The Nautilus is easily the most recognised and demanded Patek Philippe collection in the world. Here are the real reasons why it’s so coveted.
Ask any Patek Philippe collector, even the ones who may not love the Nautilus, for a model that they would love to own, and it will probably still be a Nautilus. Some collectors prefer the simplicity of the Ref. 5711/1A Nautilus, a purist and almost religious respect for the descendant of the original Ref. 3700/1A. Others love the Ref. 5980 Chronograph’s design or the Ref. 5726A annual calendar model. All are beautiful but few are ever in stock.
The Nautilus’ popularity is due to many reasons. As a collection, it’s hyped beyond measure, which increases its public interest and demand. On the first webinar that Patek Philippe held worldwide with Cortina Watch, the General Manager of Geneva Master Time Marketing/Patek Philippe S.E.A, Deepa Chatrath, and COO of Cortina Watch, Jeremy Lim, discussed this point as their audience clamoured for access to the Ref. 5711/1A Nautilus.
Of course, another reason is simply the worry of missing out. It’s almost impossible to get your hands on a Nautilus, which makes it even more in demand. And as the president of Patek Philippe, Mr Thierry Stern, has reiterated many times, the Nautilus constitutes only a portion of its entire production. This ensures other important products are also lauded, and its steel models remain well-priced.
But perhaps the more important reason why the Nautilus is so coveted is that it very much embodies the spirit of Patek Philippe today.
Gérald Genta’s Modernisation of Watchmaking
When the Nautilus was developed in 1976, the Swiss watch industry was in the midst of a war against quartz and getting beaten badly. Genta’s design-centric timepieces, developed in the late ’60s and ’70s, focused on creating a modern vision of luxury through aesthetics, instead of precious material or movement development. He purified the value of a luxury watch down to one simple factor: did you like how it looked on your wrist? If you did, you were willing to pay the price of that watch.
It helped, of course, that pop culture and jewellery design were all evolving at the same time, and Genta’s integrated bracelet watches and non-conformist case designs made these watches wrist statements. Were integrated bracelet watches worn solely by billionaires? Of course not. But they became known for it, and that simply added to these watches’ prestige.
The spirit of sports luxury fits right in with collectors’ worldviews today, particularly these days when leisure, work and play time are completely mingled together. That same youthful attitude infuses Patek Philippe’s current management as well, as they seek to connect a 181-year-old company with a 21st century audience.
Their success is demonstrated in how young collectors view the brand’s products and designs as relevant. That same casual elegance embedded in the Nautilus’ design has seeped into other collections as well, giving them a new attitude while maintaining the sophistication of high watchmaking design.
High Watchmaking and the Nautilus
The Nautilus itself has also evolved over time. The collection has since incorporated new complications over the last 22 years with the first complicated Nautilus Ref. 37101A. It bore a power reserve indicator at 11 o’clock, followed by the rare Ref. 3712/1A which was the first model to bear the embossed dial. It also featured a date and moonphase display, power reserve and small seconds display.
In 2006, with the introduction of the new Jumbo models, the modern references Ref. 5711 and the Ref. 5712 (an update to the Ref. 3712). came along, as well as the Ref. 5980 Chronograph with its signature dial stripes, and centralised chronograph totaliser display, perhaps one of the most beautiful chronograph designs around.
Just as the Nautilus’ modern take on watchmaking has infused Patek Philippe’s modern designs, the brand’s high watchmaking chops have emerged in the collection as well. The Ref. 5990/1A Travel Time Chronograph, Ref. 5796/1G Flyback Chronograph and the Ref. 5990/1A Perpetual Calendar are the latest high watchmaking timepieces to appear in the Nautilus’s case construction. What it demonstrates is the incredible versatility of this young collection, which is yet another reason why collectors love the Nautilus: there’s something for everyone, if you can get it.