Patek Philippe Aquanaut: A Look at Its Evolution Through The Years
Necessity is the mother of invention. Apparently, so does a young and discerning consumer market with disposable income to spare. This was the case for the Patek Philippe Aquanaut collection.
When Patek Philippe launched the Aquanaut line in 1997, people were a bit sceptical. After all, why would Patek introduce yet another line of luxury sports watches that look almost exactly like its existing and already iconic Nautilus collection? The answer was the flourishing dot-com era in the ‘90s and its young and trendy market of consumers hungry for fast cars, high-tech gadgets, and luxury goods.
Just like the rest of the companies in that era, Patek Philippe wanted to give this particular market what they want. And it should be something modern and luxurious yet sporty at heart. Enter the Patek Philippe Aquanaut collection.
A Detailed Look at Each of the Models
In 1997, shortly after Patek Philippe Nautilus celebrated its 20th anniversary, the first models of the Aquanaut collection were introduced. Obviously inspired by the iconic shape of the Nautilus, the models had a rounded octagonal case. To make it more appealing to the younger market, Patek positioned the price of the Aquanaut slightly lower than the Nautilus, offering a more affordable alternative for the fans of the latter.
Below, let’s take a detailed look at some of the collection’s most well-known models.
Aquanaut Models Through the Years
1. Patek Philippe Aquanaut Ref. 5060A (1997)
The Aquanaut Ref. 5060A is the collection’s first reference, featuring the iconic rounded octagonal 35.6mm stainless steel case. The dial has a black checkerboard pattern with tritium-filled index hour markers and hands. At 3 o’clock, there is a date window with a stylised cursive font. Matching the texture of the dial is a ruggedly sporty rubber strap, which they nicknamed ‘tropical’, made of ultra-durable composite materials. It’s worth noting that this was the first model from Patek Philippe to be fitted with a rubber strap. So, at the time, they weren’t really sure how the market would react to it.
To up its sports watch design, the Aquanaut is equipped with a three-part case and screw-down crown, giving it a water-resistance of 120 metres. Powering it is the self-winding calibre 330 SC movement, which gives the watch a power reserve of 45 hours. It was limited to only 1,000 pieces.
2. Patek Philippe Aquanaut ‘Jumbo’ Ref. 5065A-001 (1998)
The following year, in 1998, the Patek Philipe Aquanaut ‘Jumbo’ Ref 5065A-001 model was launched after the success of the original Ref. 5060A. To give wearers more options, Patek decided to introduce a bigger version of the collection, this time with a 38.8mm stainless steel case. Hence, the name ‘Jumbo’.
Just like the original, it features that iconic ‘block of chocolate’ pattern on the dial and the matching black tropical rubber strap. Another key upgrade besides the size is the use of the newer Calibre 315 SC movement — replacing the previous Calibre 330 SC. The newer calibre is thinner at 3.22mm (compared to the previous 3.5mm). Unlike the previous model which had a close caseback, the ‘Jumbo’ features a sapphire caseback, which allows Patek to showcase its mechanism.
3. Patek Philippe Aquanaut Ref. 5066A-001 (1998)
On the outside, the Aquanaut Ref. 5066A-001 looks exactly identical to the original Ref. 5060 model. It has the same 35.6mm stainless steel case and a black tropical rubber strap. It also sports the same rounded octagonal shape, featuring a black checkerboard-patterned dial. The difference, however, can be seen at the back. Instead of a close caseback, the new version features a sapphire crystal display caseback, showcasing the same automatic Caliber 330 SC movement. Despite its new display caseback, however, the Ref. 5066 is able to retain its 120m water-resistance. At the time, it was the highest water-resistance for watches with a sapphire caseback.
4. Patek Philippe Aquanaut Ref. 4960J-001 (1999)
By 1999, Patek was ready to introduce the collection in quartz. This ladies’ version of the Aquanaut — Ref. 4960J — is housed in a smaller 18K gold case, only 29.5mm. Retaining its iconic cushion shape, it had a yellow gold bezel, a black checkerboard-patterned dial with Arabic numerals, and a matching black tropical rubber strap. Unlike its mechanical predecessors, this version is equipped with a quartz Calibre E19C movement with a robust 48 months of power reserve. Its water-resistance, however, is much lower — only 60 metres as compared to the usual 120 metres.
