Have you heard of the Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref 5712/1A? I’m willing to bet you have. If not, think of it as the more complicated, possibly more desirable sibling of the Ref 5711/1A. It’s impossible to buy one new from an authorized retailer. As a result, they trade at around double retail on the secondary market. This is more than shady grey market profiteering though. Sotheby’s, the internationally renowned auction house, recently sold a Ref 5712 at auction in Dubai for US$68,750 (approx. GBP 52,000). Given that the Ref 5712/1A retails for GBP 30,530 and is still in production, that’s a pretty impressive premium. So, what makes this luxury steel sport watch so special?
A (Very) Brief History Of The Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref 5712/1A
By Swiss watch standards, the Patek Philippe Ref 5712/1A is a relatively new watch. Making its debut in October of 2006, it was one of several models launched to mark the 30th anniversary of the Nautilus collection. As I’m sure you’re aware, the original steel Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref 3700/1 was conceived by legendary watch designer Gerald Genta in 1976. The same man responsible for the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak four years earlier. 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.
A year earlier, in 2005, Patek Philippe had come out with the Ref 3712/1A. At the time, it was the most complicated Nautilus made by the Geneva Manufacturer. Before that, the Nautilus only displayed the date. It was this model, in production for less than 12 months, which provided the blueprint for the Ref 5712/1A.
The two look very similar but there are several subtle differences. For a start, the Ref 3712/1A has a smaller two-part case measuring 42mm. The 2006 version of the Ref 5712/1A meanwhile shares the same ‘Jumbo’ 43mm, three-part case used by the Ref 5711. The case of the 5712/1A is also more rounded and is thicker at 8.52mm versus 8.37mm. This is due to the way the newer three-part case is constructed. The crown is larger too on the Ref 5712 and is of the screw-down variety. Even the integrated steel bracelet was updated. While the 3712 has rounded central links, the 5712 features the flat central links we know and love today.
For those who want to get into the fine details, take a close look at the dials. You’ll notice that the horizontal grooves on the dial of the reference 3712 are wider. It also has different hour markers. Likewise, the power reserve indicator on the 3712 has three red dots. Whereas the 5712 has four to indicate a low remaining power reserve. The date and moon phase counter is also larger on the 5712, and the date numbers from 9 to 23 are flipped to make them easier to read. The larger counter meant the removal of the hour marker at seven o’clock. The hour marker at six o’clock is also now cut on an angle. Minor details sure but they make all the difference in the world to serious collectors.
What’s common to both models is the micro-rotor movement inside and the quirky layout of the dial. In many ways, this dial shouldn’t work. It’s too crowded, all the displays are different sizes and it doesn’t seem like it should be in any way attractive. And yet it is. I wouldn’t call the 5712 an especially good-looking watch but it is distinctive. Not to mention easy to read.
The Patek Philippe Ref 5712/1A
Today the Patek Philippe Ref 5712/1A is sought after by collectors and speculators alike. It remains unchanged since the launch of the model in 2006. The distinctive porthole-shaped case still measures 40mm in diameter (from 10 to 4 o’clock). The construction of the three-part case is of the highest quality. The octagonal-shaped bezel has a brushed finished with polished bevelled edges. It’s flanked on either side by the curved “ears”. The design is sharp and crisp and recognisable on the wrist.
The dial is only available in the gradient blue colour synonymous with the steel Nautilus models. You can get the 5712 in other dial colours, but only with precious metal cases. Hours and minutes appear centrally. Running seconds are shown on an off-centre sub-dial at four o’clock. To the left of this is a second, larger sub-dial incorporating the date and moon-phase display. Because of this combination some people assume the 5712/1A is an Annual Calendar. It is not. Completing the dial display is the power reserve indicator with four dots.
On the reverse of the 5712/1A a sapphire crystal affords views of the in-house movement. It’s the self-winding Caliber 240 PS IRM C LU. The letters in the name stand for “petites secondes” (small seconds), “indication de réserve de marche” (power reserve), “calendrier” (date), and “lune” (moon).
This is the same movement that powers the earlier Ref 3712/1A. It 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 21,600 vibrations per hour. It is equipped with a micro-rotor in 21K gold and offers a max power reserve of 48 hours. The use of a micro-rotor allows Patek Philippe to keep the movement height to a svelte 3.98mm. The watch itself is 8.52mm thick.
Since 2009 Caliber 240 PS IRM C LU has been adorned with the Patek Philippe Seal. This means that the whole watch, including the movement, case, bracelet, etc. meets the brand’s strict quality control standards. As a result, the movement has a tolerance of no more than -3/+2 seconds per day and shows a very high standard of finishing. This includes Côtes de Genève, circular graining, and bevelled steel parts and bridges.
The Patek Philippe Ref 5712/1A comes on an integrated steel bracelet with flat central links and a fold-over clasp. Recommended retail is GBP 30,530 but order books at most AD’s are closed indefinitely.
What Makes It Special?
In some ways this is a question without one clear answer. There’s no doubt that the hype around luxury steel sports watch in general is partly responsible for the pricing mania. Just look at what’s happening with the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona 116500LN. Or even the Rolex Batman for that matter.
Likewise, the quality of the case construction and movement are without question. As too is the strength of the name on the dial. If you find yourself in the fortunate position of being able to buy a 5712/1A you know you’re buying the best. And you can be pretty confident the watch is going to continue going up in value.
Yet there’s something more to the Patek Philippe Ref 5712/1A.
I think it’s the peculiar charm of the idiosyncratic dial. Despite sharing the same case and aesthetic of the 5711, the dial gives the 5712 a personality all its own. The display is not universally loved of course. Some people don’t see the harmony in the disharmony as it were. But that just makes the watch that much more appealing to those who do.
The other big drawcard is that the 5712/1A is complicated without being too complicated. What I mean is that if offers useful complications such as the date and power reserve. (Not sure anyone needs to know the phases of the moon these days). Plus, you don’t need an engineering degree to understand how to use it. It’s functional, practical, easy to use and it looks great. And let’s not forget it’s also one of the most desirable luxury steel sports watches in the world at the moment.
It’s not hard to see then why the Patek Philippe Ref 5712/1A is special.
Technical Specifications: Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref 5712/1A
- Case: Steel– 40 mm x 8.52mm – screw-down crown – sapphire-crystal caseback – waterproof to 60 metres.
- Dial: Available in gradient black-blue – centre hour, minute hands – seconds on off-set subdial – date – moonphase – power reserve indicator – gold applied hour markers with luminescent coating.
- Movement: Calibre 240 PS IRM C LU – self-winding – Gyromax® balance – Spiromax® balance spring – off-centre mini-rotor in 21K gold – power reserve: Min. 38 hours – max. 48 hours – Patek Philippe Seal.
- Price: GBP 30,530.