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New Nautilus Collection

Luxois | 04.12.08 | 05:30 PM

The Nautilus, Patek Philippe's paragon of casual elegance, celebrates its 30th anniversary with an expanded and innovative re-introduction. When Patek Philippe launched the Nautilus thirty years ago, the unusual concept of the watch and its striking statement of casual elegance instantly developed a cult following. Now, the prestigious Geneva workshops are presenting a new and subtly redesigned Nautilus collection with fresh appeal for the next thirty years and beyond. It also introduces a Nautilus flyback chronograph endowed with a self-winding movement crafted entirely in-house.

A little revolution took place in Geneva in 1976: the launch of a luxury watch in a steel case. The world of horology was perplexed and skeptical because time still advanced at the comfortable pace of the 20th century: Luxury timepieces are made of gold or better yet with precious-metal bracelets' and, sometimes taking things a step further, with diamond hour markers and diamond-set bezels. At the same time, manufactures were competing against each other to develop thinner and thinner wristwatches. And suddenly, this oversized watch in stainless steel emerges; it is not only more expensive than many gold watches in those days, it also violates all conventions with its prominent size and extravagant shape. Most surprisingly, it is the respected and eminent Patek Philippe workshops that dared commit this foul in the luxury category. But as Patek Philippe's president Philippe Stern admits today, this disregard of a taboo was a calculated move. An ongoing paradigm shift had been observed. Many wealthy individuals were very active, not only in their professional lives but in their leisure activities as well. They were at the helm of sailing yachts, raced down icy runs, and went running in Central Park at dawn to stay in shape. This new generation loved challenge and pursued dynamic lifestyles. A precious, scratch-prone 1970s gold dress watch, with its delicate movement, did not suit their everyday lives. Such timepieces were de rigueur at elegant evening events but were not what busy managers and entrepreneurs wanted to wear at the office, on the tennis court, or during a weekend golf game. Patek Philippe anticipated this trend well in advance and responded to it in 1976 by launching the Nautilus Ref. 3700 - a totally new type of watch. While it was designed to appeal to a new customer segment, it was also intended to convince current Patek Philippe owners to complement their precious gold one with a ruggedly strong alternative in a steel case. Both objectives were attained by a wide margin and an advertising campaign helped convert the iconoclastic style of the Nautilus into a principle. One of the world's most expensive watches is made of steel, proclaimed one ad which received extensive exposure. The headline - It goes with a wet suit as well as with a tuxedo - also attracted attention and drove the point home.

New shape, new concept

Indeed, the Nautilus was provocative. Not only was a stainless steel watch being hailed as the embodiment of luxury, the Nautilus broke all established rules with the design and construction of its distinctive case. The shape of the bezel was intriguing: neither round nor rectangular, it was an octagon with gently rounded corners. And then the hinges to the left and right - some called them ears. Not to mention the size, which in 1976 far transcended what was considered contemporary and aesthetic: the Nautilus was 42 mm wide (including hinges) and 7.6 mm high. But a plan was behind all this and a functional rationale existed for each design feature. The case did not consist of a back, a caseband, and a bezel as is still common today. Instead, it was a monocoque - milled from a block of solid steel - with a single bore for the winding stem. The bezel with the crystal was firmly screwed to the case at four points. People who remember construction details of old cruise ships will notice the resemblance of the case with the classic porthole whose round window was also pressed to the frame with a hinge and tension bolts. The result: the Nautilus was water-resistant to 120 meters, a sensation for a regular-production casual watch by 1976 standards. This gave owners the reassurance that the Nautilus would be a loyal companion even under the most arduous circumstances.

From the enfant terrible to the cult object

The response to the Nautilus varied widely, ranging from "shocking" to "fantastic." Thus, it was clear from the very beginning that the Nautilus was not a watch for everyone. It had its own following. And during the 1980s, this community of aficionados grew significantly. The size of the watch, initially criticized, turned into a unique selling proposition. The original 1976 Nautilus was affectionately nicknamed "Jumbo" and in the course of time, it appealed to more and more women, prompting the workshops to launch the Ref. 4700 in 1980. In 1981, the 37.5-mm wide Ref. 3800 was developed for narrower wrists. After production of the large Nautilus was discontinued in 1990, it remained Patek Philippe's only casual watch for many years. The collection featured models in steel, steel/gold, and gold, and some were also crafted in platinum. But the Nautilus always retained its inimitable form with the lateral case extension ridges that were readily identifiable even from afar. In 1998, Patek Philippe again presented a Nautilus in the original format, this time endowed with a proprietary complication: the WZI winding zone indicator. 2005 saw the launch of the first Nautilus with three complications: the Ref. 3712/1A with power-reserve indicator, moon phase, and analog date. The waiting lists kept by Authorized Patek Philippe Retailers grew and grew, and after a while, the first Nautilus watches appeared in the catalogs of prestigious auction houses, sometimes fetching more than the cost of a new model. The enfant terrible had turned into a cult object and, once again, Patek Philippe demonstrated a deep commitment to tradition combined with a penchant for innovations in technology and design.

