I recently picked up a Patek Philippe Aquanaut in steel on an OEM rubber strap. This 5165A reference from 2008 is similar to the 5167A which remains in production, but 2mm smaller, at just 38mm.
The transitional reference came-in in 2007, before being discontinued shortly after, presumably due to the popularity of its larger cased sibling. This makes it a relatively rare bird.
Addressing the size first of all - it was an accident me getting this over the 40mm ref - but I’m so glad I did. I typically wear watches around 37mm - so this is in the perfect size for my 16.5cm wrist. The slim case (around 8mm I think) means the watch wears like a dream. Light but not too light. This is the reference Paul McCartney wears, it looks great on him - and if it’s good enough for a Beatle, it’s good enough for me!
Considering the rubber (or tropical) strap - it is another big part of the great wearing experience of the watch. Sized correctly it just sort of very gently clings to the wrist - with airflow underneath. The double deployant butterfly style clasp is secure, great to use, and looks brilliant. It makes for a small external presence (better for desk diving than the massive clasps on a Rolex for example.) - One small point - but as the lug width on this at 19mm is 1mm smaller than other typical Aquanaut references - Patek only make replacement straps in black. (Rather than the wide selection of colours in 20mm.) Of course there are a bunch of third party strap options in all colours which I’ve yet to try. I’m thinking I’ll look at one of the new Delugs ones.
When originally designed in 1997 the Aquanaut case was derived from the Nautilus. It took the iconic flat brushed elongated octagon porthole shaped bezel, but lost the ears and some of the case complexity. Every Aquanaut reference has retained this same core case design. I view this as an entirely good change over the Nautilus. Those ears are weird. Hand on heart I prefer Aquanaut case to Nautilus. It’s got personality and Genta lineage, but it’s not too “out there”. The case details are great - the way light bounces off the flat brushed bezel as you angle your wrist up and down is a joy to behold.
I’m not a movement junkie - but the watch has a sapphire caseback so it is easy to look at and enjoy the movement. Examining it under a loupe the finishing was gorgeous. An interesting easter egg is that the movement displays the Geneva seal rather than Patek’s own seal which came in around 2009 I think. The gold rotor spins in a satisfying way - it’s a great fidget toy.
A highlight is the dial. It’s flatter than the original 1997 Aquanaut grenade dial (like all Aquanauts made post the 2007 redesign) with a kind of globe pattern on it. The dial has a kind of fume sunburst, with the most amazing light-play of greys, browns and blacks. It has both indices and arabic numerals. To me this is again an improvement on the Nautilus with its plain indices. Easy to read and more dial elements to enjoy. Overall dial elements are bolder than on the Nautilus. The watch has handsome straight hands. It’s all very legible.
Perhaps a design with an hour hand that was more different to the minute hand could have worked (the hour hand disappears when they are pointing in the same direction) - but then again I suspect Patek know better than me!.. Lume on the indices, numerals and hands is absolutely brilliant. It looks so good when you transition from a light room to a dark room. There is a date window at 3. Something this ref has over the 40mm 5167A is that there is no “half index” next to the date. To me this is a more elegant, simple, symmetric design. Another funny quirk is that the 5167A says “Swiss Made” around 6 - whereas this reference does not.
I love Patek Philippe and have previously owned some of their dress watches (a Calatrava and an Ellipse.) But I yearned for something that better fit my 2023 lifestyle. Jeans, T-shirt, desire for something more chunky and robust.
This watch completely delivers on that desire. It feels great to wear. It is very robust. It keeps excellent time despite not having been serviced since 2010. I love the look of it.
To me this is an ultimate “one watch collection” - once you have a daily driver Patek - which is also chunky and just damn cool - where else do you need you need to go?.. (I’ve thought long and hard about this.. and so far only came up with a few new grail ideas - a cartier crash, a cartier cintree, a rainbow Daytona maybe?)
I have to score all the categories requested by Watchcrunch a 5/5 (Quality, Dial, Movement, Wearability, Design.) - I think it’s just about a perfect watch for me. I wouldn’t even want a complicated one (case too big) or a precious metal one (less robust.)
A category not requested by Watchcrunch may be where the watch falls down. Value - they don’t make it any more - but if they did I guess it would be about £20k. This isn’t so bad when one considers the prices of the competition - and given that you could keep this as a “one watch” forever. However - it’s not realistic to get any Aquanaut at retail. Patek heavily focus on precious metal - so any steel piece - like the steel 5176As - is pretty much earmarked for high roller clients.
So then, you are looking at the secondary market and the prices are pretty astronomical (this ref seems to start around £40k.).. Then even if you decide you can swallow that for a grail purchase - there is insurance costs to think about, etc.
So for me there is a battle in my head between - the physical actual watch - which I think is really just perfect. But then the wider considerations around walking around wearing something so valuable. I guess - if you are Paul McCartney or John Mayer (aside: you bet I pick up dog poop in my Aquanaut) or a rich Sheik - this worry is less of a factor for you.
I want to end on a positive. Cos this luxurious but also very unassuming watch deserves it. This watch absolutely rocks. I love it.
Fairly new to watch collecting. Super fast collecting journey which landed me eventually in Cartier love. The Tank is a GADA watch.
Great review, the watch looks 👌 Congrats 🍻
Beautiful watch. I like how the strap design blends with the dial figuring.
Amazing, congrats on this new acquisition Justin. Where will you stop 😂
That is a very nice watch looking watch congrats