The List




The List


Patek Philippe Nautilus

Some manufacturers of luxury goods are known for being at the cutting edge of design, where mutability, as Shelley once wrote, is all that endures. Such brands define themselves by their ability to reinvent continually, moving in new directions far before the hint of staleness is detected. Occasionally, by chance, items are produced that transcend the short-termism of their origins to become iconic, but this is generally the exception rather than the rule.

Patek Philippe, rightly regarded as the king of all watchmakers, has, historically, been regarded as the antithesis of these companies, due to its conservative, and meticulous, approach to the construction of timepieces.

Watch enthusiasts must have been in some shock in the mid 1970s, then, when the company made a radical departure from its traditional values and produced the Nautilus, a watch that was both enormous (in the days before Panerais became widely available, a 42mm case really was large), and dramatically different from anything else offered by the company.

Despite the initial incredulity of Patek’s older customers, the watch went on to become a sales success for the company, and is still available, albeit somewhat modified, in a variety of forms, in the current range.

The one to have, in our opinion, though, is the original 3700 model, which has earned its place on The List by possessing all of the precision and elegance of a watch crafted by a manufacturer at the top of its game, together with 1970s looks that have aged as well as a fine claret.

The Gerald Genta design can be viewed, in some respects, as a response to rival Audemar Piguet’s Royal Oak, but the Nautilus, is, in our opinion, the more elegant of the two, with its flowing lines reminiscent of a port hole.

The case itself is, unusually, a monocoque with a bore for the winding stem, which, together with the gasket, bezel and crystal, which are attached firmly by four screws, enables the Nautilus to be water resistant to 120 metres.

There is, thus, a ruggedness to the watch that is not evident in many other Patek timepieces, yet this is tempered by a certain femininity in its aesthetic that saves it from the single purpose role of many upmarket divers watches. Unlike a Submariner, for instance, the Nautilus would not look out of place when worn with a suit or even black tie. Conversely, in contrast to many of Patek’s other creations, it would not feel incongruous, nor the owner nervous, if it were worn on a yacht or on the beach.

A couple of caveats, though: its size makes it suitable only for those with medium to large wrists, and the cost of an original is, as one would expect, fairly high. The modern 5711 Nautilus is a slightly less costly alternative, but does not feature the monocoque design of the original. Although Patek argues that modern construction techniques enable it to use a three piece design without compromising rigidity and water resistance, it does seem that this change loses one of the Nautilus’ little quirks of originality.

That said, both models are fine examples of the craft of watch making and will make bold and tasteful statements about your personal sense of style for decades to come.