Guide to Patek Philippe Nautilus: The #1 Desirable Steel Sports Watch

Patek Philippe Nautilus

 Saying that the Patek Philippe Nautilus is desired by many people is an understatement. A more appropriate term would be sought-after and highly-coveted. In fact, it is not unusual for people to wait years just to get their hands on one. That is if you’re even lucky to have your name on the waitlist.

But what is it about the Nautilus that makes people want it so much? Is it the design? Perhaps. Or maybe the fine craftsmanship that Patek is known for? Likely. Let’s find out the perfect formula for creating an in-demand watch by reading below.

History of the Patek Philippe Nautilus

Original Sketches of the Patek Philippe Nautilus and the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
Photo from medium.com/@jasonmaihk

Genta’s Original sketch of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak (left) and the Patek Philippe Nautilus (right)

The Rise of Steel Sports Watches

It might be hard to believe that the Patek Philippe Nautilus is considered a sports watch. Especially after seeing its elegant design. In fact, society has even made it socially acceptable to wear it with suits and blazers. However, during the time it was released, it was considered far from being a dress watch. And to understand how the Nautilus got its design, it is important to know the story behind the Royal Oak — its sibling — first.

During the ’70s, another well-known Swiss watch brand Audemars Piguet made a gamble. Apparently, they were studying the market trends and wanted to release a watch according to the results. With that, they found out that a lot of Italian watch enthusiasts have been wanting a steel luxury watch for some time. It was a very unusual request since “steel” and “luxury” don’t go together. Back then, luxury watches were strictly made of precious metals like gold and platinum.

Despite the risks, Audemars Piguet decided to tap Swiss artist and watch designer Gerald Genta. They asked him to make a steel sports watch that can also be considered as a luxury watch. Fortunately, the young watch designer was able to finish the design overnight. And the Swiss brand was able to present the Royal Oak during the 1971 Basel Fair (which is now known as Baselworld).

Of course, the Royal Oak was a hit. And this marked the rise of luxury steel sports watches. In fact, this trend became a big factor in designing the Patek Philippe Nautilus.

Who Designed the Patek Philippe Nautilus?

There are a lot of similarities between the Patek Philippe Nautilus and the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. Apart from being a brainchild of the same man — Gerald Genta, both watches were inspired by the sea. In particular, Genta drew inspiration from a diving helmet for the Royal Oak. On the other hand, he patterned the Patek Philippe Nautilus after a porthole of the ship.

The story behind it is interesting as well. Gerald Genta was dining in a restaurant when the idea came to him. So he waved a waiter towards him. Instead of asking for more food, he asked for a pen and paper. And after only five minutes, he finished the draft of the Patek Philippe Nautilus’ design.

A lot of people still find it amazing that it took him only a few minutes to produce a long-lasting legacy.

A Quick Look at the Patek Philippe Nautilus’ Design

To the untrained eye, the Patek Philippe Nautilus looks the same as the Royal Oak. However, there are a few differences to note. Here are a few interesting details about the Nautilus’ design.

Patek Philippe Nautilus Dial
Photo from patek.com

The Porthole Case

One of the major factors that affected the Nautilus’ popularity was its unique case shape. What’s more surprising is that the design came from a Patek Philippe watch. Indeed, the brand was — and still is — known for its classic round-shaped dress watch like the Calatrava. So it is only expected that a steel octagon-shaped watch has stirred up a conversation among Patek fans.

As mentioned above, Gerald Genta designed the watch. Its octagon shape has soft edges that still make it look elegant. Apart from that, the bezel and case are screwed together to imitate a ship’s porthole.

Finally, unlike the Royal Oak, the Nautilus doesn’t feature visible screws around its bezel. This gives it a more elegant look.

The Dial

Another proof of the Patek Philippe Nautilus’ nautical theme is its dial. Although there is now a variety of colours, the most common is the dark blue one. Indeed, when people talk of the Nautilus, they are most likely referring to this model.

Upon closer inspection, the dial features horizontal grooves. Meanwhile, the hands and indexes are all baton-shaped. These details are staples among the Nautilus collection.

What Makes the Patek Philippe Nautilus so Expensive?

Well, the Nautilus has a lot of reasons to be so expensive. That’s aside from the fact that it has “Patek Philippe” in its name. Here are some of the things that make the watch’s price tag the way it is.

