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Guide to New and Used
Patek Philippe
Nautilus Watches

Patek Philippe Nautilus

One of the most identifiable sport chic watches on the market, the Patek Philippe Nautilus is regularly in hot demand. For many collectors, acquiring this watch—with a near-decade-long waiting list—can bring tears to the eyes.

Nautilus History & Cultural Significance

The Nautilus was conceived of by Gerald Genta, one of the greatest watch designers of all time. Genta was the brains behind the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, as well as his own Gefica collection, all highly sought after on the vintage market. He designed the Nautilus based on a ship’s porthole, but gave it gentler curves and a sharp octagonal bezel. Genta also created a special dial treatment that features horizontal lines recalling a ship’s deck.

In 1976, Patek Philippe introduced its first stainless steel sporty-chic Nautilus. That first watch, Ref. 3700, was powered by a Jaeger-LeCoultre ultra-thin automatic movement. It retailed for $3,100, and Patek Philippe advertised it with the tagline, “One of the World’s Costliest Watches Is Made Out of Steel.”

Patek Philippe Nautilus

That first Nautilus wowed the world. Because of the great response, Patek Philippe opted to keep it in production. The Nautilus indelibly influenced modern watch collecting and made a significant impact on the future of luxury sport watches.

Over the decades, Patek Philippe went on to create additional stainless steel Nautilus watches, each of which is still in high demand.

Nautilus Design Features and Functions

The octagonal bezel and case of the Nautilus and the distinctive dial have never grown old. Patek Philippe has enriched the collection over the years by adding different materials, dial colors and functions. In fact, the watch that initially was supposed to exist only in steel has enjoyed monumental moments in gold, including rose and white gold, and two-tone versions.

The Nautilus has also evolved from a simple three-hands watch to a piece with a host of different complications and built-in functions. Among them: a version with date and moon phase indication, an annual calendar with moon phase, a chronograph with date, the Nautilus Travel Time Chronograph and the hot-ticket Nautilus Perpetual Calendar (first released in 2018).

Patek Philippe Nautilus

All of the watches are powered by in-house-made mechanical movements, many of which (especially for the complications) are packed with high-tech materials such as a Gyromax® balance and Spiromax® balance spring to ensure long-lasting wear.

Nautilus Fun Fact: A Strong Fan Following

Because it is not audacious, the Patek Philippe Nautilus watch appeals to a wide audience that includes sports stars and a host of celebrities. Among those spotted wearing the Nautilus are American actor Brad Pitt, comedian extraordinaire Ellen DeGeneres, sports star Odell Beckham, Canadian rapper Drake, and actor Mark Wahlberg. In fact, Wahlberg wears the Patek Philippe Nautilus Perpetual Calendar (5740G) that first made its debut in 2018.

Patek Philippe Nautilus

Nautilus Fun Fact: An Incredible Bracelet

To ensure not only quality but also immediately identifiable stature, Patek Philippe created a very sophisticated bracelet for the Nautilus that takes an enormous amount of time to make. Each solid link is cut one at a time, to the tune of almost seven minutes per link. Assembling and polishing those links then takes about seven hours to complete.

Patek Philippe Nautilus

Patek Philippe Nautilus Value and Collectability

Nautilus owners unequivocally know they have the best in design, craftsmanship and heritage. So, it’s no wonder that the typical waitlist for a Nautilus watch can be as long as 10 years. Patek Philippe only makes about 62,000 watches a year, and the Nautilus is just a small percentage of that total.

Additionally, because it can take a watchmaker nine months to build and assemble a single watch, the Patek Philippe Nautilus is not cheap. Costs average in the mid-to-high five figures. Even a pre-owned Patek Philippe Nautilus in steel can command upwards of $50,000.

In today’s market, stainless steel sport luxury watches are in such high demand that sometimes they command more than their two-tone counterparts.

In April 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine, a Patek Philippe Nautilus timepiece went up for sale at an online auction held by Sotheby’s. The stainless steel Reference 5711 watch (circa 2014) broke a world record, selling for $484,000.

Patek Philippe Nautilus

Patek Philippe Nautilus Watchmaker's Perspective

Introduced in 2018, the Patek Philippe Reference 5740G Nautilus Perpetual Calendar is the first time that the venerable Nautilus has included a perpetual calendar mechanism. From basic to complex, there are many different types of calendar mechanisms found in watches today. The simple calendar is the most straightforward—a disc of numerals from 1 to 31 advance forward every night at midnight. Months that have less than 31 days need to be manually corrected.

Next in terms of complexity is the annual calendar. The mechanism automatically adjusts between months with 31 and 30 days throughout the year. But what about leap years? With a completely mechanical mechanism, the perpetual calendar automatically takes care of the adjustment needed for the 29 days of February in a leap year. To sweeten the deal on the Reference 5740G Nautilus Perpetual Calendar, it includes a moon phase indication embedded in the day of the month sub-dial. The perpetual calendar is one of the incredible inventions in the history of horology, and has finally found its place in one of the most iconic watch designs ever manufactured.

Patek Philippe Nautilus

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