The Collector’s Series – Philipp Man, CEO of Chronext, and his icon, a Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711
There are two phrases that guarantee to send a shiver down the spine of any watch geek: “Holy Trinity” and “Gérald Genta”. This week – the Collector’s Series covers both – in one watch. Hold onto your seat belts and tighten your NATO straps – this interview may leave you feeling jealous. Very jealous. Here is Philipp Man, CEO of Chronext, and his Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711.
You will be familiar with the marketing message “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation”. Well, if you did actually own one – would the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711 be THE one to own? I’d be tempted to say so.
In 1972, Audemars Piguet did the unthinkable. They created a sports watch in stainless steel with a strong luxurious feel – and this Royal Oak was even more expensive than a classical gold watch. For a haute horlogerie manufacture this was madness. As a response, in 1976, Patek Philippe launched a luxury sports watch of their own. Patek hired the same man who was responsible for designing the Royal Oak, Gérald Genta. Genta designed the watch on a porthole and implemented the combination of polished and satin brushed parts. Needless to say, the design is as enduringly classic today as it has ever been. I sat down with Philipp Man, entrepreneur and watch collector, to find out why the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711 had to find a way into his collection – and fast.
Philipp, thanks for joining us. I have to ask, when did it all start for you and watches?
I’ve been fascinated by watches for as far back as I can remember. My father took me to the jeweller whenever he would go and taught me a lot about brands and famous models. He had a small collection, and he would let me wear some of them once in a while – but only indoors and under his supervision! He is very protective of his watches. So, when I was in school and college, I continued to read about watches and check out the latest models and eventually saved up for my first watch.
Tell us a bit about Chronext
The Chonext mission is to become the world’s first destination for luxury watches. It does not matter whether you want to buy, sell, or service your watch – you can do it at chronext.com. We deliver an incomparable level of security since we have our own watchmaking atelier where every watch is checked upon arrival. Excellent service is another pillar of our business, as we strive to deliver an experience that you could expect from a luxury business. We – me and my business partner Ludwig – founded the company in 2013 while still completing our studies and sharing a flat in London. It is amazing to see how quickly our company has grown: today, we have offices in Switzerland, Germany, and the UK and employ over 60 people.
What are your ambitions for the business?
At the moment, we are expanding our business internationally. That means we are entering markets that promise the highest potential. We are growing exponentially – and we want to keep these three-digit growth rates. The market is very dynamic at the moment and I look at the coming years with excitement. We are constantly improving our services and creatively thinking about how we can make our clients happier. For instance, last year, we realised that many of our UK clients wanted the option of picking up their watch. So we opened a boutique in London, which turned out to be a huge success. The ultimate goal is to be an international destination for anyone who wants to buy, sell, or service a watch.
Philipp Man – CEO of Chronext
What do you enjoy the most about working in the industry?
Everyone I meet in the watch industry is truly passionate about their job. I love this attitude because I’m the same way. I like the pace. I travel a lot to meet investors or cooperation partners and get new impressions all the time – it’s my fuel and it keeps me going. I keep optimising, I need to stay on top of… all things really. As we are digitalizing one of the most conservative luxury industries, it is extremely challenging. But I love this! That’s where we, Chronext, really excel – tackling challenges. We have skilled and motivated people. So we’re agile – sure we make mistakes, we’re young, but we learn quickly. It’s a tight-knit team, the culture is critical and I think we’ve nailed it – that’s something I’m really proud of and it’s exciting when you are surrounded by motivated people and you all have the same target and goal and work together with real grit to get the job done and get it done right.
When did you come to own your Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711?
It was a gift from my Japanese wife at the time, but after we separated she wanted it back… I’m kidding. No – I’m a big, big, big fan of Patek Philippe. Nothing can be compared to the Nautilus, I love the watch. A few months ago, one of our suppliers offered me a really good deal and I traded in some of the watches I’ve collected over the years in order to get the Nautilus. With the 5711, it is such a secure investment, it does not even feel like you are spending money, more like you are transferring it from one account to another.
What was it about the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711 that you fell for?
It’s a one-of-a-kind watch! It starts with the ultra-sleek and at the same time rebellious design. Gérald Genta is honestly a genius! The Nautilus combines the pure luxury of Patek timepieces with nonchalance – it even has a certain hippie feeling, no wonder it is a child of the 1970’s. Of course, the hand-made calibre is also stunning. And last but not least, as I mentioned, a Nautilus is a fireproof investment.
