When it was first introduced in 1997, the Aquanaut created a stir within the watch industry. Modern, sporty, and totally unexpected from a Maison like Patek Philippe, the watch caters for active lifestyles and continues to be a mainstay piece to this day. In 2018, the Aquanaut collection welcomed its first chronograph, a complication that perfectly matches the youthful and dynamic character of the line.
Patek Philippe Aquanaut Chronograph Ref. 5968G
retail price for either dial variant of the Patek Philippe Aquanaut Chronograph Ref. 5968G is SGD 91,200 inclusive of GST.
Three years on, Patek Philippe has expanded upon the Aquanaut collection by adding two new variants of the chronograph model. Here, we bring you the details and our thoughts on the Aquanaut Chronograph Ref. 5968G in white gold and available in two striking colours.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
For the first time, the Aquanaut Chronograph is available in precious metal. Rendered in 18K white gold, the new Ref. 5968G (the G designation is for white gold references) is anointed with the luxurious heft of precious metal, but with the subtlety of stainless steel – the best of both worlds, as some would say. From a design perspective, the case remains identical to the previous iteration in steel. It still boasts the same Nautilus-inspired octagonal bezel, the same alternating brushed and polished finishes, and also the same “Jumbo” sizing (42.2 x 11.9 mm).
The only other novel aspect about the new Aquanaut Chronograph, apart from the case material, is the colour scheme. Previously only available with a black dial and matched with either a black or orange rubber strap. the arrival of the Ref. 5968G injects more colour into the line-up with khaki or gradient blue dial/strap combos. While khaki and blue aren’t new colours in the overall Aquanaut collection, they are for the Aquanaut Chronograph model specifically.
The rest of the design of the dial and displays remain the same as the preceding Aquanaut Chronograph reference: embossed dial surface, applied numerals and hour markers, date at 3 o’clock, central chronograph seconds hand, and chronograph minutes sub-dial that echoes the shape of the bezel. The hour and minute hands, along with the aforementioned hours markers and numerals, are also coated with luminescent material for low- or no-light visibility. Also worth noting is that the orange accents in the previous reference (i.e. the chronograph hands and tracks) are not seen here in the white gold variant where Patek Philippe has opted for a more classical white.
Driving the Aquanaut Chronograph Ref. 5968G is the 308-part, 32-jewel Calibre 28-520 C/528, the same self-winding movement that powers the seminal stainless steel variant. It has a minimum power reserve of 45 hours and operates at a modern 4 Hz frequency. The movement isn’t just equipped with a column wheel and vertical clutch for smooth operation, it also has flyback functionality. Being a flyback chronograph, the running chronograph hands can be reset and restarted immediately with a single actuation of the reset pusher, instead of having to press ‘stop’, ‘reset’, and then ‘start’. The flyback functionality, while not incredibly rare, is a fairly uncommon feature in mechanical chronographs of today, even in the Patek Philippe stables.
Despite the sporty disposition of the Aquanaut, the Calibre 28-520 C/528 is just as elegantly finished as the movements of Patek Philippe’s dressier models. A look through the sapphire crystal case back says it all: circular waves on the bridges and the central winding rotor, perlage on the base plate, mirror polished screw heads, chamfered and polished edges, gold-filled engravings, and circular graining on the wheels, among other finishing techniques.
The Competitive Landscape
The sports chronograph market is rife with competition – unsurprising, since the ‘sports watch’ and the ‘chronograph complication’ is a match made in heaven. That said, wristwatches that are crafted to the same exacting standards as the Aquanaut Chronograph or higher are much less common. Comfortable on the wrist, practical, and immaculately built, it’s hard to fault the Aquanaut Chronograph. You might wonder why anyone makes watches meant for sport out of precious metals like the Ref. 5968G, since they are heavier, more at risk of damage, and more expensive to repair. The truth is, luxury sports watches are used more than just for sporty recreation today – they have become status symbols and statement pieces that can be worn daily, and the Aquanaut Chronograph Ref. 5968G is a prime example of this. The Aquanaut Chronograph Ref. 5968G is priced at SGD91,200.
One watch that can certainly go toe-to-toe with the Aquanaut Chronograph is the Overseas Chronograph by neighbourhood rival Vacheron Constantin. The watch features the same complications as the Aquanaut Chronograph, is also wound by a central winding mass, and is available with a rubber strap. Where the Overseas Chronograph differs (apart from appearances) is in the technicals; it has greater water resistance, better anti-magnetism, a 12-hour chronograph counter, and a proprietary, highly convenient strap-changing mechanism. The watch is available in pink gold or stainless steel with the former priced at SGD75,500, and the latter at SGD46,500. Being just as well-crafted as the Aquanaut Chronograph but with a significantly lower price tag, the Overseas Chronograph offers value that shouldn’t be overlooked by anyone in the market for a sports chronograph.
The Breguet Marine Chronographe 5527 is another worthy alternative to consider if the specimens from Patek and Vacheron don’t cut it. The watch is equipped with the same set of complications but with iconic Breguet design elements such as the fluted case sides and Breguet-style hands. While it isn’t exactly as well-finished as the Aquanaut or Overseas, you’d have to be pretty nitpicky to deem the finissage anything less than excellent. The gold variants of the Breguet Marine Chronographe 5527 retail for around USD30,000 making it the least costly option of the three sports chronographs here.
While the release of the Aquanaut Chronograph Ref. 5968G isn’t exactly earth-shattering news, it does do something important for Patek Philippe and that is to provide more options of a highly sought-after line/model to clients. The Aquanaut Chronograph model has been the brand’s testing ground for unconventional colour themes and, in spite of the brand’s reputation for classicism, the reaction from collectors has been positive. After all, if there’s one collection where Patek could stray far from the beaten path, it’d be the Aquanaut. After three years of there being only a stainless steel version, the arrival of two new precious metal iterations in similarly contemporary colours is as unsurprising as it is welcomed.
Photographed in the Patek Philippe Offices in Singapore. Hasselblad H3D-39 with HC 4/120 Makro, and HC 2.8/80 with H28 extension tube. Profoto strobes.