The 1970s were a time of upheaval, especially for the traditional Swiss watch industry, resulting in some modern classics such as the Patek Philippe Nautilus. We are looking today at two new limited edition models that remind us once more of the genius of the late Gerald Genta (he designed the original 1976 Nautilus, reportedly on a napkin) but first we need to set the stage, as it were.
As the Patek Philippe Nautilus celebrates its 40th birthday this year, it is indeed odd that we find ourselves again in a period of unparalleled change. In a strange way, this reminds us that a watch like the Nautilus is resilient in the face of the inexorable march of time. In 1976, when Ref. 3700/1A debuted – the very first Nautilus model – it seemed an unthinkable decision on the part of Swiss watchmaking institution like Patek Philippe. Today, the family-owned company’s decision is celebrated.
The audacious design – typical for Genta – and the fact that it was a sports watch were both somewhat astonishing but this does not really explain why the watch was so important. The Nautilus was cased in steel and that material choice earned the watch its legendary status. For the 40th anniversary, the Geneva-based manufacture has once more made heads turn as both limited edition models for 2016 are in precious materials. Granted, sporty watches in precious materials are not uncommon at all, but honoring a watch that was famous for being made in steel with precious metal models is quite cheeky. Speaking of cheek, the old ads for the Nautilus were all cheek (and they illustrate that Patek Philippe has been casing Nautilus watches in precious metals for some time).
This brings us to the watches proper, the Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5711/1P 40th Anniversary Edition and the Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5976/1G 40th Anniversary Limited Edition. Both retain the signature “hinges” at 9 and 3 o’clock, and have the same eye-catching octagonal bezel as the original. It is enough, we think, to leave it at that for the salient similarities and move on to each of the watches in a little more detail.
We’ll address the watches by the reference numbers, as is traditional, as we dive deeper. Ref. 5711/1P most closely mirrors the original Ref. 3700/1A but it is of course cased in platinum with a matching bracelet, which (we imagine) makes it quite a load on the wrist. It is a 40mm time-only watch, with sweep seconds and date, as far as the functions go. There is quite a bit more precious about Ref. 5711/1P than the platinum case and bracelet here. The dial is in 18k gold and so are the hands and the hour makers too, though the markers are set with baguette-cut diamonds. There is one final diamond, set into the bezel at 6 o’clock, which is par for the course when it comes to Patek Philippe’s platinum models. You will already have noticed the embossed words, possibly the most controversial element here. The embossed wording also appears on Ref. 5976/1G. Limited as it is to just 700 pieces, Ref. 5711/1P clearly doesn’t have to appeal to everyone of course.
Ref. 5976/1G is of course a chronograph, which you will recognize from Patek Philippe’s signature numbering, even if the configuration and pushers don’t clue you in. This model is cased in 18k white gold and it is significantly larger than Ref. 5711/1P. Indeed, at 44mm this is might be one of the largest Patek Philippe watches we have ever covered (neither of these pieces were at BaselWorld, as we reported on so we haven’t seen them up close). Things are a bit less precious here as the dial is in brass (which is a common practice in watchmaking), though the hour markers and hands are all in 18k gold. Unlike Ref. 5711/1P, Ref. 5976/1G uses princess and baguette-cut diamonds. This watch is limited to 1,300 pieces so getting it will be a little easier than scoring the simpler Ref. 5711/1P but not by much.
Ref. 5711/1P Dimensions: 40mm (corner to corner); 44.5mm (end-to-end width, including crown) Functions: Hours, minutes, central seconds, date Power Reserve: 45 hours Movement: Self-winding Calibre 324 S C Case: Platinum 950 Water Resistance: 120 meters Strap: Link bracelet platinum 950, foldover clasp Ref. 5976/1G Dimensions: 44mm (corner to corner); 49.25mm (end-to-end width, incuding crown) Functions: Hours, minutes, central seconds, date, chronograph Power Reserve: 55 hours Movement: Self-winding Calibre CH 28-520 C Case: 18k white gold Water Resistance: 120 meters Strap: Link bracelet 18k white gold, foldover clasp