Patek Philippe : 20 years of casual chic excellence

Patek Philippe aquanaut

Aquanaut REF. 5168G
Case: 18K white gold, transparent sapphire back, water-resistant to 120m
Dimensions : 42.2 x 8.25mm
Movement : mechanical self-winding movement with 21K gold rotor, Caliber 324 S C, hours, minutes, seconds, date. Patek Philippe Seal.
Dial : blue PVD-coated brass, white gold hands and hour-markers enhanced with Super-LumiNova
Strap : blue composite material with embossed checkered motif matching the dial, 18K white gold folding clasp

Aquanaut Travel Time Reference 5650 “Patek Philippe advanced research”
Case : 18K white gold, transparent sapphire caseback, water-resistant to 120m
Dimensions : 40.8 x 11mm
Movement : mechanical self-winding, 21K gold rotor, Caliber 324 S C FUS, hours, minutes, seconds, date, dual-time display, double day/night indicator. Patek Philippe Seal
Dial : PVD-coated blue with lateral opening, white gold hands and hour-markers enhanced with Super-LumiNova
Bracelet : blue composite material with embossed checkered motif matching the dial, 18K white gold buckle 500-Pieces Limited edition

In launching the Aquanaut reference 5060A at the Baselworld Show in 1997, Patek Philippe was looking to reach a new young and active clientele by enriching its collections with a steel men’s watch that was at once sporty, chic and contemporary. While the Manufacture already had the Nautilus since 1976, a paragon of sporting elegance expressed in steel, its highly sophisticated porthole-type two-part construction meant that it was less accessible to the customers that Philippe Stern, who was President at the time, wished to address. A classic three-part – caseback, case middle and bezel – construction was thus chosen, making it possible to eliminate the left and right-hand hinges of the Nautilus case, while retaining the dial-opening design as well as the 12-bar water resistance (corresponding to a depth of 120 meters) thanks to the technical progress accomplished since 1976. However, instead of the steel bracelet involving a lengthy production process and finishing, an innovative composite strap was introduced that was both less complex to produce and extremely sturdy.

Collector’s variations

The approach proved eminently successful and the Aquanaut became a flagship model, right up there among the best-selling Patek Philippe men’s wristwatches. In 2004, the Aquanaut Luce featuring a bezel set with Top Wesselton AquanautPure brilliantcut diamonds set off to conquer feminine hearts and wrists by offering a palette of dial and strap colors that could vary from year to year. Meanwhile, the men’s models were subtly redesigned in 2007 for the collection’s 10th anniversary, an intervention that served to preserve the character of the watch, while giving it renewed impetus for the following decade – as admirably illustrated by the new Aquanaut reference 5168G “Jumbo” in 18K white gold celebrating the 20th anniversary of this contemporary chic sports line.

The new reference 5168G is the very first men’s Aquanaut in 18K white gold, a metal that stands out from steel by its slightly warmer glow. Like the other Aquanaut models (as well as the Nautilus), its design featuring an octagonal bezel with softened angles enhanced with vertical satin-brushed finishing on top and polished on the beveled flanks has remained unchanged. This 42mm model establishes itself as the largest Aquanaut. This diameter pays tribute to the original 1976 Nautilus, nicknamed Jumbo and the exact same size, which is still referred to as such by collectors. Another novel feature is the midnight blue color of the strap and dial. The latter picks up the subtly graded shades running from lighter in the center to darker around the edge that was introduced in 2017 on the Aquanaut Travel Time reference 5164 in pink gold – a nod to this effect typical of the Nautilus.


Hand-applied white gold Arabic numerals stand out against a finely checkered embossed base motif, accentuated by the luminescent SuperlumiNova coating ensuring optimal legibility in the dark. Among the other innovative features sported by reference 5168G are the luminescent applied 18K white gold markers for five-minute intervals, swept over with perfect regularity by pointed baton-type hours and minutes hands also bearing a luminescent coating, as well as a slender “parfil-type” seconds hand with a counterweight in white lacquered bronze. This dance of time is precisely and elegantly orchestrated by a self-winding movement visible through the sapphire crystal caseback.

