5 Facts About the Patek Philippe Nautilus

Patek Philippe Nautilus

The Patek Philippe Nautilus is the most coveted steel luxury sports watch today, with a reported average waiting time of 8 years. At 44 years old, it has indeed more than defied the odds of its time.

Launched in 1976, when the Swiss watch industry was reeling from the popularity of quartz watches, the Nautilus was unlike anything that was expected from the brand. To survive, brands had to deliver innovative and awe-inducing watches and the Nautilus sure delivered.

The oversized, expensive and steel-made watch with a premium price stood out from the pack, and has been in continuous production since. Here are 5 things you probably didn’t know about the legendary Patek Philippe Nautilus.


#1 It was sketched by renowned watch designer Gerald Genta in 5 minutes.

Genius doesn’t always take time. In the case of Gerald Genta, all it took was 5 minutes. In a 2009 interview, Genta told the story of how he came up with the Nautilus.

Sitting in a restaurant at the 1976 Basel Fair, Genta took notice of the Patek Philippe executives eating at the other end of the room. He put pen to paper and began sketching out a rough design. Knowing that the Stern family, owners of Patek Philippe, were avid fans of sailing, he based the design from the shape of the porthole of a transatlantic liner. The ‘ears’ on each side of the Nautilus were inspired by the oversized hinges of the watertight windows.


Patek Philippe Nautilus Rose Gold Diamond Brown Strap Ladies Watch 7010
Patek Philippe Nautilus Rose Gold Diamond Brown Strap Ladies Watch 7010


#2 The Nautilus takes its name from a novel.

The nautical-inspired watch took its name from Jules Verne’s classic novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, an underwater adventure story. The protagonist Captain Nemo invented and commanded a submarine named Nautilus, which was armour-plated, so strong it can sink any ship, and was equipped with a 12,000-volume library, and an art collection.

The thrilling piece of Verne’s imagination not only inspired the Patek Philippe Nautilus but also the first commissioned submarine of the US Navy and the first nuclear powered submarine.


Patek Philippe Nautilus Annual Calendar Moonphase Steel Mens Watch 5726/1A
Patek Philippe Nautilus Annual Calendar Moonphase Steel Mens Watch 5726/1A


#3 Patek took a risk with its price but it ultimately helped the company survive the quartz crisis.

One of the Nautilus’ earliest ads says “one of the world’s costliest watches is made of steel.” Instead of cutting costs to appeal to customers, Patek Philippe did the exact opposite and put a steep price on the Nautilus.

In 1976, the original retail price for the Nautilus was $3,100 when a Rolex Daytona sold for a little under $1,000 and a Patek Philippe mechanical wrist watch in gold sold for $4,000. It was a risk that attracted affluent customers and the Nautilus continues to appeal to the same market today.


Patek Philippe Nautilus Rose Gold Diamond Brown Strap Ladies Watch 7010
Patek Philippe Nautilus Rose Gold Diamond Brown Strap Ladies Watch 7010


#4 Patek started adding precious metals to the Nautilus in the 1980s.

While the Nautilus was conceived as a steel sports watch, they began to expand their line to include solid yellow gold and two-tone models beginning in the 1980s. In 2004, they released a full white gold Nautilus, the 3711/1G. Most recently, the brand released two limited edition pieces to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the Nautilus,  in white gold and platinum respectively.

Its steel form was what made the Nautilus so popular in the first place, and these remain the most popular among collectors.


Patek Philippe Nautilus ref. 3700 (left) and ref. 5711
Patek Philippe Nautilus ref. 3700 (left) and ref. 5711


#5 Its most popular model, the 5711/1A, is faithful to its ancestor, the original Nautilus 3700.

There will always be a market for Nautilus made of precious metals, especially those that are more complicated or have more ornate designs. However, the most coveted Nautilus today remains a steel model – the ref. 5711 to be exact.

The ref. 5711 was just one of 4 watches launched for the 30th anniversary of the Nautilus in 2006, but it was the one that resonated most with collectors. When placed side by side with the original Nautilus ref. 3700, the resemblance is uncanny, and perhaps that is what makes it so popular.

The modern ref. 5711 watch best sums up what the Nautilus is for collectors: a bold but sleek sports watch, with a semi-round case, a blue dial, and a stainless steel construction – just like the 3700 was.





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