The Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref 5711/1A is the world’s most desirable steel luxury sports watch. The wait time from authorized retailers in the UK is around 8 years on average. And that’s after Patek Philippe raised retail prices on all steel Nautilus models by 20%. Some impatient collectors are paying as much as twice retail on the secondary market to get one. For context, recommended retail in the UK of a Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref 5711/1A with navy blue dial is GBP 22,820. On Chrono24, the current average selling price is closer to GBP 41,000. This raises an obvious question: why is the steel Patek Philippe Nautilus so valuable?
Many factors make the Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref 5711/1A the world’s most sought-after steel luxury sports watch. In this article, we’ve identified six key ones. We don’t claim to have all the answers. Certainly many out there far better informed. Our goal is only to shed some further light on this intriguing story. Before we look at the six key factors, let’s start with some historical context.
A (Very) Brief History Of The Patek Philippe Nautilus
Did you read our article on the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 116500LN? If so, you already know that the story of the steel luxury sports watch doesn’t begin with Patek Philippe. Instead, it is another member of the Holy Trinity, Audemars Piguet, that takes that honour. By now, everyone knows the story. Audemars Piguet was in desperate need of a new watch to turn around its failing fortunes as a result of the quartz crisis.
Celebrated watch designer Gérald Genta would be the man to design that era-defining watch, the Royal Oak Jumbo Ref 5042ST. Putting it all on the line, Audemars Piguet unveiled its hail Mary steel watch at the 1972 Baselworld fair. In the process it created an entire new category; the steel luxury sports watch.
Several years later, Genta would do it all again. In a 2009 interview, he described sitting at a restaurant during the Basel fair. He saw a group of Patek executives at another table and began sketching out a rough design. It would become the steel Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref 3700/1, launched in 1976. A bold move, it cost almost as much as an 18k gold Patek Philippe watch at the time.
The design was based on the shape of the porthole of a transatlantic liner. It featured a wide bezel and ‘ears’ at each side evoking the large hinges of the watertight windows. The case was made from nickel-chrome-molybdenum steel, an alloy considered the highest standard at the time. This alloy was used in the construction of tanks during World War II. It was capable of enduring extreme temperatures and pressure. It also had the added benefit of being relatively light compared to ‘regular’ steel.
Inside the Nautilus Ref 3700/1 was the calibre 28-255C. Considered one of the best ultra-thin automatic calibres of the time. Based on the Jaeger-LeCoultre calibre 920, it was finished in-house by Patek Philippe. This is the same base movement used in the Genta-designed Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. By today’s standards it seems strange to think of a Patek Philippe using a third-party movement. Back then though this was quite common practice. In fact, Patek Philippe didn’t introduce its own perpetual calendar chronograph movement until 2011. Instead they used heavily modified Lemania-base movements.
Over 40 years later the aesthetic of the original Nautilus remains unchanged. It is no overstatement then to call the Patek Philippe Nautilus a design icon. The role its important heritage plays in fuelling its modern-day desirability is clear. But there’s much more to this watch than an important back story.
The Patek Philippe Ref 5711/1A
The Patek Philippe Ref 5711/1A debuted in 2006 to mark the 30th anniversary of the Nautilus. It was an instant hit with collectors and as you can see, has continued on an upward trajectory ever since. The distinctive porthole-shaped 40mm case is slightly larger than the original (+1mm). It measures just 8.3mm thick. An octagonal-shaped bezel frames the horizontally embossed black blue or silvery white dial. Baton-shaped hour markers white gold are treated with luminescent coating. Ditto for the central hour and minute hands. The date appears in a window at 3 o’clock.
From an aesthetic point of view, this is about as simple as a three-hander with date gets. The ultimate exercise in restraint. It looks all but identical to the original Nautilus Ref 3700/1. There is so little happening on the dial and yet it is so attractive.
