Patek Philippe’s Nautilus has garnered a bit of a cult following (an understatement, we know) since its launch in 1976. The Genevan manufacture’s choice of stainless steel was completely unheard of in luxury watches at the time, as were the octagonal bezel, porthole-inspired case, and mix of polished and satin-brushed steel surfaces. It was this combination of unique features, robust construction and a casually elegant design that made the Nautilus a favourite amongst watch lovers for decades, particularly the classic stainless steel model with blue dial (Ref. 5711/1A-010) since 2006. It is little surprise then that Patek Philippe’s decision to discontinue the production of said model sent a tidal wave of hysteria crashing down on enthusiasts the world over. While 2021 might be the end of an era for that particular Nautilus, it also symbolises a new beginning for the beloved wristwatch as Patek Philippe unveils four new interpretations in its debut showcase at Watches and Wonders Geneva.
The first model is the Patek Philippe’s latest addition to its line of Ref. 5711 models. The new Ref. 5711/1A-014 features all the same specifications and design choices we’ve come to expect from the manufacture, with the addition of a never-before-seen olive green dial, finished in an understated, yet stunning, sunburst finissage. Apart from providing a more contemporary look, the sunburst finish also ensures easy legibility under all conditions through contrast against the luminescent white gold hands and hour markers.
Like its predecessor, the Ref. 5711/1A-014 has a stainless steel case, bezel, and integrated bracelet, with an refined mix of polished and brushed surfaces which require 55 different hand-finishing operations to complete. The self-winding calibre 26-330 S C movement is an upgraded version of the calibre 324 S C, hackable and possessing an improved winding system which can be admired through the watch’s sapphire case back. It has been powering the Nautilus since 2019 so it is not new for this reference. With water-resistance up to 120m courtesy of its stainless steel case and screw-down crown, this new timepiece replaces the blue-dial Ref. 5711/1A-010 as Patek Philippe’s flagship Nautilus, combining the robustness and casual looks of a sports watch with the graceful elegance of a dress watch.
Also from the Ref. 5711 family comes the Ref. 5711/1300A-001. In terms of performance specifications and construction, it is virtually identical to the previously mentioned timepiece. Visually, this model ups the ante with 32 baguette-cut, Top Wesselton diamonds, masterfully cut, polished and set onto the stainless steel bezel. In our humble opinion, the addition of diamonds was a move of understated brilliance which emphasised the level of detail and thought that Patek Philippe puts into designing its watches. The team is divided on the appeal of the diamonds but we will see once the dust settles and we see it in person. Each diamond is individually cut to fit perfectly into the softly-angled octagonal bezel and flawlessly polished to bring out its inner radiance, which complements the faint shimmer in the sunburst olive green dial.
First launched in 2014, the Ref. 5990/1 originally embraced Patek Philippe’s use of stainless steel in constructing the Nautilus family. For this 2021 reinterpretation, Patek Philippe went with a rose gold case and tasteful horizontally embossed, blue sunburst dial. In addition to its classy looks, the watch includes three convenient complications for the travel enthusiast, a flyback chronograph at 6 o’clock, Travel Time function showing two timezones, and an analog date window at the 12 o’clock position. While slightly overwhelming at first glance, the various complications are designed to be intuitive to use and provide the user with great deal of functionality in a single elegant package that is the Ref. 5990/1R-001.
Rounding out the quartet of new models is the Nautilus Haute Joaillerie Ref. 7118/1450R-001. This glorious reinterpretation of the classic ladies’ Nautilus features a rose gold case and bracelet, completely covered in 2,553 snow-set, Top Wesselton diamonds, totalling 12.69 carats. The level of craftsmanship here goes way beyond that of the aforementioned Ref. 5711/1300A-001. The highly artisanal snow-setting technique is only done by the most experienced gem-setters but when done right, as it has been here, results in watches that are simply one-of-a-kind, each with its own subtly unique look. The elaborate finishing isn’t just limited to the exterior as the self-winding calibre 324 S movement has an equally intricate finissage, easily admired through the sapphire case back.
While Patek Philippe’s legions of admirers may rue 2021 as the year that marked the end of an iconic timepiece, the watch manufacture has shown it is in fact a year of celebration as well. The four new models unveiled as part of Watches and Wonders Geneva 2021, show that this isn’t the end for the venerable Nautilus but rather, a year of evolution and revival, paying homage to the rich heritage of this beloved line of luxury sports watches.