In 1976, Patek Philippe released the very first sports watch in the Swiss brand’s 137-year history, the Patek Philippe Nautilus. This year, that now-iconic timepiece marks its 40th year in production, and Patek is commemorating it in style, with two new limited-edition Nautilus models — one a platinum-cased tribute to the 1970s original, the other a flyback chronograph patterned after the model’s most recent redesign in 2006.
The original Nautilus, commissioned by Patek’s father-son ownership and management team of Henri and Philippe Stern and designed by watch world legend Gérald Genta, was 42 mm in diameter — huge by the standards of the day — and had an unusually shaped, exceptionally water-resistant (to 120 meters) steel case with two unusual, ear-like projections on either side. But the most notable feature of Reference 3700, as the first Nautilus was designated, was its price: $2,350. At the time, steel luxury watches were still a rarity. For Patek Philippe, up to then known exclusively for its precious-metal dress watches, a chunky, steel sports watch with an eye-popping price tag was news indeed. The watch was not an immediate hit, but later became one, earning the nickname “Jumbo” among collectors and spawning a slew of other versions over the subsequent decades.
The Patek Philippe Nautilus Anniversary Limited Edition (Ref. 5711/1P), limited to 700 pieces, is a modern version of the “Jumbo” with a few notable differences. The case is 44 mm in diameter (2 mm larger than that of Ref. 3700/1A) and made of 950 platinum rather than steel. Platinum is very challenging to machine, with a tough, ductile consistency that abrades drill bits, milling heads, files, and polishing tools much more severely than gold or steel. Both the three-part case and the link bracelet are machined from this material, and both boast a host of high-end finishes, including chamfering, satin-finishing, sandblasting, and mirror polishing. As is tradition with Patek Philippe’s platinum watches, the Nautilus Ref. 5711/1P is fitted with a flawless rare white Top Wesselton diamond (approx. 0.02 ct.) in the bezel above the lugs at 6 o’clock.
Another notable difference from the original Nautilus can be noted on the dial, which in the anniversary version is made of 18K gold and features a dark blue color with a bright-to-dark sunburst gradation from the inside to the outside. The 12 applied baton hour markers are in 18K white gold with flawless Top Wesselton baguette diamonds (total weight: approx. 0.34 ct.). The bottom half of the dial — which of course is graced with the Nautilus’s traditional horizontal embossed motif — bears a discreet two-line anniversary citation: “40” and “1976–2016.” The date aperture at 3 o’clock, which is also slightly larger in proportion to the case, is set in a polished 18K white-gold frame.
Visible through the sapphire caseback is the self-winding movement, Patek Philippe’s manufacture Caliber 324 S C, with a heavy central rotor in 21K gold, a Gyromax balance with Spiromax balance spring (both are Patek Philippe inventions) and a host of haute horlogerie finishes on the components that are executed almost entirely by hand: including Geneva striping for the bridges, chamfering and polishing for the edges, polishing for the sinks, circular graining for the gold rotor, perlage for the plate, and gold-filled engravings. As for accuracy, Caliber 324 S C has been tested to achieve a daily rate deviation of only -3 to +2 seconds, exceeding the benchmark for a certified chronometer.
Each of the 700 individually numbered watches comes in a special anniversary box with a Certificate of Origin and an anniversary document. Made of brown natural cork, the box is an authentic replica of the 1976 original, which was designed to evoke the ocean liners whose portholes inspired the Nautilus case design.
The second anniversary piece is even more “Jumbo.” Ref. 5976, a self-winding flyback chronograph, has an 18K white gold case that measures 49.25 mm wide — 3.6 mm wider than its predecessor, Ref. 5980, the flagship model of the redesigned Nautilus collection from 2006. The model retains the original’s bilateral case bulges, with both chronograph pushers integrated into the sides for easy operation. Top-notch hand finishing abounds, including a vertical satin finish and shiny chamfers on the bezel and alternating matte and mirror polishing on the bracelet links. Moreover, the crisp legibility of the chronograph functions was further optimized.
The dial, here also in dark blue, benefits from the watch’s enhanced size: there is room for an enlarged date aperture, which is set in a mirror-polished white-gold frame, and the similarly enlarged chronograph monocounter subdial at 6 o’clock makes for better legibility of the chronograph readouts. Its three concentric scales include a 12-hour counter on the outside, a minute counter from 1 to 30 in the middle, and another minute counter from 31 to 60 on the inside. Flawless Top Wesselton baguette and princess-cut diamonds are used for the applied hour markers. The horizontal Nautilus-style embossed pattern decorates the dial and the anniversary citation “1976 – 40 – 2016” has been placed on its upper half.
Patek Philippe’s proprietary, in-house chronograph movement, Caliber CH 28-520 C, is wound automatically by a heavy 21K gold central rotor, and the start/stop and flyback/reset chronograph functions are controlled by a classic column-wheel mechanism with a vertical disk clutch. Because it is virtually friction-free, the chronograph hand can be used as a continuously running seconds hand without causing mechanical wear. The movement, which is visible through a sapphire caseback, is equipped with an instantaneous date change with a switching cycle of 1/10 second. Its Gyromax balance, with patented Spiromax balance spring made of high-tech Silinvar, is totally antimagnetic and corrosion-resistant, and helps deliver an impressive rate tolerance of -3 to +2 seconds per day. The gold rotor and bridges are enhanced with Geneva circular graining, chamfered and polished edges, polished bores, and gold-filled engravings accentuated with blued screws.
The Nautilus Chronograph Ref. 5976/1G 40th Anniversary is a limited edition of 1,300 numbered watches; like the Ref. 5711/1P, it comes in a special replica box with a Certificate of Origin and an anniversary document.