The Nautilus collection was Patek Philippe’s first step into the realm of sport watches. The model was an instant success and continues to be a staple of the brand to this day. The original Nautilus was ahead of its time, boasting an oversized case and garnering it the nickname, “Jumbo.” Today, these distinctly hefty variations of the model, featuring its iconic grooved dial, are highly sought after by collectors.
Patek Philippe first launched its Nautilus collection in 1976. It was designed by renowned watchmaker, Gerald Genta, who is arguably the creator of the luxury sports watch. The inspiration behind the Nautilus is the porthole, which is commonly found on maritime vessels. The watch was a departure for Patek Philippe, who was known for their simple, straightforward, time-only watches and their conservative chronographs. A sporty watch was a bold move for the brand, but it quickly paid off. The Nautilus became an instant icon.
The first Nautilus model was the Ref. 3700. It featured a durable stainless steel case and a distinctive integrated bracelet. It measured a hefty 42mm and was given the nickname, “Jumbo.” However, the most notable feature of the original Nautilus was its dial. It showcased a unique texture with horizontal grooves. This became the trademark of the Nautilus. From the outside, it felt rugged and purpose-built. Yet, on the inside, it maintained Patek Philippe’s elegance with an ultra-thin Caliber 28-255 C movement that boasted water resistance up to 120 meters.
The next two variations of the Nautilus came in 1981 with the Ref. 3800 and 3900. The primary difference between these models and the original was the size. The original 42mm Nautilus was a bit ahead of its time being too large for what was popular on the market. The Ref. 3800 was downsized to 37.5mm, and the Ref. 3900 was even smaller, measuring 33mm.
One of the most significant updates to the Nautilus came in 1996 with the Ref. 5060. That year, Patek Philippe completely redesigned the dial. It lost its once iconic grooves, baton indexes and hands, and integrated bracelet. Instead, the dial was matte, the indexes were replaced with Roman numerals, leaf hands were added, and there was an option for a leather strap. At the time, these variations of the Nautilus were a success. However, most collectors today dismiss this generation of the Nautilus as not having the iconic charm of the original design. Just two years later, Patek Philippe updated the Ref. 5060 with the addition of complications, and the Ref. 3710 was born.
In 2004, the brand welcomed back some of the original features of the Nautilus with the Ref. 3711. It showcased an oversized 42mm case, the iconic grooved dial, and baton indexes. The only key difference from the original was the case material. The Ref. 3711 was only produced in white gold. A year later, Patek Philippe released another variation with a complex display, known as the Ref. 3712.
The Nautilus celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2006. To commemorate, the brand debuted a collection of four new models: the Ref. 5711/1A known as the time-and-date “steel Jumbo,” the Ref. 5712/1A known as the moon-and-date, the Ref. 5980/1A known as the chronograph, and the Ref. 5800/1A known as the mid-size. As the name indicates, the Ref. 5711 most closely resembled the original Nautilus.
In more recent years, Patek Philippe has continued to evolve the Nautilus collection. In 2010, they introduced an annual calendar variation, the Ref. 5726. In 2012, they added new dial color options for the Ref. 5711, 5726, and 5980 models. In 2014, they released a travel time chronograph version, the Ref. 5990. And, finally, in 2016, the Nautilus hit its 40th anniversary. To celebrate, two new limited edition, ultra-high-end models were unveiled: the platinum Jumbo, Ref. 5711/1P, and the white gold chronograph, Ref. 5976/1G.
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