Patek Philippe Nautilus: History

Introduced in 1976, the Nautilus was Patek Philippe’s response to arch-rival Audemars Pigeut’s hugely successful Royal Oak. The Oak was the first luxury steel sports watch. It’s 3mm bigger than the Nautilus and more expensive by around $15k. The connection between the two watches couldn’t be clearer . . .

The Patek Philippe Nautilus was designed by Gerald Genta (1931 -2011) –the same Swiss watchmaker who designed the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak (1970), Omega’s Constellation (1959) and Cartier’s Pasha de Cartier (1985).

The Nautilus was named after the submarine in Jules Verne’s 1870 novel 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. The watch face is based on a ship’s porthole: octagonal in shape with each side being curved outward (spreads pressure across the glass more evenly).

The Nautilus’ two ‘ears’ mimic porthole hinges. These ‘ears’ hold the bezel to the crown — the watch case’s only opening. The case is made from a single solid piece of nickel-chrome-molybdenum steel, the highest standard steel at the time, used during WW2 for tanks.

This single opening construction aids the Nautilus’ aquatic theme, assuring 120m water resistance. While that’s par for the course these days, it was an especially high resistance for 1976.

Forty-three-years later the Nautilus’ design remains largely unchanged. Demand for the Nautilus has only skyrocketed. Second-hand Nautilus regularly command a 100 percent premium on top of the recommended retail price of £22,820 ($27,701.91) for the 5711/1A.

[For more background on iconic watches, click here: @timepiecehistory.]

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