The uncanny valley is a widely-observed phenomena whereby a humanoid figure (such as a figurine, robot, or CGI character) creates increasing feelings of unease or distrust the more closely it approximates a human appearance. Viewers of HBO’s Westworld will be familiar with this feeling. For example, dolls are inanimate objects which mostly don’t frighten us. Mark Zuckerberg, on the the other hand, is something very close to human but not yet entirely human and, as such, makes many apprehensive. Patek’s ref. 3770 lies firmly in two uncanny valleys: it is very close to being both a Nautilus and Ellipse, yet is neither. I must admit, upon first learning of this hybrid, I felt unease. But the more I’ve studied the ‘Nautellipse’, as it has come to be known, I find it rather bewitching. Perhaps there’s a double negative, two uncanny valleys creating a ‘canny’ valley, or beautiful as I’d dare call it.
This amalgamation, released in 1981, boasts the recognizable ears and bracelet of the ref. 3700 Nautilus, but the case shape is straight from the first Ellipse ref. 3546. Straight from the outset, it has been both derided and celebrated. Why did Patek engage in such flagrant crossbreeding? In 1980, the Ellipse was all the rage. In an attempt to expand the product line, Patek saw an opportunity to counter the 3700’s weaknesses. At the time, it was seen as too large, too thick, and too expensive. The solution seemed obvious: give the Ellipse a sporting pretense, E27 quartz calibre, and thinner case, and watch it eat market share.
That didn’t really happen. By the late 80s, it was clear that the Nautilus was the sporting watch of choice for Patek’s well-heeled clients. In the early 90s, the 3770 was discontinued. Today, it is an obscure corner of Calatrava Cross quirkiness that excites the most eccentric collectors among us. Its merits are straightforward: the very thin 35x39mm case made by the same casemaker as the 3700 (Favre & Perret), relative obscurity, and a story waiting to be told. For something so close the pinnacle of hype watches, I just adore that zero hype surrounds this marvel. Phil Toledano is slowly changing that, but still. It is thought that fewer than 500 examples have ever been produced, with most estimating 200-300.
This example sports a very full case with the desirable full bracelet (these also came on leather). Its dial is undamaged, even the tritium in its handset is lovely. The bracelet appears tight, there’s only minor surface wear, and it
Find this 3770 ‘Nautellipse’ here from The Keystone for 45000 USD.