5. Patek Philippe Aquanaut Ref. 5067A-001 (2004)
The new ladies’ models introduced in 2004 got a little bit fancier. This time, Patek added diamonds on the bezel for added opulence. Also equipped with a quartz movement— in particular, the Caliber E23 S C, the new Aquanaut Ref. 5067A-001 has a battery life of about 3 years. The black ‘mysterious black’ checkerboard dial has the iconic date window at 3 o’clock. The 35.6mm stainless steel case boasts 46 diamonds on its bezel, which stand out more against the black tropical rubber strap.
6. Patek Philippe Aquanaut Ref. 5167A-001 (2007)
For the collection’s 10th anniversary, Patek Philippe launched two new models. One of which is the Aquanaut Ref. 5167 A-001. At 40.8mm, the “extra-large” Patek Philippe Aquanaut Ref. 5167A closely resembled in size to the Nautilus. It has the same iconic checkerboard pattern on the dial, a sapphire crystal caseback, and a 120m water-resistance. Powered by the automatic Calibre 315 S C movement with 29 jewels, it has a power reserve of 48 hours. It is worth noting that the Calibre 315 S C is the same movement used in the ‘Jumbo’ Ref. 5065 model. Despite its big size, however, the watch is merely 8.1mm thick. This feature received a nod from modern professionals who wanted a sporty watch that they can wear to business events on weekdays, and straight to sporty affairs on weekends — without compromising on style and functionality on both occasions.
7. Patek Philippe Aquanaut Ref. 5167-1A (2008)
The following year, in 2008, the movement used in the Ref. 5167A series was updated to the Calibre 324 SC with the introduction of the new Aquanaut Ref. 5167-1A model. The new self-winding calibre only offers 45 hours maximum of power reserve (as compared to the 48 hours by the Calibre 315 S C). However, it boasts a frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour, as compared to the previous 21,600. Another change in this version is the use of stainless steel bracelet to match its case. Everything else — from the size to the sapphire crystal caseback and water-resistance — is similar to the Ref. 5167A-001 model.
8. Patek Philippe Aquanaut Ref. 5167R-001 (2009)
To keep things more interesting for watch lovers, Patek introduced a rose gold version of the Ref. 5167 series — the Aquanaut Ref. 5167R-001. The watch displays a brown checkerboard-embossed dial featuring gold applied and luminous Arabic numerals. It comes in a chocolate brown composite rubber strap to complement its brown dial and rose gold bezel. Running on the self-winding Caliber 324 S C mechanical movement, it has a 45 hours power reserve. With its sapphire crystal caseback and screw-down crown, it is also waterproof up to 120 metres.
9. Patek Philippe Aquanaut Ref. 5164A-001 (2011)
By the time 2011 rolled in, Patek Philippe was ready to introduce the first complication to the Aquanaut collection — besides its usual date complication, that is. The Aquanaut Ref. 5164A-001 Travel Time features a dual time zone mechanism designed specifically for avid travellers. The black embossed dial displays local and home day/night indicator windows located at 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock, respectively. Notice the two-hour hands: one is skeletonised displaying the home time, and the other is solid indicating the local time. Meanwhile, a sub-dial at 6 o’clock shows the local date.
These functions are all made possible by the self-winding Calibre 324 S C FUS movement, which also gives the watch a power reserve of 45 hours. At 40.8mm in diameter, this is a robust and sophisticated stainless steel watch with a water-resistance of 120 metres. To finish the design, a matching black tropical rubber strap complements the black dial.
10. Patek Philippe Aquanaut Ref. 5164R-001 (2016)
For five years, there was no new model from the collection — until 2016, when they launched the rose gold version of the Ref. 5164A, the Aquanaut Ref. 5164R-001. From the steel version, the Aquanaut Travel Time is back with a rose gold variant. Instead of black, its dial comes in rich chocolate brown — still in keeping with its iconic checkerboard-embossed pattern — and has a matching dark brown tropical rubber strap. Just like its predecessor, it is equipped with the self-winding Caliber 324 S C FUS movement, allowing it to have a dual time zone mechanism for the travel-lovers.
Everything else — from the dial features (home day/night indicators, two-hour hands, and a date sub-dial) to the power reserve (48 hours) and water-resistance (120m), the watch has the same features as that of the Aquanaut Ref. 5164A.
