Nautilus Ref. 3700 | Beyer-Signed | steel
This original 3700/001A represents an exceptional opportunity to acquire the founding reference of what is today one of the world's rarest and most desirable vintage sports watches. This example is further distinguished by its double-signed dial, carrying the name of the Zurich-based retailer Beyer, which bears a distinctive deep blue, ocean colour.
A double-signed dial
Double-signed dials from Patek Philippe have a special appeal to collectors, given their exclusivity and rarity. Available from a select few retailers around the world, the prestigious Beyer Chronometrie in Zurich is one such name, with others including Tiffany & Co. in New York, and Gübelin in Lucerne. Examples of the reference 3700 with Beyer on the dial (like this piece) are exceedingly rare, with very small numbers having reached the market to date.
The close proximity of the brand and the retailer represents the permanence of watch collecting in the German-speaking world, which endures to this day. Beyer started selling Patek Philippe watches around 1842, with the two family-owned businesses still working closely together. The strength of the bond between the manufacture and Beyer Chronometrie is neatly summarised by the fact that the first 25 models of the reference 3940 were individually numbered and stamped by Beyer, thus launching the iconic model.
History of the Nautilus
More than forty years have passed since the introduction of the original Patek Philippe Nautilus and this now-classic timepiece, is more popular than ever. Originally unveiled in the mid-1970s and designed by the legendary Gérald Genta, the Nautilus (ref. 3700/001A) has become a veritable horological icon thanks to its pioneering role amongst high-end, luxury sports watches.
Remarkably, Mr. Genta is said to have sketched the 3700’s design whilst dining meters away from Patek Philippe executives. His “five minutes of work”, is today considered one of the masterpieces of modern watch design. Its etymology comes from Jules Verne’s novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, after the ‘Nautilus’ submarine, used by Captain Nemo.
At the time of its release, the world was already shifting towards highly-commercialised, quartz watchmaking. In 1969, Seiko launched the first quartz wristwatch; its success (and its successors) drove the mechanical watch industry to critically low levels of production by the early 1980s. As a result, only 3,300 examples of the 3700/001A are estimated to have been produced, no doubt adding to its current desirability.
An innovative design
The early 1970s was a time of great change within the watch industry, where the concept of a luxury watch in steel was a truly revolutionary idea. In 1976, when Patek Philippe introduced the Nautilus, they firmly altered the direction of luxury sports watch design – offering a true competitor to Audemars Piguet's then four-year-old Royal Oak (equally designed by Mr Genta). Like the Royal Oak, it was also made in steel for the standard version.
The ref. 3700/001A was not only unprecedented in its design, but also in its initial pricing to consumers. When the Nautilus was released, the retail price for the watch was $3,100 - considerable for the time, and comparable to many of Patek Philippe’s gold dress watches.Like the Royal Oak, the Nautilus’ water-resistant technology (120 meters) required an innovative strategy. Gerald Genta’s inspiration for the iconic Nautilus architecture was to replicate that of the secure ‘porthole’ windows, found on transatlantic ocean liners, complete with a two-piece, solid mono-block and octagonal bezel, secured by four lateral screws (concealed at 3 and 9 o’clock), holding the case tightly together.
The case and the bracelet
This stainless steel Nautilus 3700/001A watch is the perfect balance between utilitarian function and elegant design. The reference is often referred to as ‘Jumbo’, on account of its relatively imposing size for the period. At 42mm in diameter, and only 7.6mm thick, the 3700 case is a beautiful twist of perspectives and size. The case is excellently finished, with beveled, polished and granular surfaces.
The inner-case-back correctly displays the watch’s unique serial number (539 XXX), as well as the reference number ‘3700/1’, below the manufacture’s signature. The underside of the hinge-inspired 'ears' (located at 3 and 9 o'clock) also display a 3-digit serial number, appropriately matching the last 3-digits on the inner case-back.
