Patek Philippe launched eight new references recently, including a show-stopping white-gold successor to the discontinued steel Nautilus Ref. 5711, plus two other new Nautilus models, three new chronograph variations (one a Nautilus), a new split-seconds chronograph/perpetual calendar for lefties and a ladies’ jeweled Aquanaut. They run the gamut from shrewd stewardship of an icon to the kind of nitpicking technical tweaks that collectors will appreciate. The Ref 5811/1G – 001 looks a lot like the 5711-1A, the now-discontinued steel Nautilus with a blue dial, one of the world’s most coveted watches. But there are big differences. For a start, the 5811/1G is white gold, with a slightly bigger case (41 mm compared to 40mm for the steel Nautilus). There are two technical tweaks including a pull-out piece-lever system for the crown that replaces the split stem, and two improvements to the bracelet: a secured clasp, plus a lockable system that is adjustable by two to four millimeters, perfect for use in hot climates. The dial is graduated from blue to darker blue at the edges, and like its predecessor, it’s water resistant to 120 metres. It costs US$69,785—about double the retail for the steel model.
“It was an important choice to make it in white gold,” said Patek Philippe president Thierry Stern in an interview with a handful of journalists, including Robb Report. “My objective at Patek Philippe is to stay independent and to do that, I need to be profitable so that I can reinvest in Patek Philippe with a new building, with new machines and with people. Making only steel watches, like a lot of people have been asking for with the Nautilus and other lines, is dangerous because the price average will be too low, and this could put my whole business in danger,” he explained. “So we have to be careful. I have learned at Patek Philippe that there is a limit in terms of what should be produced in steel. This Nautilus is white gold because I had to raise the average price a little bit. Not just to make more money to be happy, but to make more money for my shareholders—of course, I don’t have shareholders, but it’s important for me to do it because I need to survive in this world where I’m surrounded with big groups with a lot of competition.”
Stern’s pricing strategy for the Nautilus is understandable, given the triple-plus prices over retail garnered on the secondary market for some references of the coveted model. White gold brings the company closer to its value. But does that mean the end of steel at Patek Philippe? On the contrary, Stern says, “Stopping the 5711 [-1A] allows me to create something else in steel in the future.” When asked if he has something in mind—perhaps, a new collection or an existing collection—Stern smiled and said, “Well, it could be new or existing …” but then added, “For me, I’d prefer to create something new. It’s always better and more challenging. I cannot tell you what, now, but OK, there is something in the pipeline. Is it totally new or not? I would say it’s totally new. I’ve seen some prototypes but we’re not ready. You will have to wait.”
The 5811/1G is not the first white gold time-and-date Nautilus by the way. The predecessor to the 5711-1A was the white gold Ref. 3711/1G-001, a model Patek produced for a short time from 2004 to 2006. It was discontinued partly because “we had made enough of them,” said Stern simply. But he also admitted that “at the time, the trend was for steel.”
How many pieces of the 5811/1G will be produced? “Rarity is something I’m very vigilant with, so I will have to stop the watch before there are too many and the value will go down,” said Stern. “Is it going to be 500 pieces or 5,000? It is difficult to say. It’s a feeling that I will have to guess at one moment. It is very difficult. I have more and more clients, and if I do not supply enough of them, people will be upset and maybe they will not buy Patek Philippe anymore. If I do too many of them, they will be disappointed and they will not buy Patek Philippe anymore.”
If you do manage to get one of the new 5811/1G — or any of the following seven other new introductions —flip it at your peril. Stern looks unkindly on buyers who covet the investment rather than the brand. “I will never be able to stop the whole process [of flipping], but we have been tracking quite a few pieces, and for the retailers, if they don’t give me the right answer, if I see that he was part of the game, too bad for him because he may lose Patek Philippe,” he said. “And I think that today they know that it will be sad to lose Patek Philippe.”
How does he know? “We are buying a few hundred pieces every year from the market, from Chrono24 and all of those websites. We look at the numbers on the movements and we know who bought them and which retailers sold them. So I will go and see the retailer and say, ‘Hey, by the way, I found this watch on Chrono24. We delivered this watch two weeks ago to you. So tell me now who was the client to whom you sold this piece?’ And then we will have a discussion.” Don’t end up on the naughty list.
Just getting your hands on the new Nautilus Ref 5811/1G-001 will be such a hard-won accomplishment, it’s hard to imagine one wouldn’t want to show it off for a considerable amount of time. But don’t sleep on the other new Patek Philippe models amid, what will surely be, an onslaught of Nautilus mania. There are plenty of other extraordinary models worth pride of place in the most exclusive watch vaults in the world.
Seven other introductions are as follows:
The Ref. 5373P-001 houses a new complication with perpetual calendar and split-seconds monopusher chronograph functions for left-handers (with the crown on the left). It contains the manually-wound calibre CHR 27-525 PS Q, the thinnest of its kind ever made, according to Patek Philippe. The platinum case encircles a charcoal grey dial with black gradation accented with contrasting red lacquered chronograph and rattrapante hands. Price is upon request.
The Ref. 7968/300R-001 Aquanaut Luce Rainbow, priced at US$212,904, is the first ladies’ automatic chronograph in the Aquanaut collection, the Ref. 7968/300R-001, comes with a bezel set with graduated rainbow-coloured baguette sapphires and an inner bezel of baguette diamonds. Tapered baguette multi-coloured sapphire hour markers match the adjacent colours on the bezel. The dial is mother-of-pearl, and the strap is a rubber composite.
Nautilus Ref. 5712/1R-001
The Nautilus ref. 5712/1R-001, with analog date, moon phase and power-reserve indicator, is now in a rose-gold case and bracelet with a brown sunburst dial. An existing rose-gold version on a strap has a black dial. There are also steel and white-gold versions. The new full rose-gold piece is priced at US$82,796.
Nautilus Ref. 7118/1300R-001
The Nautilus Ref. 7118/1300R-001 is a ladies’ high-jewelry watch in rose gold with spessartite garnets on the bezel in a gradation of colours from champagne to cognac. The ogive-shaped (Gothic arch) markers are cognac garnets, and the hands are coloured to match. It retails for US$82,796.
Nautilus Ref. 5990/1A-011
The Nautilus Ref. 5990/1A-011 flyback chronograph travel time, priced at $68,603, has a new blue dial, compared to the steel with grey dial already in the line.
Split-Seconds Chronograph Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5204G-001
The white gold ref. 5204G-001 split-seconds chronograph perpetual calendar is a new variation of the cult favourite version in red gold with gray dial, the Ref. 5204R. This one has a strikingly beautiful graduated green dial and green strap. Price is upon request.
World Time Ref. 5935A-001
The Ref. 5935A-001 World Time flyback chronograph, priced at US$63,871, is newly available in steel with a vintage-looking salmon dial, a big change from the current reference in white gold with a green dial.
Previously published on Robb Report.