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Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Vs. Patek Philippe Nautilus

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audemars piguet royal oak vs patek philippe nautilus

The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Patek Philippe Nautilus, both masterpieces of designer Gérald Genta, represent the zenith of luxury sports watches, emerging as bold responses to the quartz crisis. 

With its iconic octagonal bezel and integrated bracelet, the Royal Oak broke new ground in 1972, while the Nautilus followed in 1976 with a softer, porthole-inspired design. Both have evolved while preserving their unique aesthetics, embodying innovation and craftsmanship.

Dive into the full article to explore their historical context, design evolution, and the enduring appeal that cements their status as icons of horological artistry.

Historical Context and Design Evolution

The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the Patek Philippe Nautilus are pivotal representations of luxury sports watches. Gérald Genta, renowned for his watch design expertise, played a critical role in the inception of both mechanical watches.

The iconic luxury heavyweights are special because of the circumstances that led to their creation. Here’s a timeline of the events and design evolution: 

  • 1969: Beginning of the quartz crisis of 1969 that threatened traditional Swiss watchmaking. It came in the form of Seiko’s Astron. The battery powered movement proved to be cheaper and more accurate than Swiss movements.
  • 1972: Audemars Piguet decides to retaliate with a watch that had a design never seen before: A chunky ‘Jumbo’ luxury steel sports watch with an octagonal bezel and integrated bracelet, i.e., the original Royal Oak.
  • 1976: Patek Philippe releases the Nautilus ‘Jumbo’. It maintained the stainless steel sports watch trend- which was effective since luxury pieces at the time were mainly crafted from gold. It also had special design cues that granted it much-needed attention.
  • 1981: Patek Philippe introduces the mid-size Nautilus ref. 3800 to broaden the model’s appeal after the ‘Jumbo’s’ slow sales.
  • 1983-1984: Royal Oak adopts the calendar function and later the perpetual calendar, moon phase, and Day-Date complications.

Comparison Table: At a Glance

The following table highlights the main details of the Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe watches:

FeatureAudemars PiguetPatek Philippe
Founding Year18751839
Country of OriginSwitzerlandSwitzerland
Price Range (in SGD)S$20,000 to over S$100,000S$30,000 to over S$300,000
Famous CollectionsRoyal Oak, Royal Oak OffshoreNautilus, Aquanaut, Calatrava, Grand Complications
Watch ComplicationsChronograph, Perpetual Calendar, Minute Repeater, TourbillonChronograph, Annual Calendar, Perpetual Calendar, World Time
Material InnovationForged carbon, Ceramic, TitaniumAdvanced Research materials, Rose gold, White gold
Signature Design(Petite, Mega, or Grande) “Tapisserie” dial, Octagonal bezel with eight hexagonal screwsHorizontal embossed dial, Rounded octagonal bezel
Historical SignificanceFirst luxury sports watch in steel, Designed by Gérald GentaAmong the first luxury sports watches, also Designed by Gérald Genta
Notable WearersQuincy Jones, Will Smith, Justin Bieber, Chris HemsworthEllen DeGeneres, Jonah Hill, Jay-Z, Brad Pitt

Key insight: Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe, Swiss horological legends, offer iconic collections like the Royal Oak and Nautilus, pioneering luxury sports watch design with prices ranging from S$20,000 to over S$300,000. 

Renowned for innovative materials and complex watch complications, these brands boast historical significance and a roster of notable wearers, embodying excellence in watchmaking. 

Both marques reflect a legacy of innovation, with distinctive designs that have captivated watch enthusiasts and celebrities alike.

Design and Aesthetics

The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the Patek Philippe Nautilus possess iconic designs that have cemented their place in the watch industry.

Royal Oak 

audemars piguet royal oak watch

Notably, the Royal Oak features an octagonal bezel secured by visible hexagonal screws, reflecting Audemars Piguet’s daring approach to watch design. Its integrated bracelet is characterized by a distinctive ‘Tapisserie’ pattern, adding both texture and depth to the timepiece’s appearance.

