Oh boy, it’s time to talk about the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711. In a market where steel sports watches have never been hotter, the Nautilus is the steel sports watch. It has shattered all watch market norms and might be the most coveted watch of all time. The waitlist to get one at retail is rumored to be a decade long, and even then, a place on that waitlist does not guarantee one will get the opportunity to buy it. But despite the Nautilus being the subject of so much attention and desire, the watch is still a bit of an enigma. What exactly is it about this modern (though recently discontinued), uncomplicated, steel sports watch that makes it so coveted?
The 5711 is the watch that the original reference 3700—which was released in 1976—passed the torch to. Though there are many variants of the Nautilus, the 5711 is the closest to that original Gerald Genta design. There have been some small updates to the 5711 since its release in 2006, but the watch is largely the same. This example specifically is an earlier reference 5711/1A-001 from 2009. It measures 40mm in diameter by 8.3mm thick, which is exceptionally svelte for a sports watch, especially one that’s water-resistant to 120m. To put those proportions into perspective, the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Ultra-Thin is 7.5 mm, and the Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra Thin is 8.1 mm, both of which have a water resistance of only 50m and have the word “thin” in their name. This combination of wearability and durability is a big reason why the Nautilus has become so popular. Few watches are as comfortable and elegant on the wrist while also being tough enough that you never have to baby them.
Another reason for the popularity of the Nautilus is how original its design is. The only watches that look like the Nautilus are trying to look like the Nautilus. Even the Royal Oak, which the Nautilus often gets compared to due to both being designed by Gerald Genta, is a similar watch in spirit but is very different design-wise. The Nautilus’ rounded cushion porthole-inspired case shape and trademark ears instantly evoke oceanic images. The porthole and ocean are such obvious inspirations that even a non-watch enthusiast could as much. The finishing is primarily brushed with some strategically placed polished elements that elevate the watch. This exquisite finishing allows the watch to transition from formal to casual wear effortlessly and showcases the high-level of craftsmanship that goes into this timepiece. Details like the perfectly aligned beveled edge on the bracelet links and subtle edges on the octagonal bezel are gorgeous examples of the almost peerless quality of hand finishing that Patek Philippe is capable of.
The aquatic theme continues to the dial, which has horizontal striped finishing reminiscent of a boat’s teak deck. With dual batons at twelve and single batons for the rest of the hours, the dial has very little ornamentation. In fact, it’s almost minimalist. The only text on the dial is Patek Philippe Geneve at twelve and Swiss below six. With a watch this famous, there’s no need to write Nautilus, Automatic, or 120 meters on the dial. The Nautilus speaks for itself. The dial’s blue gradient coloring is very reminiscent of deep ocean water going from light blue at the center to almost black at the edge. Many watches try to imitate the look of sunlight peeking through the ocean depths, but what the Nautilus dial does better than any of them is capturing that visual in essence instead of copying it outright. It puts the image in your mind without needing to spoon-feed it to you with a cartoonish dial.
Powering the timepiece is the Patek Philippe in-house caliber 324 S C. This is an automatic time and date movement with a 45-hour power reserve, and because this is an earlier example of the 5711, the movement has the Geneva seal of quality. All current Patek Phillipe’s have an equivalent Patek Philippe seal on their movements making the Geneva seal variants a bit more collectible. The movement is rhodium-plated with a shock absorber mechanism and Gyromax monometallic balance. It’s a refined and beautifully finished movement but make no mistake, the 324 S C is a workhorse, and this is the most durable watch in the Patek Philippe catalog.
There’s no denying the Nautilus is an exceptionally made timepiece and an icon in the watch world. It’s deserving of praise and will go down as one of the most influential and important watches of all time. But is it worth over three times its retail value on the secondary market? Really only you as a prospective buyer can make that assessment. I am not, and have never been a proponent of using watches as investments, and speculating on the future value of anything is dangerous. While understanding how the Nautilus got to this Beatlemania level of hype might be impossible, understanding its popularity, in general, is simple.
Patek Philippe is arguably the most prestigious and greatest manufacturer of watches globally, and the Nautilus is their flagship sports watch. Despite its increased popularity, Patek has refused to increase its production, making it increasingly harder to get. It’s that simple. Take something people want and tell them they can’t have it. It’s the perfect recipe for hype. Now the only question left is, how badly do you want the most prestigious sports watch in the world?