27.06.2022 - Patek Philippe

History of the Patek Philippe NAUTILUS

Patek Philippe’s expert craftsmanship and designs are recognised the world over, with one of their most popular models being the Patek Philippe Nautilus. It is an iconic watch with a fascinating history.

What is the Nautilus?

The first Nautilus was released in 1976 and was completely innovative for its time of release. It was one of the first luxury sports watches that was also made from steel. Perhaps more than this, its octagonal casing was almost unique. It was groundbreaking for the period and is the inspiration for many watches that followed, even years later. 

The Full History of the Patek Philippe Nautilus watch

1950’s – 1960’s

Before the release of the Nautilus, there were only 2 popular genres of watches; luxury dress watches and steel watches. Luxury dress watches were usually made of precious metals, mostly gold, and were thin and dainty, whereas steel watches were known for performing well in hard wearing working conditions. There were sports watches at the time, but they were often purpose-made specifically for pilots, divers or astronauts. 

1970s -1980s

The first steel luxury sports watch to hit the market was in 1972 with the Royal Oak by Audemars Piguet. This combined both the strength and durability of steel along with luxury design, not seen before in a sports watch.

The original designer of the Royal Oak watch, Gėrald Genta, brought the initial designs for the Nautilus to Petek Phillipe in 1974 and development began. 

The Nautilus was designed around submarine portholes, not only in it’s octagonal face but there is only one opening as the sides attach the bezel to the case- resembling a porthole that you’d find on a ship or submarine. It’s claimed that Gėrald Genta took inspiration from the famous novel 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. 

When the Nautilus watch was released in 1976, it was the first of it’s kind for Patek Philippe as they had previously only created luxury dress watches from precious metals. The Nautilus was a proper sports watch, with underwater capabilities of up to 120 metres. 

Upon its release, sales were steady. There were consumer concerns that in comparison to gold watches sold by Patek Philippe, the Nautilus was just as expensive. Critics claimed that the price for a steel watch was over the top. However there was a large number of Patek fans that were intrigued by the style and new technology that was emerging and so sales continued. 

1980’s – 1990’s

In 1980 Patek Philippe released the Nautilus for women. This model featured a quartz movement and a slimmer design. The model was a hit with consumers, so much so that Patek created a smaller version of the Nautilus for men that was released only a year later. 

In the mid 90’s there was a release of a model that contained Roman numerals and a small dial. This was followed by gold versions of the Nautilus. At this point, there were several “smaller” sized Nautilus watches on the market, causing the original model to be referred to as “Jumbo”. Unfortunately, production of this specific model was stopped in the early 90’s and soon became a high selling item at jewellery auctions. 

2000’s – 2020s 

In 2005, Patek Philippe released a new Nautilus model (3721) that had a power reserve and showed the moon-phase including a small date display pointer in an asymmetrical way. This design was updated a year later. 

2006 was Nautilus’ 30th Birthday. To celebrate, Patek Philippe released an updated collection. The new design included a classical three-piece case structure, instead of the previously used combined case with a mid-section and top. With updated manufacturing technologies, Patek was still able to provide excellent water resistance, despite the change of casing structure. This new design also included chronograph movements, rapid-advance rates, flyback function and combined minutes displays.

In 2016, Nautilus celebrated its 40th birthday with two new limited edition watches. There was a platinum version (5711) with only 700 pieces made, one was priced for $113,000. The second version was a chronograph watch in white gold and there were only 1300 made in this limited edition series. This version was priced at $96,000. The watches in this limited edition collection used baguette diamonds for the hour markers and the specially imprinted anniversary date was printed on the dial. Although these watches were highly-priced, due to their case materials, they quickly sold out. 

2018 brought a first for Patek Philippe; the first Nautilus equipped with a perpendicular calendar. This watch became the first ultra complex or complication in the Nautilus range. It was another example of the style and classic mixed with modern technological techniques. This watch has an 18k white gold case measuring 40 mm in diameter, being only 8.42 mm thick whilst featuring satin-finished surfaces contrasting with polished chambers. 

2021 Onwards

The year 2021 saw the announcement of the discontinuation of the Nautilus 5711 model. The 2006 anniversary watch was considered one of the most popular luxury watches available at the time. Collectors and watch enthusiasts regarded this particular watch from Patek Phillippe to be the iconic watch. Rarity breeds desire, especially with this specific watch. This is why it’s firstly difficult to acquire a Nautilus 5711, but also finding the money to pay for one. Patek Philippe Nautilus can be very expensive to buy. To put that into perspective, this watch is now being sold at specialist auctions for around two thirds more than the original retail price. 

The Nautilus has had an extensive and coveted timepiece that has literally stood the test of time. It has become a staple watch for many luxury sports watch fans. Although they can be hard to come by, once you see a Nautilus, you will be able to appreciate the expert craftsmanship that has been put into each and every model. 

We hope that you found our guide on the history of Patek Philippe informative. If you own a Patek Philippe Nautilus and are looking to sell then we are here to help. Simply visit our Sell My Watch page and fill out the form to receive a quote. We also have a full range of Patek Philippe Nautilus watches for sale.