Earlier this month Patek Philippe launched two new Nautilus variations to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the original Nautilus: the 5976/1G and the 5711/1P.
In just about every way, this release raises nothing but flags for me, and I’d love to share the reasons why. But first, the general specs as they were presented in the official press release:
The 5976/1G is a chronograph in white gold. It has the same dial layout and movement as the 5980 (c.CH 28-520 C). This watch, however, is 44mm across the dial and a whopping 49.25mm if you include the elephant ears on the sides of the case. It’s pretty thick too at 12.16mm, but given its width, probably seems appropriate. The bracelet is also solid white gold, so it’ll have some weight to it. The dial has diamond markers (10 baguette-cut diamonds totally 0.29 ct.), and an anniversary embossing. The embossing reads "1976-40-2016”
Limited to 1300 total pieces, the MSRP is $96,390. But, hey, it comes with a vintage-style cork box just like the original in 1976.
The 5711/1P is smaller and *closer* to the standard Nautilus we all know and love. It's 40mm across and powered by the caliber 324 S C, it tells us the time and date.
The P in the reference, of course, refers to the fact the watch case and bracelet are solid platinum. It’s dial also has the diamond markers and the anniversary embossing, although it reads “40” on top, and “ 976-2016” below and it is positioned at 6 o’clock vs. 12 o'clock. Also different, the markers total 12 pieces and 0.34ct. But, this isn’t the first 5711 in platinum. There were no more than a handful made, and by order only between 2011-2015. Those did not have any embossing, though. This version is limited to just 700 pieces and will retail for $113,400.
So, why do these bother me or “raise flags” for me?
I question the motivation behind these watches. As a purist, without a shadow of a doubt, I’d never buy these watches. I know of no one that I’ve spoken to about these that would buy this. So, who are these for?
This watch follows the same strategy that others have taken when they need to make a quick buck. One such example is the absolutely perfect Omega Speedmaster manual wound chronograph. When it was introduced back in 1957 it was a singular model. Today, after the NASA success, and it being cemented in horological history as one of the greatest watches of all time, there are too many variations to mention. You have automatic versions, co-axial versions, titanium versions, etc., etc., but none of them are the original and more importantly, none of them would ever have been made if not for the original. In other words, because they are not the original, they’re irrelevant.
Then again, without these variations, who knows where Omega would be?
The same can be said of the awful Royal Oak variations. And while I would have said the same thing for many of the Nautilus variations, none of those variations crossed the line the way these 40th-anniversary models have.
In other words, since when does Patek Philippe have the kind of penis envy that makes them want to stamp the model's anniversary on a dial? It’s not even the anniversary of the company, it's just the anniversary of a single model! Are we to expect something similar when the Nautilus hits 50, which is a far more prestigious anniversary?
My feeling is they’re starting to hurt a little and they know there are plenty of people out there with more money than brains that will buy all 2000 pieces in days, not weeks. I think they also knew these had to be the kind of watches nouveau riche or Middle Eastern/Eastern Europeans would want to wear otherwise they’d never get the 6-figure prices they’re asking for. Again, a purist with that kind of money, especially to spend at Patek Philippe does NOT spend it all on a Nautilus.
I’d also suggest that when you look at what Patek has been doing (or not doing) over the past few years, in essence resting on their laurels, this is the kind of mindless and uninteresting release that matches a lot of the other mindless and uninteresting watches they’ve released. It also feels like they’re looking for attention, and since nothing new has really come out that has grabbed that attention, they did this.
I also wouldn’t be surprised if they’re feeling the pressure from not just Vacheron Constantin, who has come up with some truly wow watches, but also A. Lange and Sohne who in the eyes of many have dethroned Patel Philippe as the world’s top brand. In fact, take a look at some of the watches to come out of ALS the last few years, and you will see the kind of watches that truly impress from an innovation point of view, but also esthetic. And none of them have stamped dials or the kind of dimensions that make no sense with their history. I’d also add the prices are far more reasonable (relatively speaking).
It’s as if Patek felt that a higher price means a better watch, or that a bigger size means a more substantial one, or that sticking to the Nautilus Steel roots is no longer important, etc., but the reality is the opposite!
A true watch enthusiast, the real purist would always opt for the 5711 in steel. In fact, that person would want a first-generation if they could find one, but the current edition 5711 in steel would more than suffice. And then they would take the $70k-$90k they saved and buy something else, like a Porsche or even a pre-owned Ferrari!