Nautilus Ref. 3700/001 | Full-Set | steel
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.
The Nautilus was released later than the Royal Oak by Audemars Piguet and offered a different take on the idea of a luxury sports watch, though like the Royal Oak (equally designed by Mr Genta), it was made in steel (for the standard version). 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, the introduction of Patek Philippe’s Nautilus firmly altered the direction of luxury sports watch design – offering a true competitor to Audemars Piguets’ then four-year-old Royal Oak. The reference 3700 Nautilus is often referred to as ‘Jumbo’, on account of its relatively imposing size for the period.
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. At the time of its release, the world was already shifting towards highly-commercialized, quartz watchmaking. In 1969, Seiko launched the first quartz wristwatch - its success (and successors), driving the mechanical watch industry to critically low levels of production by the early 1980s. As a result of the Nautilus’ innovative design, only 3,300 examples of the 3700/001A are estimated to have been produced.
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 watch design. As Mr. Genta recounts “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 five minutes, that very quickly met with success. 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.
This steel, Nautilus 3700/001A watch is the perfect balance between utilitarian function and elegant design. The case and bracelet are excellently finished, with beveled, polished and granular surfaces. At 42mm in diameter, and only 7.6mm thick, the 3700 case is a beautiful twist of perspectives and size. 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.
The hand-made, ridged dial, manufactured by Stern Fréres, displays horizontal grooves with deep blue-grey colouration. 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 dial of this 3700/001A is distinguished by the placement of two dots beside the (σ) symbol, consistent with examples produced from the 1980s.
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.
Two versions of the Patek Philippe Nautilus 3700 existed, carrying the references 3700/001A 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 3700/001A) have fewer links, owing to each individual links’ larger size). The steel 3700/001A (with larger bracelet) was produced from 1976-82. 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”.
The present example was manufactured in 1980, evidenced by the accompanying Archive Extract, confirming the date of sale - or in this case the date of delivery to an authorised distributer - as November 23rd, 1981. From here, the watch was delivered to German retailer ‘Christ Juweliere und Uhrmacher’; with branches in Germany, France and Switzerland.
According to its Certificate of Origin, this 3700/001A was sold by the retailer in October 1982. Interestingly, although perhaps somewhat pedantically, we also know this Certificate would have been printed by Patek Philippe in November 1981, based on the “AANA” code referenced at the bottom of it - again tallying perfectly with the date found on the Archive Extract. The original guarantee card is also supplied, which retains the date of sale to the original owner, on October 5th, 1982. Attached to this - the original purchase price can be found, totaling 6,340 Deutche Marks (approximately $36,000 today, adjusting for inflation). Upon closer inspection, the original retail price for the watch is shown (under ART), of 6,450 DM, with an applied discount (RAB) of 200 DM.
This 3700/001A Nautilus comes as a full-set; including an original, highly-collectable Patek Philippe cork box.
In 2006, Patek Philippe marked the 30th anniversary of the Nautilus by introducing the reference 5711/1A, which itself has already achieved something akin to a cult-like status. Our full-set, original, 3700/001A therefore 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.
Viewings can be arranged in Central London by appointment.
To Note: There appears to be a typographical error on the Certificate of Origin, concerning the jewel count of the movement. Where it reads 37, this should read 36. The movement is indeed 36 jewelled. Small mistakes on original paperwork from the period, whist infrequent, do appear (as confirmed by the archive department of Patek Philippe). All other serial numbers (movement & case) correspond perfectly to the paperwork and Archive Extract, as well the as the original guarantee from the retailer. The “AANA” code referenced at the bottom of the Certificate of Origin also tells us that this would have been printed by Patek Philippe in November 1981, corresponding with the information in the Archive Extract.
|Model:||Nautilus 3700/001A ('A' denoting 'acier' or 'steel')|
|Movement:||automatic-winding calibre 28-255C|
|Functions:||date, hours, minutes|
|Features:||original ridged dial, original hands, unsigned crown|
|Case:||original 42mm stainless steel|
|Bracelet:||3700/001A stainless steel bracelet, correctly signed clasp|
|Year:||5th October 1982 (purchase date)|
|Box & papers:||cork box, Certificate of Origin, Extract from the Archives, product literature|
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