The Patek Philippe Aquanaut Collection has Grown Up

It was initially supposed to be the Patek Philippe for the younger generation when it was launched in 1997. This was the first Patek with a tropical bracelet (which is Patek for rubber strap) and it exuded casual sport chic. Philippe Stern once told me, “I don’t think a young person could afford that watch for the first year it was available.” All the older collectors bought them up, saying that it was a perfect watch for every day.

Despite becoming an entire collection, it never lost its youthful appeal. In steel, the flyback chrono Ref 5968 came with an orange tropical bracelet. On the other hand, the recently arrived 5968G (pictured) is more restrained, and I must be getting old because I prefer it. With its blue strap and blue dial, it is reminiscent of the Aquanaut Jumbo in white gold, one of my favorite watches of recent years, and with its 60-minute subdial at six o’clock, it reminds me of one of the great modern-era Pateks, the Ref 5960.

In the Ref 5968 is a calibre CH 28-520 C, a self-winding flyback column-wheel chronograph with a disc clutch to eliminate hand-bounce (the slight, but oh-so-annoying shudder of the sweep second hand when starting a chronograph). Similarly to the 5960, Patek suggests using the sweep chronograph hand as a continuous seconds hand, so that there is no need for a seconds subdial, freeing up that space for the 60-minute totaliser. It results in a dialscape that is less cluttered, cleaner and, yes, younger-looking.

The Aquanaut will be 25 years old next year, so it will be interesting to see how Patek marks this milestone, but if you can get your hands on one in the meantime, consider yourself very lucky. This is not just a watch for the young, but also for those who are young at heart.



Patek’s “tropical strap,” a composite material designed for maximum wear resistance, is shown here in midnight blue.


The rounded octagonal shape echoes the 60-minute counter at six o’clock.


White-gold case is 42.2mm in diameter and waterproof to 120 metres.


Blue with a black gradient, the dial is embossed with the Aquanaut pattern.