A watch that would probably top my Top 5 list if money was no object is a Patek Philippe Nautilus. The Ref. 5711/1P with the 40-mm platinum case launched last year in celebration of the 40th anniversary, pays tribute to the casually elegant Nautilus Ref. 3700/1A ‘Jumbo’ dating back to 1976. However, I’d take mine like the original in stainless steel please. As one of their advertisements from the late 70s proclaimed, this is the perfect timepiece as “It goes with a wetsuit as well as with a tuxedo”.
Interestingly, the Nautilus was conceived by the legendary Gerald Genta who also design the covetable Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, the industry-shifting timepiece launched in 1972 setting the scene and desirability for high-end stainless steel sports watches. Although renamed and customised, they also shared the ultra-thin automatic calibre created by Jaeger-LeCoultre with support from AP, Patek and Vacheron Constantin.
With a name that evokes childhood memories of Captain Nemo’s adventures, the most noticeable features of the Nautilus are the two lateral ridge extensions of the case at 9 and 3 o'clock, which resemble hinges that joined the two-part case and inspired by the locking system of ship portholes. The crystal is framed by an octagonal bezel. The blue-tint charcoal dial is also characterised by its horizontal embossed pattern. The Nautilus was part of a revolutionary movement at the time but has been a more evolutionary collection with impressive updates beyond the surface and rather in its machinery.
Established in 1839, Patek is the last independent family-owned watch manufacture in Geneva. Its famous advertising payoff line “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation” gives me hope that I’ve not miss that ship.
Coinciding nicely with the 20th anniversary of Patek in South Africa, the company celebrates two more anniversaries this year with the release of some commemorative timepieces. The Nautilus’s younger sibling, the Aquanaut turns 20 and their ultra-thin, self-winding Caliber 240 movement is now 40.
Among them is a ‘jumbo’ size 42mm Aquanaut Ref. 5168G in 18K white gold with Caliber 324SC movement to update this stylish sports segment. Added to this collection is the Aquanaut Travel Time Ref. 5650 ‘Patek Philippe Advanced Research’ in white gold in a limited edition of 500 watches in 18K white gold, packed with the latest technical innovations.
Introduced in 1977, the ultra-thin 2.53mm self-winding Caliber 240 movement is one of the mainstays of the company’s success. In celebration of the 40th anniversary of this caliber, there are several pieces that showcase its versatility but none quite like the spectacular Calatrava ‘Squelette’ (French for skeleton, pronounced skoolet) Ref. 5180/1R in 18K rose gold, which lays bare the self-winding movement in this skeletonised piece. Its open-work is intricately hand-engraved with scrolls and interlacing foliage, which takes more than 130 hours. This is miniature kinetic art at its finest. Plate and bridges are pierced to enhance the view without compromising the reliability and functionality of the movement. The watchmakers have laboured for weeks to even expose the coiled mainspring below the pierced Calatrava cross, which has been a registered trademark for over 100 years.
“With a tolerance of -3 to +2 seconds per day,” the company says, “its rate accuracy complies with the strict directives of the Patek Philippe Seal. This is due not least to the Spiromax® balance spring made of high-tech Silinvar®. Its purple iridescent shimmer is readily visible in the totally skeletonized movement.”