Two versions of the Patek Philippe Nautilus 3700 existed, carrying the references 3700/001A (produced from 1976-82) and later, the ref. 3700/011A - with two subtle variations in bracelet design. The links of the ref. 3700/001 are noticeably-wider and straighter than the ref. 3700/011A, which featured a more exaggerated bracelet taper. Further to this, the bracelets found in earlier examples like this, have fewer links, owing to each individual links’ larger size. The clasp of this 3700/001A bracelet corresponds to later examples of the 3700/001A, with “Nautilus” engraved alongside “PATEK PHILIPPE GENÉVE”, “STEEL INOX”, and “SWISS MADE”. This all-original bracelet retains its full complement of links.
The hand-made, ridged dial, manufactured by Stern Fréres, displays horizontal grooves with deep grey colouration. Beyer's name is found printed at 6 o'clock, representing an interesting, double-signed variant of the reference. It features a Type 1B dial, identified by Mstanga in his guide on the reference, which is distinguished by its font type, outer dot minute track, squared base of the letter "G" of "GENÈVE", accent on the "E" of "GENÈVE", and "σ SWISS σ" signature at 6 o'clock, among subtle features. This particular piece is notable for displaying a deep blue, ocean colour, being one of the most vibrant we've had the chance to handle or observe when exposed to direct light.
The applied hour markers are tritium-filled, with ‘dot’ outer-minute divisions, original polished baton-hands (with luminous inserts) and a date aperture at 3 o’clock (with original date-disc). With this example, the index-markers and hands are manufactured from white gold, indicated by the lower case Greek letter ‘sigma’ at the bottom of the dial.
The Nautilus 3700/001A is powered by the ultra-slim calibre 28-255C, derived from Jaeger-LeCoultre’s legendary ultra-thin JLC 920 calibre movement. The caliber 2121 was based on the caliber 2120, an initial project of Jaeger-LeCoultre in 1967, funded and contributed to by Patek Philippe, and famous for its adoption by Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin (found in the Royal Oak 5402 and VC 222). The 28-255C calibre features Patek Philippe's famed free-sprung Gyromax balance, with four ruby wheels to support the full-diameter rotor, which runs on a beryllium rail for stability. The solid-gold rotor is finished in classic Patek Philippe style, with circular Geneva stripes.
The Patek Philippe calibre 28-255C remains one of the thinnest full-rotor self-winding movements in the world, considered by many as one of the most stunningly refined and technically impressive wrist-watch movements ever made. Importantly, its movement serial number (1.309.XXX) corresponds with its year of production.
The setThe present example was manufactured in 1981, evidenced by the accompanying Archive Extract, also confirming the date of sale, or in this case the date of delivery to the authorised distributor (November 17th, 1981).
This 3700/001A Nautilus comes with additional supporting documentation from Beyer (with a photocopy from their archives) confirming the watch was retailed by them in the same year, 1981.
|Model:||Nautilus 3700/001A ('A' denoting 'acier' or 'steel')|
|Movement:||mechanical automatic-winding calibre 28-255C|
|Functions:||date, hours, minutes|
|Features:||original double-signed ridged dial, original hands, unsigned crown|
|Case:||42mm stainless steel|
|Bracelet:||3700/001A stainless steel bracelet with correctly-signed clasp|
|Year:||17th November, 1981 (sold)|
|Box & papers:||Extract from the Archives, Supporting documentation from Beyer, copy of service paperwork|
The inner-case-back correctly displays the watch’ unique serial number (539 XXX), as well as the reference number ‘3700/1’, below the manufacture’s signature. The applied hour markers are (original) tritium-filled, with ‘dot’ outer-minute divisions (seen on later ‘001A’ examples) and original polished baton-hands (with original luminous inserts).
The watch was recently serviced by Patek Philippe, and is accompanied by its service-paperwork stating the watch was re-finished, with only the crystal and crown replaced. The 28-255C calibre movement of this 3700/001A comes with a two-year warranty from A Collected Man.
All of our pre-owned watches have undergone thorough mechanical inspections, including being ultrasonically cleaned, serviced and resealed if appropriate and tested for at least four days, to ensure they meet our highest timekeeping standards. Our pre-owned and vintage watches, unless stated otherwise, are covered by a full or a limited twenty-four month warranty. For example, due to their age, some vintage watches should not be subjected to the same conditions as when they were new. Please see our Terms & Conditions for further information.
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