Timekeeping
By Jason Heaton
on 4.22.14
Photo by Patek Philippe

When Patek Philippe introduced the original Nautilus in 1976, it created quite a stir. The Genta-designed watch was an aesthetic departure for Patek and the brand’s first sports watch. But that wasn’t the shocking part. This was a watch made entirely of stainless steel, a metal not commonly associated with luxury timepieces, much less those from Patek Philippe. Furthermore, Patek had the cojones to price the Nautilus the same as its gold watches, and well above other steel watches of the day.

There are elements of this story that may sound familiar; after all, another steel Genta-penned watch from a haute horlogerie company was a sensation in 1972: the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. But whereas the success of the Royal Oak saved AP from utter collapse, the Nautilus was not a make-or-break watch for Patek. It was simply a bold move from the most revered brand in the business and one that confidently stated, “we’ll do what we want”. Indeed, the Nautilus sold incredibly well, and its descendents still do today.

MORE BREAKDOWNS: Automatic Movement | De Bethune DB28 Digitale | Greubel Forsey Platinum GMT

At BaselWorld2014, Patek Philippe introduced the Travel Time Chronograph, reference 5990-1 ($57,300), the latest in the continuing evolution of this now iconic watch. Patek has been careful not to mess with the Nautilus too much over the years; the porthole-shaped case and integrated bracelet look right out of the late ‘70s (in a good way) and of course, it’s still made from good old stainless steel. It’s also still an eminently capable sports watch, water resistant to a healthy 120 meters for those high rollers who dare get it wet (perhaps falling off a yacht in Monaco harbor). What makes this new Nautilus special is its newfound functionality: a travel time complication derived from Patek’s younger sports watch, the Aquanaut, combined with a column-wheel chronograph. Both functions are elegantly integrated in this new watch, which remains aesthetically balanced, intuitive to use and (of course) 100 percent in-house Patek, right down to the Spiromax hairspring. We break it down for you above.