Patek Philippe Aquanaut 20th Anniversary Edition
Patek Philippe is not known for making affordable watches, the family-own company enjoy an enviable position to not only be a coveted brand for novelty watches but also on the auction block. Patek Philippe watches are seemingly regularly breaking records at auctions, and collectors seem to have an infinite appetite for its timepieces. If one where to ask what's an affordable new Patek? The recommendation is likely what many have nicknamed, since its release in 1997, the "baby" Patek, or the Aquanaut.
When the Aquanaut first appeared it broke many molds for the decidedly classically-oriented Genevan brand by not only offering a steel 120 m water resistant sports watch (with screw down crown), but the first and only Patek that is offered on a tropical rubber strap. During its 20 years run, the Aquanaut had a few iterations, like larger case to the current steel 40 mm size, new rose gold version, and more recently a dual time version. So for 2017, celebrating 20 years of the Aquanaut, we were excited to see what Patek would release to celebrate this important milestone. Well, let me introduce you to our hands on first look at the Patek Philippe Aquanaut reference 5168-1G.
The first thing I noticed immediately upon seeing the new Aquanaut 5168-1G is the beautiful gradated blue dial. Like its sibling the highly coveted and increasingly rare at authorized dealer, the Nautilus reference 5711, the new reference's dial is hard to describe without a picture or seeing it in person. Patek works its magic in that department by offering a dial which under the flat crystal gives different shades of gradated blue, from black to midnight blue, as you rotate your wrist and it catches the light in the room at different angles. The applied Roman numerals hour markers are Super-Luminova filled and distributed around the embossed dial balance the rounded octogonal case. The date aperture at 3 'clock fits in brilliantly by inverting the number in black but with a white background. The family resemblance with the Nautilus is noticeable. However, that common strand of DNA starts deviating significantly from that point on.
First, the new Aquanaut, unlike the steel reference 5167 (still in production) comes in white gold only. You can hardly tell that its gold until you handle it and notice the increase weight which is also accentuated by the fact that this watch is larger by two hair more than 42 mm. To be exact it's is 2.2 mm larger than the steel Aquanaut. That increase in size will definitely appeal to those modern watch collector yearning for Patek to release larger watches, as they surprised everyone two years ago with out of character Calatrava Pilot travel time watch. While the new size will satisfy a larger audience, for me I return the dial and matching blue composite "tropical" rubber strap as what is the primary appealing difference.
Even with the larger case, the new Aquanaut 5168-1G continues to use the same in house 324 S C movement. It's Patek's workhorse extra thin 3.3 mm movement with Gyromax balance and Spyromax balance spring, that allows the new Aquanaut to retain its just under 10 mm thinness and thereby resulting in what is one of the prototypical luxury sport dress watch. A chic modern Patek at ease during your weekend stroll to WholeFood, as well as the weekly grind, and the special occasions such as a wedding or the city bar. In my view the Aquanaut is the everyday Patek. This is a title I believe it easily steals from the more desirable Nautilus, due primarily to composite midnight blue rubber bracelet.
Unlike the its older brother, the Aquanaut has always been associated with a rubber bracelet. While for the steel model, you can also get a steel bracelet, for me the Aquanaut works best on the rubber. And Patek delivers one of these caoutchouc composite strap that is subtle, flexible, an easy wearing. You do have to adjust it to your wrist size at the dealership, and there are no dynamic adjustments after the fact. So get it right and don't plan to gain any significant weight (as if any of us plan this) or be ready to dish over $1K for a new strap. The rubber strap uses a well made, no fuss, or fancy fold-over clasp that when closed, finishes the tempered strap with an engraving of the Patek Calatrava cross.
The engraving on the closed strap and the typical Patek Philippe Geneve on the dial, are the only readily visible signs of the famous brand. However, there is no mistaking the new Aquanaut for a Patek in the fit and finish which is top notch with satin and polished finish on the white gold case which shines as you can see from the pictures. The movement finishing is worthy of the Poisson the Geneva seal, though Patek has opted a while back to use its own PP seal, which it claims is of even higher standards. The Aquanaut 324 S C movement is the base movement for many of Patek's complicated calibers and only offers the most basic features for an automatic watch. It's non-hacking and the date gradually changes at midnight. The power reserve is guaranteed between 35 and 45 hours. It's almost like throwback to pure old thin automatic movements, assemble and finished by hand, and providing just enough features to satisfy our need to know the time and date. Completing the movement is a solid polished gold rotor finished with another engraving of the Calatrava sign.
With its "Jumbo" size and weight gain, the new Patek Philippe Aquanaut 5168-1G says that the "baby" Patek is now all grown up and that will be appealing to an even wider audience who typically pass on Patek, wanting a larger watch on their wrist. For me, as I indicated, the size matters less than the new blue dial and strap. Furthermore, since Patek does not plan to discontinue nor update its steel model to a larger size or blue dial, this allows the anniversary Aquanaut to stand apart and shine, while not casting too long of a shadow on it's previous smaller iterations in steel or rose gold. The new Patek Philippe Aquanaut reference 5168-1G is only limited to the small annual production from the Geneva manufacture and is priced at $38,000. patek.com