In many ways, the reference 3800 is a scaled-down version of the original reference 3700, retaining many of the same features, from the ridged dial to the overall proportions. The stainless steel bracelet and signed clasp are excellently finished, with angular, beveled and polished edges. At 37.5mm in diameter, and only 7.5mm thick, the Nautilus 3800 case is well proportioned and wears comfortably on the wrist.
This example captures all the traits which make early variants of the 3800 so attractive. The lume on the hands and the index markers has developed a rich patina over time, which matches evenly between them, imbuing the watch with a distinctive vintage charm. The black date disc, which blends effortlessly into the design, also sets this example apart. It is speculated that the darker date discs used are part of earlier production runs, suggesting that this watch is an early example of the piece.
The blue ridged dial displays horizontal grooves with a deep blue and grey colouration. The applied hour markers are tritium-filled, with "dot" outer-minute divisions, and a date aperture at 3 o’clock. The original date disc remains fitted to the watch, with a subtle serif font. Evidence suggests that the dial was manufactured by Stern Créations, the storied manufacturer which also produced dials for the Patek Philippe Nautilus and the Rolex “Stella” models, among others.
With this example, the index-markers and hands are manufactured from white gold, as indicated by the “σ SWISS σ” signature at the bottom of the dial. Three types of signatures exist for the reference: “σ · SWISS · σ”, “σ SWISS σ” and “SWISS”. This is to signify the use of gold on the dial, in the form of applied markers. It is safe to say that any watch produced prior to 1995 which has gold on the dial – that is to say all ridged dials with applied indexes – should feature one of the two sigma signatures.
As a result of Patek Philippe's decision to develop its own in-house, ultra-slim movement, the reference 3800 features an updated calibre 335 S C (for “seconde centrale” or “central second”), replacing the previous calibre 28-255C movement. The calibre 335 S C features 29 jewels, a straight-line lever escapement, monometallic balance; adjusted to cold, heat, isochronism, and 5 positions, a self-compensating flat balance spring and shock absorber mechanism. Furthermore, the solid-gold rotor is finished in classic Patek Philippe style, with circular Geneva stripes.