40 years ago, Patek Philippe introduced a watch that has become an icon over the past 4 decades. This watch was designed by the legendary watch-designer Gerald Genta. Inspired by the porthole, legend told it was drawn on a restaurant table in 5 minutes. It was the Nautilus ref. 3700, the first sports watch of the brand, which, in 1976, created the lineage, and which is today celebrating its 40th anniversary. As expected, Patek Philippe is about to offer its collectors dedicated jubilee editions. And there won’t be one but two of these Patek Philippe Nautilus 40th Anniversary Editions, including a platinum 3-hand 5711/1P and a white gold Chronograph 5976/1G. However, we have to say that we were both excited and also a bit disappointed by these two, and here is why…
Short history of the Nautilus
Back in 1972, another major brand, also part of the so-called “Holy Trinity” – the three Old Maisons of Swiss watchmaking (Patek, VC and AP) – introduced a brand new concept, the sports luxury watch. It was the Genta-designed Audemars Piguet Royal Oak ref. 5402st, a stainless steel sports watch priced over a classical gold watch, which created an entirely new category on the market. While most sports watches were purpose built, the RO was clearly an object of desire and luxury. The success was not certain, but it came. Thus, other brands followed the same path. In 1976, respected and consensual Patek Philippe entered this market, with a watch also designed by Genta: the 1976 Patek Philippe Nautilus ref. 3700.
An early Patek Philippe Nautilus 3700/1 from 1976
The inspiration for the Nautilus struck Genta while he was having dinner at the restaurant of a hotel: the porthole, as found on transatlantic liners. Gerald Genta stated that he saw executives from Patek Philippe sitting in a corner of the dining hall while he was sitting alone in the other corner. From his words, it took him 5 minutes to sketch the watch that would become the icon we look at today – romanced or not, the design process at that time was definitely shorter and purer than now. The Nautilus 3700/1 had a patented case formed of a solid mono-bloc module (container / caseback), with movement inserted by the dial side. On top of it, we could find the now iconic smoothened octagonal bezel, with brushed surface. The case had two “ears”, reminiscent of the hinges of a porthole. One distinctive element of these luxury 1970s sports watches was the integrated bracelet, which can also be found on the Nautilus.
Another early Patek Philippe Nautilus 3700/1 from 1976, sold for 60,000 CHF in May 2016 (credits: Phillips Watches)
The dark dial was embossed with horizontal lines, with gold baton indexes. Inside the 42mm case (already water resistant to 120m) was a Jaeger-LeCoultre ultra-thin movement, calibre 920, named calibre 28-255 C by Patek (a movement shared by the RO 5402 and the VC 222). Even if the watch was large for 1976 standards, it was quite subtle on the wrist, thanks to a 7.6mm thickness. After that, the Nautilus range evolved with the addition of ladies versions, smaller editions (ref. 3800) and later complicated and luxurious editions: moon-phase / date / small second / power reserve (ref. 3712 / 5712), chronograph (ref. 5980), annual calendar (ref. 5726), chronograph dual-time (ref. 5990), gold editions, diamond versions…
The Patek Philippe Nautilus 40th Anniversary Editions
For the 40th anniversary of the Nautilus, it’s not one but two limited editions that Patek will offer to collectors: a platinum 3-hand Nautilus 5711/1P (700 pieces) and a 18k white gold Chronograph Nautilus 5976/1G. First of all, for those who were expecting Patek Philippe to come with a vintage re-edition, with a steel case and ultra-thin movement, a sort of tribute to the Ref. 3700, sorry, but it won’t happen. Instead, we’ll have modern, large, luxurious versions. Even if such a vintage-inspired version would have been quite redundant with the current 5711, it would have been something huge for hardcore vintage collectors – and certainly a piece for future auctioneers. But then again, that’s not what we’ll see. Dry your tears and let’s look at these two new Patek Philippe Nautilus 40th Anniversary Editions – and they are far from being void of interest, believe us.
The Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1P
The first edition is based on the classical – and certainly the most sough-after – 3 hands editions of the Nautilus, the Ref. 5711. This watch already exists in the catalogue in non-limited editions, in steel with dark blue dial (5711/1A-010), in steel with white dial (5711/1A-011) and in pink gold with a chocolate dial (5711/1R-001). For the 40th anniversary, this watch will come in solid platinum 950. Not entirely new to the Nautilus, platinum has already been used on this reference, even if it has never been officially listed in the catalogue (ref. 5711/1P – see our friend SJX for a hands-on). Extremely rare, this edition already featured a blue dial, much brighter than the normal steel 5711/1A. The Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1P 40th Anniversary we are presenting today is actually based on this model.
The platinum case – thus with a diamond incrusted on the bezel at 6 (like all platinum Patek watches) – measures 40mm in diameter (from 10 to 4 – and around 44mm large, from ear to ear), respecting the proportions of the current references. No shape differences can be noticed either. The case still has the rounded ears (not straight ones like the original 3700) and its integrated bracelet with polished central links and brushed surfaces for the rest. The case is brushed on flat surfaces, beveled on its edges (so is the bracelet) and flanks are brushed. No doubt that the execution of this case will be perfect, as usual with the brand.
