A Round-Up Of Our Favorite 5711 Conspiracy Theories
Why is Patek Philippe discontinuing this classic? The internet has some thoughts.
Outside of politics and a global health crisis, two big things happened this month. Patek Philippe decided to discontinue the 5711, a.k.a. the Nautilus, and the online-only chat app Clubhouse reached an influencer tipping point. The two things combined to create a perfect storm of intense speculation, faked photos, and conspiracy theories about the future of Patek and the watch industry as a whole. It’s kind of like GameStop and QAnon rolled into one.
While Patek Philippe is staying mum on its decision to discontinue this classic sports model, the internet is more than happy to fill in that informational void. Here are some of the more popular not-quite theories.
The first hint that something big was happening began in January when Patek collector Jasem Al Zeraei, a.k.a. @patekaholic, hinted on Instagram that the brand would discontinue the classic time-and-date blue dial Nautilus reference 5711/1A. At first, the watch world was in denial: how could the company stop production on a timepiece that has a ten-year waitlist?
One of the first theories was that it is an opportunistic move designed to drive up the price of the Nautilus. After the news broke, Patek Philippe President Thierry Stern told the Swiss newspaper the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, “Just look at what has happened now. Since our decision became known, the grey market prices for the Nautilus have risen even further.”
The Queen's Gambit
It has been suggested that the move is an incredibly savvy play by Patek. Waiting lists already create a sort of frenzy; we all want what we can't have.
The next logical step is to make an object unattainable, sending collectors to seek out one of Patek's 140 other models (including 26 different kinds of Nautilus). Stern himself has said, “We cannot put a single watch on top of our pyramid.”
Another online rumor is that the 5711/1A will be going out with a bang. Stern added fuel to the fire with this quote: “[Patek Philippe] will have a victory lap. We will have a surprise final series of the Ref. 5711. And it is not what was left in the pipeline.”
But what form will this swan song take? Some clever meme-makers have mocked up such a potential timepiece – basically a 5711 with a green dial instead of blue. It has also been suggested that it will be in titanium instead of stainless steel. Some even going as far as to call it a 6711!
Stern has addressed the what of the situation, but not the why. Some speculators are theorizing that the move signifies the growing influence of millennials.
There’s been a sea change in collecting over the last ten years, with trends being driven more by the sway of Instagram collectors and action at auction houses instead of at the direction of the brands. Moreover, millennials watch preferences are motivated by either their parent’s watches from the 1980s and 1990s or the innovation of independent brands. Considering the 5711 was introduced in 2006, it may be time to move on.
All In The Family
Patek is a family-run business. And some commentators have suggested Stern, who became president in 2009, longs get out from under the shadow of his predecessor as president and father, Philippe. The theory is that Thierry Stern wants to oversee the creation of his own iconic timepiece.
It's a plausible armchair-psychologist diagnosis. The pandemic has enthusiasts turning more and more to digital platforms, like Clubhouse, in search of a community, and it has accelerated not only change but also creativity. Enthusiasts have seen so many 5711s on Instagram that boredom has killed their FOMO. And while the Nautilus is still one of the most coveted timepieces around, watchmakers themselves are itching to try fresh new concepts.
Some argue that discontinuing the 5711 is a ruse, contending that the plan is to bring it back in a year or so. They claim to have inside knowledge that the watch market bubble is about to burst, so Patek is protecting the model's prestige by discontinuing it before chaos reigns. Then the brand can bring it back when the world returns to normal.
Some look at the move as a way for Patek to regain some control, specifically over the influence the vintage market and auctions have with driving trends and pricing. First, by placing the 5711 on the 2021 run-out list, the watch will theoretically fuel the secondary market driving up prices.
Secondly, because collectors have been treating the 5711 as a commodity more than a collectible, cutting the 5711 makes the rest of Patek's catalog more prestigious and less susceptible to the whims of flippers and speculators.
Whatever Patek's motives are, the move is a bold one. It is pretty much all anyone is talking about, and it has already had a considerable impact on other manufactures.
Industry insiders like LVMH’s Jean-Claude Biver have speculated that the 5711’s scarcity will lead enthusiasts to seek out alternate Patek references and to explore sports models from other manufactures, like the Audemars Piguet Offshore or the Zenith El Primero. It is a good bet that independent brands will also be the beneficiaries of the 5711’s demise.
Regardless, many angry folks on the waitlist now have $30,620 burning a hole in their pocket and may want to invest in an H. Moser & Cie. or a De Bethune instead. We were going to suggest F.P. Journe, but that’s another meteoric rise we’ve already covered.
(Header Photo Illustration by Gabe Conte)