Review: The New Patek Philippe Nautilus Travel Time Chronograph Ref. 5990/1R

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The Patek Philippe Nautilus sports watch means different things to different types of watch collectors. To the “flipper”, it is free money when purchased at retail price. To the historian, it is one of Gerald Genta’s finest designs. And to the enthusiast, it is an icon of modern watchmaking with finissage that would compel angels to sing. Whatever it is, there’s no question that the Nautilus is one of Patek Philippe’s greatest successes in recent history.

Patek Philippe Nautilus Travel Time Chronograph Ref. 5990/1R

Of the many models that have graced the collection, the Nautilus Travel Time Chronograph Ref. 5990 is one of the most complicated. For the longest time, the Ref. 5990 was only available in stainless steel. Now, 7 years after its debut, Patek Philippe has finally introduced a new, rose gold variation, likely driven by the meteoric rise in demand for not just the Ref. 5990 but the Nautilus sports watch in general. Here, we bring you the low-down and our thoughts on the Nautilus Travel Time Chronograph Ref. 5990/1R.

The Case, Dial, and Hands

The new Ref. 5990/1R retains the case design and size of the preceding model. Measuring 40.5 mm x 12.53 mm, the watch has an assertive presence but is far from unwieldy. What’s changed in this new reference is the material. The Ref. 5990/1R is rendered in full rose gold, making it the most opulent variation of the Nautilus Travel Time Chronograph yet. On the wrist, it definitely feels significantly heavier than its stainless steel sibling. The best part about the case and bracelet – be it in stainless steel or rose gold – is the immaculate finissage. From the bezel to the bracelet links, the watch is adorned with satin-brushed and polished finishing in an alternating manner that is sure to catch the eye.

Matching the rich gold case and bracelet of the new Ref. 5990/1R is an equally rich blue dial. Featuring subtle sunburst graining on the surface, the stamped dial is a chameleon of sorts, morphing shades as the angle of incident light changes. The other significant change to the dial is in the hour markers, aperture frames and hands where they are now also in rose gold. Other aspects about the dial, specifically the displays and layout, remain unchanged. You still get the same radial date at 12 o’clock, chronograph minute counter at 6 o’clock, as well as a local and home day/night indicator at 9 and 3 o’clock, respectively. This cruciform layout is as balanced as it gets.

The hour markers and hands are coated with luminescent material to enable low- or no-light visibility.

The Movement

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Driving the Ref. 5990/1R is the same 370-part, 34-jewel Calibre CH 28-520 C FUS that powered the preceding stainless steel model. The self-winding movement has an average power reserve of 50 hours and operates at a modern 4 Hz frequency. It is packed with four of the most pragmatic complications in watchmaking: a 60-minute flyback chronograph, dual time, day/night indication for both local and home time and of course, the date.

The Calibre CH 28-520 C FUS as seen through the sapphire crystal case back.

The Calibre CH 28-520 C FUS isn’t just valued for its functionality but also its form. While the Calibre CH 28-520 C FUS doesn’t possess the evocative architecture of a horizontal clutch chronograph (it is a vertical clutch chronograph), the movement still scores plenty of beauty points thanks to impeccable finishing. A look through the sapphire crystal case back reveals a 21k gold central rotor with circular Côtes de Genève, bridges with linear Côtes de Genève and polished bevels, polished screw heads, gold-filled engravings, and perlage on the base plate, among other things.

The Patek Philippe Seal can be seen engraved unto a bridge (and filled with gold).

The Competitive Landscape

The Ref. 5990/1R is the ultimate travel-themed luxury watch, and the reasoning is simple. It’s a coveted Patek Philippe Nautilus, it’s got four uber practical travel-related complications, flawless finissage inside and out, and of course, it’s full rose gold for an indomitable presence. Such excellence, as you might expect, does not come cheap. The Patek Philippe Nautilus Travel Time Chronograph Ref. 5990/1R is priced at USD106,452, that is if you can secure one at retail.

The Ref. 5990/1R is perfectly proportioned for the average male wrist. The bracelet conforms seamlessly to the shape of the wrist, ensuring unparalleled comfort.

An excellent, more affordable alternative to the Ref. 5990/1R is none other than the recently introduced Bvlgari Octo Finissimo S Chronograph GMT. Unapologetically attention-grabbing thanks to the contrasting polished and brushed finish on its faceted case and bracelet, the watch features true GMT functionality as well as the chronograph. While the watch wears large due to its shape and 43 mm diameter, it is significantly thinner than the Nautilus, at only 8.75 mm. The Octo Finissimo S Chronograph GMT isn’t crafted in precious metal, lacks a date display and isn’t as finely finished as the Ref. 5990/1R (albeit still praiseworthy), but that’s alright – because at only USD16,500, the former is nearly seven times less expensive than the latter.

The Bvlgari Octo Finissimo S Chronograph GMT

Another newcomer in the travel watch segment this year that impresses is the limited edition Chopard L.U.C GMT One Black. While it does not have chronograph functionality, the watch is fitted with GMT and date displays that are as legible as it gets thanks to its monochromatic theme. But that’s not the main selling point of the L.U.C GMT One Black. Unlike the Octo Finissimo S Chronograph GMT and the Ref. 5990/1R, the Chopard is made of a thoroughly novel material: ceramised titanium. Hard and lightweight, this is a travel watch that will not encumber you. At CHF11,500, the L.U.C GMT One Black also offers relative value for money.

The Chopard L.U.C GMT One Black

Final Thoughts

The new Nautilus Travel Time Chronograph Ref. 5990/1R is loud and proud. With its rose gold body and electric blue dial, the striking looks of the Ref. 5990/1R is bound to have fans and detractors alike. What everyone can agree on, though, is the quality of watchmaking involved and its role in satiating the ravenous appetite of the market for the Nautilus.


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