Review: Patek Philippe Nautilus 5740/1G
Forty-two years is a long time. It’s long enough to go from enjoying a carefree childhood to having a serious need to make a will, and for those who’ve spent that time hoping Patek Philippe would fit a grand complication into the quirky Nautilus, the wait was a long one. But now the wait is over.
Both the Nautilus and the perpetual calendar, Patek Philippe’s grand complication of choice for the new 5740/1G, are an entrenched part of the brand’s history, and it’s a wonder the paths of these two haven’t crossed before. The Nautilus’ closest rival, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, only waited eleven years after its 1972 arrival to receive a perpetual calendar, and has had one ever since.
There are actually three historical milestones from Patek Philippe coming together here, and the first might be somewhat surprising: the Swiss legend was the first to make a wristwatch. Not a wristwatch for, or a wristwatch that—the first wristwatch. It was a ladies’ bangle, fitted in 1868 with a miniscule calibre 27368, the display covered by a decorative flap to hide the functional element of this otherwise decorative piece.
Then came the perpetual calendar, of which the first fitted to a wristwatch came from the house of Patek Philippe. Small perpetual calendar movements were no new thing to the watchmaker by the 1900s, the first, the calibre 97975, having been made in 1898—but it wasn’t made for a watch, it was made for a pendant. By 1925, however, wristwatches were becoming more commonplace as pocket watches declined from fashion, and so Patek Philippe transplanted that pendant movement into a wristwatch.
The third and final piece of the 5740 puzzle is the Nautilus, Patek Philippe’s reaction to Audemars Piguet’s gobsmacking Royal Oak. Small, dressy, gold wristwatches were on the down and out; chunky stainless-steel sports watches were the thing to have. Patek Philippe knew it would also need one, and so the company hired the same man who designed the Royal Oak to design a watch for them too, one Gérald Genta. So, in actual fact, it’s taken a whopping 150 years for all three elements of the Nautilus 5740 to come to be, and to come together. But has it been worth the wait?
Aside from this specific combination, there’s nothing new going on with the Patek Philippe 5740. The case, although in white gold, is identical to the standard 5711, albeit with a few hidden pushers added to the lugs to control the calendar with. Even the thickness of the case is near-on identical, expanding only by a tenth of a millimetre to accommodate the 240Q perpetual calendar movement.
Which, speaking of, has been in action since 1985, and is based on the simpler calibre 240 that’s been about another eight years more. The dial has been changed to reflect the grand complication, inheriting the 5327’s triple sub-dial layout and transposing it on the Nautilus’ ridged blue dial. It is worth noting that the smoky gradient of the original is not present in the 5740, however.
Perhaps because terms like ‘ground-breaking’ and ‘revolutionary’ get thrown around so often, there’s an expectation that this would be that, too, but it isn’t. It’s more a celebration of revolution, a clip show, if you like. You get to revel in the amazing achievements of this brand in a collage of watchmaking, from that first wristwatch, on through to the first perpetual calendar wristwatch, all the way to that first Patek Philippe sports watch.
Okay, so the last one isn’t that revolutionary in a broader sense, what with the whole Audemars Piguet Royal Oak thing, but for Patek Philippe, purveyors of tradition and classicalism, it must have been the greatest challenge the brand had ever faced. Considering how understated Patek Philippe watches had been up until that point, to create something that so flagrantly offered form ahead of function was uncharted territory.
And this is true of all three aspects of this watch: the first wristwatch was created in a time when pocket watches were king, such an unlikely device to make that the dial was obscured by a diamond of the same circumference; and the first wristwatch perpetual calendar, that moved a grand complication for which Patek Philippe was greatly admired into a form-factor preferred only for its utility. It seems then that the Nautilus 5740 offers a different insight into Patek Philippe’s past than perhaps we first expected.
These three moments—the first watch, the first perpetual calendar wristwatch and the first Patek Philippe sports watch—these three leaps into unknown territory, are what makes the 5740 special. In the 180 years that Patek Philippe has traded, hundreds if not thousands of other watchmakers—even great ones—have fallen by the wayside, and the 5740 serves as a quiet demonstration of why it has survived all that. It’s not good enough to be good enough; you’ve got to be the best.
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