Only a select few watches achieve G.O.A.T. status & of course, the Patek Philippe Nautilus is one of those very few. No other watch comes close to the elegance of a Patek Philippe Nautilus. Since its inception in 1976, the luxury watch has stood out from the crowd. Originally eccentric in nature & now recognized as a luxury symbol.
In this article, we'll retrace the history of the Patek Philippe Nautilus.
PATEK PHILIPPE NAUTILUS - THE BEGINNING
When Patek Philippe launched the Nautilus in 1976, it was not the first steel-cased luxury sports watch. Audemars Piguet's Royal Oak had already claimed this title in 1972. The Swiss horologist raised the stakes by manufacturing the Patek Philippe Nautilus in steel & pricing it higher than the competition, which sounds even more remarkable when you realize that steel was still considered taboo in the luxury watch industry at that time.
For those unaware, brands such as Omega, Rolex & Breitling already manufactured steel watches; but, since they were still marketed as tool watches at the time, they were denied luxury item status. The advertisement for the Reference 3700, the company's first model, was played with the tagline "One of the costliest watches is made of steel."
Patek Philippe Nautilus's distinctive shape has captured the world's attention. The bezel of the timepiece is neither circular nor rectangular; rather, it resembles an octagon with slightly curved outer sides. With a diameter of 42 mm, the Patek Philippe Nautilus was slightly ahead of its time in size. It was also 3 mm larger than the A. P. Royal Oak.
IDEA OF PATEK PHILIPPE NAUTILUS BY GERALD GENTA
Given our discussion of the distinctive A. P. Royal Oak, it's worth mentioning that someone associated with this iconic timepiece is connected with the P.P Nautilus. That person is none other than Gerald Genta, the designer. "Watches, to me, are the opposite of freedom! I am an artist, a painter; I hate time because it is a constraint. It annoys me." This was Gerald Genta's perspective on watches, even though he was one of the most brilliant watch designers of all time. But sometimes, the best creations originate from contradictions.
Gerald Genta was having dinner at a restaurant when the inspiration for the Nautilus hit him: the porthole used on transatlantic ocean liners. First, he saw some executives from Patek Philippe sitting in one corner of the dining hall while sitting alone in a different corner. Then, he saw several executives from the brand Patek Philippe seated in one corner of the dining hall. In contrast, another executive sat alone in another. It took him five minutes to sketch the watch that would eventually become the symbol we see today – romanced or not. Believe it or not, the design process used to be shorter and purer than it is now.
THE 1ST OF ITS KIND, PATEK PHILIPPE NAUTILUS 3700-1A
The Patek Philippe Nautilus 3700-1A model was bold and nearly as expensive as an 18k gold watch. Genta developed the designs for the Nautilus using the same porthole concept he used in the Royal Oak case. Rather than keeping the edges sharp and defined, he added curves to give the Patek Philippe Nautilus its convex octagonal case.
The watch has a two-piece case measured from 4 to 10 o'clock - 42 millimeters large & 7.6 millimeters flat - as per the original configuration of the classic Nautilus Ref. 3700. It consists of two parts: the bottom center part (lower element) and the bezel (upper element).
The concept was based on the frame of a transatlantic liner's porthole. It emphasized a wide bezel and 'ears' on each side, revealing the large hinges of the watertight windows. Nickel-chrome-molybdenum steel was used to make the case.
This alloy was rated the most eminent standard; It was the same metal used in producing tanks during WWII. It was able to withstand extreme pressure and temperature. It also had the calculated advantage of being slightly lighter than 'regular' steel. The caliber 28-255C was housed inside the Nautilus Ref 3700/1.
This caliber was considered one of the best ultra-thin automatic calibers available at the time. Patek Philippe finished the watch in-house using the Jaeger-LeCoultre caliber 920. This is a similar base movement to the one used in Genta's A. P. Royal Oak. By today's standards, it appears unusual for Patek Philippe to endorse a third-party movement.
Back then, though, this was quite common practice. In fact, Patek Philippe did not make its personal perpetual calendar chronograph movement until the year 2011. Instead, they added their in-house modules to Lemania base movements.
There were two versions of the P.P. Nautilus 3700, which differed mostly in the width of their bracelets. The first edition – ref. 3700-01A – featured a wide and very straight bracelet. The one after that, ref. 3700-11A had a more tapered bracelet. Additionally, the bracelets in all early versions had fewer links.
