Patek Philippe Ref. 5980A – an owner’s review

Wonderful review from Patek collector, Keks. My thanks to him for this wonderful story of his Ref. 5980A.

I vividly recall walking past that billboard. It was hot, very hot. July is a wonderful month but at times it can get excruciatingly hot. Particularly hot was this day while admiring that blue dial on the wall, a chunky case with ingeniously integrated chronograph pushers, and that quirky monocounter layout – the Ref. 5980. It was an instant crush. One of those moments that etches deep into memory.

The year prior I had indulged in my first Patek. It was 2007 and the world economy was on a tear. The dot.com crash was a thing of the distant past. Far distant. Times were good and once again there was an overall sense that it was different this time. I had decided to reward myself with a 5711. It was my first Patek and what a watch it was. Under the radar (there was less awareness when it came to Nautiluses back then), elegant and sporty. An expensive stainless steel wristwatch even back then. But hey, everything was different this time and I had earned it.

I do not specifically recall thinking that ithe 5711 was going to be my final watch purchase but in a way it felt like it could never get better. It had it all. Or at least I thought so until I saw that billboard. Immediately an overwhelmingly strong desire to handle this piece was stuck in my head so I found myself at the nearest authorized dealer. As I walked through the doors immediate disappointment followed. These 5980 were the hottest of the hot in the catalogue. No chance of getting one. No chance even to handle one. Still I asked for retail price. Ouch, that was steep. I thought my 5711 was expensive, this one retailed at roughly three times that.

But still hopeful, perhaps the secondary market would be more forgiving. I quickly concluded that no joy to be found there either. Repeatedly I was told they were rare to come by and grey market dealers had clients waiting and at a significant premium to its listed retail. Game over. Again. Back to the drawing board. Work harder and be happy with what you have got. Not a difficult task you would think – I had my 5711 after all. Yet the ghost of the 5980 lingered with endless mental challenges to reduce the thought of owning one to fantasy rather than hope it was a viable reality.

The world ran into some speed bumps some months later and focus turned away from the world of watches. Fear and panic could physically be felt everywhere. Days and weeks zoomed by and suddenly it was the end of 2009. I was out and about and passed by a watch dealer who showcased a pre-owned 5980 in the window.

This was the first time I saw one in the real. I needed to get closer. Stepped inside and asked to have a look. Put it on my wrist and immediately it all clicked. On every level I knew this was it. Pure magic. No other words describe it better. As it happened it was offered at a discount to suggested retail as well. Still far from inexpensive for a stainless steel watch. About as expensive as it gets. But I had made up my mind. I asked the dealer to hold it for me and a few days later it was mine.

Patek Ref. 5980 – a truly versatile Nautilus.

150g of Patek DNA.

Initially the size and heft took some getting used to. Weight of around 150 grams and height of 12.5mm felt massive as I was accustomed to a 5711. The 5711 was around 120 grams and 8.3mm. A significant difference. However the case construction and bracelet build is near perfect which meant fit on the arm was as close to perfect as it can get. It did not take long before it felt like it was never meant to be removed. With water resistance rated at 120m makes me comfortable wearing it while in the shower or in the pool, the way it is intended to be worn.

Over the years several watches have come and gone. The 5711 is gone. The later 5712 is also gone somewhat regrettably I will add. Even the 5167 is gone. Yet nearly a decade later the 5980 has remained. Not only remained but been worn more than any other watch in my collection as well. What makes it so special?

Well there simply is no other watch like it. The blue waffle dial adds a three dimensionality and depth that is endlessly captivating. The bulls eye monocounter chronograph creates a hypnotizing focus. Then the smaller details like the sand-blasted chronograph seconds hand which has been positioned high inside of the glass adding another sense of depth. Or the chronograph minute hand with its red arrow tip. Further the case build and finishing is top class. The years prior to this release Patek had invested significant resources in order to develop in-house calibers and one of the products was caliber CH-28-520C with its massive 22k gold rotor. Like a solid and reliable 6.2L V12 going about what it is supposed to – zero emissions as well. Almost zero.

One of the most finely finished sports watches in production

Is it the best Nautilus to date? A matter that can be debated with no end as it comes down to how one chooses to define this. We all have different criteria that make us tick. In my opinion the 3700 has its own place in the history of sports watches. A masterpiece. Not only for Patek but for modern watches. A spectacularly beautiful creation. However for regular wear I would be too worried as it is a rather delicate reference.

Outside of the grandmaster of Nautiluses I would place the 5980 at the very top. Why? Because it is bold yet refined. Sporty yet elegant. It has that undefinable X factor. X factor cubed even. It is highly versatile, being sporty when appropriate and sober when required. I can not think of a high end time-piece more complete than this. It has it all, the perfect watch. The best sports watch made to date. A true icon.