown-up grandchildren gave him a Cartier watch for his birthday, which he loved. This man immediately rushed to Cartier on Bond Street to find out what it cost. He was thrilled that it was expensive—very expensive. But when he looked at his Austrian credit card statement the next month, he discovered the watch had been charged to him!

So much for greed. It rarely ends well. Who really needs a $518,000 watch? If I thought I had a watch worth that much, I’d never wear it—I’d lock it up because I’d greedily think it would be worth even more later.

But Siegfried is greedy about more than just watches. One afternoon, sitting at La Grenouille, he spotted fashion queen Anna Wintour, with her pageboy hair. Next to her was a most attractive lady, and he couldn’t resist. He got up, crossed the room and grossly put his hands on the table. He said hello to Anna Wintour, then turned to the beautiful woman and said flirtatiously, “Do you live in New York?”

She looked him straight in the eye and said, “I love New York. I live here.” Siegfried felt dismissed, so he slunk away and, as he left the restaurant, asked who the beautiful woman was. “Melania Trump,” he was told—The Donald’s wife. Thank goodness he hadn’t touched her hair…or worse!

Oh well, no worries. There’s this new, limited-edition watch from Bremont made from parts of a Spitfire aircraft that Siegfried has his eye on now.