I went watch shopping with Shark Tank investor Kevin O'Leary and the timepiece he purchased brought tears to his eyes.
O'Leary tells me he's been waiting for more than a decade to get his hands on the highly sought after blue-faced Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1A. This particular Nautilus model has an eight-year waitlist. And since the Swiss watchmaker makes a point of not showing preferential treatment to celebrities: No matter who you think you are you still have to wait for the call.
When O'Leary's call came, we happened to be shooting a real estate story together for CNBC (The famous "Shark Tank" Shark is also a contributor and I'm a senior executive producer). On the phone was the CEO of London Jewelers Mark Udell calling to tell O'Leary his time had come, literally. After that brief conversation O'Leary looked happier than I've seen him look after he out-negotiates Mark Cuban for a multi-million dollar royalty deal with an entrepreneur on Shark Tank.
I'll get to the day the day this watch made O'Leary shed a tear in a moment, first a little background on the elusive 5711/1A.
"If you're a watch collector, it's at the top of your list everywhere in the world and when you see one, the aura drags you right to it. I've seen grown men weep in the presence of this watch and that's never going to end," said O'Leary.
The tear-inducing timepiece is a sleek remake of the 1976 Nautilus 3700/1A. And the truth is, no one outside of Patek really knows how rare the 5711 is because the watchmaker does not release numbers on how many have been produced since the company started making this model back in 2006.
Why this Nautilus in particular is creating such a stir among wealthy watch aficionados like O'Leary is a bit of mystery, it's certainly not Patek's rarest timepiece, (some horological experts guess thousands have already been produced) nor is it the most complicated the company makes, in fact it's one of the most basic. And the stainless-steel clad version retails for $29,800, sure it's a lot of money, but in Patek's lineup this model is actually one of the least expensive the company makes. Guys like O'Leary can certainly afford pricier.
For the shark whose battle cry is: "You've got to know your numbers!" this investment is a bit unusual. Like the rest of us, Kevin has no idea how many 5711s are out there, and that question mark makes betting on the future value of this watch challenging. But here's what O'Leary says he does know about the 5711, "Everyone wants this watch and NO ONE can get their hands on it."
He's also acutely aware that watches as an investment class are on the rise and the values of some rare pieces on the secondary market are skyrocketing. And collectible Patek's in particular are on fire right now.
In the case of the 5711 he's been circling for a decade, O'Leary says there's blood in the water that makes this watch a great target. That eight-year waitlist and the fact that it's already trading at more than double its retail value on the secondary market are both clear signs of demand outstripping supply. Also, the fact that this timepiece is made of stainless steel and not gold makes it an outlier for Patek, and the rare steel construction tends to attract collectors. Plus Kevin absolutely loves how this bad boy looks on the wrist and since it's an investment he'll wear that's a major plus. In other words, it all adds up to a Wonderful investment he can't pass up.
And that's why O'Leary flies in from Toronto and has his driver whisk him straight out to Udell's high-end mega-boutique on the "Miracle Mile" in Manhasset, New York.
The 366-mile journey was more than 10 years in the making and when it's time for Kevin to drop 30 grand on some wrist bling, I tag along with a CNBC camera crew.
O'Leary's greeted by London Jeweler's Watch Salon Manager Michael Edelman, who disappears to retrieve the watch from the salon's high-security safe.
Edelman returns with a dark brown box, and before he can go one step further, Patek's policy requires he don silky gloves in Patek's signature shade of brown. Now under O'Leary's steady gaze the elaborate unboxing begins. Edelman slides off the cover revealing another box wrapped in a soft fabric sheath. When removed it reveals a glossy wooden case with a small silver calatrava cross inlaid at the center.
The anticipation is killing Mr. Wonderful and he can barely contain himself.
"Open that box," says O'Leary. "I'm freaking out right now, because the moment this box opens and I put this watch on my wrist, I become the envy of just about every billionaire, CEO and celebrity on the planet."
Edelman unhinges the silver latch and lifts the lid to finally reveal the steel prize inside. The watch gleams at Kevin begging to be lifted from its resting place.
"This is spectacular, wow!" says O'Leary and he's not joking when he adds, "It's just bringing a tear to my eye."
Edelman is apparently accustomed to seeing grown men cry at the Patek counter and when Kevin gets emotional he doesn't skip a beat.
"Can we get a Kleenex?" Edelman asks a staffer.
A watery eyed O'Leary straps the blue-faced collectible to his wrist and stares at in disbelief. The watch transforms the hard-nosed investor into a child who's just opened the best birthday gift ever.
Moments later that little kid is gone and the O'Leary we all know and love is back.
"Nothing brings a tear to my eye like making money," says O'Leary, "The 5711/1A retails for $30,000, but it's so sought after that collectors are willing to pay up to $80,000 for it in the secondary market. So technically I just made 50,000 smackeroos!"
Kevin admits he'll never sell his prized possession, but he doesn't exactly agree with the Swiss watchmaker's motto:
"You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation."
After putting 30 grand on his Black Amex Centurion card to buy the watch, O'Leary very much believes he does actually own this Patek. And unfortunately for the next generation of O'Learys this watch is staying on his wrist till the very end.
"I'm burying this with me," said O'Leary.
Ray Parisi is CNBC's senior executive producer of special projects and the co-creator of the primetime TV series "Secret Lives of the Super Rich."
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Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to ABC's "Shark Tank."