The Internet saw this one coming, so it wasn't much of a surprise when Patek Philippe confirmed recently that its flagship steel Nautilus ref. 5711 is indeed no more. Possibly the most in-demand timepiece in the world — if you measure by the decade or so folks are willing to wait in order to get their hands on one — the 5711 is far from Patek's most complicated or intrinsically valuable watch, but has in recent years become representative of the "exclusivity of steel" (my term, not the industry's, but I kind of like it — don't @ me).
What's all this about the demand for steel watches? What I'm speaking to here is the reality that (and irony of) people willing to wait stupidly long periods of time (and even, to buy precious metal watches which they do not want) in order to be given the opportunity to purchase a steel sports watch. With respect to a brand like Rolex, which supposedly produces roughly 800,000-1 million watches per year, steel timepieces are far from "rare," and in this case we can attribute this phenomenon of waitlisting to an artificial scarcity fueled perhaps in part by the desire of the brand to maintain some degree of exclusivity amongst its clientele.
With respect to Patek, there is an actual scarcity factor that comes into play — production of steel wristwatches is perhaps only 30% of the maison's total annual production. Meaning, effectively, a steel Patek is indeed a rare Patek. And now that the Genta-inspired 5711 is no more, a watch that once retailed for $33,710 and sold secondhand for roughly double that is now seeing prices of six figures and above. While prices may very well settle at some point as previous owners unload some of the world's inventory in the hopes of making a quick buck, for now, if you want a 5711 in steel, you're going to pay 3x retail, it would seem.
And what of the folks waiting for years to get their hands on a fairly innocuous steel sports watch — a time-and-date model that doesn't do much of anything beyond tell the time less accurately than your iPhone and doesn't telegraph to everyone else on your floor that you just got your latest bonus (the irony of owning a Patek that costs 4x a steel Submariner being that far fewer people know what one is)? Well, quite simply, they'll have to look elsewhere. Of course, the watch is still available in rose gold — the steel version is the 5711/1A, whereas the gold version is the 1R — and we have whatever Patek has up its sleeve for 2021 to look forward to.
But for now, the King of Steel is dead. Long live the King.