On the reverse, a sapphire caseback reveals the manufacture Caliber 324 SC inside. This self-winding movement incorporates several of Patek Philippe’s innovations. These include the four-spoke Gyromax® balance wheel and its slotted poising weights. And the Spiromax® balance- spring in Silinvar® that maintains the oscillations at a frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour. Equipped with a Central rotor in 21K gold, the movement offers a maximum power reserve of 45 hours. The finishing is also above reproach. Côtes de Genève, circular graining, bevelled steel parts and bridges. This movement is adorned with the Patek Philippe seal for good reason.
Now you know a little more about the watch and its history. Here are the six factors that make the Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref 5711/1A so valuable.
The Six Factors
This first one goes without saying. The Patek Philippe name is intrinsically linked to quality. Both in design and construction. You know that experts have spent months, possibly even years constructing your watch. The quality control standards are exceptional. Every Patek Philippe watch ever made has a searchable ‘extract’ available at the Patek Philippe archives. Almost no other watch brand can offer that level of confidence.
Patek Philippe’s precise annual production numbers are a guarded secret. Estimates put them at around 50,000 watches. Of that, about 75% have mechanical movements (the remaining 25% are quartz). Production is spread over some 246 different models. That means that no single model is likely made in great quantities. As a result, there is a real sense of scarcity. Particular for popular models like the Nautilus Ref 5711/1A. It is highly unlikely you will find one waiting for you to try on at your local AD. Its counterpart from Audemars Piguet meanwhile, the Ref 15202ST, is far more readily available. This is of course a deliberate strategy by Patek Philippe. One that has helped protect the inherent value of the brand for over a century.
It’s hard to overstate the appeal of the Patek Philippe brand name. The general consensus is that it is the most prestigious luxury watch brand in the world. Indeed is one of the most prestigious luxury brands period. The name is a harbinger of good taste. It signals the refinement and sophistication of its owner. At the same time, it’s also understated. Everyone recognises a Rolex on the wrist. Only the well-informed few will be able to spot a Patek Philippe from across the room.
I think many people would agree that if you could only own one watch, the Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref 5711/1A would be it. This is a watch that can be worn anywhere for any occasion. Wear it with a suit and tie, dress it down with a polo, heck wear it with board shorts to the beach. The case is rated water resistant to 120m and the black blue dial looks amazing in the water. It started life as a luxury sports watch, but the Nautilus is now a recognisable icon. It’s beloved by celebrities, sports stars and successful businessmen and women alike.
The Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref 5711/1A will always be the successor to the first luxury sports watch the brand ever made. A sports watch that birthed an entire collection. One that is now arguably the brand’s most popular (rivalled only possibly by the Calatrava.) This will always be a significant watch, not only to the brand but also to watchmaking history. Low annual production numbers mean it will continue to increase in significance. Translation: it’s only going to go up in value.
- Investment Value
Investment or resale value is often seen as a dirty word by many collectors. After all, you should buy a watch because you desire it and enjoy wearing it. Not because it might go up in value. The reality is quite different. There are only two luxury watch brands that have displayed a consistent ability to maintain (and sometimes increase) their value: Rolex and Patek Philippe. That the Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref 5711/1A is trading at close to double its retail value on the secondary market is proof of that. Likewise for the Rolex GMT-Master II Ref 126710BLRO Pepsi. This may not be the primary reason most people buy but it is definitely a contributing factor.
We believe these six key factors help explain why the Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref 5711/1A is so valuable. Whether you agree or not is a matter of personal opinion and taste. One thing is for sure though, the current demand for these watches is unlike to abate any time soon. So, if you want one, you either need to wait years or pay an exceptional premium on the secondary market.
Technical Specifications: Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref 5711/1A
- Case: Steel– 40 mm x 8.3mm – screw-down crown – sapphire-crystal caseback – waterproof to 120 metres.
- Dial: Available in black blue or silvery white – centre hour, minute and seconds hands – gold applied hour markers with luminescent coating.
- Movement: Calibre 324 S C – unidirectional self-winding – Gyromax® balance – Spiromax® balance spring – central rotor in 21K gold – power reserve: Min. 35 hours – max. 45 hours – Patek Philippe Seal.
- Price: GBP 22,820.