In the spring of 2018, after his favorite watch dealer helped him secure a Patek Philippe 5960/1A—a roughly $45,000 stainless steel watch with a black dial, perpetual calendar and chronograph—investment banker Shahriar Attaie sent her a bobblehead. It was a gag gift, far mellower than the magnum bottles of Veuve Clicquot typically traded in the aftermath of a high-priced transaction, but its subject made it stand out: bobbling atop a black suit was the head of that watch dealer herself, Kelly Yoch. Attaie bought half a dozen—it was cheaper to order five or six, he says, than it was to get just three.
In Attaie’s rarified world, the bobbleheads became something of a sensation. Collectors within Yoch’s wide circle passed them around when they went on trips, photographing the bobblehead in far-flung locales. Someone made an Instagram account for the bobblehead. One was stolen. Yoch posted a photo of hers to Instagram and John Mayer jumped into the comment section asking for one. And it’s not even Yoch’s only lusted-after accessory: on eBay bidders drove up the price of a toothpick she allegedly used. (“We were all bidding on it as a joke,” Attaie says. “We knew who was selling it.” Still: how many of your used toothpicks have attracted bidders, jokesters or not, on eBay?)
So why all the fanfare? Because, as protectors of treasure go, Yoch is somewhere up there with the hundred-headed dragon that protected the golden apple tree Zeus gave his wife Hera. If you happen to be a sufficiently advanced watch collector, there is no greater treasure than a Patek Philippe kissed with an official stamp from legendary jeweler Tiffany & Co. Only two or three of the most desirable models are made each year. For clients, getting their hands on one can feel like an odyssey worthy of myth, which often requires the approval of Patek and Tiffany’s own hundred-headed dragon: Kelly Yoch, the senior Patek Philippe consultant for North America at Tiffany & Co. “She is the most important person in the watch world,” opines Jonathan Schwartz, a movie and film producer and one of Yoch’s clients.
Yoch does not single-handedly decide who receives Tiffany-stamped Pateks, or even allocate all of them, but she is the most visible guardian of one of the watch world’s most unique partnerships. The relationship between Tiffany & Co. and Patek began in 1851, when the brand’s respective founders met and discovered a mutual appreciation for each other’s wares. More than a century and a half later, Tiffany is Patek’s oldest U.S. partner, and the only company that regularly co-brands the watchmaker’s dials. In 2008, the jeweler’s massive Fifth Avenue flagship in Manhattan became home to the first Patek “salon”—a store inside a store—in the U.S., and Yoch was one of the first people put in that store. She is the final answer to a sort of math problem: Patek Phillippe’s watches are already scarce, and the addition of the Tiffany logo only serves to heighten a piece’s rarity. There’s a reason salesperson is not in her title, even though that is in essence her role. More than that, what Yoch does is play matchmaker, pairing each watch with the most deserving customer. Because of Yoch’s position, a vibrant community of collectors have formed around her. “Kelly Yoch is the high priestess of horology for the Patek Philippe collectors who listen to her every word,” says John Reardon, a Patek Philippe expert and owner of the site Collectability, which buys and sells the brand’s watches.
Yoch’s most devoted customers expect perks when buying from luxury brands, but what they get from Yoch is wildly different than they’re used to. While many glitzy high-flying brands focus on the big—the parties and events, the weekend getaways, the massive Fifth Avenue shops with opulent window displays—Yoch orchestrates something much more intimate, and occasionally salty-sweet. Schwartz speaks to Yoch ten times a day—”If you search [our texts], the word ‘idiot’ is there probably 700 times in the last four months,” he says—and is also in a group chat with more than 100 other of her clients where they talk watches and share pictures of their latest pickups.