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
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
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.