In 2016, Patek Philippe is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its casually elegant Nautilus collection. For many aficionados and connoisseurs of classic watchmaking artistry, this is a memorable occasion as well. A look back to 1976 not only shows how quickly and dramatically the world has changed since then but also illustrates how well the Nautilus has stayed its course across four decades in terms of design, dependability, and popularity. With two limited edition Nautilus 40th Anniversary models, the manufacture manifests its ability to keep pace with the times while preserving the key facets of a legend. The year 1976 was in the middle of a decade characterized by social, economic, political, and cultural upheavals. Henri Stern was president of the family-run enterprise, and his son Philippe, who already held an executive position, was poised to succeed him. It was the right time for a showpiece, so he decided to launch a sports wristwatch for the first time in the 137-year history of the manufacture. This watch was meant to be a direct competitor to the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak launched in 1972. In close collaboration with Gérald Genta —who designed the Royal Oak and the IWC Ingenieur SL— one of the most gifted watch designers of the 20th century, an innovative timepiece began to take shape, one unlike any seen at Patek Philippe we are talking about the Nautilus Ref. 3700/1A. It was voluminous and made of steel, although the prevailing trend favored very slender watches in gold. It was water resistant to 120 meters, a sensation at the time. And unlike any other wristwatch, it embodied a maritime, nautical aspect: Philippe Stern was a passionate skipper and successful regatta contestant on Lake Geneva.
The key features of the Nautilus Ref. 3700/1A were two lateral case extension ridges at 9 and 3 o'clock, resembling hinges that joined the two-part case ensemble —conventional cases consist of three parts. Inspired by the locking mechanisms of ship portholes, the sapphire crystal was framed by an octagonal bezel with gently rounded corners, a satin-finished upper plane on its bezel and mirror polished on its beveled flanks. The dial in a blue charcoal color, stood out with a horizontal embossed pattern and was graced with applied luminous baton hour markers to match the slender luminous baton hands. For this amazing creation, the name Nautilus was a perfect fit, whether it was associated with cephalopod mollusks and their beautiful spiral shells or with Captain Nemo's submarine that Jules Verne dispatched on a perilous expedition in his book 'Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea'. Patek Philippe was also very bold with the advertisements for the new Nautilus. Some of the taglines they utilized at the time included: "One of the world's costliest watches is made of steel" and "They work as well with a wet suit as they do with a dinner suit ". Those that own an original Nautilus Ref. 3700/1A today, they actually own an horological milestone and a collector's piece like few others.
The original Nautilus Ref. 3700 was launched in steel in 1976 and remained in the collection until 1990. Several references followed in different case metals, sizes and dials. Key debuts included the 1980 Ladies' Nautilus Ref. 4700/51J as well as the 1981 Ref. 3800/1 and Ref. 3900/1 midsize models. They were followed in 1996 by watches with Roman numerals as Ref. 3800/1JA and the first model with a leather strap that foretold the launch of the Aquanaut in 1997. The first complicated Nautilus Ref. 3710/1A with a power reserve indicator IZR was presented in 1998 —the Comet—, followed in 2005 by the Ref. 3712/1A, which was the first model endowed with a moon phase display and a power reserve indicator. To commemorate its 30th anniversary in 2006, the design of the Nautilus collection for men was subtly reworked, the two-part case superseded by a three-part construction, and crowned with the launch of the Ref. 5980/1A self-winding flyback chronograph model. The 2010 launches introduced the Ref. 5726A Annual Calendar Nautilus with a leather strap —Ref. 5726/1A— and then a bracelet version followed in 2012 and the first chronograph with a leather strap —Ref. 5980R. In 2009, in cooperation with Gérald Genta, the ladies' collection was delicately reworked and updated. New versions with leather straps and steel bracelets as well as more feminine dials were added in 2013. The first self-winding Ladies' Nautilus (Ref. 7118/1A) in steel without diamonds was presented in 2015. To see all the Patek Philippe Nautilus we've reviewed in the past, click here.
The limited-edition Nautilus models launched on the occasion of the 40th anniversary subtly allude to the history of Patek Philippe's first casually elegant model family. The Ref. 5711/1P with the 40 mm platinum case pays tribute to the original Nautilus Ref. 3700/1A "Jumbo" dating back to 1976, while the 44 mm Nautilus flyback chronograph Ref. 5976/1G salutes the tastefully redesigned 30th anniversary collection introduced in 2006. Both models feature a blue dial with diamond hour markers, the typical Nautilus embossed decor, and a discreet recessed anniversary logo. Not sure how we feel about this element in the design, I think we'll have to wait until we see the watches in the metal to give our objective perspective on it.
Now, something that is the icing on the cake is that each 40th anniversary Nautilus comes in a cork anniversary box that also contains the Certificate of Origin and an anniversary document. Made of brown natural cork, the box is an authentic replica of the stylish 1976 original. Like the original Nautilus, it evokes vivid associations with the proud ocean liners that inspired the porthole design of the casually elegant timepiece.
The 40th Anniversary cork box features polished stainless steel frames for the base and the hinged cover. The steel plaque on the front side, also a faithful replica of the 1976 original, displays the collection name “Nautilus” in cursive script and the Patek Philippe Geneva signature logo.
Sticker Price $113,400 for 5711/1P in platinum and $96,390 for 5976/1G in 18K white gold.
Nautilus Ref. 5711/1P 40th Anniversary
Anniversary model in a limited edition of 700 watches
Movement: Automatic Calibre 324 S C with date and sweep seconds. Composed of 213 parts, 29 jewels and with a power reserve of 35 to 45 hours. 28,800 vph with rotor in 21K gold.
Case: Platinum 950, sapphire-crystal glass, sapphire-crystal back, screw-down crown. Water resistant to 120 meters. Bezel with flawless Top Wesselton diamond —approx. 0.02 ct.— at 6 o’clock. 40.00 mm x 44.05 mm x 8.3 mm.
Dial: 18K yellow gold with sunburst blue PVD coating and horizontal Nautilus embossing, and special Anniversary embossing "40 1976–2016". 12 applied baton hour markers in 18K white gold with baguette diamonds —total weight approx. 0.34 ct. Baton-style hands for hours and minutes in 18K white gold with superluminova coating and seconds hand rhodiumed bronze, counterbalanced.
Bracelet: Bracelet in platinum 950 with fold over clasp.
Nautilus Chronograph Ref. 5976/1G 40th Anniversary Edition
Anniversary model in a limited edition of 1,300 watches
Movement: Automatic Calibre CH 28-520 C with date and 12-hour monocounter column wheel chronograph mechanism. Composed of 327 parts, 35 jewels and with a power reserve of 55 hours. 28,800 vph with rotor in 21K gold.
Case: 18K white gold, sapphire-crystal glass, sapphire-crystal back, screw-down crown. Water resistant to 120 meters. 44.00 mm x 49.25 mm x 12.16 mm.
Dial: Sunburst blue PVD coating and horizontal Nautilus embossing, and special Anniversary embossing "1976–40-2016". 12 applied baton hour markers in 18K white gold with baguette and princess cut diamonds —total weight approx. 0.29 ct. Baton-style hands for hours and minutes in 18K white gold with superluminova coating.
Bracelet: Bracelet in 18K white gold with matching fold over clasp.