The Patek Philippe Nautilus is one of a handful of watches where the term iconic actually applies. Its influence on not just sports watches but also the entire watch market can not be overstated. Even today, forty-four years after its release, it’s one of the most desirable watch models on the planet. But this popularity comes with a cost, and to some it makes wearing a Nautilus an arguably boring, or at least unoriginal choice. No judgment here, as my daily wearer is a Rolex 16610. However, if you know where to look, one can still get into the Nautilus family without being confused for a finance bro.
Enter the Patek Philippe Nautilus 3710 “Comet”. Introduced in 1998, with its unique power reserve display, this was the first Nautilus to include a complication other than the date. This reference also marked a return to the beloved “Jumbo” case size for the first time since the original reference 3700. This model strikes the perfect balance by retaining key elements that make the Nautilus so sought-after while setting itself apart with some thoughtful differences.
The iconic case remains faithful to the Gentas original design, measuring 42mm in diameter and just 8.1mm thick. That makes this watch is a bit smaller than the modern 5711 and a bit larger than the vintage 3700. The bracelet has excellent articulation and pulls down almost totally vertical, avoiding the flair seen on current references. With its true to the original “mono-bloc” case, 120m water resistance, and excellent brushed and polished finishing throughout the 3710 case and bracelet are near perfect.
While the case design is more of the same, the dial is proudly different. The matte black background is a massive departure from the gradient blue teak deck style we’re used to, and it balances the watch out. The subdued background brings some welcomed calm to the design as the white gold Roman numerals, outer railroad track, and power reserve add all the flair needed. The numerals and hands are fully lumed, and because this example is from 1998, the lume is tritium rather than a more modern material like Super-Luminova—A detail most collectors will love.
The power reserve complication is unusual—this is the only watch Patek implemented it in—as the reserve meter and hand both rotate within the subdial. When winding the watch, one can see the meter spin clockwise in an animation that looks like it’s flying almost like a comet, get it. It’s a fun animation to watch and a detail that adds charm to the watch. Patek easily could have messed this dial up and made it too busy, but they per usual nailed it, and I think it walks right up to the line without crossing it.
Powering the watch is an automatic winding caliber 330 SC. It contains a shock absorber, a self-compensating flat balance spring, and a straight-line lever escapement. This is a true sports watch; you don’t need to baby it as much as its price tag might make you want to. Of course, its finishing is excellent complete with the Geneva hallmark, but you’ll likely never see it due to the lack of a see-through caseback. While I love a good display caseback, I don’t mind missing out here to gain the mono-bloc style that Genta envisioned for the original design.
In this Instagram era, where everyone seems to have the same watch wishlist, this Nautilus stands out, and I believe it’s yet to be fully appreciated. Watches of the 1990s represent the end of an era in watchmaking and are slowly but surely becoming more collectible. Not long after this Nautilus was introduced in 1998 came the era of silicon, ceramic, and Super-Luminova ushering in a new generation of truly modern timepieces. What makes this 3710 so exceptional is that it combines a unique take on an icon while being one of the last of its vintage references. This is very much a connoisseurs’ Nautilus, and I don’t expect it to be this accessible for long.