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About Patek Philippe Nautilus Watches

Launched in 1976, the Nautilus has become one of Patek Philippe’s most desired designs. Previously known for their gold dress watches, Patek Philippe’s departure toward the sportier Nautilus drew a great deal of attention. Named for the submarine in Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the watch line was meant to imbibe the spirit of the sea.

As one of the first and most popular luxury sports watches to be made in steel, the Nautilus made a point of the fact that their first model, Reference 3700, was in a higher price point. In fact, the tagline bragged, “One of the world’s costliest watches is made of steel.”

Beginning in the 1970s

With rounded corners, the Reference 3700 dial leans toward a rectangular shape with sides that protrude out. The shape was uniquely created to mimic the porthole of a ship. Designed by Gerald Genta, the 42mm diameter was chunkier than most watches of the era and it included an integrated steel bracelet.

Water resistant up to 120 meters, the watch used 28-255 self-winding movements and the insides were only accessible from the front of the case. A unique distinction of the dial was the horizontal lines across the face. Versions of steel, gold, two tones, dark dials, white dials and even diamond studded faces were all created in the Reference 3700 line.

Moving into the 1980s

The Reference 3800 was released and looks very much the same as the original 3700. But this 1981 version brought a change in size (reduced to 37.5mm) while maintaining the dark blue dial and horizontal grooves and adding a central second hand. Another release during the 1980s was the 3900 which was considered to be a unisex quartz movement watch, with a 33mm case.

Into the 1990s

The next decade revealed quite a deviation from status quo for the Nautilus as the design of the dial dropped the signature horizontal lines. Matte black and simple, the Reference 3800 (Roman Numeral) sported only simple Roman Numerals, a date window at 3 o’clock and the Patek Phillipe name under the 12. Baton hands were replaced with leaf hands for this 20th anniversary version that was available in steel-on-steel or two-tone.

This unusual Reference 5060 in the mid-90s brought a yellow gold case with lugs and a leather strap. Attempting to open up to a more elegant market, the case was a mere 35mm in diameter.

In 1998, borrowing the original look of the 42mm Nautilus, the Reference 3710 model sported Roman numerals and also showed a power indicator. The hands on this version moved back to the original rounded batons. This one was only offered in steel-on-steel while the case back remained closed.

A New Millennium

Brought along in 2004, Reference 3711 was only available in a 42mm white gold case with all of the attributes of the original 3700 series, including the horizontal grooves on the dial, plus a transparent case back.

Added in 2005 (and lasting only a year), the Nautilus collection received the 3712 model which included moon-phase indicators on the dial, as well as power-reserve indicators and a date-display.

30th Anniversary Nautilus

To celebrate the birthday of the watch’s introduction in 2006, Patek Philippe offered an updated redesign of the entire Nautilus collection. Design features included a more rounded case and the side sections that housed the bezel were rounded as well. For this modernized update, the bracelets were designed to be less chunky and more refined, while the case back was transparent.

Also released in 2006, Reference 5711 was increased in size to 43mm, with a blue-black dial and a similar look to the original. The central second hand made the piece even more functional. This was available with a steel or rose gold bracelet or a leather strap.

Another unique introduction in 2006 was Nautilus’s first chronograph (Ref 5980) with the modern self-winding caliber that was developed and produced in house. This version was available in rose gold or two-tone.

Reference 5711P Limited Edition

2016 brought the 40th anniversary celebration with the platinum version of the 5711, limited to only 7002 pieces. A white-gold version, with a slightly grander 44mm case, was released with only 1300 pieces.

Current Nautilus

With five different options, the current Nautilus collection includes these models:

  • Reference 5711 with standard styling.
  • Reference 5712 with additional tools such as pointer date, power-reserve and moon-phase displays. This one is available in the classic steel as well as white gold or rose gold with leather strap.
  • Reference 5726 adds additional features such as an annual calendar and moon-phase indicator.
  • Reference 5980 Chronograph.
  • Nautilus Travel Time Chronograph, Reference 5990, is a complicated version that is made to be self-winding. It includes a stopwatch, pointer date, day/night indicator and even a second time zone.