In February 2021, Patek Philippe deep-sixed the legendary blue-dial steel Nautilus 5711. Responding to the horological horror, Patek Prez Thierry Stern promised a replacement. “You don’t let a model like this expire without having something new up your sleeve.” And there it is! The brand new Patek Phillipe blue dial Nautilus 5811/1G. Wait. What?
You may notice that the “new” blue dial Nautilus looks virtually identical to the old blue dial Nautilus. That’s because it is. More or less.
Well, less enough that you’ve got to wonder if it’s worth more or less than the more or less identical steel version. We’ll get to that. But first, to be fair, it’s not exactly the same watch . . .
The blue dial Nautilus 2.0 is 1mm larger than its 40mm forebear. “It also features several subtle technical refinements and patented innovations: a secured fold-over clasp, a new lockable adjustment system, and a new pull-out piece lever system that replaces the split stem.”
The main difference between ye olde 5711 and the 5811: the new watch is made of white gold. Which fulfills Mr. Stern’s stern warning when he pulled the plug on the 5711: “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.”
Putting the kibosh on the steel Nautilus for a white gold version makes perfect sense when you factor in the new watch’s price. Assuming you’re closethanthis with your Patek Phillippe dealer, they’ll sell you a 5811 for a mere $69,780.
You can bet the white gold Nautilus doesn’t cost Patek twice as much to manufacture as the steel Nautilus. Which means Patek will be making significantly more money without increasing overall volume – protecting the brand’s exclusivity (the same strategy that informs Ferrari’s $400k+ Purosangue SUV).
Also worth noting: the new watch is more than twice as expensive as the outgoing model, which sold for around $35k. That’s retail. Even now, with Rolex, Audemars Piguet and Patek Phillippe prices returning to low-earth orbit, a blue dial steel 5711 brings big bucks.
The nearasdammit $70k gold Nautilus soaks-up some of the insane pre-loved premium paid by consumers seeking steel. Some, but not all. Or, for that matter, most.
Again, the two watches look more-or-less identical. So, will the white gold 5811 make the steel 5711 more or less desirable? At the same time, will the 5811 inspire a feeding frenzy within a feeding frenzy?
More globally, are we done with the whole luxury steel watch mania? In these inflationary/recessionary times, are we returning to the gold standard? It is titanium for the win? As the Brits are wont to say, I haven’t got a clue mate.
What I do know: people who patted themselves on the back for buying a 5711 steel blue dial Nautilus – thinking they’d bought something the world would never see again – woke up yesterday learning they’d been living a lie.
Not a big lie. But one that leaves them slightly less smug. And Thierry Stern slightly more.