Patek Philippe is a much-loved watch brand and one that’s been run very well under the direction of Thierry Stern.
Under his tenure, the resale value of a wide range of Patek Philippe references has greatly increased — none more than the vaunted Nautilus 5711. Some call the Gerald Genta-designed timepiece an iconic design, the holy grail of watch collecting — while others call it gaudy and tasteless. Regardless of what camp you’re in, the indisputable fact is that the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711, in any form, is a superior investment-grade timepiece. A timepiece that if you can buy new at retail, instantly increases your net worth. Not many watch references and brands can say this outside of Rolex sports models and a select few others.
A growing number of collectors and enthusiasts say this investment-driven mentality ruins wristwatch collecting, and I tend to agree, at least with regard to the way auctions inflate values in questionable ways. No, I’m not taking aim at just Phillips, but let’s be honest, Patek Philippe did not need the gross revenue boost as much as they presumably wanted to benchmark yet another record sale ($6.5 million for number 1/170 for the Tiffany Blue 5711) — the way Rolex does at auction time and time again. And Phillips, with their shiny new Manhattan showroom, provided that service for them.
Yes, it’s admirable that the net proceeds went to The Nature Conservancy. However, we cannot ignore that just like Only Watch, the high values achieved — and that are heavily promoted as part of each participating companies’ respective core marketing plans — act as a benchmark that helps feed the supply-driven Swiss sales machines.
One major watch brand recently even went so far as to deny that achieving continually unprecedented auction (and resale) results is a “strategy” and instead they used the outdated argument that they cannot make enough watches to satiate demand. But I think we all know it’s far beyond that and Stern stopped saying such things earlier this year and now concedes that his company does not want to produce additional stainless steel watches to the point that they fulfill the astronomical amount of backorders because the company strategy is to protect the brand and resale for current and future collectors. This may not make collectors happy but it’s a proven way to retain brand value, across the entire luxury industry. Crucially, it’s about as transparent as any Swiss CEO can be — and it’s a sign of good leadership.
Nevertheless, I do wonder how some of the design decisions behind the Tiffany Nautilus Ref. 5711/1A-018 came about. LVMH is of course a behemoth luxury powerhouse, and continues to grow through aggressive acquisitions, but what references within their core stable of watch brands — TAG Heuer, Zenith, Hublot, Bulgari, or Louis Vuitton — commands resale values that are above retail? None that I can think of, but please do correct me if I’m wrong.
The Tiffany + Patek relationship is a good one that has persisted since the early days of Patek Philippe coming to America, and it appears with the latest Tiffany Nautilus, that Tiffany and Patek will continue to work together. However, what appears to have changed since the LVMH acquisition of Tiffany & Co, is that Patek Philippe gave way to LVMH. Specifically, the discreet “LVMH” marking on the caseback of the Patek Philippe Tiffany & Co Nautilus may seem like a cool “Easter egg” — as Stern has described it — but deep down is it really Patek Philippe bending the knee to the almighty LVMH group?
Photo by Patek Philippe.