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The Patek Philippe Nautilus Buying Guide: Models, Prices & Everything Else You Need to Know

In Bezel’s official Patek Philippe Nautilus buyer’s guide, we discuss everything you need to know when buying history’s most legendary dive watch.

By

Isaac Wingold

October 20, 2022

/

13 mins

First introduced in 1976, the Nautilus is now Patek Philippe’s most sought after collection of watches, known for its porthole-inspired case shape, integrated bracelet, and ridged dial — not to mention, its notoriously long waitlist. But trust us, it’s not all hype. As Patek Philippe’s first luxury sports watch, and one of the first luxury sports watches to be made by any watchmaker ever, the Gérald Genta-designed Nautilus holds a special place in horological history, while also providing a simultaneously elegant and sporty feel on the wrist.  

With a wide variety of different Nautilus references to choose from, determining which to add to your collection is no simple task, regardless of whether you’re a first time Nautilus buyer or looking to further build out a Nautilus-focused collection. Breaking it down as always, we’ve put together this guide, packed with everything you need to know when buying a Patek Philippe Nautilus. 

What Makes a Nautilus a Nautilus?

  • Patek Philippe's Response to the Quartz Crisis
  • The Tasteful Genius of Gerald Genta
  • Talking the Talk, and Walking the Walk

Key Nautilus References to Know

Should You Buy a Modern or Vintage Nautilus? 

Bezel's Nautilus Picks 

 

The Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5711/1A-014.

What Makes a Nautilus a Nautilus?

Henri and Philippe Stern, both instrumental in Patek Philippe's navigation of the Quartz Crisis.

Patek Philippe’s Response to the Quartz Crisis 

The Patek Philippe Nautilus was introduced during a period of great uncertainty, when the Swiss mechanical watchmaking industry was threatened by the introduction of highly accurate, battery-powered quartz movements. Now referred to as the “Quartz Crisis,” Swiss watch production was effectively cut in half during this period spanning the early 1970s into the 1980s, as a result of more collectors choosing to opt for Japanese-made, quartz-powered watches, most notably from Seiko. Knowing their future livelihood depended on their ability to truly wow a new generation of collectors with something new and appealing, Patek Philippe answered with the Nautilus at Baselworld 1976. 

Addressing a younger collector with its more contemporary design and stainless steel execution, Patek Philippe’s original luxury sports watch was one of the first of its kind. Met with enthusiasm by collectors, the Nautilus helped support the brand during the Quartz Crisis, until Patek Philippe was able to produce quartz watches of its own to compete. Now the watchmaker’s most sought-after collection of watches, the Nautilus is an horological diamond formed under pressure.  

Gérald Genta's original sketches for the Patek Philippe Nautilus.

The Tasteful Genius of Gérald Genta

Following the success of the Royal Oak’s contemporary design, featuring an octagonal bezel and an integrated bracelet, Patek Philippe tasked Gérald Genta – the designer of Audemars Piguet’s pioneering luxury sports watch – with designing the renowned watchmaker a luxury sports collection of their own. Always drawing inspiration from the underwater world, Genta modeled the Nautilus case and bezel after a hinged submarine porthole, similarly to how he modeled the Royal Oak’s bezel after an early deep sea diving helmet. Also like the Royal Oak, the Patek Philippe Nautilus was launched with an integrated bracelet and a textured dial, both of which are still found on modern references of the watch. 

Similar to other iconic watches like the Rolex Submariner, the overall appearance of the Nautilus has remained largely unchanged since its introduction. Staying true to Gérald Genta’s vision, and repeatedly following the framework of his original design, Patek Philippe has elevated the Nautilus to true icon status. Now it exists as one of the most sought after watches in its class, alongside Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak. Needless to say, the Genta hype is real, and few others hold more significance in watchmaking history. 

An early advertisement for the original Patek Philippe Nautilus "Jumbo" Ref. 3700

Talking the Talk, and Walking the Walk  

As we already mentioned, Gérald Genta took inspiration from the sea when designing both the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, and the Patek Philippe Nautilus. With this in mind, it could be argued that the Nautilus lives up to its deepsea inspiration more so than the Royal Oak, given its original water resistance rating of 120 meters, compared to the Royal Oak’s 50 meter water resistance rating. This 70 meter advantage was largely a result of the original Nautilus’ monobloc case construction, affording increased durability and water resistance. 

