History of the Nautilus
The early 1970s was a time of great change within the watch industry. At the time of its release, the world was already shifting towards highly-commercialised, quartz watchmaking. In 1969 Seiko launched the first quartz wristwatch, and its success drove the mechanical watch industry to critically low levels of production by the early 1980s.
Furthermore, the concept of a luxury watch in steel was a truly revolutionary idea. In 1976, the introduction of Patek Philippe’s Nautilus 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. The Nautilus offered a different take on the idea of a luxury sports watch, though - like the Royal Oak - it was made in stainless steel for the standard version.
The original 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.
The design of the original 3700
Remarkably, Gerald 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 design. Its etymology comes from Jules Verne’s novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, after the ‘Nautilus’ submarine, used by Captain Nemo.
Like the Royal Oak, the Nautilus’ water-resistant technology (120 meters) required 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 reference 3712
Following the introduction of the original Nautilus, Patek Philippe experimented with different case sizes, materials and dial designs throughout the 1980s and 1990s. All of the variations introduced during this period were executed in smaller sizes and limited themselves to displaying the time and the date. The reference 3710/1A was the first to feature a complication other than the date function, with the integration of a power reserve indicator in 1998.
Introduced in 2005, the Nautilus 3712/1A marked the second departure from this trend: it was the first-ever Nautilus to feature the base calibre 240 (with micro rotor) and a radically-new display layout, with asymmetric indications covering three quarters of the dial. It also marked the re-introduction of the monobloc case construction used in the original 3700/001A, with integrated sapphire caseback. Two distinct variants of the 3712/1A are known, colloquially defined as “first series” and “second series” examples. The earliest of the 3712 series were marked with 3 dots at the lowest point of the power-reserve indicator, whereas the later examples were given 4 dots. Examples of the reference 3712/1A were produced for a limited time (approximately 1 year), representing a rare and highly-collectible transitional Patek Philippe. Alongside the 3711, the reference 3712/1A was discontinued shortly after its release, paving the way for Patek Philippe's 30th anniversary Nautilus collection in 2006.
Exclusively produced in stainless steel, the 3712/1A features a gradient blue dial with horizontal grooves. The power reserve complication is displayed between 9 and 12 o’clock, an interesting asymmetric placement which adds to the charm of the reference. Due to the placement of the complication, the "Patek Philippe Geneve" signature is unusually placed at 2 o'clock, with a date and moon display at 7 o’clock and small seconds at 4. It features all the traditional indications of a time-only watch, with applied hour-markers and Nautilus hands (with luminescent inserts).
The case and bracelet
The case and bracelet of this Nautilus 3712/1A are excellently finished, with beveled, polished and granular surfaces. The steel bracelet has virtually no stretch, with flat central links. At 42mm in diameter and 8mm in thickness, the 3712/1A retains a slim profile despite the added complication.
The reference 3712/1A is powered by Patek Philippe’s in-house calibre 240 PS IRM C LU (for petite seconde, indication de réserve de marche, calendrier et lune – small second, power reserve indicator, date and moon), visible through the sapphire display-back. It features 29 jewels, a straight-line lever escapement, shock absorber mechanism a self-compensating flat balance spring and a monometallic balance, adjusted to cold, heat, isochronism and 5 positions. Furthermore, the 22k solid-gold micro-rotor is finished in classic Patek Philippe style, with Geneva stripes.
This Patek Philippe Nautilus 3712/1A is accompanied by its Certificate of Origin, which confirms that the watch was sold on September 10th, 2005.
Viewings can be arranged in Central London by appointment.