Different but familiar: the new Nautilus

Thirty years is not a venerable age for a Patek Philippe collection. The Calatrava line, for example, is 70 years old, and the Golden Ellipse will soon celebrate its 40th anniversary. So it is not surprising that 2006 marks a new chapter in the history of the Nautilus. The entire collection was redesigned to commemorate the occasion, and for five of the six new models, the construction of the case was changed as well.

These new Nautilus watches now have three-part cases, which do not compromise their legendary ruggedness. Advanced manufacturing processes and new material technologies have made it possible to design classic cases with backs, casebands and bezels that equal the original monocoque construction in robustness and water resistance. Also, the porthole mechanism used to seal the bezel as well as the characteristic lateral ridges remain unchanged. But the originally straight hinges are now gently rounded, formally reflecting the lateral curvature of the bezel. This detail enhances the elegance of the new Nautilus case.

The design of the new medium-sized Nautilus has been similarly refined, but it preserves the classic two-part monocoque-and-bezel construction, paying tribute to the 1976 original.

All watches of the new Nautilus collection have a sapphire-crystal caseback that reveals the Patek Philippe movement with the coveted Geneva Seal.

A fresh accent: rose gold

So far, Nautilus models have been available in stainless steel and in yellow or white gold as well as in rare platinum versions. Now, one of the new large-format Nautilus watches comes with a captivating rose-gold case, creating a beautiful contrast of warmth and functional elegance. To underscore the aesthetic appeal of the material combinations, the dials were also reworked to match the cases. Stainless steel models, like before, have blue-black dials, while the rose-gold version has a warmer brown-charcoal dial. Both of these dials have a technical flourish: They are galvanized and lacquered to produce a light-to-dark gradation from the center to the periphery, a characteristic feature of the Nautilus. The white-gold model (Ref. 5712) features a charcoal dial that is galvanized only. The typical horizontal embossing pattern has been retained, but the hands have been enlarged. The applied luminous hour markers are also slightly larger with the contours progressively matched to the shape of the bezel. With these subtle modifications, the faces of the redesigned Nautilus watches look familiar yet are refreshingly new.

Steel bracelets and leather straps: details that count

The first Nautilus models were worn on metal bracelets that were remarkably supple despite their strong and massive links. The proportion of the bracelets has been further refined and harmonized with the new case sizes. Each bracelet visually prolongs the case contours, and the links gradually narrow to meet in a fold-over clasp that is both secure and comfortable on the wrist. The finish was reworked as well to further enhance the supple look and feel. Like the original, the outer links are satin-finished, while the middle ones are mirror-polished.

The large models in white and rose gold are worn on large-scale alligator straps - safari black with white gold and brown with rose gold. The matching gold fold-over clasp has a new threepart design with a threaded length adjustment feature.

A new flagship model: the Nautilus Ref. 5711/1 A

With its width of 43 mm, the new Nautilus Ref. 5711/1 A is one millimeter larger than its 1976 predecessor. This is not a reflection of the general trend toward more dominant watches; rather, the slight increase is due to the rounder contours of the lateral hinge ridges. The new three-part case has a screwed back with a sapphire-crystal window and a screw-down crown. It is waterresistant to a depth of 120 meters. Its self-winding heart, powered by an extra-heavy 21K gold central rotor, is the Patek Philippe caliber 315 SC movement, acclaimed by collectors and connoisseurs alike. It displays the hours, minutes, sweep seconds, and the date in an aperture at 3 o'clock.

The new Nautilus Ref. 5711/1 A comes in a stainless steel case worn on an integrated stainless steel bracelet with satin-finished outer links and polished middle links.

