Is Patek Philippe’s Aquanaut becoming the next Nautilus?
There isn’t an eight-year wait list for it (yet), but acquiring one will cost you – at least 2.5 times the retail price on the secondary market.
For a watch brand to pull one of its best-selling and most sought-after timepieces speaks to its management’s backbone, as well as said watch’s staggering popularity. But as it turns out, interest in Patek Philippe’s stainless steel Nautilus is far from waning.
Despite discontinuing the legendary blue-dialled Ref 5711/1A-010 in favour of a brand new olive green version, the latter is already on its way to becoming the next frenzy-inducing obsession. This July, a Ref 5711/1A-014 went under the hammer for US$470,000 (S$640,065) at an Antiquorum auction. That’s more than 10 times the retail price of the watch.
The brand probably anticipated this, because just one month after unveiling the new Nautiluses, it released seven new Aquanauts and Aquanaut Luces as a follow up. Some may see the Aquanaut as the younger, sportier, consolation prize to those who can’t get their hands on the Gerald Genta-designed predecessor, but the Aquanaut has been slowly forming its own little cult over the years. If anything, the unattainability of the Nautilus seems to be driving up demand – and prices – of the Aquanaut.
“My father bought an Aquanaut Ref 5167 a few years ago for S$24,000, and it wasn’t long before the market rate for it went up to S$26,000 to S$27,000,” shared Jarod Ng, co-founder of secondary market watch retailer Watch Capital. “I convinced him to sell it, but it turned out to be a bad decision on my part because we recently sold the same model for S$72,000.”
There are precious metal and complicated versions of the Aquanaut but, like Rolex and Audemars Piguet’s sports watches, the steel ones are where the money’s at. The Ref 5167/1A in particular, is sought after for most closely resembling the Nautilus.
“Very high global demand coupled with low supply has pushed prices through the roof. Everyone wants the sure-win lottery ticket after looking at the market prices,” said the owner of a local pre-owned watch store who declined to be named.
“The Aquanaut’s beauty lies in its ability to fade into the background. It doesn’t scream for attention, yet is reliable, sturdy and utilitarian.” – Tom Chng
“Entering at this price point isn’t exactly investing; it’s just speculating if you’re hoping for growth. You must be able to afford the risk if you want to buy one at the current market price, because I think these premiums will stay for the next couple of years.”
But to buy most luxuries for their potential investment value would be to disregard what made them desirable in the first place. Genta pedigree or no, the Aquanaut is a fine-looking watch with plenty to offer those who actually want to wear it.
“[The Aquanaut] allowed the brand to take on a more youthful and adventurous persona. The Nautilus, despite being a sports watch, was still highly refined and elegant,” opined Tom Chng, president of the Singapore Watch Club. “The Aquanaut’s beauty lies in its ability to fade into the background. It doesn’t scream for attention, yet is reliable, sturdy and utilitarian. On the wrist it is understated yet remarkably handsome.”
Twenty-four years since its launch, it still is all those things. The two new men’s models in white gold with a green or graduated black and blue dial reinforce the brand’s lighter side, while five diamond-set Aquanaut Luce models in white or pink gold, in quartz or automatic versions, expand the options for ladies.
If you’re looking for an older model, Chng is partial to the Ref 5065A. “It retains the design cues of the first-generation pieces, but in a contemporary 38mm ‘jumbo’ size. The classical proportions of this reference ages very well, and it is a collectible piece that properly captures the essence of the lineage.”