While the early years were occupied with creating and establishing the genre in which Nautilus operated, those that followed witnessed its smooth, evolutionary trajectory. The original Nautilus Ref. 3700 was launched in steel in 1976 and remained in the collection until 1990. The range was extended periodically with models featuring different case metals, of differing sizes and featuring other dial designs.
Key debuts included the 1980 Ladies’ Nautilus Ref. 4700/51J, and 1981’s Ref. 3800/1 and Ref. 3900/1 midsize models. These were followed in 1996 by watches with Roman numerals (Ref. 3800/1JA) and the first with a leather strap, foreshadowing the launch in 1997 of the Aquanaut, effectively Nautilus’ “kid sister.” The first complicated was the Nautilus Ref. 3710/1A with a winding zone indicator IZR, presented in 1998, followed in 2005 by the Ref. 3712/1A, the first Nautilus with a moon-phase display and a power-reserve indicator.
To commemorate its 30th anniversary in 2006, the design of the Nautilus collection for men was subtly reworked, the two-part case superseded by three-part construction, crowned with the launch of the Ref. 5980/1A self-winding flyback chronograph model. The 2010 launches introduced the Ref. 5726A Annual Calendar Nautilus with a leather strap, followed in 2012 by the Ref. 5726/1A version with bracelet, and Ref. 5980R, the first chronograph with a leather strap.
In 2009, in cooperation with Gérald Genta, the ladies’ collection was delicately reworked and updated. New versions with leather straps and steel bracelets, as well as more feminine dials, were added in 2013. The first self-winding Ladies’ Nautilus (Ref. 7118/1A) in steel without diamonds was presented in 2015.
After keeping its legions of fans in suspense, Patek Philippe has announced two special Nautiluses to mark the 40th Anniversary, both, of course, holding the Patek Philippe Seal. The first is Ref. 5711/1P offered in a limited edition of 700 pieces in platinum, retailing for $113,440. For this timepiece, Patek Philippe has employed the self-winding 324-SC movement with Gyromax® balance and Spiromax® balance spring, which pays tribute to the original Nautilus Ref. 3700/1A “Jumbo” from 1976.
Accompanying the Ref. 5711/1P at the birthday party is the Ref. 5976/IG Flyback Chronograph in 18-karat white gold, which retails for $96,390. The 18-karat white gold 49.25mm case makes a size statement that could usurp the name “Jumbo”. Inside is the CH 28-520 self-winding flyback chronograph movement with 327 parts, including the brand’s proprietary Spiromax® balance spring made of Silinvar®. The watch is also exceptionally precise, promising accuracy of -3/+2 seconds per day. Only 1,300 examples will be produced.
Whenever Patek Philippe issues anniversary models, they sell out swiftly and lengthen the “wants” lists maintained by collectors. To ensure that these are noticed, each dial is subtly inscribed with the notation: “1976 – 40 – 2016.” Even this message is achingly “Patek-ish” as you have to look closely to see it. No shouting from the rooftops. Then again, Patek Philippe is the sort of the company that makes tourbillons only visible through the caseback.
Revolution wishes you a Happy Birthday, Nautilus. And life, as they say, begins at 40.
For further debate and comment on this controversial launch visit our friends over at Hodinkee and A Blog To Watch.