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For the younger crowd

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The second commemorative piece for the Aquanaut’s 20th anniversary is the Ref 5650 Aquanaut Travel Time Advanced Research, limited to 500 pieces.

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On its 20th birthday, Patek Philippe is presenting an upsized model with a 42mm 18k white gold case - prevailing models are 40mm. The new Ref 5168G is the first Aquanaut model in white gold - and it pays homage to the original Nautilus which also has a 42mm steel case.

PATEK Philippe's Aquanaut, Ref 5060A, was launched in 1997 as a more affordable alternative to the brand's popular Nautilus. Aimed at "younger, physically active" buyers, the first Aquanaut model features a stainless steel case with decorative squares on a black dial and Arabic numerals for the hour markers. The watch, limited to 1,000 pieces, has a black strap made of composite material.

The first Aquanaut is a fitting tribute to the Nautilus that was launched in 1976. Like the latter, it is water-resistant up to 120 metres and has a sporty look.

Though the Aquanaut's case is a simpler three-part construction, unlike the more complex and elaborate two-part "porthole" design of the Nautilus, the new timepiece evolved from a Nautilus model introduced just a year earlier. This was the yellow gold Ref 5060 SJ, which has a similar case and shape of the Aquanaut - though the hour markers are in Roman numerals rather than Arabic.

Ref 5060 SJ stood out from earlier Nautilus models as it has lugs and is fitted with a leather strap. Prior Nautilus models have integrated bracelets. What's more, Ref 5060 SJ does not have the typical straight hinges of the Nautilus at both sides of the case.

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The Nautilus Ref 5060 SJ of 1996 may thus be called the "father" of the Aquanaut, which was officially introduced as a separate collection a year later. Obviously, the move was wise; the Aquanaut has become another Patek Philippe iconic line.

The Aquanaut celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2007. Two new models, Ref 5165 and Ref 5167, were unveiled. They replaced the earlier Aquanaut models launched in the 1990s, namely the Ref 5064, Ref 5065 and Ref 5066.

Now on its 20th birthday, Patek Philippe is presenting an upsized model with a 42mm 18k white gold case - prevailing models are 40mm. The new Ref 5168G is the first Aquanaut model in white gold - and it pays homage to the original Nautilus which also has a 42mm steel case.

The second commemorative piece for the Aquanaut's 20th anniversary is the Ref 5650 Aquanaut Travel Time Advanced Research, limited to 500 pieces. This is the fifth Advanced Research limited edition timepiece and an improvement of the Ref 5164 Travel Time because it incorporates two innovations: the Spiromax balance spring made of Silinvar is optimised with an inner boss, the component that is attached to the fixed end of the balance spring; and a compliant or flexible mechanism made of steel used for setting the time zones.

The Silinvar Spiromax balance spring features a new geometry which, in addition to an outer boss, now has an inner boss for improved isochronism. "In the current collection, the rate accuracy is between -3 and +2 seconds a day. In the Advanced Research series (like the Ref 5650G), we have improved it to -1 and +2 seconds a day, the result of 10 years of work for this balance spring," says Frederic Maier, deputy director, Patek Philippe Watchmaking Research.

"The compliant mechanism is intended to replace articulations with flexible systems. We no longer have an arbour that rotates in bearings; we have a leap spring that bends and performs a rotation or linear motion," he says. "The big advantage is that it requires no lubrication. There is no mechanical play so it is more reliable and precise. The concept and production are more complex but for the owner, the product is more dependable."

Apart from the graduated blue dial, the other obvious feature that differentiates the Ref 5650 is the aperture at 9 o'clock which makes it appear more futuristic and avant-garde. More importantly, it allows a view of the flexible mechanism at work when setting the time zones.

This compliant mechanism in steel has four crossed leaf springs and its use means 25 fewer component parts are required. "For the time zone setting, 37 parts are necessary with the traditional system while only 12 are required for the compliant mechanism," explains Mr Maier.

  • The writer is a watch enthusiast.