I woke up this morning and opened my phone to the news of a new watch, which I immediately dismissed as a photoshop job. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, but the more that I scrolled, the more I saw a softened square dial in a very specific shade of blue, featuring the logos of both Patek Philippe and Tiffany & Co. Yes, we’ve reached the final boss of hype watches in the Tiffany-blue Patek Philippe Nautilus, and the watch world is in a frenzy.
Let me start with a little history on the relationship between Patek Philippe and Tiffany & Co., as well as the recent developments in the story of the ref. 5711 Nautilus. This new release was made to celebrate the 170th anniversary of the retailer partnership between the Geenvean watchmaker and the New York jewellery retailer, which began way back in 1851. The relationship was formed by a handshake between Antoine Norbert de Patek and Charles Tiffany during a fateful meeting in New York.
The deal reflected a completely different world of commerce and branding, where retailers often held more power than the manufacturers, as they were engaging directly with the clients themselves. This was commonplace in the watch industry and led to a number of watches that featured the signatures of both the retailer and the manufacturer – most famous of course, Patek and Rolex watches with highly collectible Tiffany & Co. dials and even Cartier dials. The deal promised to help Patek Philippe grow its American market, while it offered Tiffany & Co. an entirely new level of watchmaking in its 5th Avenue boutique.
While the world has changed to see manufacturers in the driver’s seat and retailers riding shotgun, the relationship between Patek Philippe and Tiffany & Co. remains important, with Patek Philippe still producing watches featuring Tiffany’s logo. It’s a relationship that has bled into the public consciousness only in the last few years, with Drake championing the exclusivity of the co-signing in the track Over The Top, where he rapped, “the level is just too advanced, the bezel is Tiffany stamped”.
Arriving at the tale of the Patek Philippe ref. 5711 Nautilus, we have a timepiece that perfectly represents the growing interest in wristwatches around the world. That explosion of interest can be tracked in the prices of the Nautilus, which retails for around $45,000 and now commonly sells pre-owned for anywhere between $150,000 and $650,000.
This global obsession over Patek Philippe’s steel sports watch saw the brand take steps to distance itself from the model, with president Thierry Stern, exclaiming in a New York Times interview, “there has been so much noise around this Nautilus. My God!” He then announced the blue dial version was to be discontinued, only to replace it with what was to be a limited release olive green version this year.
This brings us to the moment I was rubbing my eyes this morning, attempting to understand if pigs were flying in the skies, or if this watch was legit. As it turns out, the olive green dial wasn’t the final expression of the famed Nautilus, with a Tiffany twist on the world’s hottest watch released today in a limited edition of just 170 pieces.
The 40mm steel timepiece not only features a dial executed in the iconic Tiffany blue, but it also features the retailer’s logo on the dial at 6 o’clock (with Patek Philippe’s logo in pride of place at 12 o’clock), and an inscription about the 170th anniversary on the sapphire crystal caseback. The 170 pieces produced will only be available for purchase at Tiffany & Co. boutiques in New York, Beverly Hills, and San Francisco with an RRP of $52,635 (AU$74,716).
Also on the caseback, hidden within the “1851 – 2021” inscription are the conspicuous letters of “LVMH”. Prominent members of the watch community have already voiced their concern about the mention of Tiffany’s new owner, with purists believing the importance of the relationship between Tiffany and Patek has nothing to do with a recent corporate acquisition. The subtle addition to the watch might be controversial, but it also speaks to the ever-increasing reach that LVMH has in the luxury segment, be it with Beyonce, Basquiat or Supreme.
While 169 of the 170 pieces that Patek Philippe produce are almost certainly already spoken for, there is one chance to get your hands on this new Tiffany inspired Patek Philippe Nautilus. Phillips auction house is offering a brand new example of the watch at its New York sale on the 11th and 12th of this month, with an estimate simply set at, “In Excess of $50,000”. Though, if the Instagram stories of Middle Eastern watch dealer @q8limited is anything to go by, a 7-figure hammer price is almost a certainty.