Since the 3700 was discontinued in 1990, the Nautilus range had been without a large and uncomplicated variant. The midsize reference 3800 existed which was introduced in 1981, but between 90-2006 the range was without a steel jumbo.
This was rectified in 2006 when Patek released the 5711/1A to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the Nautilus.
The 5711 remains true overall to the original jumbo, however there are some immediately noticeable differences. The 5711 has gained a sweep second hand and the dial is a graduated almost electric blue tone rather than the deeper blue/black of its predecessor. It has also “bulked up” slightly in keeping with modern tastes and the case is no longer monoblock but uses a 3 part construction. Other upgrades include luminova, a tri-fold clasp over the blades of the 3700 and a larger crown commensurate with the chunkier case and ears.
There is absolutely no doubt that the 5711 is a beautiful watch. Timeless styling, design pedigree, and from one of the holy trinity of watchmakers. But this is not just a beautiful watch. It has become the worlds most desirable sports watch with waiting lists passing ten years and one which sells without a second thought at close to 3x RRP.
It’s rare. Very rare. Patek do not, and more to the point, will not make many of them. Patek Philippe president Thierry Stern has this to say on the subject:
“It is a dangerous matter. This is something we need to be very careful about. Many years ago, IWC was producing gold watches. Then they had problems, and they fabricated everything in steel. They tried to come back to gold, and they could never do it. Once you lower the price with steel, it is very hard to come back. So, I don’t want this with Patek. That’s why I took the decision many years ago to say ‘Let’s limit it.’ I am limiting the steel versions, mostly the Nautilus. That’s really the one that everybody is looking for. Why is it so expensive? It’s simply because there are just a few of them.”
He has a point. Patek has always specialised in beautiful and complex watches crafted from precious metals. It is their raison d’être. If they were to lower production on gold and platinum complications in order to satisfy the demand for the steel 3 hand Nautilus, how would they go back? What would the thirst for those watches be if the steel Nautilus was readily available at RRP in boutique windows. The answer to that is not one that Patek are willing to find out. Plus, of course, you don’t have a hope of landing a Nautilus at retail with Patek until you’ve built up a solid purchase history throughout the range – £££. Well played Stern.
The Nautilus is one of those go anywhere, do anything watches. It’s slimline enough to fit under the cuff, formal enough to wear with a suit, and waterproof enough (120m) to breeze through anything that the beach and some scuba diving can throw at it. There are not many sport watches that can claim such all-rounder status. The Royal Oak is water resistant to a comparatively shallow 50 metres (meaning you can get it wet but diving and heavy water use is ill-advised). The Submariner is a robust dive watch and covers casual very well, but arguments still rage about its suitability as a dressier piece due to the rotating bezel. The Daytona can pass under a cuff and swim to 100m but as a chronograph it doesn’t hold the same uncomplicated appeal. For collectors, of course, this is irrelevant since they use different horses for different courses, but the Nautilus is still the unicorn.
It dresses down incredibly well too.
Prestige and Quality
The Nautilus has brand appeal. Patek Philippe is undoubtedly the most prestigious manufacturer in the world and synonymous with good taste, quality, and refinement, not to mention being one of the Holy Trinity of manufacturers alongside Audemars and Vacheron. Plus, it is a brand for those “in the know”. Its competitors such as Rolex and Audemars Piguet are instantly recognisable however there is a certain level of understatement with Patek and this is incredibly alluring to those who are fastidious about watches. Those with a Nautilus, know. The wider population probably wouldn’t afford it a second look after noticing the lack of cyclops. Exclusivity is a horological aphrodisiac.
The 5711 is also made with a white dial which made its debut at Baselworld 2012 and is a modern nod to the albino Jumbo, a one off prototype which Patek made in 1978 and which was auctioned for CHF 250,000 in 2015.
Both dial variants retail at £23,440 if you’re prepared to wait a decade.
In 2015 Patek released the 5711/1R in rose gold with a beautiful smoked black dial. It seems unbelievable that for a few thousand more than the steel variant, you can sport a full rose Nautilus, but such is the way of the watch world at the moment. It’s utterly beautiful in its own right and an incredible comparative value proposition.
Nobody really knows where the rise of the 5711 will end, whether it’s will peak or continue to rise, but at the moment it is going absolutely nowhere as the #1 sports watch on the planet.