Patek Philippe’s Nautilus is four decades young, and proving as resilient as Captain Nemo’s own pioneering vessel

 
Laura McCreddie-Doak
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Like Apple or Ferrari, the watch industry’s own gnomic leader, Patek Philippe, doesn’t “do” teasers. With such fanatical followers and peerless product, it doesn’t need to.

However, this is the 40th-anniversary year of its sporty 70s icon the Nautilus, the brand has played its cards so close to its chest that it looked as though the milestone would pass uncelebrated.

Which would have been a shame, as the Nautilus rightfully stands as an icon of modern watchmaking. It was designed by Gérald Genta four years after his other stroke of genius, Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak, and it was Patek’s first sports watch, hewn from steel at a time when watches of a similar price were expected to be gold and slender.

Its blueish dial had racy stripes, and its revolutionary two-part case (not the usual three parts) was secured by two “shoulders” at 9 and 3 o'clock, inspired by the locks of ocean-liner portholes. Every detail was so perfect, they’ve barely been tweaked since. How on earth could 40 years pass without fanfare?

The Nautilus 40th Anniversary models indicate a desire to appeal to a younger generation – a generation that, in spite of the brand’s famous advertising line, don't want to wait to inherit their father’s Patek.

Thankfully, just a month ago, the party hats and balloons finally came out, along with a brace of limited editions – ergo, instant collector’s items (if you can persuade your local dealer to even consider you for the waiting list).

The time-only iteration boasts a platinum case and bracelet (something Patek connoisseurs can tell by the tiny diamond set into the bottom bracelet attachment), and a chronograph weighing in at a more-than-generous 49.25mm diameter. And if that wasn’t impactful enough, both dials are adorned with 12 baguette-diamond indices and embossed with “1976-40-2016”, in case you were in any doubt.

It’s not quite as relaxed a sports watch as Genta originally conceived but a bold, exciting move for Patek Philippe nonetheless. Rather than defaulting to a slavish retro reissue (something that would still have collectors foaming at the mouth), the Nautilus 40th Anniversary models indicate a desire to appeal to a younger generation – a generation that, in spite of the brand’s famous advertising line, don't want to wait to inherit their father’s Patek.

So what can we expect next from Switzerland’s grand master? We won’t know until it happens, of course. But it’ll always be worth the wait.


The Nautilus ref. 5976/1G chronograph is limited to 1,300 and retails at £69,960. The Nautilus ref. 5711/1P is limited to 700 and retails at £82,310; For more info, visit patek.com

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