What is patina anyway?

Classic cars are like clocks, guitars, cameras, old jeans, shoes – the traces that tell from their lives make them so interesting for so many people. Patina is what results from normal use and normal aging. Leather that rubs off, dials of watches that turn yellow, paint that fades or cracks under the sun.

As Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you for purchases made through links in this post.

The future of finitude

The classic car scene discusses enough about which originality is worth preserving and which no longer passes as patina. Simple rust from neglect is probably not one of them. But as I said, others should discuss that. This is more about what makes patina so special and what’s behind it.

Favourite pair of old boots

Victor steering wheel - signed by Magnus Walker for PATIPATINA

A patinated steering wheel

Throwaway society vs. protect & preserve

The consumer and throwaway society does not focus on the use value of things but on their acquisition. The new is idolized, the only quality of which is loss – loss of the old. Something new is better than maintaining what already exists. Such virtues are dismissed as old-fashioned, although they are particularly characterized by a wealth of experience.

Fashion in particular is the most glowing example of shortening the accepted seasonal lifespan. Society shouldn’t be surprised, it creates these cycles and teaches people to appreciate the new and to dismiss the existing. This applies to products as well as relationships, but that’s another story. The world should consist of the quality and longevity of products, with values – such as responsibility, long-term thinking and action, reliability and common sense – also in terms of the respectful use of the world’s resources. Obsoloscence and zeitgeist are the enemies of these thoughts.

Momo Prototipo Steering Wheel - 350 mm - flat - sunburned

Is that still patina? Anyway, it makes a nice garage decoration

A 70+ year old Leica camera

Patina as an expression of virtues

So patina is not only a melancholy counterpart to the throwaway society, it is an expression of virtues such as quality and longevity, but also regret about the scandal of the throwaway society. In my loft there is furniture from the 1960s, my watch is just as old, the guitar from the year I was born and cars and steering wheels – well – you know that by now. Some of the steering wheels might be beyond patina, I like the term outlaw style.

The throwaway society is not a product of chance. In 1924, the most successful light bulb manufacturers met in Geneva and discussed limiting the lifespan of light bulbs to 1000 hours. This opened the door to the planned consumer and obsolescence society. The Phoebus cartel went down in history, although it was discovered in 1942, the built-in expiry date had long since become a permanent economic institution. A lightbulb fought back; it has been burning in fire station No.6 in Livermore, near San Francisco, since 1901.

Grandfathers watch

Beloved Vespa – passed on from generation to generation

So Patina not only dreams of lifelong use over generations, but it’s also a reminder that there was once a world in which consumer goods were not immediately viewed as potential garbage. And that our future lies in the past. Patina also speaks of the fascination of a world in which things still have a meaning.

Where does the word patina come from?

The term patina comes from Latin and means “pan” or “pan dish”. This gave rise to the name for the fillings on pans. At that time, reduced to the oxide reference on the surfaces of copper or copper alloys, the term was later also used in the sense of patina and signs of aging of other materials and surfaces. Today patina is an added value, a purchase argument.

However, the term patina does not apply to everything that is old. I am often asked about this, as a lover and collector of old cars and of course steering wheels. As I said, I don’t want to take part in the discussion. For me, patina develops on the material, cracks are fine, dirt is not part of it. Ultimately, it’s about originality. If you compare auctions on BAT or other platforms, unrestored originals often bring more than fully restored ones. Which unfortunately also leads to the fact that patina is created artificially – something that, in my eyes, betrays the virtues described above. Again, only profit is in the foreground and not the preservation and appreciation of the naturally aged.



Niki Lauda & James Hunt

Niki Lauda Steering Wheel Ad