When Patek Philippe and its President Thierry Stern announced in 2021 that the Nautilus 5711 was going to cease production, the rumors were confirmed. After a 15-year run, the watch world could hardly believe what they were hearing. Word began to circulate about a replacement for the immensely successful 5711, and it was near the end of 2022 that the successor was introduced: the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5811/1G.
The original Patek Philippe Nautilus was the 3700/1, introduced in 1976 and designed by none other than Gerald Genta. Coming in at a generous (for the time) 42mm diameter, it was nicknamed the “Jumbo”. 1980 saw the ref. 4700 introduced (specifically for women), and 1981 saw a mid-size 3800/1A come along with a diameter of 37.5mm. These first models were just time and date.
In 1988, a new complication appeared on the dial of ref. 3710/1A, a diminutive power reserve indication. This reference also had a smooth black dial, no bars. Jump forward to 2005, and the triple complication (power reserve, date, moonphase) reference 3712 came to be. That model lasted but a year, as it had to make room for the brand-new 5711/1A.
This took the Nautilus back to simpler roots (just time and date), and enlarged the case a bit more to 40mm. This also saw a change from the two-part case of the original to a more modern three-part construction. For those who want all the complications, it was later in 2006 when the 5712 – successor to the 3712 – was introduced. In the intervening 15 years since then, a number of different models and complications have been introduced. The final versions of the 5711 to be produced was an olive green dial, and then a Tiffany & Co signed Tiffany blue dial, in the quite desirable stainless steel guise.
As compared to the 5711, the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5811/1G looks to be much the same. We’re not mad about that. There’s a reason the saying “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” exists, and the 5811 is a prime example. The discerning eye will see a few differences, particularly if you have it side-by-side with the 5711. First, of course, is the fact that it’s done up in white gold – for both the case and bracelet – rather than the very sought-after stainless steel. For the case, the 41mm is just 1mm larger than the 5711, so not likely to be noticed. Why the increase?
For one, it could just be a design decision, as we’re seeing other luxury sports timepieces drift north of 40mm as of late. There could also be a practical concern as well. The case has gone back to a two-part construction, which means that the movement is loaded in from the dial side. This necessitated a new method for the crown to be disengaged from the dial side, so they may have needed the extra space to accommodate that construction.
The other change — and one that will be quite noticeable — is the new clasp on the bracelet. It’s definitely more modern now, with a thin butterfly-style clasp that even has micro-adjustments built into the clasp. It’s truly a small thing, but one that will vastly improve the comfort of the watch.
Going back to the dial, the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5811/1G is presented in a very classic blue. Patek refers to the coloration as a sunburst dial, but to us, that feels like odd nomenclature given the horizontal bars going across the dial. Whatever you call it, you’ve got a lighter hue that darkens in a gradient out at the edges of the dial. We would also point out that the date window has a new piece of metal framing its edges as well, giving the watch another surface to catch the light.
Inside the case (and visible through the exhibition window) is the Swiss Made in-house calibre 26-330. This is the same movement the 5711 had starting in 2019, so it’s familiar in that regard. If it was compared to the movement prior to 2019, the calibre 324, the main difference would be the inclusion of a stop-seconds function. Past that, you’ve got the Patek-proprietary Gyromax balance and Spiromax hairspring. It’s worth noting that the balance spring is a silicon-based material, so it has the benefit of not being impacted by magnetism.
Aside from the 4 Hz frequency and 35-45 hour power reserve, the watch is water-resistant to 120 meters. And in addition, you will no doubt be curious about the finishing on the movement. Which, as you would expect, it is superb.
You have straight-line Geneva waves going across the bridges, circular Geneva waves on the heavier 21k rotor. Past that, a loupe will reveal polished bevels on the bridges, polished screws, and perlage on the base plate of the movement.
Versus The Competition
If we’re talking competition for the Nautilus, the most obvious place to start would be with another heavyweight in the luxury watches segment, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. We’ll start here as the Royal Oak is the watch that started the category that the Nautilus calls home, and they both share the same designer (Genta). For our purposes, we’ll utilize a special edition they did for The Hour Glass. As with the Nautilus, we have a case and bracelet of gold (yellow, in this case), an iconic case shape, and a unique dial pattern that is instantly recognizable. Though a touch smaller than the Nautilus, it is just as thin, and should wear on the wrist much the same.
On the other hand, if you want to keep with the steel sport watch roots, and go for something with a bit more splashiness coming in from the movement, then the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Tourbillon is your next stop. Sure, it’s “just” a time-only watch, but you’re picking up that small whirlwind doing it’s thing on the lower portion of the dial. While the case echoes some of the form of the Nautilus, the bezel definitely heads in a much different direction. Finally, with an integrated bracelet, it just looks and feels like a very cohesive design.
Finally, if the 5811 just can’t be found, there’s nothing wrong with heading back a generation, and picking up a 5711 reference. As we discussed, you’ll just be getting a slightly smaller case size, and somewhat less-refined clasp on the bracelet. Oh, and if you pick up a 2019 model? Then you’ll have the same movement that’s powering the 5811.
If the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5811/1G gave its owner one word to describe themselves, that word would be “tradition”. This is a watch that manages to honor the model that came just before it, while also drawing itself even closer to the original design of almost 50 years ago. That is a very difficult balancing act to pull off, yet Patek Philippe has done it. As a result, those who have a 5811 on their wrist will not have to worry about their watch going out of style, as it will no doubt carry on for another 50 years or more.
In the watch world, we can be a bit harsh when a brand hypes up their “totally brand new design” in the lead up to a watch show, and then it turns out that they’ve just done something like a new dial color, and it’s otherwise indistinguishable from what came before (even Rolex is prone to doing this). And yes, you could try to make that argument with the 5811. In our book, however, an icon like the Nautilus transcends those criticisms, particularly when there are small adjustments and refinements being made, bringing the watch into the future while honoring the past. Demand for the new 5811 with white gold case will undoubtedly be just as it was for the 5711 (which is to say high), so if you are on the search for one – and find it – do not let it slip through your hands. However, if you have a stainless steel Patek Philippe sport watch on your wishlist, you’ll now have to opt for an Aquanaut. But once the Nautilus is in your collection, it should be the watch to last for decades.