Patek Philippe celebrates 20 years of its luxury-sport Aquanaut model this year with two significant new references. One is the technically groundbreaking Ref. 5650 “Advanced Research” edition, which we covered in depth during Baselworld. The other is this week’s Watch to Watch, the Aquanaut Ref. 5168G — the first Aquanaut in a white-gold case and, at 42 mm in diameter, the largest in the collection.
The original Aquanaut, launched in 1997, was developed by Patek’s then-president Philippe Stern as a slightly more accessible version of Patek’s more famous luxury-sport watch, the Nautilus — aimed at a younger audience and featuring a simpler three-part case (compared to the Nautilus’s elaborate two-part “porthole” construction) and a durable composite rubber strap (rather than its predecessor’s costly and difficult-to-manufacture steel bracelet). The Aquanaut’s slightly rounded octagonal bezel, with vertically satin-finished flats and chamfered, polished edges, offered an aesthetic nod to that of the Nautilus, but its bold Arabic numerals and embossed checkerboard pattern on the dials and strap, gave it a sporty identity of its own. With the Ref. 5168G, however, Patek acknowledges the shared DNA of the two models: the brand says that the 42-mm-diameter case format pays tribute to the original 1976 Nautilus —which famously boasted that same size, considered huge by wristwatch standards of the time, and as a result earned the enduring nickname “Jumbo.”
The new watch’s 18k white gold case is more slender than “jumbo” in its profile however: just 8. 25 mm thick, owing mostly to the impressively thin movement, Patek’s manufacture Caliber 324 S C, visible through a clear caseback and measuring just 3.3 mm in thickness. The self-winding movement has a heavy central rotor made of 21k gold and engraved with Patek’s telltale Calatrava cross emblem. The bridges are decorated with parallel Geneva striping and feature countersunk and polished holes for the jewels and screws; gold-filled engravings and round chamfered and polished edges emphasize the contours of individual bridges. Another small but exquisite detail: a perlage motif in the center of the rotor, surrounding its ball bearing. From a technical standpoint, Caliber 324 S C has a rate accuracy of -3 to +2 seconds per day, meeting the strict requirements of the manufacture’s own Patek Philippe Seal.
The dial, bearing the familiar, finely embossed checkerboard pattern, is in an azure hue that Patek refers to as “night blue,” gradating from bright in the center to nearly black at the outer edges. (This gradation effect also appeared, appropriately, in the Patek Philippe Nautilus Anniversary Limited Edition, which marked 40 years of that iconic model in 2016.) The applied Arabic numerals, as well as the baton-shaped hour and minute hands, are in white gold, and coated with Super-LumiNova. The central seconds hand is made of bronze and coated with white lacquer. The date appears in a window at 3 o’clock. The screw-down crown, topped with the Calatrava cross, helps ensure the watch’s water resistance to 120 meters.
The dial’s checkerboard pattern continues, in raised relief, on the night-blue composite strap. Resistant to abrasion, saltwater, and UV radiation, this strap fastens comfortably to the wrist with a double-security fold-over clasp, made of the same 18k white gold as the case. The Patek Philippe Aquanaut Ref. 5168G “Jumbo” — which could be regarded as a tribute to not just one but two of Patek Philippe’s milestone luxury sports watches — is priced at $38,557.