For smaller wrists: the Nautilus Ref. 5800/1 A

Measuring 38.4 mm across the hinges, the new Nautilus Ref. 5800/1 A is perceptibly smaller, but it too has gained nearly one millimeter in comparison with its predecessor, the 3800/1 A (37.5 mm). It is the ideal model for men with smaller wrists and will no doubt appeal to women who enjoy wearing a larger watch. The Ref. 5800/1 is the only new Nautilus that still has a twopart case; however, it also features a sapphire-crystal caseback. Because this case design requires that the movement be fitted from the dial side, the winding stem is split. The mechanical Patek Philippe caliber 330 SC movement provides the classic functions: hours, minutes, sweep seconds, and a date in the aperture at 3 o'clock.

The new medium-format Nautilus is available in a stainless steel case and integrated stainless steel bracelet with a fold-over clasp. The outer bracelet links are satin-finished, while the middle links are polished.

Getting complicated: the Nautilus Ref. 5712

This new Nautilus also has a prominent predecessor that achieved cult status virtually overnight. Apart from displaying the hours and minutes, it has a subsidiary seconds dial at 4 o'clock, a power-reserve indicator between 10 and 11 o'clock, and an analog date at 7 o'clock with an integrated moon-phase display. For a sporty watch, this is an exceptional number of complications, and the eye-catching layout adds a touch of exclusivity to the Ref. 5712/1. It has a three-part case with a sapphire-crystal caseback, a screw-down crown, and a moon-phase corrector push piece in the side of the case. The corrector limits the water resistance of the watch to 60 meters. This complicated Nautilus is powered by the famous self-winding Patek Philippe caliber 240 PS IRM C LU movement. Despite the sophistication of the caliber, it is merely 3.98 mm high, thanks to the 22K gold minirotor recessed in the main plate.

The new Nautilus Ref. 5712/1 A has a stainless steel case with an integrated stainless steel bracelet. The outer bracelet links are satin-finished and the middle links are polished.

It is also available in two further versions: the Ref. 5712 R in 18K rose gold and the Ref. 5712 G in 18K white gold. These watches are worn on hand-stitched, large-scale alligator straps in brown (rose gold) or safari black (white gold). The straps come with a novel security fold-over clasp in 18K rose or white gold.

An anniversary coup: the Nautilus chronograph Ref. 5980/1 A

The timing is perfect. Patek Philippe fans and collectors had to wait years for the first chronograph crafted entirely in-house. Finally, in 2005, the Geneva workshops presented the Ref. 5959P, the world's thinnest split-seconds chronograph. In January 2006, it was followed by the Ref. 5960P, the first self-winding chronograph with an Annual Calendar, and now, Patek Philippe unveils the Nautilus Ref. 5980/1 A chronograph. Nothing could better complement this elegant yet resolutely sporty timepiece than a stopwatch function. Indeed, the new self-winding, column-wheel-controlled caliber 28-520 C chronograph movement and the new 44-mm Nautilus case are a perfect match. While its architecture is based on the movement of the Ref. 5960, the 28-520 C features an instant-change date in an aperture at 3 o'clock and also stands out with a number of highly interesting chronograph functions. The chronograph hand with the flyback feature doubles as a constantly running sweep seconds hand. This is possible because in the new mechanism, the three fine-toothed chronograph wheels normally used to start and stop time measurements have been replaced by a virtually friction-free, vertical disc-type clutch. The monocounter that dominates the bottom half of the dial is unusual as well. On three concentric scales, it keeps track of the minutes and hours that have elapsed since a timing was activated. This fascinating movement is accommodated in the new, subtly redesigned 44-mm Nautilus case, making it currently the largest model in the collection. The two chronograph push pieces are so well integrated in the caseband that it seems as if the 1976 design had been conceived for a chronograph to begin with. The back of the three-part case incorporates a sapphire-crystal window, revealing the artistic decoration of the superb movement, the gold rotor, and the goldfilled, embossed Geneva Seal.

The new Nautilus Ref. 5980/1 A has a stainless steel case with an integrated stainless steel bracelet. The outer bracelet links are satin-finished and the middle links are polished.

The new Nautilus collection showcases the flattering redesign of Patek Philippe's casually elegant classic. It has gained style through subtle and carefully calculated changes while preserving its original spirit and mien. And as a crowning achievement, the Nautilus chronograph Ref. 5980/1 finally rounds out this charismatic family of timepieces - an ideal point of departure for success in the next 30 years.

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