Here’s what to look out for when buying a Patek Philippe Aquanaut, from key references to prices.
When it first launched in 1997, the Patek Philippe Aquanaut was intended to attract a new, younger, and more active generation of luxury watch buyers. Building on the core case shape of the Nautilus, but with a simplified design and a sporty rubber strap, the Aquanaut was meant to appeal to this growing demographic who had found interest in watches during the dot-com boom of the ‘90s. For years, the Aquanaut remained largely overlooked within the brand’s catalog, often thought of as just the Nautilus’ little brother. Fast forward to now, and that’s completely changed.
Today, the Aquanaut is easily one of Patek Philippe’s most famous and popular collections, with virtually all models entirely sold-out at a retail level and trading hands on the open market for values that are significantly greater than their original brand-new prices. Inherently more casual than the Nautilus, yet offering a lot of the same iconic design and legendary brand recognition that accompanies all Patek Philippe watches, the Aquanaut has become a staple among A-list celebrities and professional athletes. Since it’s been produced in a wide variety of models and configurations over the years, we put together this simplified guide to help you find the perfect Patek Philippe Aquanaut for your wrist.
What Makes an Aquanaut an Aquanaut?
Key Aquanaut References to Know
Should You Buy a Modern or Vintage Aquanaut?
Bezel's Aquanaut Picks
While Patek Philippe is probably best known for its classic dress watch designs and highly complex mechanical creations, the Aquanaut lineup’s overall aesthetic actually leans more casual and sporty. Even in its most refined forms and when crafted from solid gold, the Aquanaut retains a slightly athletic look that immediately separates it from the majority of the brand’s other collections.
All Patek Philippe Aquanaut watches share a distinct case shape, characterized by a thick, rounded octagonal bezel that typically features prominent vertical brushing across its top surface (unless set with diamonds). While its core shape is somewhat similar to that of the Nautilus, the overall design has been simplified for the Aquanaut — it no longer features a hinged structure and now includes standard lugs on either side of the case, rather than the integrated style the Nautilus is known for.
Although Patek Philippe now offers a metal bracelet as an option for select models in the Aquanaut range, a textured rubber strap is typical for the watch (it’s usually one of the first things that comes to mind when someone thinks of the Aquanaut collection). Available in colors like black, brown, blue, and green (often intended to match the color of the dial fitted to the watch), all of the rubber Patek Philippe Aquanaut straps feature a grid-like pattern on their outer surfaces, mirroring a similar motif that appears on the dial.
Regardless of color, all Patek Philippe Aquanaut dials feature a raised, grid-like guilloché pattern on their surfaces, a design element that can be traced back to the very first examples that debuted in 1997. Some people think the motif looks like a grenade, while others say it looks like a globe or a bar of Swiss chocolate. However you see it, this unique textured dial has become one of the best-known features of the Patek Philippe Aquanaut collection and even the luxe mother of pearl and diamond-set dials are constructed to emulate the model’s signature grid-like pattern.
With the exception of a few older discontinued models, all Patek Philippe Aquanaut watches feature dials with Arabic numeral hour markers, positioned along the interior of the prominent minute track. This feature is often regarded as one of the primary reasons the collection tends to feel a bit more casual compared to the older and more formal Nautilus collection.
Despite its sportier and more casual design elements, the Aquanaut is still a Patek Philippe watch, meaning it’s constructed to the same incredibly high standards as the rest of the brand’s lineup. Even in their most paired back and utilitarian forms, all Patek Philippe Aquanaut watches feature immaculate finishing inside and out, and are fitted with beautifully decorated movements and meticulously crafted dials, all wrapped up in finely polished cases.
Just like all Patek Philippe watches, the Aquanaut is designed and manufactured entirely in Switzerland. Patek is a Swiss company with headquarters in Geneva, and every single one of the brand’s watches are proudly crafted in Switzerland to ensure the highest possible standards that exist within the luxury watch industry.
Shop Patek Philippe Aquanaut Ref. 5065
Price Range: $55,000-$100,000
Shop Patek Philippe Aquanaut Ref. 5167
Price Range: $75,000-$200,000
Shop Patek Philippe Aquanaut Ref. 5164
Price Range: $100,000-$380,000
Shop Patek Philippe Aquanaut Ref. 5968
Price Range: $125,000-$250,000
Shop Patek Philippe Aquanaut Ref. 5168G
Price Range: $100,000-$150,000
Considering that even the oldest Patek Philippe Aquanaut watches were only just produced in the late ‘90s, there aren’t that many major differences between older Aquanaut models and current-production models. Probably the single greatest difference with the modern Aquanaut lineup is the range of additional complications now available. While the very first Aquanaut was a simple time-and-date watch, there are now versions fitted with movements that offer dual time zone displays and even flyback chronograph complications.
The range of metal options and dial colors available for the Patek Philippe Aquanaut has also expanded over the years. Most people think of the quintessential Aquanaut as a stainless steel watch with a black dial, but Patek Philippe has also offered a gold option from the model’s earliest days. Yellow gold was originally used for the precious metal editions of the Aquanaut, but it’s now been replaced with rose gold and white gold. Similarly, you’ll now find some Aquanaut models fitted with diamond-set bezels, along with dials that can be black, brown, blue, or green, plus a few more luxurious mother of pearl and diamond-paved options.
Images: Courtesy of Patek Philippe
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