As Kermit the Frog lamented: “It’s not easy being green”, and any collector looking for a green dial Nautilus will agree, it’s not easy. So why is color so important? As Goethe wrote in 1792, “Color occupies so important a place in the series of elementary phenomena, we shall not be surprised to find that its effects are immediately associated with the emotions of the mind.” Perhaps this explains the green dial Nautilus frenzy?
Obviously, rarity plays a huge factor into why green dials are sought after – there simply are not that many made. And for a company like Patek Philippe, generally considered somewhat traditional in its aesthetic, green is not an expected color choice for the brand. However, over the past 20 years, it is not a completely unusual color choice for Patek. But why green? The color green has a positive connotation in any culture, particularly because of its association with nature and rebirth. It is commonly thought to represent tranquility, growth, renewal, and immortality, and in many cultures, it symbolizes luck and harmony, safety, fertility. As we will see later with a limited edition ‘World Time Mecca’ watch, green was the favorite color of Muhammad and considered the traditional color of Islam. Let’s have a look at the evolution of green dials in Patek’s modern catalog and see if we can identify the origin of the green dial mania.
Back in 2004, Patek launched the Aquanaut Luce ref. 5067A in four additional colors to black and white versions: Plum, Ocean Blue and Adventurous Khaki. At the time, these colors were selected by two female executives at Patek Philippe who looked to the fashion industry for the then current color palette. There was a particular interest in the Adventurous Khaki version as women channeled their inner Karen Blixen, dreaming of a farm in Africa and other adventurous women. More practically, the khaki color with its diamond accent brought a casual, fashion-forward feel to a high-end watch brand usually associated with evening wear or a business suit (although the Twenty~4 was quickly changing that perception).
In 2021, the khaki Luce is back (above) with a larger case (38.8 mm vs the 29.5 mm version from 2004) as ref. 5267/200A (above). Green does not go out of fashion.
In 2011, Patek Philippe produced a spectacular ref. 5130P specifically for the Middle East market with a green, star-burst guilloche center disc with Mecca printed in green on the outer dial (replacing Moscow and Doha, cities in the same time zone). The distinctive, green accent of the watch is an important color in the region, hence the unprecedented popularity of this watch at the time, and now on the secondary market. Green was used by Muhammad as the color of his tribe’s flag; the Qur’ān describes the garments and cushions in paradise as made of green silk, and is often used as the color of the cover of the Qur’ān; green is also the color of Saudi Arabia’s flag. The world’s largest clock, the Makkah Royal Clock Tower in Mecca, glows green with 21,000 LED lights five times a day as the clock issues a call to worship (its speakers can be heard four miles away).
Only 150 pieces of the ref. 5130P Mecca were made and today it is a sought-after model on the collecting market. We asked Jasem Al-Zerai if he thought that the ref. 5130P Mecca and the Middle East market were the initial influencers driving interest in green dials? His response is more nuanced, “Today the world is no longer segmented as it was once before. The speed of information sharing is so fast that a person in Alaska with a handheld device can influence the Middle East and vice versa. I think the world took notice and the world wanted more green and it just so happened to be that Middle Easterners use more social media than anywhere else.” For other special edition ref. 5130 World Time watches, please see this review at WatchProSite.
On May 13, 2015 something happened at a Sotheby’s auction in Geneva that may well have been the spark that ignited the green dial insanity. An Aquanaut ref. 5167A with a green dial and strap, most likely a special order for client made in 2011, sold for a then staggering CHF 52,500. Its estimate was CHF 8,000 – 12,000. As Jasem Al-Zeraei believes, the sale of the green ref. 5167 “drove the strap market crazy. It made Panerai come out with a Khaki Green dial Bronoz. It was the platonic plate moving that created the aftermath green tsunami.”
Not only did collectors and other watch manufacturers pay attention, but so it seems did Patek. Four years later in 2019, the ref. 5168G was launched and a new collecting category was born. Now casual khaki was paired with a noble metal, 18K white gold and green was secured as a color worth noting. As Stephen Pulvirent described the arrival of ref. 5168G in Hodinkee, “Well, this one’s gonna be a fan favorite.”
In 2019, Irish eyes were smiling when Patek made a special anniversary ref. 5905P with an emerald green dial to celebrate its 150th year with the celebrated Dublin jeweler Weir & Sons. However, things went supernova when Conor McGregor the MMA superstar and Ireland’s most famous athlete, paid $100,000 for one of the 25 limited edition pieces. See this post at Hypebeast for more information on the “Notorious” McGregor and his purchase.
Yet another superstar, Mark Wahlberg followed suit and celebrated his Irish roots, proudly adding the ref. 5905P to his collection of green inspired Patek Philippe watches which include a ref. 5271/13P-001 decorated with emerald baguettes, ref. 5711/1A-014 – a green dial Nautilus with diamonds and a ref. 5131/1P-001 – a World Time with a green and blue enameled center dial of the north pole. Today, the green dial ref. 5905P Weir & Co. limited edition is a piece enjoyed by superstars only, selling for upwards of $500,000 on the secondary market.
But it’s not just Patek watches with green dials that are hard to source – an original green strap for the Aquanaut ref. 5167A is almost as challenging to find, and at a cost premium. Green straps were first made for the ref. 5167A around 2010/2011 and were only made for special clients who requested an Aquanaut with a green strap and dial. It is estimated that less than 10 were made and if one was to come onto the market today, it would be a healthy six figures, far more than the CHF 52,500 achieved for the first known piece in 2015 at auction. However, Patek soon realized that green was in and started producing green straps for sale through ADs for existing ref. 5167A or 5164A owners. It is these green Aquanaut straps that have a premium today and have been known to go for prices in excess of $3,000 (but beware, there are plenty of fakes about).
On July 21, 2021 a factory sealed Nautilus ref. 5711/1A with a green dial sold at auction in Antiquorum Monaco for almost half a million US dollars (including sale premiums). With a retail price of $35,000, nothing would be the same for the Nautilus line, let alone a Patek Philippe with a green dial. The media went crazy reporting on the auction, here is a review on Robb Report. Green can also do good and in October, 2021 a green dial Nautilus is being auctioned on Loupe This at the bequest for the owner to generously raise funds for the indigenous Orang Asli people of Sarawak and Sabah in Malaysia who have been particularly vulnerable to pandemic related issues, as well as the effects of climate change. For more information on the Nautilus that changed the modern watch market, see the Patek Philippe website.
Barely three months after the green dial Nautilus sale rocked the world, Patek Philippe offered the world two more green dialed watches to whet the hungry appetite of collectors: ref. 5905/1A Annual Calendar with flyback chronograph and ref. 5930P World Time with flyback chronograph. For the first time, all the city names are printed in green on the city disk.
Time will tell how the latest green dial offerings from Patek will fair. However, it looks like the demand for green dials is here to stay and in the immortal words of the American poet Robert Frost, “Nature’s first green is gold”, or is it?
Special thanks to Jasem Al-Zerai, aka @patekaholic
Nothing Gold Can Stay
Robert Frost – 1874-1963
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down today.
Nothing gold can stay.
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