What’s inside the watch, Philipp?
It is powered by an automatic manufacture movement, which is – as always – exquisitely decorated. The rotor is made of 21K gold, for instance. Here again, you see another contrast of the watch: from the outside it looks ultra sporty, and on the inside it looks like a piece of art from the 19th century. The watch is from 2010, so it already holds the Patek Philippe seal. However, I’m more of a history buff when it comes to watches. You should ask my co-founder Ludwig, he’ll tell you anything you want to know about movements. But don’t ask him about his Omega Seamaster… he’ll go on and on about it.
In which order would you list these factors in choosing a watch: Aesthetic / Heritage/ Movement / Appreciation value / Status?
Honestly, it is difficult to rationalize it like this. It is more this inner got-to-have-it-feeling that is hard to describe. First, I look at the design, then I check the brand and the mechanism, but it is the entire picture and feeling that needs to be right. And of course, I do look for the price. The investment value is important to me. I don’t want to buy a watch to lose 30% right away.
Is Patek the pinnacle in your mind?
Well, you have the “holy trinity” in watchmaking – Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin and Patek Philipp – however, I cannot say that any of these brands are my ultimate favourite. I like Patek, Omega, and Rolex a lot and I also love the German brands from Glashütte, such as Lange or Nomos. However, every existing brand has contributed something important to the industry at some point in time.
How have you seen people’s taste in watches evolve over the last few years?
In terms of design, the oversize trend has definitely had its peak and now, we are back to diameters that are somewhere normal, which is around 40 mm. Surely, the Heritage wave has not yet dissipated, but I really do enjoy this one. Tudor has become one of my favourites with their Black Bay line – it’s so simple and sophisticated. Overall, I’ve noticed that an increasing number of people have become interested in vintage and used watches. I guess the spectacular auction prices have their effect.
As a collector do you think you can ever truly be content?
Being content is a state of mind, so of course, you can! However, working at Chronext and seeing so many beautiful watches on a daily basis is not the easiest way to stay calm about buying a new timepiece.
How does such a bold watch fit into your lifestyle?
Bold? I think it’s exquisite rather than bold. The good thing about the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711 is that not many people realize what it is. With a Daytona, you can be pretty sure everyone will understand what you are wearing. With the Nautilus, it is different – the ones who know the Nautilus will understand me and usually also appreciate the timepiece. I work in the watch industry and everyone who knows me will know about my watch passion, so most people around me see it as natural.
What 3 words would you use to describe your Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711?
Fast, furious and ferocious. No – I love it. Those are my three words.
I understand quality. I understand design to a certain extent. I have 9 years of college with art as my major. I am a self taught professional photographer and a self taught jewelry maker. I am not bragging just giving my credentials for the comment I am about to make. I can see the Nautilus exudes quality but the design falls short of appeal in my eyes. G. G. really knocked it out of the park with the Original Royal Oak design whose simplicity has been totally corrupted by AP.With the Nautilus not so much. A square watch with ears. These are obviously is my opinions. I can see the quality but the design may sell well but I don’t understand why.
Shirley… One can study a craft all they want but it is meaningless without innate taste and the inspiration to understand and/or shape what others want and desire… That is the difference between two designers: one like Genta and the other no name who scrapes by selling tat on Etsy.
Bowing down to Patek in order to attract the attention of the brand. They will continue to ignore Mann, whose peculiar business model of pretending to be an authorized retailer of any brand is, quite frankly, an insult to all of legitimate watchmaking sales. And ‘inspecting’ dealer seconds and blems in his ‘atelier’ to sell as ‘new.’ The ADs who engage in this chicanery by selling Man anything other than a Timex should be ashamed, and the Swiss manufacturers should put the brakes on this shady practice. Let’s all just hope that there are laws in Europe against selling a ‘used’ watch as ‘new,’ and that a powerful and connected lawyer is burned in one of Mann’s schemes. Then all the King’s horses and all the King’s men …
What 3 words i would use to describe the PP5711: 1. iconic 2. classic 3. refined
It is a shame it is so in demand and used as a comodity. This affects people who collect for the love of watches. I am disappointed i cant get one at MSRP!. A man can only dream….