From sports watches to minute repeaters, world timers to perpetual calendars, Patek Philippe’s Ladies’ Collection has it all. Rather than relegating all its more feminine offerings to diamond-encrusted quartz purgatory, the brand caters to the ever-burgeoning ranks of female watch enthusiasts.
Patek Philippe Aquanaut Luce Annual Calendar Ref. 5261R-001
In Watches & Wonders 2023, another bold step was taken, with the introduction of the new Aquanaut Luce Annual Calendar Ref. 5261R-001. While designated to be a ladies’ watch, the Aquanaut Luce Annual Calendar has a strongly unisex design. The watch also marks the first time an Aquanaut model (be it men’s or women’s) is fitted with an annual calendar complication. Here, we bring you the details and our honest thoughts on the vibrant Aquanaut Luce Annual Calendar Ref. 5261R-001, featuring the famous patented Patek Philippe Annual Calendar mechanism from 1996.
The Case, Dial and Hands
The case of the Ref. 5261R-001 is rendered in rose gold. Measuring 39.9 mm x 10.9 mm, it is smaller than even the men’s time-only Aquanaut model. Of course, size is relative, and really, the Ref. 5261R-001 is by no means diminutive. The watch is still going to look perfectly proportionate on the average male wrist. Where it lacks in sporty build, it gains in elegance. The iconic octagonal design of the rose gold case and bezel is further enhanced by the alternating polished and satin-brushed finishes.
Where the Ref. 5261R-001 really distinguishes itself is on the dial. While the embossed Aquanaut pattern remains a familiar sight, this is the first time the dial is given a blue-gray hue (matched with a rubber strap of the same colour). Its combination with the 4N rose gold case results in an utmost ‘casual chic’ vibe. But that’s not all that stands out in Patek Philippe’s latest Aquanaut. There’s also the annual calendar display – another first for the collection – that’s inverted relative to the usual layout of the display on the brand’s other timepieces. In the Ref. 5261R-001 the moon phase is displayed through an aperture at 12 o’clock while the date is displayed in an aperture at 6 o’clock. Meanwhile, the day and month are displayed in sub-dials at 3 and 9 o’clock, respectively; these, too, are inverted. It is worth noting that the moon phase indicator deviates only one day in 122 years from the true lunar cycle. As in other Aquanaut models, the hour and minute hands, applied hour markers, and 5-minute markers are all coated with luminescent material for low-light visibility.
Driving the Aquanaut Luce Annual Calendar Ref. 5261R-001 is the 319-part, 34-jewel Caliber 26-330 S QA LU. The movement has a maximum power reserve of 45 hours and operates at a modern 4 Hz frequency. The architecture of the movement is based on the Caliber 26-330, introduced in 2019 in the Calatrava Weekly Calendar Ref. 5212A-001 and features several technical innovations and optimizations for performance and dependability – including a patented anti-backlash wheel to prevent the seconds hand from vibrating, as well as a patented clutch wheel improving the efficiency and longevity of the self-winding function. The presence of a “stop seconds” (which instantly stops the balance when the crown is pulled into the handsetting position) allows adjustment to the nearest second. When the crown is pushed home, the mechanism gives a small impulse to the balance to set it in motion again.
As with every Patek Philippe Seal movement, the finishing on Caliber 26-330 S QA LU is executed to high standards. The 21K gold winding rotor is given a circular Côtes de Genève finish with a Calatrava cross engraved onto it. The bridges are decorated with linear Côtes de Genève, with the edges beveled and polished. The screws that secure the these bridges are mirror polished on the heads and the main plate is adorned with even perlage. The annual calendar module remains hidden from sight as it is tucked underneath the dial.
The Competitive Landscape
When it comes to calendar watches, the annual calendar remains a pretty uncommon sight. This is especially true when you narrow it down to just sports watches or ladies’ watches. Patek Philippe is a dominant force in this front of the market, being the first manufacturer to commercialise annual calendar wristwatches back in 1996. The complication, as one might imagine, is a significant part of the brand’s history and identity. Prior to 2023, the Aquanaut line has never had an annual calendar model despite being launched only a year after Patek Philippe’s first serially produced annual calendar wristwatch. For the Aquanaut to finally have its own annual calendar model was a long time coming. Patek Philippe could’ve debuted the complication in a men’s Aquanaut model but chose instead to break barriers by bringing it into the ladies’ Aquanaut Luce. In all fairness, the watch is perfectly wearable on the male wrist; it is as unisex in design as it gets. With the Aquanaut Luce Annual Calendar, the brand has shown that the line between men’s and women’s watches can often be blurred, that feminine watches can be worn by men. It all boils down to user preference, ultimately. The absolutely vibrant Aquanaut Luce Annual Calendar Ref. 5261R-001 is a regular production piece priced at USD61,510.
While the Ref. 5261R-001 is the first Aquanaut fitted with an annual calendar display, it isn’t Patek Philippe’s first sports watch with the complication. The Nautilus Annual Calendar was first introduced at Baselworld in 2016, combining the brand’s most iconic sports watch with its ‘homegrown’ calendar complication. The specimen in the photograph below is the Ref. 5726/1A in stainless steel with gradient blue dial. It goes without saying that the watch is going to be difficult to procure given recent demand. Its debuting retail price of CHF40,500 is all but a distant memory now.
Any talk of annual calendar sports watches is never complete without mention of the Rolex Sky-Dweller. Unbeknownst to many, the Sky-Dweller is indeed an annual calendar wristwatch. But that’s not all the watch is – it also has dual time functionality. The fluted bezel may look purely decorative but it is, in fact, functional and linked to the movement and the winding crown; turning it to one of three positions allows the user to select one of the watch’s functions – calendar, local time, or reference time – for adjustment via the crown. The example below is the stainless steel version with white gold bezel, the very first iteration of the Sky-Dweller that isn’t in coloured gold. Other dial colour options that are available include green and black. And the good news is, the movement has been updated this year to include an upgraded escapement and oscillating weight. Priced at CHF15,100, the Sky-Dweller is by far the most value-for-money option of the lot. But like the rest, getting one in hand might prove to be a challenge.
If you are able to see past its smaller-than-usual profile, the Aquanaut Luce Annual Calendar Ref. 5261R-001 makes for an extremely charming companion on the wrist. Both its colour scheme and calendar display are fairly atypical coming from Patek Philippe and therefore refreshing. Coupled with the fact that this is the first Aquanaut model with annual calendar functionality, you have an all-round interesting debutant from one of Geneva’s most prestigious watchmakers.