The Nautilus is a watch that, to be precise, defines the collective feeling of watch collectors from all around the world towards luxury watches. There is arguably no other watch that comes even close to the regality of a Patek Philippe Nautilus. When it was launched back in 1976, it ventured into a completely new domain, one that many thought did not even exist. It was the ‘luxury sports watch’ genre. The Swiss horologist raised the stakes even further by making it in steel. Although it was not the first luxury sports watch to be made in stainless steel (that’s a record held by the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak,) it was the costliest.
(Colour grade it a little bit. Saturate the blue)
That’s right, Patek Philippe priced its brand new ‘steel’ sports watch higher than the competition. This sounds even more impressive when you acknowledge the fact that steel was still a taboo in the luxury watch industry during this era. And, for those who do not know, brands like Rolex, Omega, and Breitling did manufacture steel watches but they were not considered as luxury articles back then. Instead, they were touted as tool watches.
The Patek Philippe Nautilus
The creation of this timepiece is closely linked to the creation of another timepiece of the same breed, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. The watch was released in 1972 and it altered the way luxury watches were seen right away. Patek Philippe followed the footsteps of Audemars Piguet and came up with the Nautilus a few years later. It was a tricky business, though. The brand needed to create a new image for itself and at the same time preserve tradition. Enter, Gerald Genta.
Genta used the same port-hole concept he used in the case of the Royal Oak and created the designs for the Nautilus. Instead of keeping the edges sharp and defined, he added curves which give the Patek Philippe Nautilus its convex octagonal case.
The first-ever Nautilus timepiece came in the form of the Ref. 3700. The watch had a thin automatic movement at its core that was developed by a watchmaking giant, Jaeger LeCoultre for other watchmaking giants, Vacheron Constantin and Audemars Piguet in 1967. The Royal Oak used this exact movement and named it Calibre 2121. Patek Phillipe named it 28-255, instead.
The watch itself was a spectacle to look at. It was 42 mm in diameter, a size that was way ahead of its time. Even its closest rival, the Royal Oak was 3 mm smaller in comparison. The Nautilus was touted as the ‘world’s costliest timepiece’ that came in steel. This was a bold move from the Swiss watch house as it aligned with absolutely nothing from that era.
The Patek Philippe Nautilus, just like the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, took its sweet time in gaining popularity. The demand for the timepiece was rather slow at first. However, this soon changed when the brand launched the ladies’ Nautilus along with a Quartz movement in 1980. Only a year later, the Nautilus received another addition in the form of a men’s watch that stood at 37 mm in diameter. This was the Ref. 3800. As soon as the mid-sized watches hit the markets, the earlier original references were given the name ‘Jumbo’. In 1996, Patek Philippe launched yet another model that for the first time featured Roman numerals on a smooth backdrop.
In 1998, however, the original 42 mm iteration made a comeback in the markets in the form of Ref. 3710. This reference was as impressive as its progenitor but had additional features like Roman numeral hour markers and a power reserve indicator. The year 2005 saw yet another variant of the Nautilus, the Ref. 3712. The watch was clad with complications such as a power reserve indicator, moon phase, and a date display. By this time, it was pretty clear that the Nautilus was meant for greater things and Patek Philippe was making sure that every effort was made to turn this timepiece into a holy symbol for Swiss luxury mechanical watchmaking. To a huge extent, the brand even succeeded.
A New Era For The Nautilus
The following year, in 2006, Nautilus celebrated its 30th anniversary and had numerous launches. The watch received a revamped case design and shape. The edges were smoother and a bit more curved. As opposed to the earlier combined case set up, the newer models now possessed a standard three-piece case set up. The case back was now transparent and the movement could be viewed. Lastly, the bracelets were also smoother now and looked modern, so to speak.
The year 2006 saw the introduction of another iteration of the Nautilus, the Ref. 5711. This 43 mm behemoth surpassed the original watch by a single millimetre. This timepiece was a better version of the original in many ways. It was powered by the Calibre 315 SC and had an oscillating weight that was centrally mounted. Although it mirrored the original reference 3700, in actuality it was leagues ahead. The year also saw the advent of the new Nautilus Chronograph powered by the in-house manufactured calibre 28-520C. The watch, Ref. 5980 was the first-ever in the collection to feature a chronograph without any other complications. However, the watch did have a flyback feature for re-setting the chronograph, combined hour and minute counters, and an advanced date display.
Today, the Patek Philippe Nautilus primarily has five series that define the collection. The first one is Ref. 3711, the classic evergreen three-hand model that comes in a stainless steel case along with a stainless steel bracelet.
The second one is Ref. 5712, the watch with a power reserve display, moon phase, and lastly, a pointer date display. This watch is available in stainless steel, white gold, and rose gold. It is powered by an automatic movement, Calibre 240 PS IRM C LU that comes with a mini-rotor. (Yes, that is how Patek Philippe names its movements.)
The third series, Ref. 5726 has even more features to offer. It has a full-fledged annual calendar that consists of a day of the week indicator, a month display, and of course, a date display. The moon phase also features an integrated 24-hour display.
The fourth, Ref. 5980 is the Nautilus Chronograph that comes with the automatic movement 28-520C. The fifth and final series, Ref. 5990 is the collection’s flagship series. The Nautilus Travel Time Chronograph is truly one of a kind. Powered by the in-house manufactured CH 28-520 C FUS automatic movement, the watch has a stopwatch display for minutes as well as seconds. The watch also features local as well as home times.