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Why the fascination with Patek Philippe’s fabled ‘5771’ Nautilus? Read on…

Review by John Galt

So here we go with the review of the fabled Patek Philippe ‘5771’ Nautilus sports watch. I say sports watch very loosely and tongue in cheek as with most people would ask how can you call a £25,000 watch a sports watch? Surely that is for the likes of Seiko, Omega, Tudor etc… but you would be wrong.

We have to go back to the 1970’s to start this story. In the early 1970’s the now great watch designer Gerald Gent was asked to design a high end sport watch by Audemars Piquet which became the very first luxury sports watch. Today, now lovingly known as the Royal Oak, the design hasn’t changed much from the original drawn up from Gerald Gent.

Patek Philippe, not wanting to be out done by their rival, employed Gerald Gent to design a watch to go head to head with the Royal Oak and the Nautilus was born. Originally introduced in 1977 to great fan fair, the two watches are like two kittens born from the same litter; Audemars Piguet is the feisty one and Patek Philippe the young docile one. One is not better than the other, it’s a personal choice.

Over the years there have been many variations of the Nautilus with different materials and additional functions all adding to the appeal but the steel version is still the most sort after, especially after an update in 2006 to the current ref 5711. Be warned, there is a long waiting list and the price has risen, but we’ll get to that later.

Let’s start with the desirability of the Patek 5711. At the beginning of last year Patek Philippe increased the price of the Nautilus by nearly 20%. When asked politely why, we were told that part of the reason is that demand for the Nautilus was just too high. It used to retail for just under £17,000; today the price is close to £20,000. On the pre-owned market, the Nautilus ref. 5711 goes for £30,000 and sometimes a lot more… Pre-owned and official Patek dealers get calls daily inquiring about availability. And that’s any steel Nautilus. Prices offered by dealers or pre-owned sites are far above retail price. In fact, the lowest price for a used Nautilus ref. 5711 with gradient blue dial (I could find), was close to £40,000 with the piece in question having had a very hard life being. For mint condition pieces you need to ask yourself how high is your ceiling price if you’d like to purchase one. Currently the waiting list for a brand new Nautilus is 8 years. Yes 8 years from ordering to delivery, which is why the aftermarket is so high with impatient potential customers.

The AP Royal Oak ref. 5402ST to me, is THE benchmark for luxury sports watches. Elegant, extremely comfortable, thin, light, legible… and probably more “luxury” than “sports”. The modern Nautilus delivers everything you would expect from a luxury sports watch; it wears very comfortably, it’s legible, it’s thin, light, elegant and looks good with pretty much any outfit and every situation, from pool, beach or office. It’s really one of the nicest all-rounder watches you can imagine with its slightly softer more rounded looks compared to the Royal Oak. At a push I could say this makes it slightly less masculine and a little more feminine but that’s just a personal opinion.

As it stands, the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711 is a warm and welcoming blast from the past for those who feel that something reminiscent of the 1970s deserves a place on their luxury watch wrists. By all accords, the Patek Philippe Nautilus is a fine timepiece. The real question people need to ask themselves is, “Does it speak to me?” It’s okay if it doesn’t. It doesn’t speak to me I’m afraid to say, but for many watch enthusiasts and collectors, the Nautilus has spoken loud and clear to them and is the reason they must have it in their collection whatever the price.

Features of the Nautilus include full bracelet requiring hours of construction, finishing assembly and checking. The below information is found on Patek Philippe’s own website, and I believe it well-illustrates the complexity of the Nautilus case and bracelet production and finishing process:

“[The Nautilus is] also perfect for the purpose of illustrating case and bracelet hand-finishing – and in particular, polishing techniques. The polishing alone includes machine sandblasting, lapping/emerizing, felt polishing, satin brushing, and polishing and buffing.

After machining, it takes around 55 different hand-finishing operations to complete the Nautilus case and bracelet. It begins with preparing the exterior links one by one: emerizing on the underside and satin brushing on top. Then preparing the center links one by one: emerizing on the underside, mirror polishing on top. Next is the assembly of the bracelet: fitting the links together and driving in the pins.

Chamfering, which means cutting away sharp edges, is then performed on the underside and top of the bracelet. The underside and top are then satin brushed for a uniform surface. Next is masking – protecting the surrounding area ahead of the next operation with lacquer or tape, and attaching perforated masking tape along the top of the bracelet. Then the center links and chamfer work are polished and buffed. Next, the clasp is assembled, adjusted for tension, fitted to the bracelet, and the cover riveted (on a triple-blade clasp). A final inspection follows this.”

Patek Philippe says it pretty well, and the Nautilus is a genuinely complicated watch to construct and assemble.

What makes this the caliber 324 SC 9 (Seconde Central) impressive, beyond it’s exceptional high-level of finishing, is it’s thin profile. The movement is only 3.3mm thick, yet the Nautilus still maintains a water resistance of 120m despite being just 8.3mm thick overall. The automatic rotor is solid 21k gold, which means it weighs just enough to keep the winding efficient. The movement operates at 4Hz (28,800 bph) with 45 hours of power reserve, and also features Patek Philippe’s in-house Gyromax balance wheel and Spiromox balance spring. I would say performance is on par with Rolex’s Superlative Chronometers.

In regards to the finishing, the Nautilus is a very different story—Patek Philippe lavishes the surfaces with Cotes de Geneve stripes and small, elegant sections of perlage, with the latter being my favorite element of the movement.

The Patek Philippe Nautilus ref. 5711 is one of the most desirable watches currently on the market, if not the most desirable one. However it’s not the most modern sports watch on the market. Additionally the bracelet doesn’t feature any sort of fine adjustment and there is no option to change it for a rubber or leather strap, on offer for many other luxury watches. Furthermore Patek’s in-house movement, the calibre 324 SC, does not feature a stop- seconds, which is something I would expect to find in a modern sporty watch.

Despite these minor flaws, the Nautilus is peerless in its popularity. The aforementioned eight years waiting list at retailers and official Patek boutiques has not lessened even after the 20% price increase. In recent times, I’ve not seen any watch with such a strong appeal that people are prepared to pay double the retail price just to get their hands on one. riddle_stop 2

 

Enquiries: Patek Philippe/ www.patek.com/en/collection/nautilus

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