Patek Philippe Nautilus 40th anniversary and two special editions
Patek Philippe is offering two gifts to collectors, to celebrate the 40th birthday of the Nautilus; two watches that are exceptional in a number of ways, and which offer something different from the current collection.
The Nautilus is forty years old, and Patek Philippe has decided to celebrate the birthday of its elegant sports watch in style. Forty years is a significant milestone, whether in the life of a man, a woman or a watch. Patek Philippe is not one to tear up the rule book or disrupt its collections, so you have to look pretty closely at the two special edition watches to really get a measure of just how special they are.
The Nautilus hasn’t changed much in 40 years. Unlike many watches that are commonly held to be “iconic”, it has not had any major facelifts. No anabolic agents have been used to enhance its musculature. No tourbillons or grand complications have been grafted on, which might have detracted from its original premise, which was to be sporty but not too sporty, elegant but informal, versatile and extremely comfortable. The Nautilus proved to be a natural fit with the years that followed the turn of the millennium, and it lost some of the revolutionary aura it had at its launch. You have to remember that, in 1976, Patek Philippe was not the kind of watchmaker to offer a casual watch in steel. A chunky 40mm diameter (42 at the widest part) was even less in character. So, pricing this watch made out of workaday steel at the same level as a solid gold timepiece was quite a bold move. And yet the Nautilus was an immediate success, in Patek Philippe’s relatively modest terms, given that they don’t produce watches by the truck load. The original reference, the 3700/1A, remained in production until 1990. At that point a few minor changes were made, and the watch branched out to become its own range.
Today the Nautilus is available in a men’s and women’s version, with or without small complications, in steel or gold, on a metal bracelet or leather strap, with or without diamond setting. The men’s versions remain highly sought-after and eminently collectible, with their restrained diameter, minimalist dial, slim hands and complete absence of bells and whistles. Enthusiasts recognise them immediately, even though they wear very discreetly on the wrist. Until this year, that is.
A photograph can’t do it justice, but the reference 5976/1G is an extraordinary Patek Philippe, quite literally. It is huge. It’s by far the largest watch in the company’s current collection. Between 10 and 4 o’clock the diameter is 44 mm. At its widest part, with its lateral protrusions, it measures 49.25 mm. By way of comparison, Patek Philippe’s biggest watch is the reference 5175 Grandmaster Chime and its less exclusive version, the 6300. They measure 47 mm where the Nautilus measures 44, but they do contain a movement with 1366 components. These watches cost over two million francs and are produced at a rate that can be measured in geological eons. You can’t really consider them “current”. Patek’s third biggest watch, the 5980, is a Nautilus chronograph with dual time, measuring 45.7 mm. Conclusion: fans of oversize watches and people with the burly wrists of a lumberjack may hitherto have had trouble finding anything to fit them at Patek Philippe... but not any more.
Perhaps surprisingly, the 5976/1G has a relatively restrained thickness of 12.6 mm. Which, proportionately, is very slim indeed. This is all the more remarkable given that the model on which the 5976/1G is based, the 5980/1A, is an automatic chronograph in steel. The birthday reference is an automatic chronograph with case and bracelet in white gold. With its prodigious diameter and the natural heft of gold, you won’t forget you’re wearing it. Nor will you forget the anniversary for which the watch was created, as the dial bears the inscription “1976-40-2016” as a reminder of the model’s vintage. As on most Nautilus models the indices stand out against the blue dial, but here they are made of baguette diamonds rather than gold, adding a subtle lustre to the piece. One final detail is the date window at 3 o’clock, which for this special occasion has been outlined in white gold. Indeed, with the enlarged case diameter enclosing an unchanged movement, it was important to ensure that the dial indications didn’t end up too close to the centre. The window is therefore placed adjacent to a small diamond index that gives the impression of nudging the square towards the outside edge of the dial.
It’s quite difficult to tell from a photo, as it is in the flesh, but the reference 5711/1P is also an exceptional watch. Patek has a habit of producing certain models in extremely limited numbers. These are often grand complications with a complex movement, which are naturally slow to emerge from the workshop. But there is an exception to this rule: the reference 5711/1P. Yes, it’s the same reference as the anniversary model. In a way it’s the brand’s black swan – a watch so rare that stories about it acquire the aura of urban legend. The community of die-hard Patek Philippe enthusiasts is so large (and easily frustrated by the lack of availability of some pieces) that it has put the previous reference 5711/1P on a pedestal. What’s so special about it? Well, first off, it’s made entirely of platinum.
In order to quench its clients’ thirst for this ultra-precious metal, Patek Philippe will be producing a considerable number of Nautilus watches in platinum, under the name Reference 5711/1P 40th Anniversary Limited Edition. A few details differentiate it from its steel counterpart. The platinum has a darker hue and less brilliant finish than steel, even on its polished surfaces. A diamond is set under the bezel at 6 o’clock, as with all Pateks in platinum. And, of course, platinum is 20% heavier even than gold, which makes the watch exceptionally weighty, given that both the case and the entire bracelet are made of the precious metal. The final detail is on the dial of the 5711/1P Anniversary, which also bears an inscription to remind its wearer of the collection’s age, and has diamond indices. You’d never know it, but the dial is made of solid gold.
With 1300 of the 5976/1G in production, and 700 of the 5711/1P, Patek Philippe is not really playing the rarity card. And despite the extreme fervour of the brand’s collectors, such quantities are unlikely to trigger frenzied bidding at auction. Patek has also not played safe with the dial, which will not be to everyone’s taste. Launching a 49 mm diameter watch in 2016, five years after the demise of the XXL watch craze, is proof, if any were needed, that the company continues to proceed at its own pace, oblivious to the dictates of fashion. Above all, the idea of bringing out an exclusively masculine watch, necessarily so because of its size and weight, when it has been pushing its ladies’ range for the past five years, is further evidence that Patek is determined to write its own entry in the history books. The Nautilus is definitely not an iconic women’s watch. It’s 100% men only. Only men are capable of understanding and appreciating the final definitive detail that sets these two anniversary watches apart. They are delivered in an identical case to previous generations, a virtually cubic box covered with genuine cork. An oversized nod and a wink, perhaps, to the fact that the Nautilus has always been rather unorthodox.
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