Patek Philippe Nautilus: The Icon Designed Over Lunch
Some watches come with an interesting story of how they came to life. For the Patek Philippe Nautilus this happened in 1974, when Gérald Genta was having lunch in a hotel during the Basel Watch Fair. When he recognized the team from Patek Philippe sitting across from him in the dining room, he got an idea. This was one of the qualities of Gérald Genta; the fact that he could pen down an innovative design in a matter of minutes. In this case, a pencil and a napkin resulted in what would become the Patek Philippe Nautilus. The staff from Patek Philippe apparently liked what they saw, as they spent another two years making the design production ready and launched it at the Basel Watch Fair in 1976.
Like the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, which Gérald Genta designed a few years before, the Nautilus would become a trailblazer, showing that there was definitely a market for high-end sports watches made from stainless steel. For the Nautilus, this was a path of slow growth, as it was ahead of the curve, but Patek Philippe had a bit more of a conservative approach then Audemars Piguet when it came to this matter. Where Audemars Piguet turned the Royal Oak into one of the pillars of its collection, Patek Philippe slowly let the Nautilus evolve. In 1980 the brand introduced a Ladies version, followed a year later by a mid-size Nautilus, which took the diameter down from 40mm to 37.5mm.
It wasn’t until 1998 when the first complication, in addition to the date, was introduced. This Reference 3710/1A not only impressed with its power reserve indicator but also with its Roman numeral dial. More complex models were introduced in 2005, when Reference 3712 combined a power reserve indicator and small seconds display, with a date and moon phase. Today, these complications live on in the Reference 5712, while also annual calendars, perpetual calendars, GMT models, and chronographs are part of the Nautilus universe, perpetuating the legacy of one of the most well-known, high-end sports watches in the world.