The Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref 5711/1A is the world’s most desirable steel luxury sports watch. And now it’s discontinued. That’s right, Patek Philippe has ended the run of its iconic sports watch. At least for now. Rumour has it that there’s a Ref 6711 waiting in the wings. But we’ll have to wait a bit longer to find out if that is actually true. One thing is for sure. Prices on the secondary market have gone nuts. And I mean even more nuts than before.
In many ways, this was inevitable. The Ref 5711 was a victim of its own insatiable popularity. The wait time from authorized retailers used to be around 10 years on average. Before they stopped taking orders. A fact which caused countless headaches for the brand. They even raised retail prices on all steel Nautilus models by 20% in 2018 to try and discourage demand. To no avail. Then again, there were plenty of people willing to pay more than twice retail on the secondary market to get one. So a 20% uplift seems like a bargain.
For context, recommended retail in the US of a Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref 5711/1A with navy blue dial was USD 30,620. The average price on the secondary market up until recently was USD 85,000+. In the wake of the model’s retirement, that’s now jumped to USD 95,000+ and rising. This raises an obvious question: why is the steel Patek Philippe Nautilus so valuable?
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. And the key ingredients that created this unlikely recipe for success. A quartz crisis. A company – Audemars Piguet – in desperate need of a new watch to turn around its failing fortunes. And a gifted designer – Gérald Genta – who was about to turn the watch world on its head.
In a single night he conceived an era-defining watch, the Royal Oak Jumbo Ref 5042ST. Audemars Piguet unveiled its Hail Mary steel watch at the 1972 Baselworld fair. Putting everything on the line. And, in the process creating 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 borrowed 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 nickel-chrome-molybdenum steel. An alloy considered the highest standard at the time. This was the same metal 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 lighter than ‘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, Patek Philippe did the finishing in-house. 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 didn’t make its own perpetual calendar chronograph movement until 2011. Instead they attached their in-house modules to Lemania base movements. Although I am over-simplifying the process somewhat here.
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 larger than the original (+1mm). And measures 8.3mm thick.
An octagonal-shaped bezel frames the embossed black blue or silvery white dial. The horizontal lines leading some to refer to it as the “garage door”. Particularly on the white dial version. The white gold, baton-shaped hour markers feature a 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 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®. The latter maintaining the oscillations at a frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour.
Equipped with a central rotor in 21K gold, the movement offers a power reserve of 45 hours. The finishing is also above reproach. Côtes de Genève, circular graining, bevelled steel parts and bridges. This movement bears 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 forever linked to quality. Both in design and construction. You know that experts have spent months, sometimes years constructing your watch. The quality control standards are exceptional. Every watch has a searchable ‘extract’ available at the Patek Philippe archives. Not only new models. Every watch. 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 between 50,000 – 70,000 watches. Of that, about 75% have mechanical movements (the remaining 25% are quartz). Production spans 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. Particularly for popular models like the Nautilus Ref 5711/1A. In the current market, you will never find one waiting for you to try on at your local AD. 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, it 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. (Or at least that was the case before the advent of social media.)
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 you can wear 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 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 is the successor to the brand’s first luxury sports watch. A sports watch that birthed an entire collection. One that is now the brand’s most popular (rivalled only 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. Only two luxury watch brands show a consistent ability to maintain their value. We all know who they are: Rolex and Patek Philippe. The Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref 5711/1A trading at triple its retail value is proof of that. Likewise for the Rolex GMT-Master II Ref 126710BLRO Pepsi. And that’s only one of several examples. This may not be the primary reason most people buy a Nautilus but it is definitely a contributing factor.
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 not showing any signs of abating. Is that likely to change soon? The short answer is we’re not sure. And here’s why.
Update: January, 2021
*This article was last updated on the 22nd of January, 2021.
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: USD 30,620 (now discontinued).