What is it with the Nautilus?

The Nautilus range seems to bring out the best and worst in collectors. I know one collector who is so negative about the Nautilus that it makes him angry. But then, I think his anger is really driven because he totally missed buying the Nautilus and basically got it wrong. I know another collector that believes the Nautilus, as a watch, borders on genius and that nothing horological comes close. Then, that collector only owns Nautilus so maybe he has a biased perspective too. It is certainly good that it brings out differentiated opinion. But what is a fair and balanced perspective?

From my perspective, I have owned quite a lot of Patek Philippe from both vintage and modern era. I have owned simple Calatravas through to split second chronographs. I think it would be fair to say that I have had a broad ownership spectrum. Yet, I have only owned two Nautilus and one of those I had to sell quite quickly as I was so disappointed in it.

I think a part of the problem with the Nautilus is the hype. It is in such huge demand that the reality of the watch has a hard job meeting the expectation driven by the hype. When I got my 5711A, I was so deflated by the feeling when I put it on my wrist. It just let me down badly. The hype behind the watch was so incredible that it was never going to meet expectations. However, that is more of a problem of hype than it is of the watch itself. My second Nautilus was the 5712A, and I have to say that this watch is giving me a lot of pleasure. I thought it worthwhile just stepping aside from the hype and evaluating the watch for what it is.

Little touches like the red on the dial add to the allure

Let me start by saying that I come from a perspective that a sports watch is basically a Rolex Submariner. That, to me, is the iconic sports watch. Tough. Indestructible. Water-proof beyond human capacity. Reliable. Yep. It is the ultimate sports watch to my mind. So, when I look at the Nautilus, I don’t see a sports watch, I see a “sporty” watch (thanks for that description Patekova). Something that can be worn casually but that falls between a Submariner and a Calatrava. Uhmm. Maybe that is still too vague.

I think the Nautilus range has that Factor X to it that occurs only once in a blue moon. The Porsche 911 design has lasted through decades hardly unchanged, still retaining the original DNA that has always made it so popular. I think that is also true for the Rolex Submariner. It has that Factor X. The Genta-designed Nautilus has it too. It is unmistakable. So, one thing that clearly attracts to the Nautilus is this Factor X design.

I think it is also true to say that it is not really that easy to define the watch. Given that it comes with some very high end complications now, the Nautilus is more than just a design-led watch. It is almost a watch range in itself. Having said that, it has to be accepted that when one owns a Nautilus, one owns something that is primarily a design-led feature.

Utility is something that one would normally attribute to a sports watch. One wants something that can be used casually. In a swimming pool. On the beach. In the sea. When out and about. On the other hand, utility can mean that it is also comfortable to wear it at a nice restaurant. I tend to never wear a Rolex at a restaurant. It is just my preference.

As I said, I see Rolex as a sports watch and it just doesn’t work for me outside that realm. On the other hand, I don’t always want a perpetual calendar or split chronograph on my wrist either. So, a Calatrava would often work. But so too does a Nautilus. It has got that adaptability that a utility watch needs. Sporty. Yet chic. But it is not so sporty that it is a sports watch! Some of this comes from the fact that the 5712A is extremely slim…..

40mm in diameter, but just 8.5mm in height

I think there are other angles that play to the Nautilus. For example, I love my 5970P and my 5370P. But these are special watches. In my normal day-to-day life, I just wouldn’t want to wear watches like this as a norm. Similarly, I wouldn’t necessarily want to wear something dressy. The Nautilus hits a sweetspot in terms of “mode”. It is a watch that is extremely comfortable to wear on a day-to-day basis.

However, and its here where I will make somewhat of a distinction, to have a watch as a standard beater, there needs to be something about it that keeps my interest. For me, the dial of the 5711A was just too simplistic notwithstanding the obvious draw of the design of it. The 5712A, on the other hand, has a dial that is very interesting. It holds my attention. I don’t get bored looking at it. In fact the opposite, I find myself looking at it a lot. Date. Moonphase. Power reserve indicator. Assymetric dial. Sub-index for seconds.

What I will say is that I don’t see the 5712A as a sports watch. But it is a very cool watch.