Now that the Patek Nautilus 5711/1A is officially retired, what are some alternatives in the genre that one can aspire to? Perhaps get in line and form a queue? We give our take.
Six Luxury Steel Watches to buy, now that the Nautilus is discontinued
The genre of the luxury steel sports watch heated up with an explosion of entries over the last 2 years. Pandemic notwitstanding. The genre began in 1972 with the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. Was quickly followed in 1976 by the Patek Philippe Nautilus. Both were designed by the erstwhile Gerald Genta, and perhaps were the crowning glory of his career. Both have carried the flag of the genre ever since. And though the AP RO is highly successful and a venerable icon of the industry, it is the Patek that is generally considered as the King of the class.
The Nautilus is perhaps one of the most popular watches in history, with legendary waitlists to obtain one. Before the discontinuation earlier this year, it was reputed that the waiting time for one is in the region of 7 years. A cruel twist to the Patek marketing line, “‘You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.” to the meme, “You never really actually own a Patek Philippe. You just pass your place in the queue to your next generation.”
Now, you cannot even do that. Patek is expected to announce a “last hurrah” celebratory Nautilus, but until they do, only speculations exist. So what can a collector do? Here are six watches in the same genre, which we think you might not be shortchanging yourself if you went for one instead of pining for the retired King. For reference, the last published retail price (still currently displayed on the patek.com site) of the Patek Nautilus Ref. 5711/1A is SGD 44’500.
This list is quite similar to the list we made in 2019, and might be seen perhaps as an update, as many of the entrants were introduced after we made the Throwback article. As usual, in no particular order.
We begin with the OG in the genre – the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. The AP RO has the same parent – Gerald Genta, the origin of the species, so to speak.
Our pick is the Ref. 15202, which is the closest recreation of Audemars Piguet’s original 1972 Royal Oak, the 5402ST. In particular the exotic platinum and titanium cased 15202IP. It shares the same 39 mm case dimension as the fan-favourite steel Jumbo Extra-Thin model, the 15202ST, as well as the very first Royal Oak. The 15202IP also sports what AP calls the ‘smoke blue dial’, essentially a gradient blue dial, which we find particularly fetching. The dial goes from black on the periphery to an electric blue in the centre, a look that is more dynamic than the uniform blue dial in its other siblings. The movement is the well-tested, well-known and proven Calibre 2121, also used in other Royal Oak Jumbo models.
We picked the more expensive platinum and titanium case mix which retails for SGD 54,400. As this is still less expensive than today’s average black market asking price for the 5711/1A which is in the region just south of SGD 190,000. Although, we admit that the base model is the self winding model Ref. 15500ST in steel retails for SGD 31,800 is a better candidate.
A bit late into the game, but the Germans have arrived anyway. In late 2019, Lange introduced the Odysseus collection – a new line of sporty watches in stainless steel, and with bracelets which is rated to 120m.
This is a fresh new take, only the third time that A. Lange & Söhne has broken their own rule book and changed the game plan. The first was right in the beginning in 1994, when the Lange 1, Pour le Mérite Tourbillon burst into the scene, with the outsized date and chain and fusée miniaturized into a wristwatch (respectively). The second, in our opinion was in 2009 when they released the Zeitwerk with the new design language and digital blueprint. And now, the entry into the luxury stainless steel sports watch market – with the Odysseus.
The Odysseus is a true Lange in every spirit. Right down to the unique caliber powering it – the totally new manufacture caliber L155.1, known as the Datomatic, with the usual high level of finishing.
We think the Odysseus is intended to compete directly with the 5711. The retail price is almost exactly the same as the recommended retail and is set at S$40,300. The Odysseus also matches the Nautilus feature for feature. The luxury and sporty intentions are both announced with the superbly finished stainless steel case with integrated bracelet (though the Lange one is removable) with the exact same 120m depth rating. The Odysseus takes the game one notch higher with a day of week and an outsized date instead of the regular date.
Lange’s intent was to knock the Nautilus off its perch. And while we were not sure it managed to do so in open competition, now that the Nautilus is retired, it is free to have a go at the reins.
