Every January, Patek Philippe authorised dealers receive a list of watches that will be discontinued in the coming year.
This time they were shocked to learn that the hottest reference of the past decade, the sporty steel Nautilus 5711/1A-010, is being culled.
The 5711 has taken on legendary status, not so much because of its style and heritage as a Gerard Genta classic, but because it has been near impossible to buy.
Unless customers have been spending hundreds of thousands of pounds over years with their local dealer, it has been impossible to even get on a waiting list.
Once on a waiting list, they had better keep spending or they will never have risen to the top.
This is why we at WatchPro call it one of the world’s unicorn watches. The chances of catching sight of one have been nil.
Rumours that the 5711 was going to be discontinued started swirling on social media last week and sent the secondary market into a frenzy.
Patek Philippe confirmed the news to WatchPro today with the statement: “We confirm that the information about the list of run-out/discontinuation models that was addressed to our retailers is correct and that it includes the mention of the Nautilus model Ref. 5711/1A-010. About the new 2021 models these will be unveiled, launched in due time during the year, we will not comment rumors about the future of Nautilus models”.
As well as speaking to authorised dealers, I reached out to the likes of Chronext, Chrono24, Watchbox and Watchfinder to see how activity on their sites had been affected in terms of searches and changes to buying and selling prices.
To say the watch community has lost its mind would be an understatement. Several 5711s are being listed for sale at close to £100,000 for a watch that retails at £25,000.
The craziest 5711 price I found was £113,775 from a UK-based dealer, although he did explain that the price was inflated for UK-based customers because stock was held in the European Union so VAT would have to be added for the full value of the watch (see earlier articles about the impact of the UK losing access to the EU’s margin scheme).
Tellingly, authorised dealers I have spoken to this week appear to be relieved that the 5711 is no more. They are, frankly, sick of disappointing customers when they cannot secure the watch they want. They have been made to feel like police trying to prevent some sort of illicit trade because Patek goes nuts if a flipper manages to buy and sell a watch.
“Managing these lists is a full time job now,” one authorised dealer told me.
Even true watch loving customers find themselves in the invidious position of not wanting to risk selling a 5711 for fear of being labeled a flipper.
It must take incredible self control not to consider selling a watch at treble its retail price, particularly as watch collectors love buying and selling watches to shape their portfolio.
Speculation on social media suggests Patek Philippe will come up with something similar to the 5711/1A-010 when it presents its new references in April.
I am not so sure.
The company has consistently said it wants to focus as much as possible on more sophisticated precious metal watches now it has moved into its new manufacture and headquarters, and would not increase production of steel watches within its annual output of around 70,000 pieces.
Even £25,000 is an extraordinary price for a steel on steel three-hand watch with date, let alone one hundred grand. Patek Philippe appears to agree.