Patek Philippe Aquanaut Chronograph 5968A-001
The Patek Philippe Aquanaut Chronograph 5968A-001 blends bold aesthetics with peerless craftsmanship. While this historical Maison is synonymous with tradition, this latest watch is sporty, brightly-hued and contemporary. Angus Davies takes a closer look at this paragon of fine watchmaking.
This detailed review of the Patek Philippe Aquanaut Chronograph 5968A-001 includes live images, specification details and pricing.
A Hermès Birkin bag, a flute of Krug Champagne and a Huntsman suit from Savile Row are luxurious products synonymous with excellence. Likewise, a Patek Philippe timepiece is the epitome of refinement and prized by the cognoscenti. Crafted on the outskirts of Geneva by time-served hands, where traditions are upheld and compromise is rejected, a Patek is an exemplar of haute horlogerie.
Patek, Czapek & Cie was founded in 1839 by Antoine Norbert de Patek and François Czapek. This partnership was limited by time and ultimately the two gentleman parted company. Subsequently, Patek joined forces with Jean Adrien Philippe. In 1851, the Swiss firm became known as Patek, Philippe & Cie. These two names have since remained entwined forever.
Throughout its history, the Maison has been closely associated with classically styled timepieces, imbued with extraordinary grace. However, in 1976, Patek unveiled the Nautilus Ref 3700/1 in steel. It set aside convention, eschewing noble metals and evincing a notable degree of sportiness. This iconic watch provided the basis for numerous variants, some of which were endowed with complications. Yet, despite its modernity, the Nautilus has always remained elegant, upholding the elevated standards for which Patek is known. Demand continuously exceeds supply, a consequence of the Nautilus’s notable qualities.
In 1997, Patek Philippe, no doubt buoyed by the success of the Nautilus, unveiled a further sports watch, the Aquanaut. This timepiece shared the same porthole-style bezel as its older sibling, the Nautilus, but exhibited a style all of its own. With the passage of time, the Swiss firm released further versions of the Aquanaut including ladies’ models, some of which sport gem-set cases. However, perhaps for many gentlemen, one of the most interesting versions of the Aquanaut is the Aquanaut Travel Time 5164A-001. This timepiece features a useful GMT function and pointer date and was the first Aquanaut with a complication.
At Baselworld 2018, the Genevan company launched its ‘very first chronograph in the Aquanaut collection’, sating the desires of complication-obsessed collectors, such as myself. This timepiece harnesses all of Patek’s expertise but, surprisingly, incorporates bold hues seldom seen on a watch at this price point.
The prestigious brand describes the dial as black, however, that downplays its complex character. The central portion of the dial exhibits a lighter shade than the areas near its periphery. Moreover, the dial is enriched with a sunray motif and features a series of grooves on its surface. These grooves remind me of a stylised depiction of the earth, featuring lines of latitude and longitude. The resultant vista exudes a sense of luxury.
Baton-style, luminescent hour and minute hands collaborate with Arabic numerals, imparting the prevailing time with clear meaning and notable poise. The applied gold Arabic numerals underscore the contemporary character of the watch. Applied, luminescent indexes sit adjacent the aforementioned Arabic numerals, augmenting readability. Positioned in between each index are succinct white strokes denoting one second integers. Located in between these white strokes are crisp orange lines, marking-off ¼ second intervals. These latter markings prove ideal when using the central chronograph seconds hand to measure elapsed periods.
A date display is positioned at 3 o’clock. The date, sans serifs, is depicted in black against a white background. Some purists may argue that the date disc should match the main dial epidermis and ordinarily I would agree. However, the date display on the Patek Philippe Aquanaut Chronograph 5968A-001 proffers matchless readability, vindicating the Genevan brand’s decision.
Patek, once again, references the rounded octagonal bezel with its large format 60-minute register. Positioned in the lower portion of the dial, the counter employs orange and white markings to eye-catching effect. The generous proportions of the counter facilitate ease of read-off.
Observant readers will note that there is a distinct absence of a running seconds display. The Maison suggests using the central chronograph seconds hand. If this was a modular chronograph the energy consumed by the stopwatch function would impair the accuracy of the hour and minutes display. However, this watch is equipped with a fully integrated chronograph featuring a column wheel and vertical clutch avoiding this potential issue. Indeed, Patek state ‘because this clutch is virtually friction-free, the chronograph hands can also be used as a continuously running seconds hand’.
By eschewing a conventional small seconds display and equipping the dial merely with a date display and 60-minute chronograph register, the dial looks clean and free of clutter.
The stainless steel case measures 42.2mm in diameter. The rounded octagonal bezel features vertical brush on its upper surface and is enriched with highly polished flanks. Likewise, other surfaces feature either polished or vertically brushed surfaces. The positioning of these two contrasting finishes confers a supremely handsome aesthetic. Patek should be applauded, as to keep both finishes discrete requires much expertise.
