Diary of a Patek Philippe collector – Rise of the Aquanaut – Part II (10th May 2020)

Last week, I gave an insight into the evolution of the Aquanaut. I looked specifically at the very base level steel variants of the genre. Today, I will expand into looking at some of the other Aquanauts that have come into production with an emphasis on the more recent modern issues.

Once upon a time, the Aquanaut was a simple complication. It had a date. It had a second hand. That was it. However, much in the same way that the Nautilus developed into a entire range of different complications and variations, the Aquanaut has also veered into more complicated modes.

Patek Philippe Ref. 5968A

Lets start with the first (and currently only) chronograph within the Aquanaut range. The 5968A. Steel chronographs within Patek Philippe history are few and far between. The 5968A, however, is very much unlike anything that has gone before it. It is a rugged chronograph. Made in steel. Screw-down crown. Sapphire-crystal case back. Water resistant to 120 m. Diameter of 42.2 mm. Height: 11.9 mm.

When this was first released, I was desperate to have it. I was fortunate enough to be at Basel to try it on. Regrettably, for me, it did not fit my wrist well. This is more my issue than the watch, as I have a small wrist. I can get away with 42mm, but only if the case is slim and also depending on the nature of the bezel. This is one of the very few occasions when I have wished to have a bigger wrist.

I think this is an absolutely stunning Aquanaut. If I wanted a sports watch with chronograph, this is it.

If this watch fitted me, then it would already be in my collection. I think the chronograph complication suits the Aquanaut very well.

In a nod to the age demographic of the likely audience for this watch, Patek Philippe also provided an alternative composite rubber strap. In orange!

I think I could get away with the black rubber, but not so sure about the orange!

This was a bold move into creating more colour and choice. For many, it was seen as offering the owner options to suit their respective lifestyle. I think it does that, but it also does something extra. Colour. I will come to this later.

Patek Philippe Ref. 5164A

The next Aquanaut that I think is worth highlighting is the Ref. 5164A. Yet again, steel is the preferred case material for this Aquanaut. Mechanical self-winding movement. Caliber 324 S C FUS. Dual time zone mechanism indicating local and home time. Local and home day/night indications in apertures. Local date by hand. Sweep seconds hand. Black embossed dial. Screw-down crown. Sapphire-crystal case back. Water resistant to 120 m. Case diameter 40.8 mm. Height: 10.2 mm.

A bit smaller. A bit slimmer. It mimics the Aquanaut Ref. 5650G in size. This is altogether easier to wear for me. With the dual time innovation that comes with this watch, it represents a very cool traveller’s timepiece. Although I love the very nature of world time complications, the reality is that the most useful variation of a travel watch encompasses two time zones. The Ref. 5164A captures the spirit of adventure very well. Again, the watch comes across as rugged and all-purpose. It is a watch that I see as a close-to-perfect travel companion. I will also say this – I know several guys who own this watch. There is universal love for it from an owner’s perspective. I always take more note when an owner has a strong opinion.

What would I rather have; a Rolex GMT or a Patek 5164A? No contest.

I was at a luncheon once when a Director of Patek Philippe was asked how he viewed Rolex as a competitor. The answer was, naturally, diplomatic and courteous. The crux of the view was that Rolex was seen more as a complimentary brand than as a competitor. That lunch took place about 10 years ago. I think things have changed. The breadth of watches now manufactured by Patek Philippe has widened considerably. I now see the entire Aquanaut range and find myself rarely looking at Rolex. To my mind (and taste), there is now an Aquanaut that out-points any of the typical Rolex sports models. OK, the Patek Philippe is more expensive.

So is a Posrche more expensive than a Ford.

A wise collector that I know (Edmond….thats you) once said that one of the lesser recognised factors that drew people to Rolex was the variety of its colours. I happen to agree. It is a powerful factor. Which leads me to the next reference of note, the 5168G.

Patek Philippe Ref. 5168G

Colour is crucial. We all have varying tastes when it comes to colour. We all have particular likes and dislikes. However, with Rolex we also have great choice. Colour combinations in case materials and dials are especially wide. With Patek Philippe, that has not necessarily been the case. The Nautilus had some degree of colour variations, but not a lot. I think it is also true that as a sports watch, the Nautilus doesn’t compete so readily with a Rolex. An Aquanaut, on the other hand, is a different beast.

From an aesthetic standpoint, this watch is totally stunning.

For my taste, it is hard to imagine a more beautiful Aquanaut. This time, the case material is white gold. For me, very little works better with a white case than a blue dial. And this is quite a special blue dial. Screw-down crown. Sapphire-crystal case back. Water resistant to 120 m. Diameter 42.2 mm. Height: 8.25 mm. So the diameter is, again, on the larger size but with a height of just 8.25mm, this watch wears very well.

And if a blue dial is not to your taste, and you prefer a more camouflaged variation, why not look at its brother, the green dial Ref. 5168G.

Exactly the same watch. Just a different colour dial.

Yes, here are two watches that are essentially the same with the exception of the dial colour. Interestingly, these two were both cased in white gold and not steel. I think it is interesting as it shows Patek Philippe broadening the range and appeal of the Aquanaut range. I was lucky enough to fall in love with the Aquanaut Ref. 5650G. A sports watch with a cutout dial and from the Advanced Research team. IN WHITE GOLD. It is an incongruity to my mind to have a sports watch that is not in steel, but the Ref. 5650G became my favourite watch. This is Patek Philippe demonstrating again that they will interpet a genre in their own style.

What strikes me is that the Aquanaut has very much become “THE” sports watch within the Patek Philippe range. The derivations that have emerged over the last few years act to confirm this. It is the younger brother to the Nautilus. Younger….yes. But also tougher. I also think it does something that no other watch within the Patek Philippe range does. It challenges Rolex directly. Colourful. Reliable. Sturdy (when was the last time anyone complained that their Aquanaut had been unreliable?). Excellent complications. Yes, for me, it has made owning modern Rolex almost redundant.