Would You Buy a $27,000 Watch Toy?

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Eric Peng Cheng, an A++ watch collector and the founder of streetwear retailers Bait and Undefeated, was enjoying his dinner at a swanky restaurant in Taiwan when he first got wind something funny was happening with the Kokies toys he made for beloved indie watchmaker F.P. Journe. (Kokies are Cheng’s line of big-headed character figurines.) 

The toy set in question: two vinyl figures of the watchmaker François-Paul Journe, one of him unwrinkled and young at the beginning of his career and the other, hair grayed, showing him in the present. The set also came with seven miniature F.P. Journe watches that Cheng insisted even have a little crystal over the dial for authenticity. Cheng promoted the set, which retailed for $500, exclusively through his Instagram.

But while Cheng was at that dinner in Taiwan, a set of his toys was on the block at Christie’s most recent Geneva auction in early November. Adam Golden, the founder of Menta Watches, was in the room, and sent Cheng a picture of the screen displaying bidding for the FPJ toys. The price shown was $10,000, and Cheng assumed that was final. “I said, ‘Oh, shit, that’s crazy that someone paid that for a figure I made,’” Cheng tells me. Then, he put his phone away and enjoyed the rest of his dinner. Later that night, he learned that he’d only seen the half of it—that, after a battle between a half-dozen bidders, the set sold for a brain-melting 25,200 Swiss francs (roughly $27,000). 

Ironically, Cheng originally intended the toys to serve as an easy point of entry for F.P. Journe fans, who are often on the outside looking in. “Because of the price point, because of the small production, it’s very hard for new people to get into the brand,” he says. The Kokies were supposed to get FPJ  “to a wider audience, even if they cannot get a piece right away,” Cheng adds. 

But it turned out that his Kokies possessed every ingredient needed to set the secondary market aflame. They were produced in limited numbers, offered at first exclusively to FPJ’s inner circle of clients, and appealed to a very passionate fan base. “It is a truly collectible item,” Cheng says. All of which is to say: the Kokies are a very funny—but very fitting, and very 2022—successor to clock-embedded pens and watch-shaped cufflinks. The figurines appeal to watch collectors, but also to a new generation coming into the hobby, one populated by folks who have grown up with sneaker hysteria and streetwear as the most popular mode of dress. 

Cheng clearly understands the appeal of items like these, and the continuity between 1930s watch collectibles and their 2022 iteration. At the most recent round of auctions in New York last week, The prolific collector wound up bidding on just a single item: an Audemars Piguet money clip.