My wife and I love cars. We read about them, talk about them, test drive them and sometimes buy them. As if there aren’t enough cars in St. Louis, we drove 1500 miles just to look at still more cars during auction week in Scottsdale. You’ve probably seen some of these auctions on TV and they are full of automotive eye candy. Until last year, I associated only Barrett-Jackson with Scottsdale but I now know that there are at least half a dozen or more such auction venues running simultaneously during auction week. It was at the Gooding & Company auction where my car fantasies got sideswiped by my horological addiction.
You see, the Gooding auction took place next to the Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall. It was there that these words came out of my mouth: “Hey Colleen, let’s go check out some of the boutiques at the mall.” Now I’ve probably said each of those words before but never in that particular order. Of course, Colleen knew that the only boutique I would willingly seek out is a watch boutique.
At the top of my list was Omega because I’ve been obsessing over the Planet Ocean but they are chunky little monsters and I’ve been indecisive about a purchase. Maybe I would gain some clarity if I tried one on for the fourth or fifth time. Once we made it past the door sentry, I lasered in on a 39.5mm Planet Ocean with blue dial. Omega must send their staff to the same training camp because I’ve always found them to be polite and helpful but not necessarily friendly. The word “uptight” comes to mind. The young salesman was very attentive but things took a turn when I mentioned the Bvlgari boutique located down the corridor. He scoffed, “Not a serious watchmaker, blah, blah, blah.” (See? Uptight!) To which I shook my finger and uttered two word,“Octo Finissimo”, which turned the scoff into a sneer. Sigh. Can’t we just be two dudes trying to get along in a boutique?
Time to visit Bvlgari to see if they will take me seriously. Their door sentry was really on his game. He began tracking us from 50 yards away and I felt strangely proud when he actually let us in. We were greeted by a lovely woman named Terri who was eager to show us the entire Octo Finissimo collection. Up until then, I had only seen these watches online and they looked svelte and delicate. Indeed, they are thin and, for me, disturbingly so. The sandblasted, titanium bracelet is so thin, so lightweight, that I could only envision a person with OCD trying to snap each link like a potato chip.
After enjoyable visits to IWC and Breitling, we bounced over to the Gooding auction. Just beyond a sea of Ferraris, was something I wasn’t expecting, but was delighted to see. More watches! This time it was an Oris pop-up store housed in an Airstream trailer. The Oris crew was so welcoming, they were happy to see us and were clearly having a great time. They asked me what sort of watches I owned and encouraged me to try on anything that caught my eye. I give Oris a lot of credit for such a wholesome approach but I also view their setup as marketing brilliance. Why you ask? Most people at this auction are lookie-loos likeus and can only fantasize about bidding on a Ford GT or a Ferrari of any series. On the other hand, that same crowd might want to satiate their fantasies in a different way and what better place to roll out your fine timepieces.
The long drive home was punctuated by the usual wishful chatter, “What was your favorite car?” and so forth. But something new was added to the mix, i.e., “What was your favorite wristwatch?” Until now, Colleen has been enjoying my watch hobby but more as an observer. Now I see that she is forming her own tastes and preferences and, just last night, I found her sitting cross-legged and carefully arranging her collection in the watch box I bought for Christmas. Unlike my watch box, hers has a window and she says she enjoys looking at them. Next thing you know, she’ll be dragging me to watch boutiques.
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Mark retired in 2018 after 37 years in the financial services industry. He “Discovered” watches in 2015 after seeing a photo of a Steinhart OVM1 in a car forum. Ever since then he’s filled two watch boxes (and is trying to decide between buying a third one or thinning the herd). His additional pastimes include hiking, working on cars, exploring and photographing abandoned military bases.