Patek watchmaker
photo from businesstimes.com.sg

1. High Quality

This goes without saying that the Nautilus is of high quality. In truth, the name Patek Philippe has become synonymous with fine craftsmanship. Hardcore fans and non-enthusiasts alike will agree to that statement. They not only excel in the art of watchmaking but also in designing their timepieces.

With that said, you can expect that only the finest watchmakers assembled your Patek Philippe Nautilus by hand. They spent not only weeks but sometimes even years constructing a single unit. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Apart from that, the Swiss brand practices traditional case-making techniques from way back the 1800s. These techniques were passed on from one generation to the next. And very few contemporary watchmakers have maintained this tradition. This just makes the watch all the more precious in the eyes of watch fanatics.

2. Rarity

Legend has it that Patek Philippe has produced fewer than 1 million watches ever since it opened its doors in 1839. That number is significantly lower than what other brands produce in a year! For instance, the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC) statistics said that Rolex produces approximately 700,000 chronometers annually. And that’s the number for just one year as opposed to Patek Philippe’s lifetime.

We should also take into account the other different models that the brand offers. Therefor, from the 1 million units, only a fraction of that makes up the Patek Philippe Nautilus. And following the rules of economy, the rarer something is, the more expensive it will be.

3. Patek Philippe’s Vision

Apart from having a rich history, the brand also has a bright future. There’s no denying that the founders of Patek Philippe are visionary. Indeed, that vision has been passed on to its current leaders.

With that said, the watchmaking giant spends a large amount of money when it comes to research and design. For example, they were the first to launch the silicium balance springs. Apart from that, they also produced the GyromaxSi balance and Pulsomax silicon-based escapement. These technologies minimise the need to have your timepiece serviced.

These things only prove that Patek Philippe not only honours tradition but it also paves the future of horology through its developments and innovations.

4. Resale Value

Sure, a lot of watch enthusiasts don’t buy watches just for the investment value. But that doesn’t change the fact that it is one of the reasons for its price tag. Indeed, the Patek Philippe Nautilus is known to maintain its value even years after its release. And that’s not only limited to this model. In fact, the whole brand is consistent when it comes to maintaining value.

To emphasise, a Patek Philippe Nautilus from the ’70s retailed for less than $3,000 back then. But if you tried to buy one now, prepare to shell out more than $50,000. That is very impressive as the value bumped up to more than 15 times its original cost.

Of course, this factor not only appeals to serious watch enthusiasts which, in turn, make it more in-demand. If you couple high demand with rarity, the product can command an exorbitant price tag.

Best Patek Philippe Nautilus Watches

Now, there are plenty of Patek Philippe Nautilus models to choose from. Here are a few of them that caught our attention.

Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1A

1. Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1A

Why is it good?

The Nautilus 5711/1A is the best choice if you want to go the classic route. As mentioned above, the model with the navy blue dial is the most iconic. It’s even the colourway seen on Gerald Genta’s original sketch. Apart from that, it is also the safest colourway as it is neutral. It is fairly easy to integrate with your whole wardrobe.

Inside, it uses the self-winding 26-330 S C movement, which bears the Hallmark of Geneva. It has 212 components and runs at a frequency of 28,800bph. Users can wind it by using a 21K solid gold rotor engraved with the Patek Philippe emblem. Finally, the calibre can be enjoyed by viewing through the crystal case back.

Specs:

  • Case Material: Stainless steel
  • Dimensions: 40mm
  • Movement: Automatic
  • Power Reserve: 45 hours
  • Water Resistance: 120m

Patek Philippe Nautilus 5712/1A-001

2. Patek Philippe Nautilus 5712/1A-001

Why is it good?

If you like your watch filled with complications on the dial, the Nautilus 5712/1A-001 is for you. It looks just like your classic dark blue Patek Philippe Nautilus. But, it has additional features and complications.

At the top-left corner of the dial is the power reserve indicator. Meanwhile, the moon phase sits right between the 6 and 8 o’clock positions. And instead of a hand, a sub-dial indicates the seconds on the bottom right corner.

Lastly, this watch runs on the 240 PS IRM C LU movement. This calibre vibrates at 21,600vph and has a total of 29 jewels. Additionally, it has a 21K gold off-centre mini-rotor. This movement can be viewed via the crystal caseback.