Having said that, the Nautilus was never marketed as a diver’s watch, but instead as a luxury sports watch, save for on one occasion when Patek Philippe ran a print advertisement depicting the legendary watch worn with a wetsuit. As a result of its greater water resistance rating than the Royal Oak, the Nautilus was and still is a perhaps more viable option for use in the water, certainly living up to its name. 

Key Nautilus References to Know

Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 3700/1A.

Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 3700 

Shop Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 3700

Dates: 1976-1990

Price range: $2,000-$3,000,000+

Highlights:

  • The very first Nautilus reference, kicking off the interage lineage of the legendary luxury sports watch from Patek Philippe
  • Named after the submarine in Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  • Designed by Gerald Genta, who also notably designed the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 
  • One of the very first luxury sports watches produced in stainless steel
  • Nicknamed the “Jumbo” by collectors for its large 42 mm case dimensions 
  • Powered by Patek Philippe’s ultra-thin Caliber 28-255C automatic movement, a modified version of Jaeger LeCoultre’s Caliber 920
  • Water resistant to 120 meters, or roughly 400 feet 
  • Notably features a porthole-inspired case shape, monobloc case construction, an integrated bracelet, and a ridged dial   
  • Offered in a variety of different configurations 
Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 4700/1J.

Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 4700

Shop Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 4700

Dates: 1980-2004

Price range: $3,000-$200,000+

Highlights:

  • The first Patek Philippe Nautilus designed for women
  • Features an integrated bracelet with fully polished links, and more diminutive case dimensions at just 26 mm across
  • Powered by Patek Philippe’s Caliber E19 C battery-powered quartz movement
  • Water resistance to 30 meters, or roughly 100 feet
  • Notably features a porthole-inspired case shape, monobloc case construction, an integrated bracelet, and a ridged dial
  • Offered in a variety of different configurations 
Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 3800/1A-011.

Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 3800

Shop Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 3800

Dates: 1981-2006

Price range: $3,000-$200,000+

Highlights:

  • Introduced by Patek Philippe as a smaller alternative to the Ref. 3700 “Jumbo,” measuring a more widely wearable 38 mm across, and 8mm thick
  • Features a central running seconds hand, unlike earlier references
  • Water resistant to 120 meters, or roughly 400 feet 
  • Powered by Patek Philippe’s ultra-thin Caliber 335 SC, an in-house automatic caliber with running seconds
  • Notably features a porthole-inspired case shape, monobloc case construction, an integrated bracelet, and a ridged dial
  • Offered in a variety of different configurations
Patek Philippe Nautilus Power Reserve Ref. 3710/1A-001.

Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 3710

Shop Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 3710

Dates: 1998-2005

Price range: $1,000-$300,000+

Highlights:

  • The first complicated Nautilus in the history of the luxury sports watch, featuring a power reserve indicator in addition to the date aperture
  • Marked the return of  “Jumbo” case dimensions, measuring 42 mm across and 8 mm thick, like the original Nautilus references discontinued eight years prior in 1990
  • Offered exclusively in stainless steel, with a black dial accented by Roman numerals
  • Powered by Patek Philippe’s ultra-thin Caliber 330 SC, an in-house automatic caliber with running seconds, date, and power reserve complications
  • Water resistant to 120 meters, or roughly 400 feet 
  • Notably features a porthole-inspired case shape, an integrated bracelet, and a ridged dial
Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 3711/1G-001.

Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 3711

Shop Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 3711

Dates: 2004-2007

Price range: $1,000-$200,000+

Highlights:

  • Seen by collectors as a  luxuriously appointed successor to the Ref. 3700 Nautilus
  • Marked the return of the time and date indicating “Jumbo” Nautilus, measuring 42 mm across like the original references, and 9 mm thick
  • Thicker than previous Nautilus references, measuring 9.4 mm thick
  • Notably features a sapphire crystal display caseback
  • Offered exclusively in white gold with a black dial as the Ref. 3700/1G-001
  • Powered by Patek Philippe’s Caliber 315 SC, an in-house automatic caliber with running seconds and a date complication
  • Water resistant to 120 meters, or roughly 400 feet
  • Notably features a porthole-inspired case shape, an integrated bracelet, and a ridged dial
Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5711/1A-001.

Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5711

Shop Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5711

Dates: 2006-2022

Price range: $1,000-$200,000+

Highlights:

  • Seen by collectors as the true return of the “Jumbo” Nautilus, in that the Ref. 5711 measures 42 mm across, and was offered in stainless steel like the original Ref. 3700 Nautilus 
  • Measures 42 mm across, and 8 mm thick
  • Features an updated three-part case construction, unlike earlier Nautilus references with monobloc case construction
  • Powered by Patek Philippe’s ultra-thin Caliber 324 SC, and later the 26-330 S C, both in-house automatic calibers with running seconds and date complications
  • Water resistant to 120 meters, or roughly 400 feet
  • Notably features a porthole-inspired case shape, an integrated bracelet, and a ridged dial
  • Offered in a variety of different configurations
Patek Philippe Nautilus Moon Phase Ref. 5712/1R-001.

Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5712

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Dates: 2006-Present

Price range: $1,000-$200,000+

Highlights:

  • The second Nautilus in the history of the luxury sports watch collection to feature moonphase, date, and power reserve complications with running seconds 
  • Measures 40 mm across, and 8 mm thick
  • Features an updated three-part case construction, unlike earlier Nautilus references with monobloc case construction
  • Powered by Patek Philippe’s Caliber 240 PS IRM C LU, an in-house automatic caliber with moonphase, date, and power reserve complications
  • Water resistant to 60 meters, or roughly 200 feet
  • Notably features a porthole-inspired case shape, an integrated bracelet, and a ridged dial
  • Offered in a variety of different configurations
Patek Philippe Nautilus Chronograph Ref. 5980/1AR-001

Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5980

Shop Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5980

Dates: 2006-Present

Price range: $1,000-$7,000,000+

Highlights:

  • The first Nautilus in the history of the luxury sports watch collection to feature a flyback chronograph complication, allowing for the timing of events immediately following others
  • Measures 40 mm across, and 12 mm thick
  • Powered by Patek Philippe’s Caliber CH 28-520 C, an in-house automatic caliber with flyback chronograph, and date complications
  • Notably features a porthole-inspired case shape, an integrated bracelet, and a ridged dial
  • Features an updated three-part case construction, unlike earlier Nautilus references with monobloc case construction
  • Water resistant to 120 meters, or roughly 400 feet
  • Offered in a variety of different configurations
Patek Philippe Nautilus Annual Calendar Ref. 5726A-001.

Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5726

Shop Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5726

Dates: 2010-Present

Price range: $1,000-$7,000,000+

Highlights:

  • The first Nautilus in the history of the luxury sports watch collection to feature an annual calendar complication, indicating the day, date, month, and moonphase, while mechanically accounting for months with 30 and 31 days
  • Measures 40 mm across, and 11 mm thick
  • Powered by Patek Philippe’s ultra-thin Caliber 324 S QA LU 24H, an in-house automatic caliber with annual calendar and moonphase complications 
  • Features an updated three-part case construction, unlike earlier Nautilus references with monobloc case construction
  • First offered exclusively on leather straps, and later offered on an integrated bracelet
  • Water resistant to 120 meters, or roughly 400 feet
  • Notably features a porthole-inspired case shape, an integrated bracelet, and a ridged dial
  • Offered in a variety of different configurations
Patek Philippe Nautilus Travel Time Chronograph Ref. 5990/1R-001.

Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5990  

Shop Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5990

Dates: 2014-Present

Price range: $4,000-$30,000,000+

Highlights:

  • The second Nautilus in the history of the luxury sports watch collection to feature a flyback chronograph complication, and the first to feature a travel time complication, indicating multiple time zones simultaneously
  • Measures 40 mm across, and 12 mm thick
  • Water resistant to 120 meters, or roughly 400 feet
  • Powered by Patek Philippe’s Caliber CH 28-520 C FUS, an in-house automatic caliber with flyback chronograph, date, and travel time complications
  • Features an updated three-part case construction, unlike earlier Nautilus references with monobloc case construction
  • Notably features a porthole-inspired case shape, an integrated bracelet, and a ridged dial
  • Offered in a variety of different configurations
Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 7118/1200A-001.

Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 7118  

Shop Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 7118

Dates: 2015-Present

Price range: $4,000-$30,000,000+

Highlights:

  • The latest version of the ladies Nautilus from Patek Philippe
  • Features more diminutive case dimensions at 35 mm across, and an updated three-part case construction, unlike earlier Nautilus references with monobloc case construction
  • Powered by Patek Philippe’s ultra-thin Caliber 324 SC, an in-house automatic caliber with running seconds and a date complication
  • Water resistant to 60 meters, or roughly 200 feet
  • Notably features a porthole-inspired case shape, an integrated bracelet, and a ridged dial
  • Offered in a variety of different configurations
Patek Philippe Nautilus Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5740/1G-001

Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5740  

Shop Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5740  

Dates: 2018-Present

Price range: $4,000-$30,000,000+

Highlights:

  • The first Nautilus in the history of the luxury sports watch collection to feature a perpetual calendar complication, indicating the day, date, month, and moonphase, while mechanically accounting for lengths of different months and leap years
  • Measures 40 mm across, and 8 mm thick
  • Water resistant to 60 meters, or roughly 200 feet
  • Features an updated three-part case construction, unlike earlier Nautilus references with monobloc case construction
  • Powered by Patek Philippe’s ultra-thin Caliber 240 Q, an in-house automatic caliber with perpetual calendar and moonphase complications 
  • Exclusively offered in white gold with a blue dial as the 5740/1G-001
  • Notably features a porthole-inspired case shape, an integrated bracelet, and a ridged dial
Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5811/1G-001.

Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5811  

Shop Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5811

Dates: 2022-Present

Price range: $4,000-$30,000,000+

Highlights:

  • The latest version of the "Jumbo" Nautilus from Patek Philippe
  • Features bolder case dimensions at 41 mm across, and an updated three-part case construction, unlike earlier Nautilus references with monobloc case construction
  • Powered by Patek Philippe’s ultra-thin Caliber 26‑330 S C, an in-house automatic caliber with running seconds and a date complication
  • Water resistant to 120 meters, or roughly 400 feet
  • Notably features a porthole-inspired case shape, an integrated bracelet, and a ridged dial
  • Offered exclusively in white gold with a blue dial as the 5811/1G-001

An early Patek Philippe advertisement depicting Nautilus models for couples.

Should You Buy a Modern or Vintage Nautilus?

Both vintage and modern examples of the Patek Philippe Nautilus are outstanding watches, but in terms of what owning and wearing them actually looks like, they’re different beasts. Like most other vintage watches from Patek Philippe, earlier examples of the Nautilus are far more fragile than modern references, requiring a bit more care and consideration on the wrist. Remember, Gerald Genta didn’t design the Nautilus as a purpose-built tool watch, but instead as a luxury sports watch, and in vintage forms, wear and tear can impact the value of a watch quite significantly. This means you’ll probably want to avoid taking a vintage Nautilus in the pool or shower, or wearing a vintage Nautilus during any strenuous activity in which you run the risk of damaging your watch.

With a modern Nautilus, you’re afforded a bit more in the durability department, but still, you’ll want to wear it with care as it isn’t a true tool watch, and commands a pretty penny in today’s market. You can enjoy it in the pool so long as it's been serviced and had its waterproofing seals and gaskets replaced recently, but we’d recommend leaving your Nautilus at home if running a triathlon. Modern references also feature more accurate and reliable automatic movements, finer surface finishing, and advanced components. Patek Philippe now produces complicated variants of the Nautilus, including the chronograph equipped Ref. 5980 Nautilus, and the Ref. 5726 Nautilus featuring an annual calendar. With this in mind, you should probably opt for modern if you’re after a more reliable Nautilus, a more complicated Nautilus, or a Nautilus you can wear with greater peace of mind. 

Bezel’s Nautilus Picks

Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 3700/1A

Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5711/1A-010

Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5990/1A-001

Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5980/1AR-001

Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5712/1A-001

Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5726A-001

Images: Courtesy of Patek Philippe.

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