Arguably the most stunning tropical dial Nautilus to be offered at auction to date, the dial has aged so uniformly over the last forty years that it now has a most exceptional patina. This so-called “cosmic” effect is regarded by collectors as one of the ultimate trophies of the iconic reference 3700/1.
The present watch, never offered in public before, is a superb early example of the classic reference 3700/1 “Jumbo” from the second year of Nautilus production 1977. Rarely does such a perfectly tropicalized example from the early years of production come to the market. Furthermore, as confirmed by the Extract from the Archives, it is fitted with an original caliber 28-255 C movement manufactured in 1973, thus pre-dating the Nautilus model itself, launched in 1976. This phenomenon occurs very occasionally in the reference 3700/1 and 3700/11 as Patek Philippe filtered in the existing stock of caliber 28-255 C movements from the first batches made in 1972 and 1973.
This fine and early version of the “Jumbo” with equally iconic cork Nautilus box is a must-have for the serious Nautilus collector.
Caliber 28-255 C
Generally agreed to be one of the great watch calibers, it was based on the original Jaeger-LeCoultre caliber 920 of 1967 and regarded as one of the most beautiful and refined automatic movements ever produced. Crucially it is also very thin at only 3.15 mm., therefore highly appropriate for the slim and elegant Nautilus. The development of the caliber 920 was partly jointly financed by Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin. Audemars Piguet fitted their version, now the revered caliber 2120 into the Royal Oak, a further shared familial link with the Nautilus. Vacheron Constantin’s version became their caliber 1120.
The caliber is 12.5 lignes and has 36 jewels and 19,800 vibrations. It is supplied with the shock-protected free-sprung Gyromax balance with eight rotatable weights allowing rate adjustment without the need for a conventional regulator index. The winding rotor is formed from a beryllium ring with 21K gold rim, this clever design with four additional ruby rollers to support the rotor around its periphery allows the thinness of the movement to remain uncompromised.
The Dials of Nautilus reference 3700/1
Created by Stern Frères, the distinctive striped dials of the Nautilus were entirely hand-made – each line recess is engraved separately. To achieve the aptly named “gray depth of ocean” colour specified by Patek Philippe the dials were painted alternately black and blue several times and then covered with a protective “Zapon” varnish. Early examples often display a degradation of the varnish so that depending on how a watch has been stored over the years, an individual dial may have tropicalized more towards either blue, gray, chestnut or green.
The indexes and hands are made of gold (sometimes erroneously called “steel” on some Extracts from the archives) and filled with luminescent material. The Patek Philippe signature and the outer minute divisions were painted. Below the 6 o’clock index is the word “Swiss” flanked on each side by the “Aprior” mark of two sigma symbols. The Aprior mark was conferred by the “Association pour la Promotion Industrielle de l’Or” on dials made of solid gold or at least with solid gold indexes.
The Nautilus Waterproof Case Ref. 3700/1
The case patent design of original Nautilus, reference 3700/1 was registered on 23rd April 1976. Made for Patek Philippe by Favre-Perret SA, Le Crét du Locle, from 1976 until 1981 when production was transferred to Patek’s own Ateliers Reunis workshops. It comprises two parts, the main body and the bezel, at each side is an “ear” which couples with a corresponding flange, the two parts are secured by lateral screws. A rubber seal sits between the bezel and case body and is thus compressed when subject to water pressure forming a perfect watertight seal. The reference 3700/1 was made in stainless steel, steel and gold, 18K yellow gold, 18K white gold and platinum.