Patek Philippe Nautilus, 3800/1A, Stainless Steel

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First unveiled by Patek Philippe in the 1970s and designed by Gérald Genta - who incidentally designed the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak amongst others - the Nautilus has become a cultural icon due to its distinctive features and its role as a pioneer for high-end luxury sports watches. This mid-size reference 3800* was introduced in 1981, and is distinguished by its vintage size and modern appeal.


From the early 1980s onwards, the Nautilus collection was built on three fundamental pillars: the original 3700, the mid-size 3800 and the quartz-powered 4700. The latter was the first evolution of the Nautilus to be introduced, a year before the 3800. Measuring 27mm in diameter and powered by a quartz movement, it was targeted at women. Meanwhile, the 3800 was meant to bring the Nautilus design penned by Gérald Genta to a wider audience, who at the time preferred more modestly sized pieces. Available in a much wider range of metals and dial configurations than the other two models, it became the anchor of the Nautilus collection for quite a few years. John Nagayama, a veteran watch dealer from Japan, who has had the opportunity to handle some of the rarest 3800 examples, speculates, “They wanted to sell the reference to younger generations, as a sports and casual watch.”

At the turn of the millennium, after a near two-decade run, the reference was discontinued. The steel example is known to appear in catalogues until 2006, with the yellow gold appearing as late as 2007, in parallel to the successor reference, the 5800. From 2008 onwards, it disappeared completely from official catalogues. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t find one that was sold much later, since not all authorised dealers would have sold out of their watches immediately.

What is certain is that the discontinuation of the reference marked the end of one of the first reinterpretations of the original Nautilus design. First commercialised as a more appealing – and expensive – alternative to the Nautilus 3700, the mid-size 3800 has come to exist in all sorts of intriguing configurations over the years. In more recent times, as it has been increasingly discovered by collectors, this appreciation has grown.