The Patek Philippe Nautilus is one of the most iconic and sought-after luxury watches of all time. It has long been considered a cult classic among collectors. Patek Philippe is now discontinuing the current reference of this legendary sports watch, the 5711. Why is this model so popular, and how did it come by its legendary status? What’s behind Patek Philippe’s decision, and how will it impact the market? Is there a 6711 in the works? If so, what will it look like, and how might Patek Philippe change the Nautilus going forward? Let’s take a look.
The Luxury Sports Watch We Know and Love
To fully appreciate the importance of the Nautilus in the watch world, you have to look back to the early 1970s – a time when wristwatches served a very different purpose than they do today. In an age without smartphones, watches were essential to keeping track of time.
Back then, stainless steel watches were not considered fine accessories or pieces of jewelry. Nor were they thought of as luxury goods. Instead, they were simply tools that told the time. Of course, in the 1950s, certain models began featuring additional functions, such as a diving bezel or GMT, making them suitable for professional use. While luxury timepieces certainly existed at the time, these were mostly made of precious metals, such as gold or platinum, and boasted high-end complications like a minute repeater, perpetual calendar, or tourbillon.
However, the quartz crisis forced many traditional Swiss watchmakers to rethink their line-ups. Mechanical timepieces suddenly seemed overpriced and outdated compared to their quartz counterparts from the East. Plus, watches were now much more affordable for the general public. As early as 1971, Audemars Piguet recognized the need to differentiate mechanical models from cheap quartz watches. They commissioned designer Gérald Genta to create a completely new stainless steel watch. Thus, the Royal Oak – the watch that triggered the stainless steel luxury watch movement – was born. Audemars Piguet marketed their new model as a statement to the industry: a watch doesn’t have to be elegant or made of precious metal to be luxurious. The concept was completely revolutionary at the time.
While Audemars Piguet sought out Genta’s services to design the Royal Oak, the designer himself approached Patek Philippe a few years later with an offer to create another pioneering luxury watch. The result came in 1976 with the debut of the Patek Philippe Nautilus ref. 3700. Compared to the Royal Oak’s angular tool-watch appearance, the Nautilus had a softer, more delicate look. Again, it was a luxury timepiece that was made of steel instead of gold and had an unmistakably sporty look. The watch forged a new path with its now-iconic porthole design and 42-mm size, an unusual dimension at the time. The watch was water-resistant to 120 m (393 ft), which was also a novelty for the manufacturer. Following in the footsteps of Audemars Piguet, Patek marketed their new model as a luxury steel sports watch at the top end of the price range. Similar to the Royal Oak, the Nautilus is largely responsible for creating the reputation steel sports watches continue to enjoy to this day. After some initial skepticism, the Nautilus soared to become Patek Philippe’s most famous and top-performing model.
Why is the 5711 being discontinued?
After 45 years and numerous variants, the history-making Nautilus is on the chopping block. The current ref. 5711 has been in production since 2006. To be more precise, we’re talking about the most popular reference, the 5711/1A-010, with a blue dial. Production of the version with a white dial already ceased last year. The watch is now on a so-called “run-out list” with other models Patek Philippe is discontinuing. This means there are still a few watches that have already been produced but not delivered. In the watch industry, it’s not unusual for manufacturers to retire one model to make room for a new one. However, Patek Philippe has been very quiet about a successor to the 5711 so far. “Why,” you ask? Is this just a temporary break, or is the beloved Nautilus gone for good?
Patek Philippe CEO Thierry Stern was interviewed by the New York Times in 2019. If you read between the lines a bit, there may be some tactical reasons behind this move. In the interview, he reveals that he sees the development of the 5711 through a somewhat critical lens despite – or perhaps because of – its wild success. He explains that he can’t quite comprehend the hype around the model when the brand has so many other watches in its catalog – many of which he feels are more complicated and pleasing to the eye. The hype was getting out of hand for him, and he wants to maintain balance across the whole Patek range. Perhaps Patek Philippe doesn’t want to depend as heavily on the Nautilus as Audemars Piguet does on the Royal Oak? The Nautilus has, indeed, enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent years among both watch aficionados and the wider world thanks, in part, to it earning some celebrity fans.
Availability and Performance
The Nautilus 5711 has always been an extremely popular and highly coveted reference. Production numbers, on the other hand, have been quite modest. As a result, demand has always outpaced supply. The wait time for a new watch stretched to several years – that is, if you were lucky enough to even get your name on a list in the first place. Thus, fans and collectors were willing to pay more than double the official list price to get their hands on one. In 2020, the market price for a 5711 was close to $72,000.
Discontinuing such a legendary timepiece will obviously affect its price. Rumors ahead of the official announcement had an immediate impact on the watch’s performance. If you compare the model’s average value across 2020 with its market price on January 22, 2021 – the date when the rumors first surfaced – the 5711 appreciated by 25%.
A few days later, on January 25, 2021, Patek made the discontinuation official, and the appreciation grew to +31%.
If you compare the average price across 2020 with that from January 2021, the model has increased in value by a full 49%.
As you’d expect, demand for the 5711 has soared since the first retirement whispers began making the rounds. In January 2021, requests for the watch on Chrono24 were up 96% compared to the whole of 2020.
Discontinuing the Nautilus ref. 5711 has only added fuel to the excitement around this timepiece, and the market price has climbed up to some $144,000 in response.
Is the 6711 coming our way?
It’s hard to imagine that Patek Philippe would abandon its strongest performer indefinitely. Presumably, the brand wants to sit tight and see how the market reacts before introducing a successor. Until then, it’s as good a time as any to take a closer look at the other models Patek has to offer. You could also check out versions of the Nautilus 5711 in precious metals as their production will continue for the time being.
So, what would a potential 6711 look like (if it’s even called that)? And what changes would Patek Philippe implement?
Perhaps the brand wants to refocus on the precious metal versions, and there won’t be a new stainless steel edition for now. This would actually signify a return to their roots as a manufacturer of precious metal wristwatches.
However, if you buy into the gossip floating around the internet, Patek Philippe may take an entirely different path. Some speculate that a 41-mm platinum Nautilus without a date display is in the works. Others say that a different “no date” version with a blue sunburst dial and titanium case and bracelet is coming our way. The latter would really be novel in terms of material choice. In the past, these sorts of rumors wouldn’t be taken very seriously, but their relevance has grown over the last two years. More and more seem to be coming true – at least partially, as was the case with the new Omega Speedmaster.
In the end, Patek Philippe is the only party that truly knows whether a successor to the Nautilus 5711 is coming and what it will look like. In the meantime, we are excited to see what the traditional brand has in store for its flagship model.