From Vacheron Constantin, we have the very capable Overseas line. Originally designed by Georg Hysek, the 222 and the Overseas line has an almost as a long and checkered history as the Nautilus. And in its refresh of 2016 made the Self Winding 4500V an even more compelling proposition.
The line continued with the elegant and beautiful aesthetics of the new Overseas line – the combination of a tonneau shaped case with the bezel inspired by the Malteze Cross, to the ingenious quick change mechanism for the bracelet/strap. The Overseas Self-Winding is available in several dial options – from the blue lacquer dial to this magnificent white example, shown below. The movement the in-house manufactured, beautifully finished caliber 5100 which is stamped with the Hallmark of Geneva.
The retail price is a competitive S$ 30,800 inclusive of GST in SS, and we understand there are currently no supply constraints and subsequently no waitlist to get one.
Coming from perhaps a different angle, is the Chopard Alpine Eagle. Designed by Karl-Friedrich Schuefele with his son Karl-Fitz, based on a original design by Karl-Friedrich in the 1980. The original 1980 design was inspired by the success of the AP RO and the Patek Nautilus.
The Alpine Eagle was announced in late 2019. The case is somewhat angular, and pioneers the use of Lucent A223 Steel, which is an ethically produced product, with claims of being hypoallergenic, harder than regular stainless steel, and have a luster which is brighter. The dial is also exceptional – it is a radiating texture which is inspired by the eagle’s iris which is quite mesmerising. The watch is available in two sizes, and also with dial colour options as well as a variant in solid gold. The movement is the in-house manufactured 01.01-C caliber and is very decently finished for the pricing level.
The Alpine Eagle received many criticisms leveled at the aesthetics, which some feel is too close to the AP and Patek for comfort. We do not agree. The aesthetics stand on their own, and is attractive in their own way. The manufacturing process, the fit and finish, the quality of the movement supplied is beyond reproach, and all very high level. And at a retail price of SGD 17,200 undercuts many of its rivals in the value for money stakes, and is the least expensive option in this list.
Moser entered the field even later. In late 2019, it introduced the Streamliner series – a new collection of watches with an integrated bracelet which is crafted in stainless steel. The launch model is the Chronograph with the magnificent movement made by Agenhor. But in the third quarter of 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, Moser unleased the Center Seconds. The time only version. The launch model is in the stunning Matrix Green fumé with sunburst pattern.
At SGD 33,000 the Streamliner Centre Seconds is highly competitive in the upper echelons of the genre. And offers a good option for those who do not want to wear the uniform.
Last but not least, we come to the Czapek. By some curious circumstance, the brand’s the namesake, Franciszek Czapek was the original partner to Antoine Norbert de Patek, and with the Antarctique, has come full circle as Czapek & Cie has also thrown its gauntlet into the arena of the luxury steel sports watch.
The Antarctique was also released in the middle of the pandemic, and the launch models – the Terre Adélie were available in 4 variants limited to a total of 99 pieces. They were sold out in less than 6 weeks. Czapek has followed up with a second series, known as the Passage de Drake, which 4 additional dial variants to the Antarctique. More interestingly, the new models will also feature movement improvements which will be retrofitted to the original release as well.
The design is sleek and quite classic. We love the bracelet and how it is pliable and comfortable on the wrist. The dial is also very well executed. And the movement, the caliber SXH5.01, as realized by Emmanuel Bouchet is magnificently laid out and beautifully finished. And Czapek pitches it at a very reasonable priced at just CHF18,000, about S$26,700. Little wonder that the first batch was seized by collectors in ultra quick time.
We started this article by trying to be creative, cheeky, funny and out of the box. But we decided not to. Better to pay tribute to the retiring 5711/1A with a serious list. Which turned out to be perhaps a boring one, with the usual suspects. Or at least, to us, these are the usual suspects. We are aware that we have left out the Girard Perregaux Laureato, the various (almost all?) Rolex watches, many Omegas as well as Patek’s own Aquanaut (which we also understand has its own super long waitlist) which may be good candidates as well, but we wanted to keep the list to only 6. What would you have included different from us?