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Throwback Sundays: Six alternative high end sporty watches to the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1a

Six ways to spend your Nautilus piggy bank
by Peter Chong on June 30, 2019

The wait list for the Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5711/1a is indeed maddening. It is apparently almost impossible to buy one at retail from an Authorized Dealer. And yet, we implore you NEVER to buy from grey/black market dealers at a premium. So what is a guy (gal) gotta do? Here are six alternatives.

As mentioned in another article earlier, getting the coveted Nautilus 5711/1a retailing for S$40,400 (if that’s your thing) is not a life and death issue. Not medicine for your sick gramps, or food on the table for the family. If you cannot get the watch at retail, buy something else. In this article, we discuss some suggestions.

The coveted Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5711/1a with a smoked blue dial.

Here are our criteria:

  • must be a sporty watch, preferably in a steel or titanium case, with bracelet or water resistant strap
  • a water resistance of at least 100m.
  • We allow variations over the basic three hand watch for a bit more variety, and fun.
  • And since this is a replacement grail to your lust for the 5711, it should be a watch currently available at retail price from an Authorized Dealer.

Although in no particular order, the list opens with two of the most obvious suspects. Viz the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak which pre-dates the original Patek Nautilus by about 4 years and designed by the same Gerald Genta, and the Vacheron Constantin Overseas, whose predecessor – the Ref. 222 also hails from the same era, though designed by Jorg Hysek. We hesitate to include the IWC Ingenieur, also by Genta and designed circa the same era, as the current Ingenieur is not the same beast. And also the Ingenieur had already been in existance since the late 1950s, and Genta was responsible for the re-design in 1976, while he was responsible for creating a new genre of luxury sports watches with the Royal Oak.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Jumbo Salmon

We begin the the grand daddy of them all. Gerald Genta created the original Royal Oak in 1972, and with it, a new genre of wrist watches which goes against the grain of the prevailing environment of the day. The early 70s were not groovy times for Swiss watchmaking, but the industry was in the last of its dying throes, as the quartz revolution seems bent on wanting to bulldoze over. Audemars Piguet’s answer to the doom and gloom was to introduce an expensive, stainless steel sports watch. All three adjectives are counter-intuitive. Expensive. Stainless Steel. Sports. Audacious. Very AP, though Patek Philippe would pull off this very same stunt (expensive, stainless steel, sports) with their Nautilus just 4 years later. With the same designer, no less.

But the Royal Oak became the stuff of legends. The Royal Oak not only provided AP with the bouyancy to keep afloat, but allowed AP to thrive. AP was never hit by the quartz crisis, and the RO became the icon it is today. Our pick is this year’s latest: the Jumbo in white gold (yea, white gold. Not stainless steel. Going against the grain is the AP thing…so we thought we’d break some rules too) in the currently-in-vogue salmon dial.

And in white gold, the retail price of the AP Royal Oak is US$55,400 (approximately S$75,000), more than the current retail for the Nautilus in SS but less than what the grey/black marketers want for the steel Nautilus. And not out of line with the S$70,200 retail price for the Nautilus in rose gold. The only slight hesitation we have on putting this watch on this list, is it too is rather elusive, and getting one’s hands on one might prove to be quite a tall order. We are assuaged only by the fact that it is probably easier to be on the ADs’s list than the Nautilus.

Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph

The Vachron Constantin Overseas is the offshoot from a design Jorg Hysek made for VC in 1976 for a watch to be known as the Ref. 222. The watch caught on in success, and evolved into the Overseas line. The line received its latest injection of excitement in 2016 when the new Overseas collection was released.

The case of the VC Overseas Chronograph 5200.

We have done full reviews of almost all the variants of the Overseas, from the Automatic, to Dual Time to the World Time, to the Tourbillon. And our pick for this list is the amazingly beautiful Overseas Chronograph 5200 with a mesmerising blue dial. One which I, for one, have totally fallen heads and heels in love over. This magnificent speciment of a watch, the VC Overseas Chronograph in SS retails at S$ 44,500. A price so close to the 5711/1a, it is head to head in competition.