Specs:

  • Case Material: Stainless steel
  • Dimensions: 40mm
  • Movement: Automatic
  • Power Reserve: 48 hours
  • Water Resistance: 60m

Patek Philippe Nautilus 5740/1G-001

3. Patek Philippe Nautilus 5740/1G-001

Why is it good?

For people who value watch complications, the Nautilus 5740/1G-001 is for you. In fact, it is the Nautilus collection’s first Grand Complication. To further explain, it has a perpetual calendar, thanks to its 240 Q movement.

As seen above, the watch has three sub-dials. The one on the left shows the day while the one on the right indicates the month. Lastly, the sub-dial just above the 6 o’clock position is for the moon phase.

As mentioned above, the 5740/1G-001 uses a movement called the 240 Q. What’s special about this calibre is that it is ultra-thin with only a height of 38.8mm. It’s the main reason why this model is Patek Philippe’s slimmest perpetual calendar.

All things considered, this model has just the right amount of sportiness and technical sophistication.

Specs:

  • Case Material: Stainless steel
  • Dimensions: 40mm
  • Movement: Automatic
  • Power Reserve: 48 hours
  • Water Resistance: 60m

Patek Philippe Nautilus 5980/1R-001

4. Patek Philippe Nautilus 5980/1R-001

Why is it good?

For people who are looking for more flair, check out the Nautilus 5980/1R-001. The Nautilus is famous for its stainless steel case. However, this one is made of 18K rose gold. Moreover, it features a black dial that contrasts the case’s colour.

This model features both the chronograph and date complication. As for the chronograph, it comes with a 60-minute and 12-hour mono-counter. This complication is thanks to the CH 28-520 C movement.

To emphasise, the movement is self-winding and has a central rotor in 21K gold. Apart from that, it consists of 35 jewels and runs at a frequency of 28,800bph.

Specs:

  • Case Material: Rose gold
  • Dimensions: 40.5mm
  • Movement: Automatic
  • Power Reserve: 55 hours
  • Water Resistance: 120m

Patek Philippe Nautilus 5980R-001

5. Patek Philippe Nautilus 5980R-001

Why is it good?

For people who want a Nautilus for more formal occasions, the 5980R-001 will do the trick. Apart from the chronograph complication, the most obvious change is the brown leather strap. It also features the classy rose gold finish.

Looking closer at the dial, it features a chocolate colourway to match the strap. Apart from that, it has a gradient pattern that lightens as you go towards the centre. Finally, at the bottom, you’ll find the chronograph with a 60-minute and 12-hour mono-counter.

To further explain the leather strap, it is made with an alligator pattern. The rectangular scales were hand-stitched by the finest craftsmen. Apart from that, Patek also offers a pair of cufflinks that match the timepiece.

Specs:

  • Case Material: Rose gold
  • Dimensions: 40.5mm
  • Movement: Automatic
  • Power Reserve: 55 hours
  • Water Resistance: 120m

Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1A-011

6. Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1A-011

Why is it good?

Although the Nautilus 5711/1A-011 is essentially the same as the 5711/1A, its colourway makes it look different. This model is appropriate for people who love white-coloured watches.

Instead of having a dark-blue dial, it comes in white. The dial also bears the horizontal pattern that the other models have. Meanwhile, the indexes and hands are all bordered with black to give a high-contrast look. In fact, the whole dial resembles a white sheet of ruled paper drawn with a black marker.

Beyond the features, its specifications are the same as the 5711/1A. It uses the same movement called the calibre 26‑330 S C. It can power the watch up to 45 hours and has a central rotor made with 21K gold.

Specs:

  • Case Material: Stainless steel
  • Dimensions: 40mm
  • Movement: Automatic
  • Power Reserve: 45 hours
  • Water Resistance: 120m

Final Notes

No doubt, the Patek Philippe Nautilus is one of the most desirable steel watches. The hype it receives is immense, and I agree that it deserves all the credit it is receiving. Apart from its catchy yet versatile design, it also exhibits fine craftsmanship that you would expect from Patek Philippe.

The Nautilus might be ridiculously expensive. But nothing beats the feeling of wearing a watch that was carefully assembled by expert hands for months. Not to mention, a watch that has an interesting history behind it.

 

Interested in more Swiss watchmaking companies? Check out the history of Universal Geneve!

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