What with the 30th anniversary of the Nautilus being celebrated this year, it's time to reflect on the Nautilus' origins.
It's worth remembering that the concept of the luxury stainless steel sports watch never existed before the 70's and the genre was pioneered by Genta's AP Royal Oak in 1972.
Patek followed in a leisurely 1976. Always controversial in shape, Nautilus suffers jibes like 'old man's watch' or 'swing-and-a-miss' but both watches come from Genta though it's Stern himself who takes the inventor status on the patent for the Nautilus.
The original 3700/1 has the same 'two hand only' approach as the Royal Oak to create the stillness and calm of the face along with its slimness. Coming from a time when more modest sizes were the norm, the 3800 now appears ridiculously small by modern standards and as a result is available for far lower sums than the one everyone wants, i.e. the 3700 'Jumbo' that's comparable in size to the Royal Oak 'Jumbo'. With only some fine tuning of the bracelet ten years later, the Jumbo stayed on the Patek range as the 3700/11 till 1990 when, foolishly, Patek discontinued it and after a gap of, I think, around 8 years relaunched the later 3710/1 with their own movement which gets seconds and a stupid 'IZR' (power reserve) indication.
With the comet just behind the hand, the winding gauge shows fully wound. The hand advances as the movement winds down. When the watch is being wound the comet zone catches up with the hand. The comet can never overtake the hand. If winding continues, both the comet and the hand will advance together maintaining the same relative position. If the movement is allowed to run down, the hand enters the danger zone at the thin end of the comet. The hand reaches the thick end of the comet to indicate that the movement has run out of power. Simple!
It may only be the fault of the hideous Roman numerals, but the 3710/1 has never been as popular. It is probably the pure ugliness of this very watch that has led to the hyper prices being paid for the 3700 and compromising souls, who must have one, to the 3800. The current 3711/1, may well sport good looks with baton markers and without the 'IZR', but is solid white gold - not exactly 'sports watch' material albeit attractive in its weighty greyness! And then most recently, we've had the surprise of the 3712/1a coming and going in a flash with ensuing speculation of its value.
With the official launch of the new range (allegedly with chronograph, annual calendar and moonphase versions) on Oct 12th 2006, we eagerly wait to see what form the next Nautilus will take and how and whether Patek capitalise on the cult of the Nautilus.