Outstanding mechanics

Inside the 18K white gold case of the Aquanaut 5168G beats self-winding Caliber 324 S C, a movement combining everything that men expect from a Construction of the Aquanautclassic mechanism : traditional Haute Horlogerie and innovative high-tech content. At just 3.3mm thick, this caliber is so slim that the entire watch, complete with substantial water-resistance gaskets, achieves a very moderate 8.25mm thickness. Its performance is equally impressive, with a 21K gold central rotor storing enough energy from wrist movements, and a maximum -3 to +2 seconds/day variation in rate, in keeping with the directives of the Patek Philippe Seal guaranteeing extreme precision. The refined finishing ensures that each glance through the sapphire crystal caseback is every bit as fascinating as peering under the bonnet of a thoroughbred sports car. The bridges are adorned with parallel Geneva Stripes, have countersunk and polished holes for the jewels and screws, with the the latter featuring polished circumferences and slots. They also feature gold-filled engravings as well as roundchamfered and polished edges that emphasize the contours of the individual bridges.

A sense of detail

The center of the gold rotor, around the ballbearing mechanism, is adorned with a dainty circular- grained motif, while its outline and its function are accentuated by circular Geneva Stripes, along with the large engraved Calatrava cross representing Patek Philippe’s registered trademark element. The same symbol also graces the 18K white gold double-safety fold-over clasp securing the composite strap. Featuring a night blue color matching that of the dial as well as the typical Aquanaut embossed checkered pattern, this strap is distinguished by its optimal comfort on the wrist, as well as its extreme resistance to traction, wear, salt water and UV radiation. All of which makes it ideal for a watch with a powerful personality such as the new Aquanaut reference 5168G. Moreover, the latest additions to the Aquanaut collection extend beyond this anniversary model.

In the vanguard of horological progress

The collection is celebrating another first in 2017: its entry into the select circle of “Patek Aquanaut Travel TimePhilippe Advanced Research Limited Editions”. Since 2005, the Manufacture has already launched several limited series of wristwatches equipped with avant-garde components. The 2017 edition is the Aquanaut Travel Time reference 5650 “Patek Philippe Advanced Research”. It houses a new Spiromax® in Silinvar®, whose isochronism has been optimized by the addition of an inner boss – a bulge at the inner end of the spring serving to achieve a rate accuracy of -1 to +2 seconds per day – now paired with the existing outer boss also known as the Patek Philippe terminal curve. The time-zone setting mechanism has also been equipped with a “flexible mechanism” developed by the Patek Philippe Advanced Research engineers and based on research inspired by Professor Simon Henein – holder of the Patek Philippe Chair at the Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) and director of the Micromechanical and horological design laboratory Instant-Lab.

State-of-the-art machining

This time-zone correction device consists of four extremely thin crossed leaf springs : two for each corrector button. They are manufactured with conventional horological steel using the customary machining equipment used by Patek Philippe for this purpose. This component boasts a number of advantages : simpler assembly (12 parts as opposed to 37), a flatter silhouette (1.24mm versus 1.45mm), no mechanical play, no friction and no arbor wear – which eliminates the need for lubricants. In compliance with the directives of the Patek Philippe Seal, all the surfaces of this new setting elements are meticulously finished and decorated in keeping with the finest Genevan watchmaking traditions. This innovation has enabled Patek Philippe Advanced Research to open up totally new perspectives for numerous future applications. A first step toward a new dimension.

More on Patek Philippe watch brand

Brice Lechevalier is editor-in-chief of GMT and Skippers, which he co-founded in 2000 and 2001 respectively. He has also been CEO of WorldTempus since it joined the GMT Publishing stable, of which he is director and joint shareholder. In 2012 he created the Geneva Watch Tour, and he has been an advisor to the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève since 2011. Also closely involved in sailing, he has published the magazine of the Société Nautique de Genève since 2003, and was one of the founders of the SUI Sailing Awards in 2009 and the Concours d’Elégance for motor boats at the Cannes Yachting Festival in 2015.

Review overview