The original Nautilus's aesthetic has remained unchanged for nearly 40 years. It is not an exaggeration to call the Patek Philippe Nautilus a design symbol. Its great heritage clearly plays a role in fueling its modern-day worth. However, this timepiece is far more than a vital backstory.
From 1976 to 1990 (Production was then stopped, the stainless steel time-and-date variant was not displaced until the 5711A) – More specifically, the 3700/01A was produced from 1976 from 1982 & the 3700/11A was manufactured from 1982 to 1990.
THE MID-SIZE-NAUTILUS REF. 3800 – THE ICON’S FIRST EVOLUTION
Five years after the initial launch of the watch, the company introduced a second reference that was sold concurrently with the Ref. 3800. Patek initially defused the "jumbo factor" by decreasing the diameter of the timepiece from 42 to 37.5 mm, which was somewhat more fashionable at the time.
In terms of design, Ref. 3800 is nearly identical to Ref. 3700. The case is still divided into two sections, and the dial design and color are identical to those on Ref. 3700. The most obvious distinction between the mid-size Nautilus and the original reference is optical and technical: the mid-size Nautilus features a second hand. Although the original Patek Philippe Reference. 3800 had only two hands per Gentas' style. Patek has now added a central seconds hand to the successor Reference, giving the dial a little more movement.
From a technological standpoint, Patek Philippe implemented the seconds' sign with the in-house caliber 335 SC (S.C. stands for "seconde centrale": central second), which is slightly better in several ways than the brand Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre's predecessor reference: the power reserve is approximately 45 hours, the caliber includes more than 29 jewels, and the frequency is nearly 21,600 vph (3 Hz).
Ref. 3800, which is also the longest manufactured Nautilus with a production span from 1981 to 2005, offers an enormous array of variants: bi-color versions, solid gold models, and Ref. 3800 were also available with some different dials.
Alongside the mid-size Ref. 3800, Patek Philippe also launched another timepiece that same year: the Patek Philippe Nautilus 3900, another mid-size version, noticed as a unisex watch, larger than the 4700, smaller than the 3800, with a 33mm case & a quartz movement. It implies that during the 80s, the P.P, Nautilus was available in four sizes.
1996 NAUTILUS REF. 3800 ROMAN NUMERALS
Patek Philippe entirely redesigned the dial of the Nautilus 3800 in 1996, marking the model's first significant evolution. There will be no more grooves. The dial was simple, matte, and black. Patek opted for conventional Roman numerals devoid of baton indexes and filled with a luminescent coating (sports watch obliged).
Furthermore, this version introduced a railroad minute track to the dial's edge. Moreover, the baton-shaped hands were replaced with leaf-shaped hands. Every aspect of the dial was altered or revised, marking a divergence from the dial's first two decades of production.
The market reacted positively to these new dials with Roman numerals. They were indeed a big success, bringing attention to and reviving interest in the model on its twentieth anniversary.
PATEK PHILIPPE NAUTILUS REF. 5060
Patek Philippe introduced a leather strap for the Nautilus to replace the integrated metallic bracelet. While the modern leather version retains the same central container and the first link of the bracelet, the 1996 Ref. 5060 featured lugs. Yes, a P.P. Nautilus with lugs!
Additionally, the timepiece lacked Nautilus's iconic "ears" and displayed crown protection at 3. Collectively, this timepiece was a departure from the usual Nautilus models and would probably remind you of another Patek: " 'The Aquanaut."
The Patek Nautilus ref. 5060, which collectors now refer to as an Aquanaut, was transitioned from one collection to another. Later, a steel version of this reference was released in a limited edition of approximately 1000 parts, featuring the Aquanaut model's signature square design on the watch dial.
NAUTILUS REF. 3710 - THE RETURN OF LARGE CASE IN 1998
For 22 years, the Patek Philippe Nautilus had been a plain two or three-hand timepiece with a date. However, in 1998 this changed with the release of Ref. 3710, introducing a winding zone indicator and the comeback of the 42mm "jumbo" case.
The 3710, with its 42mm steel case and integrated bracelet, sounded like the return of "jumbo" watches, which were fashionable at the time. However, Ref. 3710 maintained a relatively slim profile of 8mm (with complications).
Although manufactured for eight years, the Patek Philippe Nautilus 3710 was only available in one configuration – steel on steel, with a black dial (no two-tone, no gold). However, inside the case was the outstanding caliber 330 SC, a progression of the 335 and 315 with a diameter of 27mm, 29 jewels, 38 to 48-hour power reserve, gold rotor, and 3Hz frequency case back was still solid.
