When Patek Philippe launched the Nautilus in 1976, few would imagine that it would become one of the most popular luxury watches in the market. But it did, and even until now watch collectors are eagerly patient to wait to get their hands on this exquisitely designed timepiece. Some watch enthusiasts even wait for up to ten years just to get a grip of the Nautilus if they ever get lucky to be included on the waiting list.
But the entire watch industry was in shock when Patek Philippe announced that it will discontinue the production of this timeless classic. While the rumors about it have been circulating weeks prior, the news still came as a surprise for the entire watchmaking industry. Now many people ask, why would Patek Philippe choose to kill its most popular model? And is it a good decision to begin with?
News on Nautilus’s Discontinuation
As mentioned earlier, rumors about the discontinuation of the Patek Philippe Nautilus have been circling weeks before Patek Philippe made its announcement. But many watch collectors and enthusiasts were still surprised by the move. To start, the Nautilus is Patek Philippe’s most popular watch model ever. And discontinuing its production is analogous to McDonald’s no longer selling the Big Mac or Louis Vuitton stopping the sale of its popular Speedy bags. In other words, Patek Philippe is killing the watch model that made it so popular in the entire world.
Nevertheless, Patek Philippe still pushed with its decision. And in January 2021, the eminent watch manufacturer confirmed to GQ that it would no longer release newer versions of the Nautilus and discontinue the model altogether. This sent ripples across the entire watch industry. And this made watch collectors worry, especially considering that they have waited for years just to get a Nautilus and now they fear that their long wait would go in vain.
Brief History of the Nautilus
But before the news of its discontinuation came up, the Patek Philippe was considered revolutionary both in design and materials used. For one, Gerald Genta famously designed the watch and he took inspiration from the porthole shape commonly seen in transatlantic ocean liners. Patek Philippe also released the watch during the quartz crisis, which had a tremendous effect on the luxury watch industry in the 1970s. The Nautilus also competed with quartz watches popular during the time the company released the watch. Finally, Patek Philippe made a bold decision to use stainless steel for the Nautilus instead of more precious metals such as gold and silver. But despite the choice of material, the Nautilus became just as expensive (or if not more expensive than) most dress watches made from precious materials.
The Reason Behind Its Discontinuation
Surely, there must be a reason why Patek Philippe decided to discontinue the production of its most profitable and sought-after watch. It could be that they want to drive the prices of existing Nautilus watches up, driving not only the company’s revenue but the watch’s popularity and demand to all-high levels. Maybe, Patek Philippe was preparing new offerings for its loyal customers. It could be both of these reasons or none of them. It turns out, the Patek Philippe was a victim of its popularity and success.
Refocusing On Other Patek Philippe Watches
In a Neue Zürcher Zeitung interview published almost four months after Patek Philippe made their shocking announcement, the company’s CEO, Thierry Stern, revealed for the first time the reasons why Patek Philippe no longer pursued the production of the watch. Firstly, he said that he did not want a single model like the Nautilus to dominate the image of the company and its watch collections and sales. He also stated that he wanted the company to evolve by making new watches that would impress people. And for the company to do that, the tough decision of discontinuing the Nautilus had to be made. Stern also emphasized Patek Philippe’s obligations to their customers. And that is to make beautiful watches that are rare and would retain their value.
He was not also impressed with the fact that Nautilus took all the attention from Patek Philippe’s 140 other watches and collections. So while the move drove the Nautilus’s prices up, Thierry said that he and the company did not necessarily make the decision just to raise the demand (and price) for the Nautilus watch.
Was Discontinuing the Nautilus a Good Decision?
Since Patek Philippe made headlines with its move to discontinue the Nautilus watch, many experts in the watch industry weighed on this decision and analyzed whether this would bring more good to the company. As surprising as it may seem, many watch experts lauded the decision, calling it a smart move. Daniel Langer, CEO of the luxury brand strategy firm Équité, wrote in Jing Daily that the discontinuation of the Nautilus watch line will allow the company to reevaluate the value of the watch through second-hand markets as well as create hype around the Patek Philippe brand.
He also noted that this will also prepare Patek Philippe to launch newer models at higher price points and re-establish its dominance in the watch market. Other watch experts have also praised Patek Philippe’s decision, stating that this will move demand away from an overexposed brand.
But regardless of what experts and collectors feel about this news, it only shows the immense popularity that the Nautilus had garnered for decades since its first launch. It also shows that no matter what Patek Philippe does, the demand for this watch will never fade away and those resurge due to limited supplies. This also confirms the Nautilus’s status as a classic timepiece for many watch collectors and lovers.