In the words of John Mayer, the Patek Philippe Aquanaut model is “the Chuck Taylor version of a Patek Philippe.” No other Patek Philippe model has the special variants that veer off from the traditional pieces that have made Patek Philippe so revered. Coming in Khaki Green, Electric Blue, Bright Orange, and other vibrant colors you would not usually expect from a Patek Philippe watch, it contradicts the notion of a luxury timepiece yet is still widely considered as one. However, despite its noticeable deviation in appearance from the aesthetics we expect from most Patek Philippe watches, the Aquanaut is as sought-after as its older and more traditional cousins. The Aquanaut still has the hallmarks that make the Patek Philippe brand so unique; however, it also adds the appeal created by its unexpected style and controversial history.
Though the Patek Philippe Aquanaut isn’t the first sports watch produced by the company, it shares its history with its close relative, the Nautilus. Both trace their origins to Gérald Genta’s iconic design concepts. From its release in 1997, the first Aquanaut, the 5060A, was marketed under the Nautilus line in Patek Philippe’s catalog. Its distinct checkerboard pattern was said to be inspired by its military origins as it reminds the casual viewer of a “grenade-like” design. The mystery surrounding the origins of this timepiece adds to the mystique surrounding it. A mysterious client approached the company leaders to design a rugged watch for him that is fit for military action as these are meant to be gifted to deserving military officers.
Harking back to its military origins, no other Aquanaut model exemplifies its character than the Patek Philippe Aquanaut 5968G-010. It is powered by the CH 28-520 C movement inside a 6.62mm thick case. It has an impressive 50 hours of power reserve and boasts a chronograph function highlighted by the exquisite finishing displayed through its transparent case back. Unlike most Aquanaut releases made of stainless steel, it comes in white gold combined with its distinctive khaki green color. As featured by this model, the decision to use precious metals for sports watches positions the line closer to its heritage while still appealing to the characteristics that place this model in high demand. The clean combination of khaki green and white shouts a stealthy luxurious aesthetic radiated by its very modern 42.2mm diameter by 11.9mm thickness case design.
From its release, the Patek Philippe Nautilus was aimed to attract a new, younger generation of collectors. Its price point was comparatively low by company standards. However, its initial buyers were previous collectors who sought an alternative watch. The target demographic waited years to get their hands on one, which eventually drove the price of this model up. However, those who get their hands on one are successful young entrepreneurs on the go, like Arby Li, the vice president of strategy for HYPEBEAST. He owns a Rose gold Aquanaut Travel Time 5164R-001.
The Aquanaut Travel Time is for the audacious traveling entrepreneur who demands the best that a mechanical wristwatch can offer. Like all the other Aquanauts, its sturdy construction and understated design establish it as a fully-functional sports watch. However, its sophistication centers on its complications. In its heart is the self-winding Caliber 324 S C FUS providing precision and accuracy for its second timezone enabling the intrepid traveler to keep track of local time anywhere they are in the world. With its brown embossed dial and rose gold case, it still distinguishes itself from most other sports watches with the craftsmanship you have come to expect from Paek Philippe.
Patek Philippe Aquanaut 5650G (diamondsourcenyc.com)
By appealing to the younger market, the Aquanaut has distinct characteristics that set it apart from other products in its class. The Aquanaut traces its origins to the Nautilus as it is based on its porthole design, patterned dial work, and sturdy construction. The Aquanaut stands out from the Nautilus because of its composite rubber strap and its availability in colors one would not expect from a luxury watch brand. The Aquanaut has colors such as orange for the 5968A-001, the 35.6mm 5067A-025 released in blue-gray, and the ladies-only 38.8mm dial 5268-200R-001 released in matte white. Don’t let its more understated appearance deceive you. These watches have always carried all the hallmarks of Patek Philippe's cutting-edge engineering expertise.
The culmination of these experimentations is showcased by the Patek Philippe Aquanaut Advanced Research Ref. 5650G. Along with the features that identify it as an Aquanaut, starting with its composite rubber strap that can resist bacteria, humidity, heat, and adverse environmental conditions, it has, in its heart, the caliber 324 S C FUS 29-jewel self-winding movement with a frequency of 28,800 vph making it one of the most precise sports watches available on the market. Along with its complications, such as the travel time function, it has an openwork dial that sets it apart even among Patek Philippe watches.
The experimentation with Aquanaut's designs extends to its ladies' watches in the form of the Aquanaut Luce collection. With gold or rose gold dials set with diamonds, the 5269-200R-001, the 5068R-010, 5268-200R-001, and the 5072R-001 are indeed ladies' watches but with the same functionality, distinctive style, and precision that the Aquanaut is known for.
Aquanaut's ladies' watch flagship is the Haute Joaillerie 18kt Rose Gold Diamond Case Ladies Watch 5062/450R-001. This watch isn't just a piece of fine jewelry. The Caliber 324 mechanical self-winding movement in its heart is what powers most of the non-complication Patek Philippe watches. Its hands, dial, lugs, case, and clasps are set with 296 diamonds in different cuts and shapes, forming a unique masterpiece. Note that the arrangement of the 160 diamonds set on the dial forms the embossed checkered pattern that identifies it as an Aquanaut.
The Patek Philippe Aquanaut intends to provide a more affordable alternative to the Nautilus by tweaking its design slightly and making it more appealing to the younger audience. Compared to other Patek Philippe watches such as the Nautilus, the Aquanaut sells at a comparatively lower price point.
The retail price of the Travel Time 5164A in 2012 was $36,400. Affordable, by Patek Philippe’s standards. However, the same watch kept in mint condition is available on the second-hand watch market at more than $190,000! Its in-house 324 S C FUS, 294 parts, 29 jewels, and a power reserve of 45 hours, is still the modern engine behind the most recent Patek Philippe watches. This same movement is still considered one of the most precise pieces of engineering despite the design being a decade old. Note that its “Tropical” rubber, and its stainless steel case and body don’t age.
Even a respected luxury watch brand such as Patek Philippe is capable of surprises. However, we are accustomed to surprises in cutting-edge engineering that combine art with science. The Swiss company has always been known for its conservative styling. The Patek Philippe Nautilus is special for the reasons that make it stand out from other Patek Philippe watches. Its positioning as a more affordable and dressier alternative to the Nautilus, with its controversial and unexpected styling, made the Aquanaut more desirable. Is it a “poor man’s Nautilus,” as it was called around five years after its release? Definitely not today. One thing is for sure. The Aquanaut is definitely the most fun Patek Philippe watch around.