Last Sunday was International Women’s Day. I celebrated it by wearing a Patek Philippe Ladies Nautilus. The watch is marketed and positioned in the brand’s extensive catalog as a woman’s model. Is it? . . .
The Patek Philippe Nautilus traces its origin to the pen of famed watch designer Gerald Genta, hired to rescue Patek from the ravages of the quartz watch crisis. The watchmaker’s vision for the brand-saving Nautilus: an ocean-inspired luxury watch stylish and durable enough to take anywhere. Initially decried as too modern, the Nautilus was a huge hit.
And so it remains. For certain “grail” models, pre-owned prices far exceed retail values. More than forty years after its introduction the most coveted model is both the simplest and the largest expression of Genta’s genius: the “Jumbo.”
The Jumbo was too large for some. In 1980, Patek began making the Nautilus in various case sizes, including the “ladies’ Nautilus.” The variations increased the Nautilus’ popularity to the point where it became the default choice for the discerning luxury watch buyer.
Patek sells more midsize Nautilus models than Jumbo variants. Other than size, the smaller models differ from their Jumbo cousins in their reduced water resistance. Mostly everything else is exactly the same, give or take.
Until Patek Philippe updated the movement in the 5711 Jumbo model at Baselworld last year, even the movements were the same. The caliber 324 S C powers the reference 7118 models that now appear in the Patek catalog as the Nautilus “Ladies’ Automatic.”
Ladies’ Nautilus or not, the 7118 references are midsized luxury sports watch models with high horology finishes and fun, casually elegant dials. In steel or gold, they suit most lifestyles with a certain poise increasingly missing in the world of watches.
The cases are a rounded octagon with lobes extending on either side. They come with the highly fashionable H-link integrated bracelets. The ears (wings, lobes, whatever) extending from the case sides are a mechanical component in the case’s construction.
The case is a two-part assembly, with screws through the lobes securing the bezel. This hinged porthole assembly characterizes the design of the Nautilus models and distinguishes them from their competition from [also Genta designed] Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak. The Ladies Nautilus comes in a variety of high quality finishes. The bezel’s and case’s satin finish have a fine, longitudinal silken grain, bringing the extremely high-polished bevels around the bezel and the lugs to the foreground.
The high polish continues on the central case sections of the flanking lobes and around the back to the sapphire caseback’s circular bezel. The bezel holding the sapphire caseback in place is part of the central case structure, not a snap-on.
Covering the dial, the flat sapphire crystal is shaped around the edges and traces and matches the contours of the rounded octagonal bezel. To prevent water ingress, a thin sliver of a rubber gasket is sandwiched between the case and the bezel’s porthole construction – a Genta signature. Flipping the Patek Philippe Nautilus Ladies over, a sapphire crystal fills the majority of the surface. Patek finishes the lugs’ underside with a fine sandblasted finish. There’s a prominent break in the rounded shoulders of the lugforms between the satin and blasted finishing – a masterpiece of high-horology construction.
The brightwork doesn’t end with the case. The bevels continue from the lug flanks, conforming to the taper of the supple bracelet. It’s visually indistinguishable in step from link to link, adding a broad but softened stance to the bracelet’s square-shouldered look. The design’s cadence invites the wearer to stroke the bevels.The clasp is a double-deployant, dual arc foldover mechanism with pusher-activated release. The leaf-spring loaded pusher releases are formed from an elegant Z-shaped sinuous rocker arm architecture in high polish. When the friction-fit snap shut clasp is closed, the fleur-de-lis engravings on each of its sides join to form the Calatrava cross.
The steel models – designated with the suffix /1A [steel in French is acier]- are available in three dial colors. The dials are finely embossed with variable depth wave-like patterns echoing the watch’s oceanic inspiration and aspirations. Model number 001 features the handsome blue opaline dial, clear lacquered over a latitudinally satin-finished galvanized base. The Patek Philippe signature, along with its home base Geneve, are transfer printed in white just under 12 o’clock.
The minutes track is denoted by fine and highly polished applied white gold hemispheres. Then ten hours are indexed by highly polished lozenge-shaped applied white gold markers. 12 o’clock features an applied white gold Arabic numeral 12 in high polish. The date sits at 6 o’clock, adorned with a high polished octagonal white gold frame.The date disk has a white background – it visually balances and distinguishes itself on the dial with superb elegance. Despite the varied ornaments and finishes and the undulating embossing, the dial’s overall balance is excellent. It’s youthful and sexy, full of dynamism and zest. Because of its depth, the gem-like blue face is electrifying. The dial’s character is a superb match for the sensuous styling of the cold, steel case.
The Patek Philippe Nautilus Ladies white gold handset for these references is a departure from the Jumbo Nautilus models, even though it maintains the paddle-shaped theme. Starting out broad at the central pinion, the hour and minute hands taper to a rounded point . The seconds hand is a needle-shape, perfectly polished and distortion free. It might be hard to spot in low light but its counterbalance is broad; the whole form is rolled along its longitudinal axis to catch as much light as it can.The white gold hour indices, hour and minute hands are all generously painted with luminescent material – low-light legibility is strong. Day or night, telling the time is an easy delight, with the bold Arabic numeral 12 providing proper orientation. You set the hands via the push/pull cylindrical crown, knurled and polished, recessed into the 3 o’clock case side.
The action of the crown is old school, linking you to the past of fine watchmaking. The crown pulls out to its first position to set the date, to its second position to set the time. The winding stem uses reduction gearing to slow the inputs, allowing precise time setting and prolonging your interaction with your Patek Philippe Ladies Nautilus. Winding is smooth but crisp, with immense feel and satisfaction.
The downside of the highly polished knurling and the reduced gearing: it takes a long time to wind or set the movement. Once you’re good to go, the peerless automatic winding mechanism picks up the slack. The movement is one of the best in the entire industry, offering precision, reliability and some of the finest hand finishing you can buy on a serially-produced caliber.The 21-karat gold centrally-rotating winding mass for the automatic winding mechanism is decorated with a Calatrava cross engraving. It features fine micro-perlage or snailing around its bearings with broad, circular Geneva ribbing, striping, or waves, radially arranged for the rest of its massive surface.
The inside edges of the Ladies Nautilus’ rotor are highly polished bevels. Patek also highly-polishes the bevels adorning every bridge plate, jewel chaton, and chamfered-slot screw countersink. All the bridges are treated to a Geneva ribbing finish. The large Gyromax balance featuring the Spiromax balance spring is free sprung for protection from shock-induced timing deviation. The baseplate of the movement is finished with a perlage or snailed pattern.
The entirety of the 3.3 mm thin and 27mm wide movement is visible from the back. The movement – hand finished with wood and diamond tipped tools – passes an in-house stringency surpassing the Geneva seal requirements to earn the Patek Philippe Nautilus Ladies seal. The seal’s engraved and gilded on one of the bridges.
The 4 Hz movement (beating at 28,800 vibrations per hour) features 29 jewels overall. The Ladies Nautilus runs for 45 hours once fully wound. The automatic winding action of the rotor is unidirectional to maximize efficiency.