This stainless steel watch has both a solid and open (sapphire) caseback, allowing wearers to choose between a more classical timepiece or one with a more contemporary touch. The open option is mostly available in the Royal Oak chronograph (such as the ref. 26240ST.OO.1320ST.07) and Royal Oak Offshore (e.g. the ref. 26420SO.OO.A600CA.01) models.


patek philippe nautilus watch

In contrast, the Nautilus showcases a porthole-inspired design, conceived by the same designer, Gerald Genta. Its rounded octagonal bezel offers a softer profile compared to the Royal Oak, and the horizontal relief lines on the dial mimic the horizon where the sea meets the sky. The Nautilus’s integrated bracelet is smoother and curvier, which enhances the watch’s elegant silhouette.

As for its caseback, it’s almost always open and protected with a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, enabling wearers to peek at its movement in action. The open caseback has become one of its most recognizable trademark features.

Both watches demonstrate the art of integrating bracelets with their respective cases, creating a seamless transition that appeals to enthusiasts seeking a sophisticated, unified design. Although they share this similarity, the execution differs, accentuating the unique identity each brand wishes to portray.

The Royal Oak bracelet echoes the sporty aura with its brushed characteristic that draws attention to its intermediate plot links. On the other hand, the Nautilus’ bracelet is polished, less dramatic, and thinner, emphasizing its quieter yet equally effective approach to the luxury sports watch design.

Just a recap…

Royal Oak:

  • Octagonal Bezel
  • “Tapisserie” pattern on the dial
  • Visible screws
  • Sharper lines
  • Sportier brushed integrated steel bracelet with intermediate plot links


  • Porthole Bezel
  • Horizontal relief lines
  • Rounded bezel edges
  • Polished, more elegant integrated steel bracelet design

The intricate craftsmanship behind each watch underscores their status as luxury icons, while their distinct aesthetics cater to individual preferences in style and comfort.

Mechanical Innovation and Craftsmanship

The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the Patek Philippe Nautilus are embodiments of high-end horology, showcasing intricate movement technologies and expert finishing techniques.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak

Caliber 3120
  • Movement: Features Caliber 3120, an in-house self-winding movement with 40 jewels, a 60-hour power reserve, and a 21,600vph frequency.
  • Finishing: Utilizes Côtes de Genève, perlage, and diamond-grinding for refined detailing.
  • Craftsmanship in the Royal Oak is evident through the chamfered edges of internal components and a meticulously engraved 22k gold rotor.

Patek Philippe Nautilus

caliber 26-330 s C
  • Movement: Equipped with the Caliber 26-330 S C, a self-winding mechanical movement with Patek’s Gyromax® balance. It has 30 jewels, a power reserve of approximately 45 hours (maximum) and 35 hours (minimum), and a 28,800vph frequency.
  • Finishing: Recognized for its flawless Geneva stripes, polished chamfers, and hand-finished components.
  • The Nautilus demonstrates its craftsmanship with precision engineering, particularly in its subtle integration of complex functions like moon phases.

Both timepieces go beyond material value, deducing that their makers prioritize technological prowess and artisanal mastery. They are not just time-keeping devices but also a testament to the art of watchmaking, where every wheel, pinion, and screw is perfected.

Market Position and Brand Identity

Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe have firmly established themselves as top contenders in the luxury watch market, largely due to the reputation of the Royal Oak and the Nautilus, respectively. Both timepieces have become synonymous with their brands, embodying the pinnacle of design, craftsmanship, and exclusivity.

The Royal Oak is often considered the cornerstone of Audemars Piguet’s collection, signifying a bold move towards high-end, stainless steel watches and defining the brand’s progressive identity. It was one of the first luxury steel watches to be introduced in the market, setting a new trend for others to follow.

