$6.5 Million ‘Tiffany Patek’ Auction Proves The Watch World Has Lost Its Marbles

This unassuming baby blue sports watch has just become one of the most expensive watches of all time... But why?

$6.5 Million ‘Tiffany Patek’ Auction Proves The Watch World Has Lost Its Marbles

We’d thought we’d seen it all this year when it came to headline-grabbing watch releases: Rolex’s surprising Explorer update, IWC Schaffhausen’s Big Pilot overhaul, the Audemars Piguet Black Panther

But with only weeks left in the year, Patek Philippe has blown everyone else out of the water with the release of the Nautilus ref. 5711/1A-018 ‘Tiffany & Co.’

Patek made waves this year when they announced they were discontinuing the incredibly popular Nautilus ref. 5711 after 15 years on the market… But the Tiffany Nautilus is the very definition of going out with a bang. Featuring a lacquered ‘Tiffany blue’ dial counter-signed with the logo of the famous jeweller, this ultra-limited edition is the final and most eye-catching iteration of the 5711. This is the epitome of hype.

How hype, you may ask? Well, one of these incredibly desirable watches just sold at Phillips’ 2021 New York Watch Auction for an eye-watering US$6,503,000. That’s right. $6.5 million for a stainless steel watch. The mind boggles.

Watch how it all went down below.

The watch hammered for $5,350,000, with the auction premium bringing it to $6,503,000. That officially makes it the eighth-most expensive watch and the most expensive Nautilus of all time, as well as the highest value watch to sell online at any auction house ever.

Considering that virtually all the other watches in the top 10 most expensive watches sold at auction are either historically significant vintage pieces (such as Paul Newman’s personal Rolex Daytona) or incredibly complex, one-off pieces of haute horlogerie (like the Grandmaster Chime ‘Only One’ ref. 6300A-010, another Patek), it’s a rather unbelievable price that’s caused no shortage of controversy amongst watch fans.

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As Hodinkee’s Logan Baker puts it, “some fans love [it] and the Beyonce-level surprise of the drop… sceptics [see] the Patek Philippe ref. 5711/1A-018 with Tiffany & Co.-signed dial as… a Veblen luxury product whose deliberate un-obtainability represents all that’s wrong with today’s timepiece market.”

We’d tend to agree. Regardless of what you think about the watch itself, this specific auction feels rather cynical. Well, it would, except for the fact that all the proceeds are going to charity: specifically, The Nature Conservancy. Patek, Tiffany and Phillips aren’t making a cent from the sale… But the publicity is priceless, we suppose.

The caseback of the Tiffany Nautilus. Auction price aside, that the 1 in ‘2021’ features the LVMH logo has also been a source of controversy… Image: Phillips

This isn’t the only time this year a Patek Philippe Nautilus auction has raised eyebrows. A factory-sealed Nautilus ‘Olive Dial’ (ref. 5711/1A-014) went under the hammer with Antiquorum for a ludicrous US$470,000, or about 13 times the retail price, back in July – controversial, as factory-sealed watches shouldn’t really exist.

RELATED: This ‘Olive Dial’ Patek Philippe Auction Is Very, Very Silly

As the collaboration celebrates 170 years of partnership between Tiffany & Co. and Patek Philippe, 170 examples of the Tiffany Nautilus have been made – but will only be available at Tiffany’s New York, Beverly Hills and San Francisco boutiques.

That partially explains why the price of this first one was so insanely high: it was the only one available outside of those boutiques (and you can bet your bottom dollar the other 169 were snapped up immediately by Tiffany’s most exclusive customers).

It will be interesting to see what happens when or if one of the other 169 watches go under the hammer. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results… But what about the same result? Enough hypotheticals: we need a lie-down.

UPDATE: in a strange turn of events, the original bidder for the Tiffany Patek fell through. Instead, well-known Patek collector Zach Lu ended up purchasing the watch for $6.2 million – still an absurd amount of money…

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