The Patek Philippe Aquanaut Ref 5167A is sky-rocketing in popularity. This is due, in part, to the growth in value of its elder sibling, the Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref 5711/1A. Perhaps not surprisingly, collectors don’t want to spend 5+ years on a waiting list. Nor do they want to pay roughly double retail on the secondary market for a Nautilus. Instead, they’re concluding that the Aquanaut is a great alternative. And it is.
That’s not to say these watches are much easier to come by. Official retail in the UK for an Aquanaut Ref 5167A is GBP 14,500. Unworn examples are changing hands for closer to GBP 22,000 on the secondary market. A bargain compared to the GBP 43,000+ you can expect to pay for a Nautilus. Still, this does point to the increasing desirability of the Aquanaut. And luxury sports watches in general for that matter. Which got us thinking. Is the Patek Philippe Aquanaut becoming the new Nautilus?
A (Very) Brief History Of The Patek Philippe Aquanaut
There’s been a recent surge in interest in the Patek Philippe Aquanaut Ref 5167A. So much so, that you might think it’s a new collection. In reality, the Aquanaut is over 20 years old, having made its debut in 1997. It launched as a 1,000-piece limited edition collection. It comprised Ref 5060A in stainless steel and Ref 5060J in 18K yellow gold.
It was the Jumbo Aquanaut Ref 5065A that followed in the same year that put the watch on the map. Offering a sporty 38mm steel case, it was the first Patek Philippe watch ever to feature a rubber strap. Named “Tropical” by the brand, it is impervious to saltwater, UV deterioration and bacteria. The satin-brushed case draws heavily on the Nautilus but has a more contemporary feel. It’s three-part case is also less complex than the two-part construction of its counterpart.
The dial features a raised guilloché motif mirroring the texture of the rubber strap. It also introduces oversized Arabic numerals in place of more traditional baton markers. Inside is the automatic calibre 315 SC, offering a 48-hour power reserve. Designed to be a true ocean-going watch, the Aquanaut Ref 5065A boasts a depth rating of 120m thanks to a screw-down crown. This was the first time any watch with a sapphire caseback had achieved that level of water resistance.
To say the Aquanaut Ref 5065A was immediately popular would be an understatement. Brands like Hublot and Audemars Piguet had already established the trend for casual luxury watches with a sporty feel. It wasn’t long before the Aquanaut became a top seller for Patek. It attracted a new, younger demographic to the brand. You have to remember this was right around the time of the dot com boom. Suddenly the people making a lot of money had very different ideas about what luxury looked like. They still wanted the prestige of a brand like Patek Philippe but in a less formal way.
Collectors were harder to convince. Some praised the modern style and technical execution of the Patek Philippe Aquanaut. Many though saw it as a sort of Nautilus Junior. Good but not as good as the original. After all, it wasn’t designed by the legend Gerald Genta. This wasn’t a model for serious aficionados. Rather it was a Patek Philippe sports watch for the masses (relatively speaking of course).
Now, more than twenty years later, it seems the tide has turned.
The Patek Philippe Aquanaut Ref 5167A
There are 15 models in the current Aquanaut line-up. Seven for men and eight for women. For our purposes, we’re going to focus on what is the closest equivalent to the Nautilus Ref 5711/1A. That would be the Aquanaut Ref 5167A. Arguably the Ref 5167/1A with its matching steel bracelet is even closer. That said, most people think of a rubber strap when they think of the Aquanaut collection.
The Ref 516X series made its debut in 2007, replacing the popular Ref 506X collection. Patek Philippe saw the 10th anniversary of the Aquanaut as a good time to revamp the collection. They decided to update the design in the process. The case size increases to 40mm but still features an attractive satin-brushed finish. It measures 8.1mm thick, yet it still features a sapphire caseback. And remains water resistant to 120m, of course.
The most notable change is the dial. The embossed checkboard pattern is subtler than its predecessor. It no longer mirrors the texture of the strap quite so closely. The number 3 is also absent. On the previous iteration Patek Philippe placed it next to the date window. The result is a cleaner, more balanced dial. The rest is relatively unchanged. Lume-filled central hour and minute hands. Sweep seconds. And a railway chapter ring for the minutes with luminous batons at 5-minute intervals.
Another welcome change is the subtle redesign of the “Tropical” black composite strap. It now integrates into the case, making for an even more comfortable fit on the wrist and a smoother profile. The strap closes by a fold-over steel clasp with the Patek Philippe Calatrava cross in relief.
Inside is the renowned Patek Philippe Calibre 324 SC. This is the exact same movement found inside the Patek Nautilus Ref 5711/1A. Self-winding, it incorporates several of Patek Philippe’s innovations. These include the four-spoke Gyromax® balance wheel and its slotted poising weights. And the Spiromax® balance- spring in Silinvar® that maintains the oscillations at a frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour. Equipped with a Central rotor in 21K gold, the movement offers a maximum power reserve of 45 hours. The finishing is also above reproach. Côtes de Genève, circular graining, bevelled steel parts and bridges. All visible through the sapphire caseback.
Suggested retail on the Patek Philippe Aquanaut 5167A is GBP 14,500. That goes up to GBP 16,760 if you prefer the matching steel bracelet of the Ref 5167/1A.
Is The Patek Aquanaut The New Nautilus?
In many ways, I think the answer to this question has to be yes. For a start, the exorbitant prices the Nautilus Ref 5711 is commanding on the secondary market make it much less of an ‘everyday’ watch. And that’s assuming you can even get your hands on one. Additionally, it may be twenty years old but the Aquanaut still feels young, fresh and modern. Much like the Nautilus once did. It’s a watch you can wear anywhere. And it still carries with it all the same prestige of the Patek Philippe name.
It’s true the Aquanaut is unlikely to ever increase in value to the same degree as the Nautilus. It doesn’t have the same heritage or the pedigree. But for collectors and enthusiasts who would once look to the Nautilus as their everyday, go-to watch, I would suggest they’re now reaching for the Aquanaut instead. Be it the Ref 5167A we’ve covered here, or one of its counterparts. Such as the larger Aquanaut Ref 5168G in white gold.
One thing is for sure. The Patek Philippe Aquanaut Ref 5167A looks set to continue increasing in desirability. So, if you’ve been thinking about getting one, now’s the time.
Technical Specifications: Patek Philippe Aquanaut Ref 5167A
- Case: Steel – 40 mm x 8.1mm – screw-down crown – sapphire crystal caseback – water resistant to 120 metres.
- Dial: Black embossed dial – time and date – gold applied numerals with luminescent coating.
- Movement: Calibre 324 S C – mechanical self-winding – date, sweep seconds – Gyromax® balance complete with Spiromax® balance spring (in Silinvar®) – centre hour, minute and seconds hands – Patek Philippe seal.
- Strap: “Tropical” composite black strap – steel fold-over clasp.
- Price: GBP 14,500.