Insight: The Patek Philippe Nautilus

Insight: The Patek Philippe Nautilus

Everyone knows Patek Philippe's flagship watch, the Patek Philippe Nautilus, but not all know the history behind this sports watch. Patek Philippe released the Nautilus in 1976, 4 years after the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak was launched. During this period, luxury watches were only made in luxury materials like gold and platinum. Steel was considered to be not expensive enough to be used in a luxury watch. This, however, was to change soon. 

The History Of The Patek Philippe Nautilus

It was in 1972 that Audemars Piguet brought a new revolution to the luxury watchmaking industry. They released the Royal Oak, designed by the famous designer Gerald Genta. The Royal Oak caught the eye of the industry.

Four years later, Patek Philippe followed the same idea and released their very own watch designed by Gerald Genta, the Patek Philippe Nautilus. The new stainless steel watch was now a direct competitor to the Royal Oak in the luxury watch market. 

It was in 1974 that Gerald Genta showed his design sketch of the Nautilus to Patek Philippe. The case was inspired by a ship's porthole and had a rounded octagonal bezel. There were also "ears" on the sides of the case. The design had a black dial with horizontal embossed bars. And finally, completing the design came its steel bracelet. 

During this time, Patek Philippe's collection featured gold watches featuring sophisticated complications. Many questioned whether a sports watch would be a good addition. Anyhow, Patek Philippe did release the Nautilus two years later in 1976, and the rest, as they say, is history.

In Genta's own words, he describes how he designed the Nautilus, "I was at the restaurant of a hotel and some people from Patek were sitting in one corner of the dining hall, while I was sitting alone in the other corner. I told the head-waiter: "Bring me a piece of paper and a pencil, I want to design something" and I designed the Nautilus while observing the people from Patek eating! It was a sketch that I completed in 5 minutes".

The Origin Of The Name 'Nautilus'

The name of this collection comes from a submarine in a novel called "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea". This novel was written by Jules Verne. In the novel, Verne showed that the portholes on Captain Nemo's submarine had an oval shape. We can see how that idea was put into the design of the Nautilus. The construction of Nautilus was crucial to achieving its water resistance of 120 m. This is why it has been given the name "Nautilus." The name emphasizes these essential features.

Moreover, in an ad campaign, the Nautilus was seen on two different wrists; One on a man in a diving suit, the other on the wrist of a man dressed up in a suit.

The Rise In Popularity 

Although the demand for the Nautilus was low during the first few years, sales sky-rocketed in 1980 when Patek Philippe launched a Nautilus for women. The following year, Patek introduced a new 37 mm Nautilus for men. Since then, its popularity has just gone up.

The Original Movement 

The first movement used in the Patek Philippe Nautilus, 28-255, was produced by Jaeger-LeCoultre. It was a thin self-winding movement.

The Later Years

In the 21st Century, the Nautilus continues to be a popular watch.

In 2006, Patek Philippe, in celebration of the watch's 30th Anniversary, launched a Nautilus with a rounder and refashioned case. With this watch, Patek also debuted their new movement, Calibre 28-520 C.

In 2016, Patek Philippe launched a limited platinum edition for one of its most famous Nautilus models, the ref. 5711. This was limited to only 700 pieces. Another limited edition Nautilus chronograph in white gold was launched, limited to 1300 pieces. 

Two years later, Patek Philippe launched its first Nautilus equipped with a perpetual calendar. This watch became the first complication in the Nautilus collection. 

In 2021, Patek Philippe announced that it would discontinue the Nautilus ref. 5711. This was massive news as this was one of the most popular watches in the luxury market. The ref. 5711 is regarded as iconic by watch collectors. Now that it is out of production, it is hard to find one. 

Best Nautilus Watches You Can Buy

Patek Philippe Nautilus ref. 5711

Since it launched in 2006, the ref. 5711 has never seen a dip in popularity. Now that it has been discontinued, it is more popular than ever. You can get the ref. 5711/1A-011 for around $175,000. Moreover, if you prefer a black-blue dial, you can purchase the ref. 5711/1A-010 for $185,000.

If you prefer gold editions, then we have the ref. 5711/1R-001 for you. You can get this watch for $255,000 from here

Patek Philippe Nautilus ref. 5980R-001

This is one of the best Nautilus Watches you can find. It has a rose gold case, a black, brown dial, and an alligator strap. You can purchase the ref. 5980R-001  for around $186,000.

Patek Philippe Nautilus ref. 7010/1R

This ladies' Nautilus comes with a diamond set rose gold case, a gold dial, and a rose gold bracelet. You can get this watch for $89,000.

Patek Philippe Nautilus ref. 5990/1400G-001 Travel Time

This complicated watch has a white gold case and bracelet. If interested, this watch will cost you about $2.5 million.

Patek Philippe Nautilus ref. 5980/1AR

This elegant watch is a perfect sports watch. With its steel/rose gold case and bracelet and a blue dial, this watch sits comfortably at a price of about $179,000.


Patek Philippe has introduced some great Nautilus watches over the years, and we expect them to continue doing so. It has been 46 years since it first launched, and the Nautilus is still going strong in the luxury watch market. And we do not expect the popularity of Nautilus to go down anytime soon. If you are interested in purchasing a Nautilus, we hope you consider the mentioned models.