The Patek Philippe Nautilus sports watch is the stuff of legends. Originally designed by the one and only Gerald Genta, the Nautilus hit the markets in 1976 in the form of the Ref. 3700, one of the pioneers of the luxury sports watch genre. Over the years, Patek Philippe’s resident sports watch line has evolved mechanically and aesthetically while largely retaining its iconic design. Perhaps the most familiar Nautilus sports watch to the current crop of enthusiasts and collectors is none other than the Ref. 5711. Featuring only the time and date, the Ref. 5711 has always been (and continues to be) one of the most sought after wristwatches in the world, even more so than its complicated siblings. In a move seemingly to extend the life of the Ref. 5711, Patek Philippe had quietly given its movement an update back in 2019. This was soon followed by rumours and later confirmation by Patek in early 2021 that the Ref. 5711 was to be discontinued. After the announcement, two swansong variations emerged, one with an olive green dial in stainless steel, the other – the true final Ref. 5711 – with a Tiffany & Co signed Tiffany blue dial also in stainless steel. As they say: save the best for last.
Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5811/1G
By 2022, the end of the Ref. 5711 was sealed, with all traces of the reference removed from the brand’s current catalogue. The successor of the Ref. 5711 was presented in mid-October, ushering in a new era for the historical sports watch. Here, we bring you the details and our honest thoughts on the new Patek Philippe Ref. 5811/1G in white gold with blue dial, the next generation of the Nautilus sports watch.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
As its reference number would suggest, the debuting Ref. 5811/1G is crafted in white gold. From afar, it doesn’t look like there’s any differences between the cases of the retired Ref. 5711 and the new Ref. 5811. Indeed, the changes are subtle. Firstly, the Ref. 5811 has a larger case – a negligible 1 mm increase in diameter compared to the Ref. 5711. The second alteration has to do with case construction; where the Ref. 5711 has a modern three-part construction, the Ref. 5811 has a two-part construction – a nod to the original 1976 Nautilus model. This new design comes hand-in-hand with a patent-pending pull-out piece lever system that enables the winding stem to be removed dial-side. This is essential because a two-part case means there is no case back entry.
The case is matched with a white gold bracelet, now with a new patented fold-over clasp. It features four independent catches and a novel lockable adjustment system that allows one to easily adjust the bracelet by two to four millimetres. Everything else pertaining to the exterior remains unchanged, including its exceptional finish.
The new Ref. 5811 is fitted with a sunburst blue dial (embossed as usual) that gradates towards black on the periphery. The applied hour markers and rounded baton-style hands are all rendered in white gold and coated with luminescent material. The date display at 3 o’clock, highlighted by a white gold aperture frame, is inscribed in the “40 years” font.
Driving the Ref. 5811 is the 212-part, in-house Calibre 26-330 S C. The Calibre 26-330 S C is the successor of the Calibre 324 that powered the Ref. 5711 up until 2019. The movement comes with the usual Patek Philippe trappings of the proprietary Gyromax balance and Spiromax hairspring. It also comes with stop-seconds, a functionality that was missing in the Calibre 324. The Calibre 26-330 S C has a power reserve of 35-45 hours and operates at a modern 4 Hz frequency.
Finissage on the Calibre 26-330 S C is what you’d expect from Patek Philippe: top notch. The most eye-catching part of the movement is the gold central rotor decorated with circular Geneva waves and an engraving of the Calatrava cross. On the bridges are linear Geneva Waves, with edges that have been beveled and polished. The screws that secure these bridges are polished while the base plate is decorated with evenly spaced perlage.
The Competitive Landscape
Luxury sports watches have been in vogue in recent years and none command more reverence than the Patek Philippe Nautilus. The Ref. 5811 may have only just begun its journey, but if the performance of past references is any indication of future success, then it too is projected to succeed. A triumvirate of brand prestige, history, and quality watchmaking all but ensures that the Nautilus Ref. 5811 remains not just relevant, but a much celebrated timepiece going into the 2020s. Currently only available in white gold, the Ref. 5811/1G is priced at SGD92,000. While not a limited edition piece, expect a long, long waiting list as demand is sure to outstrip supply.
Any discussion relating to luxury sports watches is never complete without a mention of the Nautlius, as well as the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. The latter, just like the former, is sports watch royalty with an equally rich history, prestigious branding, and impressive craftsmanship. The newly released Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra-Thin Ref. 16202ST has recently replaced the Ref. 15202ST, much like the incoming Ref. 5811 and the outgoing Ref. 5711. What’s new in the Ref. 16202ST is mainly its new movement, the Calibre 7121, which has a higher beat than the preceding Calibre 2121 and a longer power reserve of 55 hours. It also comes with a date quick-set function which isn’t available in the older model. Rendered in stainless steel and priced at USD33,200, the Ref. 16202ST is also borderline impossible to obtain through boutiques like its bitter rival, the Nautilus.
For something outside of the Swiss Holy Trinity of watchmaking, look no further than what A. Lange & Söhne has to offer. This year, the illustrious Saxon brand has introduced a titanium variation of their resident sports watch, the Odysseus. Though late to the party, the Odysseus has quickly gathered its own cult following and as you might expect, it, too, is highly sought after by collectors. Unlike the Royal Oak or Nautilus, the Odysseus has a day display in addition to the typical date display. The Datomatic movement (Calibre L155.1) that drives the watch is finished and decorated to a level that would make even the most established Swiss watch manufacturers blush. Limited to 250 pieces, the Odysseus in titanium is priced at EUR55,000.
The only way to truly appreciate the Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5811 right now is to look past the hype and mania surrounding luxury sports watches at the moment. Here’s a watch with deep ties to the origin of the luxury sports watch, with craftsmanship that’s the envy of the industry, and now fitted with an updated movement that’ll take it through the next decade or two. The 50th anniversary of the Nautilus is due in four years so it will be interesting to see what Patek Philippe does with the Ref. 5811 between now and then to bring out its full potential.