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The Legendary Nautilus

Investing in collection watches
The Patek Philippe Nautilus 3800

The Patek Philippe Nautilus 3700 follows the creation of the iconic Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 5402. One reason makes such allegation a truth, and it is the man who designed the watch. The same designer made both these iconic watches: Gerald Genta. Personally, I think he exceeded his ability to create an horological masterpiece with the Nautilus and it took less than for the Royal Oak 5402 to become one of the most sought-after top investment watch ever.

It could have been considered a simple attempt to copy Audemars Piguet but lot of watch enthusiasts, collectors and experts consider that Patek Philippe overcame Audemars Piguet with its Nautilus. The intention of Patek at that time was to position its watch the same way Audemars Piguet did 4 years before… A very expensive steel sport watch. “One Of The Costliest Watch in The World is Made Of Steel” was the motto of the advertisement campaign upon release of the watch.

The competition was hard. Gerald Genta, the designer, created another masterpiece and put both the brands on the pinnacle of the “non-gold” expensive watches. Both watches were around 3,500 Swiss Franc. To give you a comparison, a Rolex Submariner was less than 400 Swiss Francs at that time. 

A simple analogy in 2020 would be a US$7,500 Submariner vs. a US$60,000. The analogy is not that overstated for if you analyze the market, you will see that since January 2021, the Nautilus 5711 (the new reference which replaced the 3700) costs US$36,000 but is not available at all at Patek’s. If you want one, you have to turn to the second hand market, which will cost you around US$100,000. It looks like history repeats itself or that the positioning of the watch has been so deeply injected in its AND that everybody agree to make it last forever.

But let’s come back to our Nautilus 3800, which is the subject of this article. The main difference between the so-called “jumbo” 3700 and the Patek Philippe Nautilus 3800 mainly remains in the size of the watch. 38mm vs. 40mm. 2mm are quite a difference on such a thin case design as many could consider this 3800 a woman watch. The important factor is we all noticed that when the first most-wanted model of a collection, such as the Nautilus is this present case, is too rare and expensive for the whole, the other references of the collection raise concomitantly… And this is exatcly what happenned for the Nautilus 3800, thus a must-have collector from now on.


First sketch of the Patek Philippe Nautilus by Gerald Genta

Is the 3700 Nautilus the only one?

No… there are other very collectable Nautilus watches such as the 3800 (smaller diameter; 28mm vs. 40mm for the 3700) or the 3712, which is the same watch than the 3700 except it features more complications than the simple “hour-minutes and date”, such as “date, moonphase and power reserve”. Moreover, Patek Philippe created another reference, the Aquanaut, which was a more sporty watch but based on an almost same design. This latter is definitely also a collector worth an investment.

Today, Patek Philippe Nautilus is considered one of the most iconic watch ever and this is not a trendy situation. Once a timekeeper entered the Pantheon of the most sought-after watches, and if it became very rare such as this reference, there is not any chance to loose such position, except if the watch is really worn.  And even in that case, today’s technology enables watchmaker to give the watch a “rebirth”, which will be a subject of a new article as it raises the question “Is a restored watch considered a real collection watch thus worth an investment ?”

Steel, Gold or steel/Gold?

If you consider the value of the “Nautilus” on the market, the question does not even arise. A Nautilus 3700 is a Nautilus 3700 and the prices for the gold (3700J) and steel/gold (3700AJ) raised the same manner than the 3700A.

Before purchasing such watch, you should of course make it authenticated and correctly checked by an expert. There are different dials and hands that could make the difference between one and the other and analyzing the condition of the watch is mandatory.