Dubai - Forty years ago Patek Philippe launched a steel sports wristwatch that was to become pivotal to the company’s ongoing image and success. The Nautilus is now one of the most desired and sought-after collectors watches and Christie’s is very pleased to celebrate this important milestone in the history of an undisputed legend by offering a selection of 40 examples of the Nautilus over four auctions in four international locations. The Autumn Dubai sale season will mark the start of this celebration on 19 October at the Jumeirah Towers Hotel, followed by Geneva, Hong Kong and New York.

In a world where large steel sports watches are commonplace it is hard for us today to comprehend quite how groundbreaking and startlingly different the Nautilus 3700/1 was in 1976. The use of stainless steel as the prime metal for most of the production of the reference was then very daring, as was the sleek, unusually large 42 millimeter case which quickly gained the nickname “Jumbo”. Water resistant to 120 meters it given the reference 3700/1 and christened “Nautilus” in honour of Captain Nemo’s submersible craft from Jules Verne’s novel Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea. In advertising literature of the time the new model was billed “one of the world’s costliest watches is made of steel”, a radical statement that questioned the very nature of what constituted the value of a watch, no longer did it have to be made of precious metal, its value could be judged by other factors such as workmanship, style, fitness for purpose and brand association.

Whilst attending the Basel watch fair in 1974 Gérald Genta was sitting alone in the restaurant of a hotel at the same time as a group of people from Patek Philippe were also dining. Later Gérald recalled that he asked the waiter to “bring me a piece of paper and a pencil, I want to design something” – he designed the Nautilus there and then in almost its final form, the sketch was completed in five minutes. The design was in fact based on the shape of a porthole of a transatlantic liner with wide bezel and “ears” at each side evoking the large hinges of those watertight windows. Patek Philippe’s Nautilus is imbued with practicality, luxury, ruggedness, elegance, technical know-how but above all that indefinable quality - style. Subtle updating over the years and new models added to the range ensure that the Nautilus remains as fresh and contemporary today as it was forty years ago.

The Dubai auction on 19 October will offer the first 10 Nautilus watches, highlighted by a stainless steel Nautilus ref 3700/1 made for the Sultanate of Oman in 19778 (estimate: $150,000-250,000). 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 of the two example to surface on the market was case no. 536’201 and sold by Christie’s, Geneva, 14 May 2012. 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. Of equal significance is the fact that both these Nautilus’ were sold on the same day – July 31st, 1978, proving beyond any doubt it was certainly one of the original batch sold to the Sultanate of Oman. 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.

The sale also presents reference 3700/3, which is a very rare diamond-set version of the gold “Jumbo” Nautilus model. As confirmed by the extract from the Patek Philippe archives it is set with 112 diamonds with a weight of 1.48 carats. The watch, preserved in excellent condition has the large-size 16.5 mm. bracelet of the first generation Nautilus, being made in 1981 it must be one of the very last of the watches made with a Favre-Perret case, confirmed by the presence of their mark inside (estimate: $70,000.120,000).

The Nautilus bracelet was designed by Gérald Genta as a fully integrated part of the watch’s overall look. The first series of Nautilus, reference 3700/1 had a bracelet with a width of 16.5 mm, it had 12 fixed and 8 removable links. From 1982 with the launch of the reference 3700/011 a narrower “second generation” bracelet with a width of 14 mm. was introduced. It had 16 fixed links and 8 removable links.  

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