Tropical Sigma Dial 3700J Patek Philippe Nautilus
Watch media, collectors, and enthusiasts often speak about the Nautilus as if it’s one thing. After all, we often write ‘the’ Nautilus, as opposed ‘a’ Nautilus. Simultaneous, we more often talk about Submariners, not the sub, because we acknowledge that sub is a broad church. But both are slow evolving objects, not static. Language often reveals how we think. Perhaps it’s because Nautili is so difficult to spell, but we would all do well to recognize that this 3700 is a markedly different watch to the 5711, in numbers, quality, philosophy, and market. This is nowhere more clear than in examples like this, which have an entirely different soul to modern Patek: monobloc case, no pin sleeve bracelet construction, a noticeably thinner 7.6mm case, and a dial that alone would sell for midsized Royal Oak value thanks to the fact that it’s been lived it.
This dial was made by Stern and time. Each ‘slot’ was carved by hand. When an early Nautilus dial goes tropical, the effect is not like a Rolex or Omega. There’s almost always a more rough texture to the patina and variance between the slots. Some go grey, some a warmer tone like this. Either is preferable to the teal that looks like something you’d get in a cereal box, I hope Genta’s ghost is having fun haunting Arnault. The 5811 is inextricably linked to AD nonsense, there are headlines of one lawsuit alleging a dictated spend of 220K for the chance to buy a 5980R, that was later denied. I want nothing remotely tangent to that.
The early 3700 cases have an entirely different case construction, which is why we call it the monobloc. The case looks to have a back, but if you study it closely you’ll note that there are no grips to screw it off, it’s just machined metal and all one piece. This is a front-loading case. In service, the bezel and sapphire hinge together over one side to allow the movement to be removed out front. As soon as the Nautilus 5711 grew grips on its caseback, the ‘ears’ became decorative. I’m still not over it. In addition, the JLC 920 ébauche is a Geneva Seal, even though you can’t see it. The modern Nautilus uses the Patek Seal, which though beautiful is a bit too much like asking your kid to grade their own essay. I’m not even claiming vintage is superior here, but my preference. Both are objectively excellent watches. I’m simply claiming that they’re very distinct, watches with almost entirely separate meanings. What I am claiming is that, of all Nautili, it’s examples like this tropical sigma 3700 that seem to have a soul when you hold them in hand.
This example is in strong overall condition. The dial is a clear standout, a natural tropical with a deep and varied tone. These can often be a bit spotty and though subjective, this one looks great to me. The case is strong with great edges, bevels, and only very very light recessed hallmarks that probably indicates a touch up or two over its life, but strong factory lines overall. It comes with an Extract of Archive from a well-regarded California retailer.