NAUTILUS REF. 3711 – THE “JUMBO” RETURNS IN 2004
This was the timepiece for which many collectors were anxiously waiting. As the 3700 was discontinued in 1990 & no time-and-date "Jumbo" was in the collection anymore. Indeed, the Nautilus 3711 was only manufactured in white gold (Ref. 3711/1G-001) & it was never produced in steel.
We can't deny the beauty of 3711. First of all, it possesses the mighty Nautilus case of 42mm diameter & all the old historical attributes of the ref. 3700 – the integrated bracelet, the octagonal bezel, the straight ears & its ads some modernity with a see-through case back.
Inside the case was the Calibre 315 SC (central second & date) with a central gold rotor, Geneva Seal certification, 30 jewels, Gyromax balance beating at 3Hz & adjusted to heat, cold, isochronism & in 5 positions. On the opposite of many versions, the watch dial was not dark blue. Still, it was pitch black, retaining the horizontal grooves & the applied baton indexes.
This timepiece is rare because of its material (white gold), which produced a high retail price. And because of its short production period, as launched in 2004 & discontinued in 2006, Patek introduced Ref. 5711.
REF. 3712/5712 WITH MOON PHASE & POWER RESERVE
The dial pattern of both references 3712 & 5712 is not for everyone because of the asymmetrical arrangement. Nevertheless, both models - especially Ref. 5712 are among the most sought-after Patek Philippe Nautilus models besides the Gerald Genta Trio. They portray the power reserve at 11 o'clock & the date & moon phases at 7 o'clock; a small second was positioned at 5 o'clock. The Patek brand logo is at 2 o'clock.
Ref. 3712 was launched in 2005 & was produced for only one year before being replaced by Ref. 5712 in 2006. The serial numbers indicate that Ref. 3712 belongs to Ref. 3700 & Ref. 5712 to Ref. 5711.
On the first look, both the models are barely distinguishable from each other. Only on very close inspection, some fine details unveil themselves. Concerning the shape of the case, the blue tone of the dial & the case construction, both references do not differ from the two- or three-hand versions.
In contrast to Ref. 5712, Ref. 3712 has an index at 7 o'clock & slightly wider hands. The typography of Ref. 5712 appears somewhat more powerful & thus more modern. Also, it has 4 red dots instead of 3 in the power reserve indicator.
30TH ANNIVERSARY NAUTILUS REF. 5711/1A
Patek Philippe's Ref. 5711/1A was launched in 2006 to mark the 30th anniversary of the Nautilus. It was an immediate hit with watch collectors & has advanced on an upward trajectory ever since. The distinctive porthole-shaped 40mm case is more extensive than the original (+1mm). And measures 8.3mm thick.
An octagonal formed bezel frames the embossed black-blue or silvery-white watch dial. The white gold, baton-formed hour markers highlight a luminescent coating—ditto for the central hour & minute hands. The date looms in a small window at 3 o'clock.
The self-winding movement includes several of Patek Philippe's modifications. These include the four-spoke Gyromax® balance wheel & its slotted poising weights. And the Spiromax® balance-spring in Silinvar®. The latter maintains the oscillations at a frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour.
Decorated with a central rotor in 21K gold, the watch movement gives a power reserve of 45 hrs. The finishing is also above reproach. Côtes de Genève, circular graining, bevelled steel parts & bridges. This particular movement bears the Patek Philippe seal for a great reason.
In the first years of production, Ref. 5711 was only open for sale with the classic blue dial (Ref. 5711/1A-010). In the year 2012, the 5711/1A-011 with the white dial was annexed. In 2019, Ref. 5711 has encountered a minor facelift: Instead of the caliber 324 SC, the new caliber 26-330 SC will be utilized. In contrast to the caliber 324 SC utilized before, this caliber repeatedly has a stop-second function.
In January 2020, it was declared that the white Ref. 5711 was on the run-out list for 2020 &, as of February 2020 - will no longer be produced.
The victory tale of the brand Patek Philippe Nautilus is not restricted to only above -mentioned classic models. Over some past decades, the famous manufacturer has launched numerous variations of the watch, which highlight a broad range of complications. In addition to modifications for ladies, these incorporate perpetual calendars, chronographs & models having a travel time function.
REF. 5980: CHRONOGRAPH WITH BI-COLOR OPTION
This Ref. came into the market in the year 2006 - together with Ref. 5711 & 5712. The chronograph perfectly suits the concept of the luxury sports watch.
