Through a series of unrelated events in the past*, there is a jewellers in Leicester that has me confused with a man of means. Much as I protest my innocence, they persist in this idea with the fervour of a marketing department that has a database of customers and a budget for schmoozing.
The upshot of this is that a couple of times a year an invitation plops through the letterbox to some fancy soiree or another. The envelope alone probably costs more money than I earn in an hour and the invitation itself is printed on paper so thick that Ikea would probably deem it over engineered to be making shelves from. There is gold leaf and swirly calligraphy all over the shop. Willy Wonka would approve.
Last night’s extravaganza was mainly to show off the current Patek Phillipe watch lineup. To be honest they are not really my cup of tea (and way out of my budget), but they are watches, mechanical, beautifully made and the invitation clearly stated “champagne and canapés”. We were there.
After shaking hands with the MD at the door (at which point the immaculately dressed and enormous security guard changed his expression from ‘murderous’ to ‘baleful’), we were buzzed into the shop. My coat was taken by a very cheerful chap and the IMA and I made beelines for a glass of Charlie and then sparkly diamond stuff and watches respectively.
I got talking to a very knowledgeable chap (who was also rather Wonka-like) about a particular watch. After explaining the manufacturing process in a level of detail that would surely put any normal human being** into a coma, he asked if I’d like to try it on.
“Sure”, I said.
He opened up the cabinet, fished out the watch and after fondling it for a few seconds in his white-glove-clad hands, handed it over to me. It was a thing of beauty, built with a level of attention to detail that is the preserve of skilled engineers with no concern for cost and a company accountant who knows his place.
I put it on my wrist.
I had to ask.
I swallowed. I steeled myself.
As casually as I could manage I muttered ”So, how much does one of these go for....?”
“Oh I have no idea, I don’t work here. I’m the MD of Patek Phillipe actually. But if you wait here I’ll find out for you.”
He disappeared of into the well-heeled crowd. I still had the watch on my wrist. After a good few minutes of me struggling with my conscience and eventually not running away very quickly up the road he reappeared.
“Thirty three thousand eight hundred pounds” he grinned, delivering the statement in a manner that suggested it was a bargain. I smiled and handed it back, thanking him politely. But he was on a roll. When engineers meet other engineers, they realise they can have a needlessly detailed conversation about mechanical stuff without risk of inducing death by boredom in the other party. We had a bond.
“Oh, I really should show you the star of the show” he said. This is it.
I could tell you in great detail about this particular watch, but the salient points are these:
- The company makes 1-2 of these per year.
- You may apply to buy one (the current waiting list is 5 years), at which point you will be invited to the factory in Switzerland and, if they like the cut of your jib, they will agree to sell you one.
- It costs four hundred and eighty five thousand pounds. Yes, you did read that right.
- It has been on my wrist.
It was definitely a worthwhile night, as I’m a patient man and now I have a top-level contact in Patek, so it’s just the small matter of the cash.
* - And, if I’m being completely truthful, a smidgeon of stage management on my part.
** - I used to be an engineer and am therefore at best immune and at worst really interested.