Patek Philippe Set To Unveil New ‘Nautilus Killer’ Watch Collection

It will be the brand's first new watch collection since 1999.

Patek Philippe Set To Unveil New ‘Nautilus Killer’ Watch Collection

Image: Patek Philippe

Patek Philippe, inarguably the luxury watch world’s most important brand, is notoriously exclusive, conservative and secretive: that’s part of their allure. So when news broke that they’re planning on introducing a new watch collection – their first in almost a quarter of a century – it’s a big deal.

DMARGE had the chance to attend Watches & Wonders Geneva 2023, the watch industry’s biggest and most important trade exhibition, earlier this month. As always, there were plenty of cool watches on display, with brands more than eager to get journalists, dealers and the public into their booths to show off their new releases. Except for Patek Philippe.

Like every year, Patek’s presence at Watches & Wonders is a bit of an enigma. They’ve got this huge glass UFO-like booth, right in the centre of one of the main exhibition halls… But they barely let anyone in. Any viewings are strictly by appointment, and everything’s very hush-hush. They give off the vibe that they don’t really want people to see their new watches, actually.

On top of that, what they had to show this year was a bit underwhelming, to say the least. There are few brands more conservative than Patek and that was reflected in the releases they unveiled this year: mostly just a bunch of new Calatravas. Sure, there were some new Aquanauts, and a new two-tone Grandmaster Chime, but nothing really set the world on fire from Patek.

Well, that is, until Patek Philippe CEO Thierry Stern revealed during the fair that the 184-year-old brand was soon to unveil its first new watch collection since 1999.

Thierry Stern, Patek Philippe CEO. The Stern family have owned and run Patek Philippe since 1932. Image: NYT

“The design is done, and the prototype is ready and really, I like it,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg during the fair. They went on to confirm that this new model line will be “a fresh offering that [Stern] expects could one day compete with its most desirable timepieces… The new model line is expected to be unveiled later this year, or next year once all the final elements are in place.”

The crucial bit there – that it may compete with its most desirable timepieces – is a big hint. The subtext there is that it might compete with the Nautilus, the ‘Holy Trinity’ brand’s most coveted and iconic model.

A Nautilus killer?

The Nautilus’ success has long been somewhat of a quandary for Patek. Stern has long maintained that Patek doesn’t want to be defined by its sports watches, and wants to focus on precious metals, capping stainless steel watch production to around 30% of its total per annum. Maintaining Patek’s brand equity and status as one of the world’s most refined, traditional watchmakers is of paramount importance to the Stern family.

Half the reason Patek discontinued the Nautilus ref. 5711 back in 2021 was to try and manage the insane waitlists they have for Nautiluses (or should that be Nautili?).

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The original Patek Philippe Aquanaut ref. 5060A from 1997. The Aquanaut was launched as an entry-level sports watch, partly designed to give consumers an alternative to the popular Nautilus. Image: WatchBox

Hell, it’s why the brand introduced the Aquanaut back in 1997: to try and tempt customers away from the Nautilus. It’s a nice problem to have, but still very much a problem. Indeed, the Aquanaut was so successful, it kind of failed to solve the problem.

We reckon Patek is trying the same trick again: launching a new product line to get people to stop focusing on the Nautilus (and Aquanaut) so that they can better manage waitlists, expectations and production. It’s not clear if they’re actually going to step up production in any capacity just because they’re launching a new product line, though…

Luxury and exclusivity (or rather, scarcity) go hand in hand, and this very careful managing of output is all part of Patek’s strategy. As Stern put it to Forbes back in 2019, “If we made a million watches per year, do you really think people will still buy them? I don’t think so…”

“I have one vision for Patek, and that is to have the highest level of quality. Quality and quantity don’t get along.”

Thierry Stern

WATCH our guide to the top 5 most expensive Patek Philippe watches of all time below.

If Stern really wanted to, Patek could just do nothing but pump out stainless steel Nautiluses and Aquanauts all day; he’d be laughing all the way to the bank. But money’s not the only thing at stake here, as perverse as that sounds.

So that’s in part why Patek is launching a new watch collection… Or maybe we’re being overly cynical.

In the meantime, all we can do is speculate as to what the new watch collection will be. Will it be another sports watch? Or will it be something dressier; an alternative to the Calatrava? We’ll just have to wait and see.