Patek Philippe Nautilus vs AP Royal Oak

ap royal oak patek philippe nautilus

Watch Comparison: Patek Philippe Nautilus vs AP Royal Oak

The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Patek Philippe Nautilus have a shared history and similar qualities, but they are also clearly different watches.

Borne out of the quartz crisis in the 1970s, both were designed by Gerald Genta, whose designs helped catapult the watch from being a tool to the luxury giant that it is today. Ask just about any watch enthusiast and these two designs will certainly be at the top of their list.

What do the Royal Oak and Nautilus have in common and how can one tell them apart? We created a simplified guide to these two iconic timepieces.


Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Patek Philippe Nautilus:
First Luxury Sports Watches

Their story goes back to the 1970s, at the height of the so-called quartz revolution. Faced with competition from more accurate and mass-produced quartz watches, Audemars Piguet asked renowned watch designer Gerald Genta to create a unique and unprecedented timepiece. The Royal Oak was launched in the Basel fair of 1972.

Its use of finished stainless steel, uniquely-shaped octagonal bezel and integrated bracelet made waves in the watch industry. It also introduced an entirely new genre: the luxury sports watch.


Audemars Piguet Royal Oak vs Patek Philippe Nautilus
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak vs Patek Philippe Nautilus
Following the success of the Royal Oak, Patek Philippe asked Genta to create a counterpart to his own design. Knowing that the Stern family, owners of Patek Philippe, were sailing enthusiasts, Genta took inspiration from a passenger ship’s porthole –  and the Nautilus was born in 1976.


Common History of the AP Royal Oak and Patek Philippe Nautilus

Famously designed by Genta in just a day, the Royal Oak and Nautilus were clearly ahead of their time.

Both watches were considered the first sports watches of their brand. They were big, bold and made of stainless steel, when most watches were made of precious metals. They also had angular designs that were uncommon – the Royal Oak with its eight-sided case, and the Nautilus with its flanked case. Moreover, they were priced much higher than most watches, even when they were made of stainless steel.

It was a gamble that paid off for both Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe, as the Royal Oak and Nautilus are considered the haute horology sports watches to own, until today.


Comparing Features of the Royal Oak and Nautilus


Having been created by the same designer, the Royal Oak and Nautilus look like distant cousins — they have similarities at a glance, but it’s also quite easy to tell them apart.



The Royal Oak was inspired by the classic driver’s helmet. The tough-looking case has very defined edges on its octagonal bezel. What gives the bezel an even stronger look are the eight hexagonal bolts, an aesthetic detail which has since been copied by other watches. Its crown is also angular and unprotected.The Nautilus meanwhile, has a softer and more circular case. While it is thinner than the Royal Oak, it wears slightly bigger on the wrist because it is flanked by “ears” on its side, which also protects the crown.


Audemars Piguet Royal Oak White Frosted Gold Purple Dial Watch
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak White Frosted Gold Purple Dial Watch


The Royal Oak has a very distinct and labor-intensive tapisserie dial. The weaved pattern forms a square and lozenge motif or what one can simply call a “waffle” pattern. These were made to echo the geometric case and bezel of the Royal Oak.

Meanwhile, the Nautilus has embossed horizontal bars on its dial. With each change of angle, each bevel of the bars are highlighted beautifully, especially with the gradient or combined shade of the dial.

Both have simple baton hour markers that complement their dial designs beautifully. While Genta was adventurous with the case shape and dial, he exercised more restraint in the finer details.


Patek Philippe Nautilus Annual Calendar Moonphase Watch
Patek Philippe Nautilus Annual Calendar Moonphase Watch


The Royal Oak and Nautilus were the first to introduce the integrated bracelet, where the case and bracelet are attached seamlessly, instead of using lugs.

The Royal Oak has a thicker, hardier, bracelet than the Nautilus. The heavy construction is made of three plot links, whose brushed texture is quite pronounced. The combination of thick horizontal links and smaller vertical links allow seamless continuity from bezel to clasp.

The Nautilus’ refined look continues down to its strap. Its chain bracelet is noticeably thinner than the Royal Oak’s, and are formed by three two large chain links. It is as brightly polished as its case, which adds even more sophistication to the design.



Both the Royal Oak and the Nautilus turn half-a-century old in this decade; and they remain in high demand. The decades have seen spin-offs, added complications and modern upgrades to both watches, but they have remained true to their classic design — and perhaps that is why they stay.




Toll-free US and Canada Only:
Outside US:

Customer service:

Swiss Watch Expo
315 East Paces Ferry Rd NE
Atlanta, GA 30305

M - F 10 AM to 6 PM EST
Saturdays 10 AM to 5 PM EST