Audemars Piguet Royal OakPatek Philippe Nautilus
Innovative designClassic elegance
Sportier aestheticUnderstated luxury
Emphasizes high-end steelFocuses on refined details

The Nautilus, meanwhile, has elevated Patek Philippe’s status with its refined elegance and discreet luxury. It represents a blend of Patek Philippe’s traditional watchmaking prowess with a contemporary design that appeals to both purists and modern watch collectors.

With their distinctive designs, both the Royal Oak and the Nautilus have helped shape the market perception of luxury sports watches. These pieces are more than timekeepers; they are a statement of status, taste, and an appreciation for horological artistry. 

They have indelibly shaped their brands’ identities and distinguished their market position among the highest echelons of watchmaking.

Collector Perspectives and Market Demand

Both watches emerged in the 1970s, designed by Gérald Genta, and were initially met with skepticism due to their unusual steel construction and luxury positioning. However, they eventually became highly sought-after items.

Here are some of the factors that have contributed to their popularity:

  • Brand Prestige: Both the Royal Oak and the Nautilus benefit from their brand’s storied history and the exclusivity associated with their names.
  • Design and Quality: The octagonal bezel of the Royal Oak and the porthole design of the Nautilus set these watches apart, while their quality is unimpeachable.
  • Scarcity: Limited production runs and high demand create a scarcity that enhances their desirability among collectors.

Collectors often have deep sentimental attachments to their timepieces, considering them as both personal treasures and investments. 

The Royal Oak, for example, resonates through its association with Audemars Piguet’s innovation in design and craftsmanship. This connection contributes to its market demand and its standing as a luxurious and expensive piece.

Market demand for both watches has inflated prices, especially in the preowned market. However, the Patek Philippe Nautilus has a higher price point than its counterpart. According to WatchCharts, it sells for between S$63,903 and S$655,902 on the private sales market.

On the other hand, the site indicates that the Royal Oak goes for between S$8,741 and S$575,213 on the private sales market.

Consider these key points:

  • The Royal Oak’s market value can see a significant markup from its original price. It is often a statement piece, attracting collectors who value its bold style and the inherent status it conveys.
  • Similarly, the Nautilus’ demand has made it a fixture in auctions, with values far exceeding retail prices, partially due to Patek Philippe’s conservative production approach.

In conclusion, the collector’s perspective is driven by a blend of emotional and economic factors, solidifying the market demand for these distinguished timepieces.


1. Are the Royal Oak and Nautilus good investment pieces?

Both the Royal Oak and Nautilus are considered excellent investment pieces due to their iconic status, limited production, and high demand. Their value has historically appreciated over time, making them sought-after items in the pre-owned market.

2. How often should I service my Royal Oak or Nautilus watch?

It’s recommended to service your watch every 5 to 7 years, depending on usage and the manufacturer’s guidelines. Regular servicing ensures the longevity and optimal performance of the timepiece.

3. How can I authenticate a Royal Oak or Nautilus watch?

Authenticating a luxury watch like the Royal Oak or Nautilus should be done by a certified watchmaker or an authorized dealer. Key indicators of authenticity include the quality of craftsmanship, serial numbers, and accompanying documentation.

4. Can I customize my Royal Oak or Nautilus watch?

While customization options are limited for Royal Oaks and Nautiluses, you can choose from different dial colors, materials, and strap options to personalize your watch. However, it’s important to note that any aftermarket modifications can affect the watch’s value and warranty.

Final Word

When deciding between the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the Patek Philippe Nautilus, individuals are choosing between two titans of the luxury watch world. Each watch brings its unique history and unparalleled craftsmanship to the wrist of its wearer.

Key Takeaways

  • The aesthetics and comfort of the Nautilus’ more polished bezel and curved edges contrast with the Royal Oak’s sharper lines and iconic octagonal bezel.
  • Both timepieces are regarded as masterpieces of modern horology. 
  • The Royal Oak tends to be slightly less expensive, starting at around S$20,000, while the Nautilus can have a higher entry price point. Both, however, can represent significant investments, as certain models may exceed S$100,000.

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