Diary of a Patek Philippe collector – adding an aquanaut to the collection (20th June 2020)

When a new watch enters my collection, there is always an element of uncertainty regarding how I will react after putting it on my wrist. Will I look at it and realise quickly that I made the right decision or will I have a questionmark of doubt, wanting to give the watch more time on the wrist to be sure.

It doesn’t matter how long I have done the research. Or how many times I have tried on a particular watch. Once a watch is purchased and sits on my wrist for the first time as mine, this moment of uncertainty always happens.

This week, a new watch arrived in my collection. I have been hunting an Aquanaut Ref. 5065A for some time but was unable to find the right one. I thought I had a deal with a dealer in London, but regrettably that fell through. Then, out of the blue, I got an email from a friend (Mario) who knew I was hunting a 5065A. He knew a guy who knew a guy….etc etc. I made contact with a guy named Wulf, and through the wonder of serendipity a virtually unworn full-kit Ref. 5065A is now on my wrist. Gentlemen, thank you both so much for making this happen. Watch collecting has turned so many virtual friends into good friends. Again….thank you both!

The Ref. 5065A is a watch that has appealed to me for quite some time. I have a particular set of rules that are applied to a watch that I wear every day. To call such a watch a “beater” suggests that one doesn’t especially care how it is treated. I don’t view a “beater” in this way. However, a watch that I wear every day needs to be something that holds a lot of interest to me. My passion for Aquanauts is long-standing. I see it as Patek Philippe’s purest sports watch. Its history has been well-documented. However, thanks to the encyclopaedic knowledge of @Horology_Ancienne, a more precise understanding of the origin of the Aquanaut became widespread thanks to the former’s fabulous Instagram site.

Back in the 1990s, Patek Philippe received a commission from one of its important clients to create a set of watches that would be gifted to decorated military officers. As described by @n_foulkes in Patek Philippe’s fourth issue (Vol 4), Patek were given the task of creating its most robust and sporty watch for a select group of the military. According to Foulkes, Thierry Stern described what he wanted as “something wearable, not for an evening reception but for action. It was to be given to the best officers in the army, so the design needed to remind you of something military… as its for an officer we have to make something robust”.

And so was born the Aquanaut. In fact, it was this Ref. 5060A that started the process.

Picture credit: A Collected Man

To my mind, the Aquanaut has always been the most overt and pure sports watch within Patek Philippe. More rugged than the Nautilus. And, as is now clear, with an overt military origin. One of the features that most definitely gave the early Aquanauts that military feel was the armour-plate texture of the dial. It looks just like the texture on a grenade. A “grenade dial.”

Over the subsequent 23 years, different evolutions of the watch have seen it become more “civilian” in nature, but it has maintained its core DNA.

So, why did I hunt for a Ref. 5065A?

My son owns the Ref. 5167A. I own the Ref. 5650G. To add to this collection of Aquanauts, I wanted something that really linked back to the original DNA of the watch.

With these two Aquanauts already in the collection, I wanted something that was both different and with a more overt link to the original inspiration of the Aquanaut.

And the Ref. 5065A does that very well. Specifically, it is one of the last references of Aquanaut to have the “grenade dial” that gives it such a military feel. Further, at 38mm it is an absolutely superb size for a watch that I intend to wear every day.

The grenade dial combined with the 38mm size made the Ref. 5065A the obvious target for me. It is one of the most comfortable watches that I have ever worn. I know that when I look down at that dial, I will always find it fascinating.

Defining the “perfect beater” is something that will obviously vary from one individual to another. I consider the Rolex “Kermit” to be an outstanding everyday watch – possibly my favourite modern Rolex. Likewise, the Submariner 14060M 4-line “LGF” is another superb daily watch. But for me, the Patek Philippe Ref. 5065A is my perfect everyday watch. How rare is this watch? Well, rarity is hard to define. Right now on Chrono I can find almost 700 Rolex Daytona 116500. I can find 200 Patek Philippe blue dial 5711A. I can see almost 200 Patek Philippe 5167A.

However, I can find just 31 Patek Philippe 5065A. So it clearly has that element of rarity.

Rarity. Military history. Fantastic dial. Perfect size. Add to this the fact that mine came as essentially unworn with its original box and papers.

Ultimately having box and papers is not a deal-breaker for me, but when its available….why not?

So, how did I feel when I first put this watch on my wrist? It was an instantaneous feeling that I had just bought my perfect “beater.”

This watch feels like it has always been on my wrist. Thierry Stern is right that its not one for an evening reception, but as an everyday watch, nothing beats it for me.

I have definitely got something of an Aquanaut obsession.

And I am loving it.