“We don’t want a single model to suddenly make up 50 percent or more of our collection and dominate Patek’s image.” And there you have it: Patek Philippe President Thierry Stern’s explanation for the watchmaker’s decision to kill its most sought-after model, the Patek Philippe steel Nautilus 5711. Breaking his silence on the subject to Switzerland’s Neuen Zürcher Zeitung [nzz.ch], Mr. Stern confirmed The Truth About Watches’ conjecture that Patek doesn’t want to be Audemars Piguet in the sense that . . .
Audemars Piguet has become a one-trick pony.
The other member of watchmaking’s Holy Trinity (along with Vacheron Constantin) has become almost entirely reliant on their Royal Oak for their survival. Mr. Stern realized that the Nautilus 5711 had become more famous than the brand that birthed it. Potential customers were ignoring other pieces to get in line and wait for their chance at the horological Holy Grail.
Mr. Stern readily admits that Patek’s decision to axe the Nautilus 5711 makes the model even more of a Grail piece. “We can’t fight that,” he opines with Swiss sangfroid. “Since our decision became known, the gray market prices for the Nautilus have risen even further.”
Never mind fighting the demand, Patek is looking to increase it, at least in the short term: “We like to say goodbye to special watch models with a little surprise. There will therefore be a farewell-series of the 5711, which will be a little different. These watches will be produced soon and will be launched this year . . . this will be another nightmare in terms of demand.”
Nightmare for whom? Not the Patek mothership. But “the goodbye look” model puts authorized dealers (ADs) on the sharp end of the wealthy watch collector bun fight to end all wealthy watch collector bun fights. While ADs will sell plenty of other Pateks to customers who want to earn the “right” to buy the special edition 5711 – a form of extortion decried by our own Joseph Adams – the inevitable acrimony will poison the well.
Again, from Mr. Stern’s perspective, it’s what me worry? Meanwhile, Patek’s Prez also confirmed our suggestion that the brand is replacing the Nautilus 5711 with a new model.
“You don’t let a model like this expire without having something new up your sleeve. But I won’t talk about that until we launch the watch.” God forbid Nautilus-crazed customers should be distracted by the next magic feather until the special edition hubbub settles down. If it ever does.
More globally, Mr. Stern reiterated his previous assertion that Patek won’t surrender to steel watch mania. Much. “I don’t want us to have more than a third steel watches. The steel Nautilus makes up a big part of that quota, and I don’t like that.”
Will Patek be making less steel watches then (as was recently mooted for Rolex’s seven-year plan)? “We had to work very hard to get into the gold and platinum league, and that’s where we should stay.” What’s more, Mr. Stern’s determined to follow his father’s advice to “Leave these materials [carbon and titanium] to Hublot and the others, they do a good job.”
“For a while, luxury steel watches were a ‘hack’ where you could get the prestige of a brand without paying up for the ‘real’ precious metal pieces,” Joseph Adams points out, putting Patek’s perspective into perspective. “Since the manufacturers looked down in their sports models they were relatively underpriced for the prestige. But now the market has moved and the manufacturers are noticing.”
Again, that should mean higher prices at authorized dealers. As things currently stand it means less availability – and an absolute killing on the gray market. For which the Nautilus 5711 will be the poster boy for years to come. How great is that?