The dial of the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1P 40th Anniversary is certainly the main difference here. Made in solid yellow gold, it shows a bright blue color (much lighter than the steel edition) obtained by PVD and with a bright/dark gradation from the inside to the outside, still with embossed horizontal lines and sun-ray pattern. The logo at 12 is printed on a flat area (while the dial is entirely embossed on the blue steel edition), however that’s something the gold edition also has. Another difference with the steel edition is the date circled by a white gold window. The hands are white gold and faithful to the traditional design of the Nautilus. Main differences are the baguette diamonds for the indexes and the logo embossed at 6 (40 – 1976-2016).
Inside the case, no changes, as the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1P 40th Anniversary features the same movement as the steel edition, the Calibre 324 SC (seconde centrale) with Patek seal, Gyromax balance wheel, Spiromax balance spring and 4Hz frequency. The movement is visible from the caseback and finished with nice details (Geneva stripes, beveled angles, circular graining, gold rotor…).
The Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1P 40th Anniversary will be limited to 700 pieces – 100,000 CHF / approximately 95,000 Euros – and (cool detail) delivered in a brown cork presentation box, just like the ref. 3700.
The Patek Philippe Nautilus Chronograph 5976/1G
The second edition proposed by PAtek for the 40th anniversary of the Nautilus is probably less expected – the 3-hand was clearly predictable. It is a chronograph in white gold. The Patek Philippe Nautilus Chronograph 5976/1G shares many of the attributes with the one exposed before – same color for the dial, same embossed 40th anniversary logo, same diamond indexes – and adds a different movement. However, unlike the ref. 5980 it resembles, evolutions are to be noticed.
First, the case is here a real jumbo, as the diameter has been increased quite massively. The Ref. 5980 was 40.5mm and so is the chronograph dual-time (ref. 5990), which replaced it. This 40th anniversary 5976/1G is 44mm in diameter (from 10 to 4) and has a total width of 49.25mm (from ear to ear). That’s a massive watch that Patek chose to introduce, as 3.6mm wider than the ref. 5980. Vintage lovers, that’s not for you. This diameter increase can be noticed on the dial, as the date window is placed further in the center of the dial and there’s even a small diamond index next to it (on the 5980, the date window almost touches the bezel). The second evolution, compared to the 5980, is the size and display of chronograph sub-counter. While it still give indication of the 12-hours and 30-minutes, the minutes are now in the center and the hours on the periphery (reverse on the 5980).
New display however doesn’t mean new engine. The Patek Philippe Nautilus Chronograph 5976/1G 40th anniversary is still powered by the calibre CH 28-520 C of the ref. 5980, an in-house, automatic and integrated fly-back chronograph movement with co-axial sub-counter at 6, 45 to 55 hours of power reserve, the Patek Seal, Gyromax balance wheel and Spiromax balance spring and 4Hz frequency.
White gold, diamond indexes, bright blue dial, large case, embossed logo at 12, modern chronograph movement… this watch certainly is contemporary and not vintage-oriented. Again, it will be delivered in a nice cork bow, limited to 1,300 pieces – 85,000 CHF / approximately 80,000 Euros.
Why it does slightly disappoint us in a way
With such watches, Patek Philippe does not look at vintage-lovers. We, at Monochrome-Watches (and certainly not only us), were expecting something highly faithful to the very first edition of the Nautilus ref. 3700. We secretly hoped Patek to come with a new edition of this iconic watch, with an ultra-thin movement and a case even thinner than the current 5711 (which is, at 8.30mm, not what we can call thick…). But we wanted more, something closer from the original. We wanted to go back to the roots of the Nautilus, with something pure, as pure as the 3700, which doesn’t even has a second hand. We were hoping for that and certainly some long-time collectors too. This “dream edition“, in steel, would have been an instant hit and would have broken all records in future auctions (with a low limitation of course…).
Instead, Patek Philippe, with these two Nautilus 40th anniversary editions, talks to modern collectors, which explains the luxurious materials, the large case (for the chronograph 5976/1G) and the diamonds on the dial. This certainly is a strong commercial strategy and the watches will definitely sell like hot cakes (no doubt to have here), however, we would have loved something a bit more emotional, less statutory and more limited (an overall 2,000 pieces limitation is huge). For instance, the embossed 40th anniversary logo on the dial might be too visible for us. Something more refined, more discreet would have been, to us, profound lovers of the 3700, more relevant for an anniversary edition. The market rules and we can’t blame Patek Philippe for creating more commercial-oriented watches. The goal of a company is to sell… However, the passionate collectors in us still wish more – or different. This doesn’t prevent these watches to have great beauty and to be future highly collectible pieces. Patek wanted to show the evolution of a model and not having a vintage re-issue. In the end, it’s a choice we respect.