An enthusiast versus an ordinary profiteer
What is the formula for the highest tearjerker among watches? Send out a message to the world that the Nautilus with a blue dial is discontinued, and then show customers the version with the olive green dial. The rest is up to Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, websites, and collector’s forums. That’s all it takes for queues and waiting lists to start mutating like viruses and for prices to soar at the speed of a space shuttle. We could observe such a situation after the April presentation of the latest version of the Nautilus Ref. 5711/1A. The watch was to hit the market this summer and it was known from the beginning that due to the huge interest, dealers would get 1–2 pieces each this year (in Western European markets it was said that a maximum of two pieces would be allocated to select points of sale). The lucky (or clever) buyer of a new Nautilus has put up his piece at the Antiquorum auction in Monaco in July almost immediately and made a profit from it as the watch sold for a shocking 416,000 euros (the official retail price being 30,100 euros). What adds spice to the whole situation is the fact that the seller put the Nautilus in its original factory film, which the dealer is obliged to remove before selling. Patek Philippe required all authorized dealers to remove factory packaging as early as 2017. Back then, flippers were picking up the pace, so some brands, including Patek Philippe, were trying to somehow address the soaring resale prices of watches in their current collections by having store owners dispose of factory packaging before the sale. The Nautilus from the July auction looked as if it had landed in Antiquorum straight from the line.
A film-wrapped watch is a guarantee for the future owner that they are dealing with a brand new, unworn watch. It is not known how the controversial Nautilus ended up in Antiquorum and whether the dealer left the factory films deliberately or as a mere oversight (although a friend dealer told me that this may result in losing one’s license). I doubt we’ll ever find out. There is also no point to expect any announcement from Patek Philippe. Although, some time ago Thierry Stern, president of Patek Philippe, warned that flippers were in for unpleasant surprises and, speaking in various media, thundered: “if I have evidence, I will act”, but for now, it all ended in just the announcements. Flippers are on the attack all the time, and “normal” customers are retreating. The recently sold Nautilus is certified with a serial number, so Patek Philippe can identify the dealer instantly. Will they do it? Who knows.
By the way, the July Antiquorum auction revealed the truth about the changes that have already taken place on the watch market. We live in an age of speculation where the end customer has the greatest power (even if they are a flipper). On the other hand, the position of retailers is weakening day by day. In this situation, only profiteers are gaining, and the losers are both dealers and watch lovers who would like to buy their dream models at a retail price.
These are the times we live in. People are thrilled at the availability of everything at any time of the day or night. But when I once again see a simple steel model that hits an exorbitantly high price on the aftermarket, I can only wonder what went wrong. And what the watch market has come to in such a short time. To paraphrase the famous Patek Philippe advertising slogan (“You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.”), you could say: you will never own a Patek Philippe. Start saving now and perhaps the next generation will be able to afford it.