When Patek Philippe started to release white-dialed versions of their popular Nautilus model I was intrigued. It was a very fresh color for their sport line, and while it wasn't a radical difference, it isn't something we've seen in this collection before. White dials are difficult to include in sport watches for a single reason - darkness legibility.
Sport watches have lume-coated hands and hour markers, which are often light in appearance because of the coating. Much of the time they are matched to darker colored dials. To have white hands and hour markers over a white dial can be tricky, but it is possible. What Patek Philippe and others have done is to create very distinct separation zones as borders between the elements on the dial. High contrast is preserved on the dial of this Nautilus model because Patek Philippe has used deep black edges on the hands and applied hour markers - even though their center's are white. It makes for a beautiful, legible look that still retains its darkness viewing capabilities.
On the wrist I have a Patek Philippe Nautlius Chronograph, which is the reference 5980/1A-019. The "019" part is what distinguishes this particular dial color from the other 5980/1A Nautilus Chronograph models. It joins what I believe are now three different Nautilus models which have lovely white dials. Those include the classic three-hand "Jumbo" Nautilus 5711/1A-011 white dial, and the annual calendar with moon phase Nautilus 5726/1A-010 watch with a white dial. Our friends at Fratello Watches did a nice sampling of the white dial Nautilus models here.
The basic three-hand 5711 Nautilus is a very pretty watch, and the 5726 annual calendar is symmetrically stunning and very classic. My top choice however is this subtle, yet very functional 5980 Nautilus Chronograph - which I find very handsome with its horizontally-lined face in white. For me, the fact that it has a full 12 hour chronograph placed into one dial is very appealing. The single dial contains a hand for both the elapsed hours and minutes. It is also relatively easy to read. The only sacrifice in a watch like this is that there is no running seconds hand, but it does have the date. Again, if you need a running seconds hand it merely requires activating the chronograph.
While wearing a Patek Philippe I have to forget a lot of what I prefer in watch sizes. Patek Philippe timepieces are much more classic in their sizing, so the 40.5mm wide case of this Nautilus model is considered large for the brand. The wide lugs help it appear larger on the wrist, and the distinct look of the case and dial help make up for what I miss in the typical pieces I wear which are 42 - 44mm wide in size. Without a doubt, I'd happily wear this watch full-time. I also feel that the white dialed version looks a bit more modern. The Nautilus is not exactly a modern case design, but in this execution it feels contemporary, as well as timeless.
Inside the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5980 is an in-house made Patek Philippe caliber CH 28-520 C automatic chronograph movement. You can see the movement and its gold rotor through a sapphire crystal on the rear of the watch. It is a beautifully finished and decorated movement with a handsome three-dimensional quality thanks to all of the bridges.
There isn't much else to say that hasn't been said before about the Nautilus case and bracelet. Of course, I recommend that anyone getting a Nautilus get it on a bracelet - as it was intended to be matched to. The bracelet has lovely polished center links and wonderfully beveled edges on the brushed links. This is good use of steel in a high-end luxury watch. As it is a Patek Philippe, price for the Nautilus 5980/1A-019 isn't forgiving. Retail cost is $51,000.
Tech specs from Patek Philippe:
Mechanical self-winding movement with date
Caliber CH 28-520 C
Chronograph with 60-minute and 12-hour monocounter at 6 o’clock
Sweep seconds hand (chronograph hand)
Silvery white dial, applied gold hour markers with luminescent coating
Steel bracelet with Nautilus fold-over clasp
Sapphire-crystal case back
Water resistant to 120 m
Case diameter (10-4 o'clock): 40.5 mm