DON’T FEED THE HYPE: 3 alternatives to the Patek Philippe NautilusZach Blass
Recently on our weekly room The Breakfast Club on Clubhouse (Friday 8pm EST / Saturday 10am AEST), we spoke at length about purchasing principles. The question we explored was what do you do when a watch is not readily available at retail. Do you queue up and wait it out? Do you cough up the hefty second-hand premium? Or do you welcome the challenge of finding an alternative? We all agreed that the third option requires a bit of strategy, knowledge, and cognizance of who you are as a collector and what you love about watches. If you undergo a more informed hunt, the bright side of evaluating alternatives is that you may find something that doesn’t feel like a compromise – but rather a more intriguing opportunity. In addition, the most in-demand watches of the secondhand market are determined by an ecosystem that we all provide feedback into. So from our end, a great way to bring about change is to have our purchasing behaviours go against the grain and vote with our chequebooks in order to raise the status of newer and equally interesting candidates that have yet to get their due. In a (small) effort to combat the hype plaguing the industry, this is the first part of our new series and today we will tackle three Patek Philippe Nautilus alternatives.
Editor’s Note: When evaluating these alternatives I am not simply nominating them on the basis of aesthetic or technology, it is a balance of both – essentially providing watches that can emotionally and performatively (not a word) provide a similar experience.
Urban Jürgensen One ref. 5421
The Urban Jürgensen One is the perfect example of not only a viable alternative to the Patek Philippe Nautilus, but a watch that may be even better. Urban Jürgensen may not have the brand recognition of Patek Philippe, but the company has a storied heritage with watchmaking roots that date all the way back to 1773 – 66 years prior to the beginnings of what would later become the Patek Philippe brand. Know for more dressy watches, Urban Jürgensen made waves in 2019 when they introduced the Urban Jürgensen One – a watch that reinterpreted everything consumers loved about watches like the Nautilus in a manner distinct to their brand.
Urban Jürgensen decided to maintain a degree of what they were already known for, but create a sports watch that leveraged more rounded and elliptical forms instead of sharp angles. This creates a very dressy element to what is ultimately a sports piece – water-resistant to a respectable 120 metres. Its dial, were it to be removed from the One and placed in a more conventional dress piece would not feel out of place – the only real tell-tale sign that it’s a sporty dial being the presence of luminescent materials in the hands and markers. The 41mm watch, 13.8mm thick if you include the domed crystal (12.1mm thick if you measure up to the bezel), is made of medical grade 1.4111 stainless steel with highly executed brushed and polished finishes. To top things off, each lug is individually soldered onto the case – a sign and technique of true craftsmanship.
The dial, available in Charcoal Grey, Soft White, or Urban Blue, all have Grenage textured chapter rings that frame a stepped central medallion decorated with exquisite Maritime wave style grains d´orge guilloche that, in my opinion, is a step above the plainer horizontal guilloche found on the Patek Philippe Nautilus. The handset is far more intriguing as well, especially the diamond polished eye hour hand that is a signature of the brand. A design element that also stands out is the elliptical polished centre links, framed by outer brushed surfaces, creating the softer and rounded aesthetic you will not find anywhere else. Speaking of the bracelet, it is fully customizable in terms of size ability with the option of fitted-end links.
The in-house caliber P5 inside is as well-finished as its externals. The automatic movement is decorated with Côtes du Soleil, blued screws, and chamfered edges to the bridges and an openworked winding rotor outfitted with a 22K gold mass and gold in-laid UJ 1773 crest. Its twin barrels and classic 21,600 vph beat rate provide 72 hours of power reserve, again topping what is offered by Patek Philippe in the Nautilus.
Price: CHF 24,500 (excl. VAT)
Girard Perregaux Laureato
Another manufacturer that pre-dates Patek Philippe, one of Girard Perregaux’s (est. 1791) most popular lines is the Laureato collection – born a year before the Nautilus in 1975. In the eyes of collectors it reflects elements of both the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Patek Philippe Nautilus, but with a design and fabrication done in-house. Its Clous de Paris textured dial might be construed as a mini-tapisserie look, but it is a pattern utilized by many watchmaking brands. The brushed octagonal bezel, with distinctly sharp corners, rests on top of a polished concentric base for an added pop of light play. The watch is available in four sizes, an added benefit the Nautilus does not have, with 34mm, 38mm, 42mm, and 44mm options available – with the larger options armed with 100 metres of water-resistance. You also can explore more materials beyond stainless steel and precious metals, notably including ceramic and Bamford customisation options.
The most size comparable to the Nautilus, the 42mm variant, utilizes the in-house caliber GP01800, an automatic 28,800 vph with a respectable 54 hours of power reserve. The movement is also well decorated with elegant chamfers to the bridges and central edges of the winding rotor. You also have contrasting Côtes de Genève finishes to the bridges and rotor, done in a vertical manner on the bridges and in a circular fashion on the winding rotor.
Price: $12,200 USD (in 42mm)
Bulgari Octo Finissimo S
If you were to ask me the best way to evolve the in-trend luxury stainless-steel sports watch and make it stand apart from the Nautilus, or even the Royal Oak, I don’t think I could paint a better picture than the Bulgari Octo Finissimo S. In it’s latest form, the Octo Finissimo S rivals the Nautilus very well – leveraging new stainless-steel cases finished with brushed and polished elements. Of all the watches on this list it far and away takes home the ultra-thin prize, coming in at a super slender 6.4mm thickness. The watch was even thinner in prior incarnations, coming in at a mere 5.15mm thick, but the extra millimetre here is a welcome trade-off considering it is now 100 metres water-resistant with a screw-down crown.
Its ultra-thin BVL 138 caliber was designed to maintain a high level of shock resistance proportional to its size. Most ultra-thin calibers are vulnerable to shock due to their compact components, but Bulgari had the foresight to develop the caliber with a full balance bridge – increasing the movement’s potential tolerance of shock with greater stabilisation. You also get a full view of its rich waves between each rib of the Côtes de Genève across the bridges – which also carry glistening chamfers around their circumference – thanks to its platinum micro-rotor which assumes a fraction of the real estate. Thanks to the heft of platinum, the micro-rotor may be small but it is also highly efficient as a result. This means when on the wrist it should quickly fill up its figurative gas tank, a full 60 hours of power reserve.
Price: $12,000 USD
I already have a few more ideas in the chamber for other “Don’t Feed the Hype” references to tackle, but if you have a nomination you think I should cover email me at [email protected].