With a height of 11.9mm, the Patek Philippe Aquanaut Chronograph 5968A-001 could not be described as ultra-thin, however, it is not unwieldy. Indeed, overlooking the bold orange strap, the watch sits unobtrusively on the wrist. Personally, I found the watch sat comfortably on my arm, elevating my affection for the watch even more.
The Patek Philippe Aquanaut Chronograph 5968A-001 is equipped with a screw-down crown and is water resistant to 120m. While the crown is used for winding and setting the hours and minutes, it does not facilitate adjustment of the date display. A stylus is provided with the watch which, in conjunction with a push piece adjacent 8 o’clock, corrects the date.
The watch is supplied on a black composite strap fitted with ‘the new Aquanaut fold-over clasp with four independent catches’. In addition, the brand also supplies the watch with a vibrant, orange composite strap. It is worth noting that the brand recommends that the strap should only changed by an ‘Authorised Patek Philippe Retailer or Authorised Patek Philippe Service Centre’.
The dorsal plane of the watch is equipped with a large pane of sapphire crystal, affording views of the self-winding movement. The Caliber CH 28-250 C/528 is a horological thoroughbred. The fully integrated movement was intended to be a chronograph from the outset differentiating it from humbler modular chronographs.
When actuating the chronograph, the central chronograph seconds hand commences its journey without the merest hint of any wobbling. This flawless motion can be attributed to the column wheel and vertical clutch (coupling). Quite simply, nothing usurps an integrated chronograph with a column wheel and vertical clutch.
The Patek Philippe Aquanaut Chronograph 5968A-001 features a flyback chronograph. Similar to most chronographs, the pusher at 2 o’clock starts and stops the chronograph, while the pusher at 4 o’clock resets the seconds hand and 60-minute counter. However, the Caliber CH 28-250 C/528 also features a flyback function. If the wearer wishes to time consecutive events, they merely need to press the pusher at 4 o’clock, while the chronograph is operational, and in one step the stopwatch function will halt, reset and start again. The system is incredibly simple to use and by mitigating operator fumbling, the recorded elapsed time will prove more accurate.
Patek Philippe is regarded as one of the finest practitioners of haute horlogerie. Appraising the self-winding movement within this watch validates this reputation. Several bridges and the oscillating weight are adorned with circular Côtes de Genève. Moreover, the mainplate is embellished with perlage and the bridges sport gleaming bevelled edges.
The movement includes the Maison’s Gyromax® balance. Unlike an index assembly or regulator which alters the effective length of the hairspring, the rate of the Gyromax system, or variable-inertia balance, is adjusted by turning inertia-blocks (masselottes).
The problem with an index assembly or regulator is that the hairspring is positioned between two pins which unfortunately nip the spring, impairing isochronism. With the Gyromax system, the hairspring breathes more freely, aiding precision. Furthermore, by positioning the inertia-blocks on the spokes of the balance wheel there is less air turbulence than a screwed balance wheel. By reducing the disruption of the air surrounding the oscillating balance wheel, the precision of the movement is enhanced.
Patek Philippe occupy an elevated position within the rarefied world of haute horlogerie. This is evident when appraising the Aquanaut Chronograph 5968A-001.
The quality of the dial is beyond reproach. The globe-like dial motif, the applied gold indexes and the lucid baton-style hands proffer readability and a high quotient of opulence. The judicious smatterings of orange on the dial and hands enliven its appearance without impairing legibility.
Measuring 42.2mm in diameter, the Patek Philippe Aquanaut Chronograph 5968A-001 should fit most would-be wearers. Indeed, I personally found the watch accorded a most agreeable fit. The case wonderfully blends both highly polished and vertical satin brushed surfaces and every case element is refined to the nth degree.
While the style of this watch embraces modernity, the Caliber CH 28-250 C/528 upholds the traditional finishing for which the brand is renowned. In addition, the inclusion of a fully integrated movement, featuring a column wheel and vertical coupling, is yet another example of the company’s horological rectitude. The variable-inertia balance is a further specification highlight that will elicit nods of approval from the cognoscenti.
The Patek Philippe Aquanaut Chronograph 5968A-001 with its orange accents and rounded octagonal bezel is, by its very nature, edgy. Quite simply, its avant-garde mien may alienate some traditionalists. However, by exploring its daring side, Patek Philippe has produced a watch that attracts admiring glances and ensnares hearts, my own included. If you prefer your timepieces a tad more colourful paired with mechanical virtue, this may be the watch for you.
- Model: Patek Philippe Aquanaut Chronograph 5968A-001
- Case: Stainless steel; diameter 42.2mm; height 11.9mm; water resistance 12 ATM (120 metres); sapphire crystal to the front and caseback
- Functions: Hours; minutes; date; flyback chronograph
- Movement: Caliber CH 28-250 C/528; automatic movement; frequency 28,800 VpH (4Hz); 32 jewels; power reserve – min. 45 hours, max. 55 hours
- Strap: Black composite strap with Aquanaut fold-over clasp. Also supplied with additional orange composite strap.
- Price – £33,510 (RRP as at 13.5.2019)