It’s hard to imagine that a single Swiss designer could be responsible for one of the biggest trends in the world of luxury watchmaking. With several ground-breaking designs under his belt, including the Patek Philippe Golden Ellipse, and several Omega Constellation models, it should come as no surprise that Gerald Genta is widely considered one of the industry’s most influential figures, and a major force behind the steel-based luxury watch revolution. He has even gone on to manufacture his own Gerald Genta line of watches branded under his name. Today, we’re pitting two, “real deal” Gerald Genta, stainless steel giants up against each other— the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the Patek Philippe Nautilus.
Before designs like the Royal Oak came along, it was pretty difficult to wrap your head around the concept of an all-stainless steel luxury wristwatch. As a matter of fact, the idea was quite risky. When it was revealed in 1972 at the annual European watchmaking fair in Switzerland, it was met with a variety of mixed criticism. It was completely hand finished, featured an avant-garde octagonal case, and carried a significantly higher price tag than any Rolex Submariner on the market. As a result, commercial success came slowly for the Royal Oak but it was definitely on everyone’s mind. When enthusiasts and collectors began to realize how revolutionary its design actually was, the Royal Oak skyrocketed into the history books and still stands as the archetypal Audemars Piguet wristwatch.
Following the success of the Royal Oak, Patek Philippe also decided that it was time to try their hand at a similar design. Finding a designer was the easy part, and Genta was once again commissioned to create one of the most iconic wristwatches that would inevitably reinvent Patek’s image. The initial Nautilus design was purportedly sketched on a hotel dining hall napkin in about 5 minutes. Like the Royal Oak, it took inspiration from certain maritime elements like portholes and battleship gun ports and featured a fully robust, stainless steel design. Though Genta may not have known it at the time, these two watches would eventually become what many consider to be the pinnacle of what a luxury sports wristwatch should be.
So for someone tasked with choosing the ultimate luxury sports watch for their collection, facing the Nautilus and the Royal Oak can prove to be pretty tough. While there are so many different factors that could affect your decision, it usually comes down to fit, finish, versatility, and price. Both watches feature superlative finishing and have proven to be some of the most comfortable watches for daily wear. Their sporty designs are rugged and can easily transition between casual and dressy environments. While the Nautilus is slightly more conservative in size, it still commands a respectable wrist presence. The Royal Oak however, feels just slightly larger and falls in line with more contemporary case size expectations.
In the end, this may just prove to be a case of personal preference and which model better reflects your sense of style. When you’re shopping in this range of quality, you simply can’t go wrong with either choice. However, these are two watches that you simply must see and feel “in the metal” before making your decision. Wrist presence is a huge determining factor for many, but it will vary tremendously from person to person. With that said, the next important factor to weigh between the two would be price. The Nautilus will almost always come at a slightly higher premium. So if it’s “bang for your buck” haute horology you’re looking for, the Royal Oak wins in that category. After all is said and done, it’s nearly impossible to choose wrong, as both of these timepieces are equally deserving of a spot in your collection.
If you’re interested in trying on or purchasing one of these timeless models, browse our site or stop by our showroom! We are located in Miami, Florida, across the street from the world renowned Bal Harbour Shops. We always have a growing collection of Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe sports watches and a team of experts to help you on your quest. At Gray & Sons, we carry only the finest, certified pre-owned watches available so you can be certain you’ll find a quality piece for your collection.