On the Wrist:Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1A-010 Men's Watch
The premise of my review of the famed Swiss Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711 "Blue" watch (reference 5711/1A-010) focuses on one simple question: "What makes this steel sports lifestyle watch, with all of its love handles, persistently in high demand?" To further illustrate my point, right before the publication of this review, Patek Philippe decided to raise the price of this watch by 20%. Though I've always held a great respect for the Patek Philippe Nautilus, I've never had a particular desire to own one. On one hand, I have great admiration for the work of the late Gerald Genta, who designed this true Patek Philippe classic in the 1970s. Additionally, I'm a fan of watches on tapering bracelets as well as accurate, well-made movements. On the other hand, even though I respect Patek Philippe's watchmaking craft more than that of Audemars Piguet, Gerald Genta's other classic, the Royal Oak, is a more fitting watch for my "edgy" tastes. In some sense, the two watches are two cats from the same litter, with Audemars Piguet choosing the more feisty kitten and Patek Philippe getting the smooth-haired young one. You can't definitively say that one is better than the other—although I'm sure most, if not all, would agree that Patek Philippe has the superior movement.
Given the low-profile presence of the Nautilus on the wrist, however, it has never been my cup of tea. I tend to like slightly more assertive designs a bit more, and the side flanks of the Nautilus never really grew on me. With that said, I was very impressed with my last hands-on experience with a 5711-style Nautilus, the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1P, the 20th anniversary solid platinum edition with diamond hour markers. This model, on the contrary, is a steel watch that (formerly) retails at just under $25,000 USD, but is often found for even higher prices, not to mention the waitlist. It's harder to get than a ceramic Daytona, and no one is really quite able to figure out why. In any event, the 5711 in blue is a hot luxury commodity, so even pre-owned versions are easily able to sell at retail price.
Could this all be part of the "Genta effect?" Is the magic of Gerald Genta's designs fueling this demand for this high-end timepiece beyond its anticipated lifespan? The late watch designer is probably more popular today than during his lifetime, and though I don't think that I've cracked the code of what makes many of his designs so interesting, but I do think that this Nautilus helped me start putting the pieces together. One thing is for sure—the famed reputation of these designs wouldn't be possible without Patek Philippe being a quality watchmaker.
What was Patek Philippe aiming to achieve with the Nautilus? When it was introduced in 1976, it was supposed to be a maritime lifestyle luxury watch for wealthy men and their family members who spent time boating or living by the sea. Genta pulled in design cues such as boat portholes for the design of the bezel and flanks, and the horizontal lines on the dial are meant to resemble teak wood boat decks. Not only was the starkly contrasting brushed and polished finishing on the case common practice for other watches produced at the time, but it was also evocative of the metal hardware of a yacht deck.
I believe that one way to appreciate the real talent of Gerald Genta is to view him as a master bracelet designer. He seemed to know how to blend an elegant and legible dial with the perfect bracelet. At the time Genta became involved in design, product design for watches was just as significant as product design of, for instance, automobiles. Everyone had them and used them, so because of the wide variety of these items, people were genuinely interested in unique designs. Thus, Genta was designing something that would be both worn and seen by everyone. In this case, the people wearing those watches were the rich elite that comprised Patek Philippe's consumer base in the 1970s, and it's the same demographic, albeit in larger numbers, that still wear Patek Philippe today.