Patek Philippe first launched the Aquanaut in 1997 as a more casual alternative to some of its dressier classics. However, its design owed much to another Patek icon – the Nautilus – which, in 1997, was celebrating its 21st birthday.
The Nautilus was just one of several world-famous timepieces created by the legendary watch designer Gérald Genta. The Swiss man knew that the Stern family – Patek’s owners – loved sailing and took this as his inspiration, creating a sports watch with a bezel that resembled a ship’s porthole.
The Aquanaut paid direct tribute to this heritage with its own octagonal shape, vertically satin-finished flats and chamfered and polished edges. But, unlike the Nautilus, it adopted a simpler three-part design that eliminated the need for left- and right-hand hinges, while continuing to ensure water resistance to depths of 120 metres.
Meanwhile, the Aquanaut’s ‘Tropical’ rubber strap – made of a soft, hypoallergenic composite – tips a hefty nod to the vintage ‘tropic’ straps made popular in the 1960s and 1970s on diving watches. Coupled with its screw-down crown, the Aquanaut was a watch specifically targeted at a younger, physically active market.
Patek purists weren’t so keen but, two decades later, the Aquanaut has blossomed from an entry-level sports watch into a classic in its own right. To mark its 20th anniversary, Patek Philippe released the very grown-up-looking reference 5168G, with a white gold case and beautiful gradient dial that moves from blue to black. With a diameter of 42.2mm, it’s also the largest Aquanaut on the market and another nod to the original 1976 Nautilus, which earned itself the nickname ‘Jumbo’.
With strong resale prices, the Patek Philippe Aquanaut makes a great investment for first-time collectors.