The diameter is 44 millimeters & the overall height is 12.2 millimeters. Instead of a classic bi- or tri-complex arrangement, Patek Philippe has given Ref. 5980 only a totalizer, located at 6 o'clock & displaying measured minutes & hours.
The chronograph is currently the only model in the Nautilus collection in a bi-color version (stainless steel & rose gold, Ref. 5980/1AR).
THE REDESIGNED MID-SIZE, REF. 5800
While up until now, we’ve been looking at the three icons of the modern Nautilus collection (5711, 5712 & 5980). Another timepiece was part of the 30th-anniversary compilation, the redesigned mid-size Nautilus, a.k.a Nautilus ref 5800.
It was known to be the successor of the long-lasting ref 3800. The concept is the same as it used to be in the past: a watch extremely close to the “steel jumbo” in design, proportions & finishing, just with a smaller case, to satisfy the demand of some watch collectors with a meagerer wrist or those looking for something understated.
Mechanically, the P.P. Nautilus mid-size ref. 5800 still relies on an older variant of the ultra-thin, central rotor movement of Patek Philippe, the in-house Calibre of 330 SC, with a 3Hz frequency. This movement, however, boasts the usual high-end finish of the manufacturer, with Geneva Seal engraved on the bridges.
This watch was only available on bracelet, with the iconic blue dial & is now discontinued.
REF. 5726: NAUTILUS WITH ANNUAL CALENDAR & MOON PHASE
With Ref. 5726, issued in 2010, Patek Philippe gave the Nautilus a moon phase & an annual calendar. Day & month are placed in the typical date windows format next to each other at 12 o'clock.
Despite the sophisticated complication, Ref. 5726 is bursting with symmetry & coherence. Launched in 2010, the grey dial was joined in 2012 by a white dial removed from the range in 2019. In 2019, Ref. 5726-1A-014 with a blue dial was launched. The grey dial is only obtainable in combination with a leather strap (Ref. 5726A-001).
REF. 5990: NAUTILUS TRAVEL TIME CHRONOGRAPH
The Patek Philippe Nautilus is also not immune to the GMT drift. Patek Philippe called "Travel Time" in the 1960s in Calatrava Ref. 2597. The second time zone, Travel Time, can be conveniently moved forwards & backward using two pushbuttons. Ref. 5990 was launched in 2014 & couples a flyback chronograph with the Travel Time function just defined.
The round date was positioned at 12 o'clock. On the right-hand face of the case, the chronograph push-pieces are placed in the conventional, familiar arrangements. In contrast, on the left-hand side, the Travel Time push-pieces have been integrated into the case's side panel in an aesthetically pleasing manner.
Local & home time indicators indicate whether the hands are currently showing the twelve hours of day or night using a white or blue display.
2016 – THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY EDITIONS OF THE NAUTILUS
On the 40th anniversary, Patek went with two limited & ultra-high-end editions, the platinum Jumbo 5711/1P & the white gold chronograph 5976/1G.
The 1st one, the Nautilus 5711/1P, based on the classical 3-hand version, shares the same attributes: same movement, same dimensions, same display & same look. This version is limited to 700 pieces.
The 2nd one, the Nautilus ref. 5976/1G is based on the traditional chronograph & muscled Ref. 5980. However, not only its bracelet & case are made from 18k white gold, but it's also pretty larger than ever before on a Nautilus, with a diameter of 44mm & a width of 49.25mm.
REF. 5740: NAUTILUS WITH PERPETUAL CALENDAR
In the year 2018, a Grande Complication related to the Nautilus was issued for the first time. Ref. 5740 appears in a white gold case & highlights a perpetual calendar signified by three totalizers at 3, 6 & 9 o'clock. The blue color sun-brushed dial glows in a more powerful blue than that of Ref. 5711. Its height is only 8.42 millimeters, only 0.12 millimeters higher than the three-hand version.
LATEST UPDATE JAN 2021
The report of Ref 5711 ceasing composition is something of a mixed bag. It is not an instantaneous move from the brand Patek Philippe by any means. Ref 5711 is itself a 2nd generation Nautilus. It is only reasonable to assume then that a 3rd generation would happen at some point. What does that exactly mean for the model's value, though, is somewhat less clear. Right now, Ref 5711 remains very desirable.
Now that you know the significance of the PATEK PHILIPPE NAUTILUS watch, you can simply take a look at our comprehensive inventory of top-notch P.P watch models. However, our mission at First Class Timepieces goes beyond sales.
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