Fresh to the market, this reference 3700/1 with Oman dial is one of only two confirmed examples of the "Nautilus" model in stainless steel made to special order for the Royal household of the Sultanate of Oman, distinguished by the national emblem of Oman, the khanjar dagger in a sheath superimposed upon two crossed swords, to the lower half of the dial.
The first example to surface on the market in stainless steel and the only other known confirmed example, case no. 536’201, movement no. 1’304’954 was sold by Christie’s, Geneva, 14th May 2012, lot 315. It is most significant that the present watch, fresh to the market and preserved in excellent overall condition, has the immediately preceding case number of 536’200 and movement number of only two digits difference 1’304’952. Of equal significance is the fact that both these exceptional Nautilus watches were sold on the same day – July 31st, 1978, proving beyond any doubt that although the dial of the present watch was changed by Patek Philippe during servicing in 2003, it was certainly one of the original batch sold to the Sultanate of Oman. The appearance of this watch in the public domain further adds to the knowledge and understanding of the watches made in the 1970s to special order for His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said. During those early years there were no official watch agents in Oman and so almost all of the watches made by various brands with “Khanjar” dials were supplied through the ultra high-end retailer Asprey of New Bond Street in London and occasionally through their Geneva branch.
Watch collectors have often pondered on why many of the rarest special edition wristwatches and unique pieces from most of the big watch brands during the second half of the 20th century were supplied to clients regardless of their location via the firm of Asprey in London. The Asprey name has become particularly synonymous with watches supplied to Middle Eastern royalty with special emblem dials and/or exotic gem-set cases particularly by Rolex, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet. Why did the big watch brands not supply their pieces directly?. Quite simply, in regard to watches, it was really only Asprey who understood and for generations had direct contact with this kind of exalted client. It was only Asprey, multiple royal warrant holders since the days of Queen Victoria, that those clients trusted to coordinate their special watch requirements. In the 1950s, 60s and 70s and even into the 80s, outsiders, even the famous watch brands would have had almost no access or opportunity to deal directly with Middle Eastern royalty so that Asprey was the main conduit for that very important market. The firm’s London premises since 1847 at 167 New Bond Street, then as now, London’s most fashionable shopping district became established as one of the greatest luxury goods stores in the world. The firm had been founded in 1781 by William Asprey as a silk printing business but soon evolved into a luxury goods emporium specializing in dressing cases. The store became a magnet for the super-rich and their clients included every crowned head and world leader, from Maharajas to Kings, Queens and Sultans. When a member of foreign royalty visited London they always visited Asprey, a tradition that continues to even this day. It was therefore perfectly natural that orders for watches for the Sultan of Oman or Brunei or the King of Saudi Arabia were placed through the company where the appropriate discretion, deference and faultless service could always be relied upon.