One of the biggest stories in the watch world last year was about the end of something: Patek Philippe announced in January it planned to discontinue the beloved 5711 Nautilus. It wouldn’t be exaggerating to call the 5711 perhaps the biggest watch on the planet: It was so sought-after that its lengthy eight-year waitlist became the stuff of legend. Collectors loved that it came without fancy complications or a busied dial—just a stainless steel watch with a navy blue face and a small date window. The watch’s popularity was also its downfall. Patek’s president Thierry Stern gave it the ax because he worried the model was soaking up too much attention. But on Tuesday, Patek announced a new watch meant to replace the 5711. Meet the 5811.
Technically, that’s the 5811/1G, the G signifying that the watch is made out of white gold. Patek made a few changes to the 5711, but the switch in material is by far the biggest. That’s no small tweak: Much of the 5711’s success was thanks to the fact that it was made out of stainless steel. The watch was Patek’s version of a sport watch, its version of other outrageously popular watches like Rolex’s Daytona and Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak. An early advertisement for the Nautilus bragged about using the material, too: “One of the world’s costliest watches is made of steel.”
But, as evidenced by the watch’s performance on the secondary market, where the 5711 sells for many multiples of its $33,710 price, Patek was leaving money on the table. (Only in the luxury watch world can $33k feel like a steal!) By switching to white gold, Patek is able to sell the watch for $69,785, closer to its true market value. “This Nautilus is white gold because I had to raise the average price a little bit,” Stern told 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.”
So many Nautiluses have hit the open market, in fact, that Patek is now going to great lengths to get the sales process back on its terms. Stern told Robb Report that the brand buys “a few hundred” 5711s annually from resale sites like Chrono24, and then do a little detective work to determine which retailer it came from. “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,” Stern said. On this subject, he told the New York Times there are sometimes “sanctions” for offending retailers.
Well, Stern will need to stay on the defensive. The new 5811 in white gold shares plenty in common with the smash-hit 5711; there will be almost certainly be a long list of people eager to get their hands on this piece from wherever they can. “There will not be enough pieces for everybody,” Stern told the Times.