By Frank Geelen
As iconic watches go, there is one that actually acquired this distinction a long time ago: the Nautilus, the sporty proposition of the 175-year old maison of Patek Philippe. Many things have been said about this watch, but here are the three most important facts to know.
1. The genesis of the Patek Philippe Nautilus
The creation of the Patek Philippe Nautilus is strongly linked to another iconic watch, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak of 1972. It was the first real luxury sports watch, a timepiece made of stainless steel, but more expensive than most of the gold watches of the era. And the Royal Oak was also a timepiece with an extremely bold design – creating a totally new category of luxury wristwatches.
Aware of the success, Patek Philippe, a very traditional manufacture, decided to introduce its own luxury sports watch. It should have a strong design, and boast the same quality and respect for tradition as the other watches of the collection. This watch, launched in 1976, can be seen as the first marketing-oriented proposition of Patek.
2. A legendary designer
In order to be sure to fight in the same class as the Royal Oak, Patek Philippe hired the designer Audemars Piguet recruited for the Royal Oak, the famous Gerald Genta. Unsurprisingly, the basic idea of the Nautilus is the same as for the Royal Oak, and both are based on the concept of a porthole. The details on the other hand are very different, as each of the eight sides of the bezel on the Nautilus are subtly curved to trace a perfect arc of a circle and the case features on each side some protruding ‘ears’ that reminds again of the shape of a porthole.
The patented case has a one-piece design that comprises the middlecase and the caseback, on top of which is added the distinctive octagonal bezel, secured to it by four lateral screws for water-resistance. Finally, the dial features a distinctive horizontal pattern.
3. Evolving into a complete collection
First launched in 1976 as a time-only wristwatch with the reference 3700 (powered by the same Jaeger-LeCoultre ultra-thin, automatic movement found in the original Royal Oak), the Nautilus is now available with several complications, all equipped with in-house movements that are hallmarked with the Patek Philippe Seal of quality.
The Nautilus reference 5711 is the closest to the early models, with its three hands on a central axis and a date. More elaborate models including the version with date, power reserve, small second and moon-phases (reference 5712), as well as an annual calendar model (reference 5726). Finally, Patek Philippe launched in 2014 a new Nautilus chronograph with a dual time zone function, the reference 5990.
Originally designed to be a luxury sports watch in stainless steel, the Nautilus also exists in gold, with diamonds and in feminine editions, to create a complete family of watches – but all sharing the same iconic design.
Frank Geelen – The Netherlands
Frank Geelen is an expert on Haute Horlogerie and beautiful hand-finished mechanical movements make his horological heart beats faster. He loves to explain all technical details of complications like tourbillons, minute repeaters, constant force escapements and column-wheel chronographs and he has been doing that for more than seven years. Besides publishing daily at Monochrome Watches (monochrome-watches.com), Frank also writes for several other publications, both online and offline.