Laurent Ferrier Tourbillon Grand Sport

The Laurent Ferrier Tourbillon Grand Sport (S$ 280,000) is the most expensive watch on our list. Ok, we blew the budget on this one. This entry is the “Heck with the Nautilus…or any other watch” philosophy. Just buy this is the watch to end all watches.

This new (Baselworld 2019) Laurent Ferrier is not only equipped with their signature tourbillon, but is also the only one from an Independent Watchmaker in the list. And the desirability index goes up even more in this stainless steel model as it is a limited edition of only 12 peices.

From the sleek cool lines of the case to the smoked dial, the design is exceptional as it clearly conveys the sporty aspirations of Mr. Laurent Ferrier, who was a rather famous racing car driver himself in his young and reckless days. And this watch was created to reflect that palpable sense of sportiness. Racy, and raring to go, but yet exudes the confidence and elegence of a thoroughbred race horse.

One watch to rule them all? Perhaps.

Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Nageurs de Combat

Blancpain have been the forefront of the diving watch since the creation of the genre in the early 1950s, with their Fifty Fathoms. The Fifty Fathoms collection is perhaps the most successful one within Blancpain, and numerous versions exist – from MilSpec versions, to Complete Calendars and their Bathyscape. But for this list, we chose the latest addition – the 300 piece limited edition Nageurs de Combat – Combat Swimmers. A new issue made to commemorate the partnership with the French Navy Divers, a partnership which began in the early years of diving watches.

While the origins of the Fifty Fathoms was for diving use, and not targetted at luxury, Blancpain today stands at the doorway to luxury watches. And at S$21,400, the Nageurs de Combat is not inexpensive in the ocean of diving watches capable of 300m depth rating. However, it is almost half the price of the Nautilus at retail. Plus it is loaded with historical underpinnings on its side, being a faithful re-creation of the 1953 model in almost all details.

Breguet Marine Chronographe

Breguet, on the other hand have always been in the luxury space. And their Marine line is their “Sporty” offering. The line has many options for complications. And our selection is the Marine Chronograph, retailing at US$18,500 (about S$26,000) for titanium.

It boasts of handsome good looks and a movement of high pedegree. A pedegree not matched by any other. After all, Abraham-Louis Breguet was the brains behind countless inventions in the watchmaking world. In addition to the tourbillon and the pare-chute shock protection device, he is also largely attributed as the inventor of the split-seconds chronograph.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox

From the grand maison of Jaeger-LeCoultre comes the Polaris, a line re-introduced in SIHH 2018. The originals were from the 1960s, and were unique diving watches. The 2018 lineup includes many models, including the Polaris Chronograph and the Polaris World Timer. Top of our pick is the Memovox, which features an alarm. And what a brilliant addition to the diving watch to be able to remind its wearer that it is time to surface by vibrating and making a rather beautiful ringing sound. (remembering that sound actually travels better under water than through air).

The Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris Memovox is a limited edition of 1000 pieces and retails for US$12,500 (about S$17,000). It is extremely iconic and the updated homage limited edition offers modern day collectors with a chance to own a piece of history.

Concluding thoughts

Indeed the list is varied and eclectic, with pricing ranging from less than half the asking retail price of the Patek Nautilus 5711/1a to more than quadruple. But we think, as this is neither an attempt to be comprehensive nor exhaustive, we reserve our right to make personal choices and offer them to you as options to consider.

  • Get on the waitlist (I know, its long), and save the firepower to grab it when the Authorized Dealer calls. Meanwhile, scratch the itch with a less expensive watch. Watches like the JLC Polaris Memovox, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms or the Breguet Marine Chronograph are suitable.
  • Or buy another watch circa the same price and forget about the Nautilus. In this category would be the VC Overseas Chronograph, or the AP RO in SS, which we did not discussed in this article, or stretch for the WG version which we did discuss.
  • Or go the whole hog and get the Laurent Ferrier Tourbillon Grand Sport and stop buying watches for a while…a long while.

The choice is yours. And life is better for the choices. Peace. Don’t support grey/black market. Don’t pay premium.

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