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As it usually happens in the times of crisis, changes are looming on the horizon. Sometimes these are just minor adjustments; some other times changes are radical and the sheer pace of them astonishes even specialists.

I assume that the results of the recent auctions have astounded many in the watch industry.

Usually, November is gloomy and completely unremarkable. There’s nothing going on, everyone’s waiting for December and Christmas. To make the wait more bearable, a few decades ago the trade industry came up with the idea of Black Friday – an unofficial celebration of shopping. On this day (or, as it’s been the case recently, even longer – up to a week) customers are allured by (allegedly) massive discounts, gladly reveling in the consumption craze. While auction houses don’t organise sales, the record pace of sales and results of the recent auctions in November and early December would point to never-ending Watch Black Days (a name I coined spontaneously), which stand in stark opposition to Black Friday. So what are Watch Black Days? Long story short: a celebration of uninhibited shopping craze of watches. During Watch Black Days it’s not buying at the cheapest price that matters; it’s all about buying something at all costs. This thesis is supported by the result of the recent auctions, including the most astounding one, which was organized on December 11 in New York by Philips and Bacs & Russo (and being yet another huge success of this auction house that year).

A new record was set during this auction: Nautilus Ref. 5711/1A-018, created by Patek Philippe in cooperation with Tiffany (the face has light blue shade characteristic for Tiffany) was sold for 6.5 million dollars. No, it’s not a historic model that once belonged to a famed writer, actor or singer. All the fuss was about a new model presented just a few weeks ago (a limited series of 170 watches to celebrate the 170th anniversary of cooperation between Patek Philippe and Tiffany), available at three Tiffany’s flagship stores only: in New York, Beverly Hills and San Francisco. The lucky ones can buy a new Nautilus for USD 52,635, which is the retail price. Watches from this unique series were not available for sale yet – except for the first one, which Tiffany listed for sale at the Philips auction house. All the efforts are aimed raising money for The Nature Conservancy, an international land conservation organisation. The Nature Convervancy counteracts, among others, climate change, protecting land, waters, and oceans. It also supplies food and fosters sustainable urban development.

Who is the new owner of the Nautilus with Tiffany blue face? Of course, the auction house doesn’t reveal the identity of the buyer. To make things even more interesting, Nautilus was sold via the Internet. As such, currently it’s the world’s most expensive watch sold online. Or maybe it was purchased by someone who doesn’t know what to do with their money? If yes – then it’s only for the good as money will be used for a good cause.

As we can see, the coronacrisis has already shifted the hitherto existing system of values. Now, everything is possible. The clients have changed, as during the pandemic they spend more time online and are not afraid to shop for luxury items in front of their computer screen or smartphone. For a part of them, buying a luxury watch is an investment. Others treat the crisis as an incentive to live life to the fullest, in line with the principle: make the most out of your situation, as you’re never sure what future holds.

Such auctions as these organised recently by the Philips auction house increase media buzz around mechanical watches. On the one hand, it’s good news. On the other, however, it’s a bit saddening that these sensational reports push aside such issues as extraordinary skills of the constructors and the historical legacy of great brands. Instead, models such as Nautilus or Royal Oak are most often described in connection with sensation or – at best – potential profits. It’s good that following the sale of the steel Nautilus the media had to mention the charitable cause for which money will be donated. Maybe this gesture of Tiffany’s signals a change in the right direction?

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