11. Patek Philippe Aquanaut Ref. 5650G-001 (2017)
Now, for the 20th anniversary of the collection, Patek Philippe naturally went all out. At BaselWorld 2017, they introduced the limited-edition Advanced Research Aquanaut Travel Time Ref. 5650G-001 model. Perhaps the most visually eye-catching in the collection, the model possessed two of Patek’s important innovations: an optimised Spiromax balance spring made of Silinvar — this ensures greater precision in mechanical watches; and the other is a flexible mechanism made from conventional steel — which is used to set the second time zone. Just like the previous Travel Time models, the 40.8mm Aquanaut Ref. 5650-G also features the time-zone function with a day/night indicator for both home and local time zones.
For the first time ever, the collection has embraced the trendy blue theme, which has been taking the industry by storm at that time. Its blue dial likewise features the iconic embossed Aquanaut pattern, of course. The applied 18K white gold Arabic numerals stand out against the blue dial. And just like the previous Travel Time models, the Ref. 5650-G is also powered by the self-winding Caliber 324 S C FUS movement. The highlight, however, can be seen at 9 o’clock. It has a silvery aperture made of steel flexible mechanism with the four crossed leaf springs, where the whole mechanism of the watch can be admired. To finish off the design, a nice blue tropical rubber strap matches its incredible blue dial.
12. Patek Philippe Aquanaut Ref. 5968A-001 (2018)
In 2018 — for the first time ever — Patek Philippe introduced the Aquanaut Chronograph. The Aquanaut Ref. 5968-A features a self-winding flyback chronograph movement, the Caliber CH 28‑520 C. It has a 60-minute chronograph counter and a robust power reserve of 55 hours! The black embossed dial displays gold-applied Arabic numerals with luminescent coating, a date window at 3 o’clock, and a chronograph sub-dial at 6 o’clock. Like most of the latest models in the collection, it has a 120m water-resistance, a sapphire crystal caseback, and a screw-down crown. With this model, wearers have the option to go for the black tropical rubber strap or the vibrant orange option, which complements the orange accents on the dial.
13. Patek Philippe Aquanaut Ref. 5168G-010 (2019)
Another Jumbo model added to its series of big watches in the collection is the Aquanaut Ref. 5168G-010 in Khaki green dial and a matching strap. Almost identical to the 2017 20th anniversary model — the Aquanaut Ref. 5168G-001 with the gradient blue dial — this Jumbo Aquanaut also has the same 42.2mm white gold case and equipped with the same Calibre 324 S C movement. Its khaki green embossed dial also displays gold-applied luminous hands and a date window at 3 o’clock. While its blue counterpart has more of a cool-sporty vibe, the Aquanaut Ref. 5168G-010 khaki green echoes a more adventurous spirit.
14. Patek Philippe Aquanaut Ref. 5167A-012 (2019)
The latest instalment in the lineup is this vibrant red Aquanaut Ref. 5167A-012 Singapore Special Edition model or the Red Aquanaut. During last year’s Patek Philippe Watch Art Grand Exhibition held in Singapore, which showcased an in-depth look at the brand’s watchmaking savoir-faire, Patek introduced the 40mm stainless steel Red Aquanaut. The colour scheme is, of course, a nod to Singapore’s flag, which is red and white. Its checkerboard-embossed dark-brown dial features white and silver hands and Arabic numerals with red minute markers and a red central hand. Inside beats the self-winding Calibre 324 S C movement with 45 hours of power reserve. It has the same 120m water-resistance and a nice sapphire crystal caseback to showcase the mechanism. Of course, the highlight of the style is its striking red composite ‘tropical’ rubber strap — a welcome and hard-to-miss addition to the growing Aquanaut family.
Nailing the Youthful Casual-Sporty Vibe
There you have it, watch lovers! A detailed look at the evolution of the Patek Philippe Aquanaut watches. Granted the Aquanaut was first created with the dot-com market in mind, but the collection has slowly proved its worth and remains appealing even to today’s market. In fact, it has slowly staked a claim to its rightful spot in the watchmaking industry. It has perfected the look of youthful yet casual-sporty watches while retaining its luxury heritage. Now a classic must-have for sports watch lovers, the Aquanaut deserves a spot in every connoisseur’s collection.
Can’t get enough of Patek Philippe’s luxury sports watches? Why not check out our story on the enduring legacy of the Patek Philippe Nautilus collection?