As most of you will know, Patek Philippe discontinued the production of their very popular stainless-steel version of the Nautilus. The brand’s CEO Thierry Stern announced in 2021 that the final year of production would close with the beautiful, green-dialed version of their famous Nautilus ref. 5711. While that was the last regular production model, it was succeeded by the limited-edition Nautilus with a Tiffany-blue dial produced for Tiffany & Co. in a run of 170 pieces. If you have been following the world of watches, you know that this timepiece sparked an enormous hype all around the world. But here we are, only a few months later, and the stainless-steel Nautilus is no more. So, what is next for Patek Philippe?
The Story of the Patek Philippe Aquanaut
People who know Patek Philippe are well aware that the next best thing would be the Patek Philippe Aquanaut ref. 5167/1A. When the prestigious brand first released the entry-level sports watch in 1997, it targeted a younger audience and marketed the model as a multipurpose timepiece for both land and sea. It was also the first Patek Philippe that came equipped with a rubber strap, which was considered blasphemous among many traditional Patek Philippe enthusiasts at the time. But the brand perfectly understood that in order to attract a new and younger audience, they had to come up with a sports watch that had great appeal, used new materials, and also had a friendlier price tag.
The design of the Aquanaut was based on the iconic Nautilus watch created by the celebrated watch designer Gérald Genta. Patek Philippe never made a secret of the source of inspiration for the Aquanaut, and why should they? Indeed, because of the clear design influence and the lower price tag, the Patek Philippe Aquanaut quickly became “the poor man’s Nautilus.” The watch nevertheless became a hit and the collection grew accordingly. Over the last 25 years, we have seen the introduction of a variety of different sizes of the time-and-date Aquanaut, the Travel Time models, and the chronograph editions. Yet one question remains: Can the Aquanaut really replace the Nautilus? Let’s take a look at the different Aquanaut models and see how they hold up against the Nautilus. Is it still the little brother of the legendary Nautilus or has the balance shifted in favor of the Aquanaut?
The Entry-Level Patek Philippe Aquanaut
Let’s start off with the stainless steel Patek Philippe Aquanaut ref. 5167/1A. First introduced in 1997, this watch has undergone some updates over the years. Patek has successfully refined the watch, leading to an overall improvement in design. The 40.8-mm stainless steel watch is available with a black rubber strap and a stainless-steel bracelet. A quick glance will tell you that the basic Aquanaut is nowhere near as iconic and impressive as the Nautilus ref. 5711. Rather, it feels exactly like it was intended: an entry-level Patek Philippe sports watch that is inspired by the Nautilus, but isn’t really a Nautilus. And that makes sense. I also think that, at its best, the Aquanaut just doesn’t reach the level of the Nautilus. Still, the hype surrounding Patek’s stainless steel Nautilus definitely had an effect on the Aquanaut. The list price of the current Aquanaut on a black rubber strap is $21,650, but as you well know, getting it for that price at an official boutique is practically impossible. Prices for the watch on Chrono24 start at roughly $75,000, almost four times its official list price, so there is no doubt that this watch is popular. There is also an 18K rose gold version that has a list price of just over $35,000. Market asking prices start closer to $120,000, however, and easily move up to into the $135,000 range.
Next in the Aquanaut series comes the slightly bigger brother in 18K white gold, the ref. 5168G, which, in all honesty, I like better. Its 42.2-mm case just seems to flow better than the smaller model; I also prefer the colors of this reference. The watch is available with a green dial and green rubber strap or a blue dial and blue rubber strap, both of which look a lot more compelling and vibrant than the steel model. These two models have a list price of just under $40,000. A glance at Chrono24, however, reveals that these white gold models are very popular with asking prices easily hitting $120,000 to $130,000.
The Patek Philippe Aquanaut Chronograph
Let’s move on to my personal favorite Patek Philippe Aquanaut, the Aquanaut Chronograph ref. 5968A. It features the same 42.2-mm case as the white gold time-and-date models, but adds the chronograph function with two push-pieces on the right side of the case. I personally love the integration of the orange chronograph details, which give the watch a lot more presence and pizzazz. The watch comes with a black and an orange rubber strap. My advice? Replace the black strap immediately and wear the watch on the orange strap. The combination makes for such a colorful, spectacular-looking timepiece. The watch costs a little under €50,000 in Europe and a little over $50,000 in the United States, but as you might expect, getting your hands on one for its list price is nearly impossible. Due to the watch’s scarcity and popularity, asking prices on Chrono24 start at a whopping $200,000 and move up to around $250,000! And the crazy thing is that you could also opt for the 18K white gold versions of the same watch in green and blue, but they are just as expensive as the stainless-steel chronograph model – this, despite the use of more valuable material in the ref. 5186G and a list price more than $15,000 higher. In short, the steel version of the Aquanaut chronograph an incredibly popular watch.
The Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time
The last model I’d like to discuss is the Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time ref. 5164A. This special version of the Aquanaut has a complication to indicate the time in a second time zone, making it the perfect watch for globetrotters. But even if you don’t travel much, it’s a stylish sports watch that looks great on the wrist. Featuring a large date display and day/night indicators, the watch comes with a black dial and black rubber strap in classic Aquanaut tradition. Patek Philippe also offers a slightly more spectacular version in 18K rose gold with a brown dial, rose gold accents, and a dark brown strap. This makes for a more vibrant timepiece than the plain black version. The list price for the stainless-steel version is a little over $40,000, but asking prices on Chrono24 easily reach between $120,000 and $130,000. The rose gold version comes in at just over €50,000 in Europe and a little under $60,000 in the United States. Asking prices for the Aquanaut Travel Time in rose gold on Chrono24, however, start at roughly $160,000 and quickly go up to $200,000.
The Status of the Patek Philippe Aquanaut
While the discontinuation of the stainless-steel Nautilus definitely leaves a hole in the Patek Philippe collection for fans of the brand, it looks like the Aquanaut could definitely soften the blow for a lot of people. It’s obviously hard to replace a model as iconic as the Nautilus ref. 5711, but the different Aquanaut models have profited from the popularity of the Nautilus collection. Now with the flagship Nautilus model gone, the Aquanaut is here to offer a great alternative. By now, the Patek Philippe Aquanaut has successfully shaken the “little brother” reputation and people love what the model has to offer. I would gladly pick the Aquanaut Chronograph ref. 5968A over any of the currently available stainless steel Nautilus models. I’d make this choice partly because I am a purist that loves the Nautilus ref. 5711 too much to consider another model, but also because the Aquanaut Chronograph is a brilliant watch. On an orange rubber strap, it is the perfect Patek for me to wear every day.
Prices for most Aquanaut models have become too outrageous to even think about owning one for many people, but if you can afford the hefty price tag, I would definitely keep an eye out for one. While prices for all the models have gone up spectacularly over the last year, they have settled somewhat over the last months. Given the limited production numbers and the incredible popularity of the Aquanaut, prices will likely remain stable and maybe even climb again. With the Nautilus now officially gone, the Aquanaut is your best bet for a stainless steel Patek Philippe sports watch. It’s safe to say that the Aquanaut is here to stay. The Nautilus is dead, long live the Aquanaut!