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Upgrades for two stars
THE names are enough to grab your attention - what's more with the complications thrown in.
And the additional functions are no mere giveaway: A perpetual calendar for the new Nautilus watch and a flyback chronograph for the new Aquanaut. It's a first in both cases for the two Patek Philippe casual and sporty lines, the stars in the latest watch collection rolled out this year by a brand that, for most of its nearly 180 years' history, has had formal timepieces at the forefront of its new product line-ups.
A perpetual calendar that bears the Patek Philippe name is always held in high reverence. The brand is a pioneer in making these complicated timepieces in which once the date, day and year are set on the watch, it requires no further adjustments in the watch-owner's lifetime - not even for a leap year or when the number of days in a month varies.
Despite their hefty price tags - above S$100,000 and beyond - Patek Philippe perpetual calendars always draw a long line of customers. The vintage pieces regularly break records at auctions, selling at prices running into the millions.
The Nautilus, which has attained iconic status, is recognised by its rounded octagonal shape case, like a ship's porthole. It's no surprise if it reminds you of Audemars Piguet's Royal Oak, recognised as the first luxury sports watch. Both the Nautilus and Royal Oak were designed by Swiss jewellery designer Gerald Genta, who became famous after the Royal Oak raised Audemars Piguet's profile.
Nautilus timepieces are also much sought-after. You are not likely to find a Nautilus model in the shop, because all have been snapped up. It you want one, you have to place an order - and the waiting list is long. So put a Patek Philippe perpetual calendar mechanism in a Nautilus case and the queue for the watch will stretch even longer.
Patek Philippe had already launched some 33 models in the Nautilus family by the time the Nautilus perpetual calendar came along - two years after the Nautilus turned 40. The first Nautilus timepiece, Ref 3700, was unveiled in a steel case in 1976 and remained in the line until 1990. The collection was continuously expanded as models in different case metals, sizes and dial designs were introduced. Key debuts included the 1980 Ladies Nautilus Ref 4700/51J as well as the 1981 Ref 3800/1 and Ref 3900/1 midsize versions.
Then, in 1996, there was the model with Roman numerals, Ref 3800/1JA, and the first model with a leather strap. The latter foretold the launch of the Aquanaut in 1997.
The first complicated Nautilus, Ref 3710/1A with a winding zone indicator IZR, was presented in 1998. Seven year later came Ref 3712/1A, the first model endowed with a moon-phase window and a power reserve indicator. To mark the Nautilus' 30th anniversary, its two-part case was replaced by a three-part construction in 2006. A self-winding flyback chronograph, Ref 5980/1A, was also introduced. In 2010, the Ref 5726A Annual Calendar Nautilus was unveiled. Ref 5990/1, a dual-time zone and chronograph timepiece, was presented in 2014.
Working with Mr Genta, the ladies' Nautilus collection was updated in 2009. New models in leather straps and steel bracelets as well as more feminine dials were added in 2013. The first automatic Ladies' Nautilus Ref 7118/1A in steel was rolled out in 2015.
The new Nautilus perpetual calendar, Ref 5740/1G, is in fact the first grand complication in the Nautilus line - with a S$156,800 price tag to match. The perpetual calendar mechanism encased in white gold is one of Patek Philippe's most coveted classics since 1985.
Powering the watch is the famous ultra-thin caliber 240 movement. At 8.42mm in height, Ref 5740/1G is Patek Philippe's slimmest perpetual calendar watch.
The Aquanaut Flyback Chronograph, retailing at S$57,700, is also the first chronograph in the Aquanaut family. Until its arrival, there were essentially a time-only and a two-time zone model - though there have been around 21 variations since the Aquanaut was launched in 1997. The new automatic Aquanaut chronograph is not only more complicated, but also more striking despite a stainless steel case - thanks to the carrot orange chronograph displays and matching strap. (The watch also comes with a black strap.)
The Aquanaut is a tweak on the Nautilus' design but the case is still rounded octagonal. The first model, in a 36mm stainless steel case, Ref 5060A, was marketed as a very sporty, chic and contemporary watch designed to appeal to a young generation of active people. Unlike the Nautilus, which was first introduced with a steal bracelet, it came with a rubber strap. Later versions of the watch have cases in 38mm and 40mm.
The Aquanaut ladies' line was unveiled in 2004 with the introduction of the Aquanaut Luce, its bezel decked with diamonds. Unlike the men's model, which was driven by an automatic movement, the Aquanaut Luce was equipped with a quartz movement. The Aquanaut Luce appeared in different dial and strap colours in subsequent years.
The latest, Ref 5067A-025 Aquanaut Luce "Misty Blue" introduced this year, adds a new blue-grey colour to the collection.
On its 10th birthday in 2007, the Aquanaut for men was subtly reworked while preserving the watch's character. In 2011, the Aquanaut Travel Time was launched with a two-time-zone function.
The Aquanaut case was upsized to 42mm on the Aquanaut's 10th anniversary last year, when the new Aquanaut Ref 5168G "Jumbo" in 18K white gold was presented. At the same time, a limited edition of the the Ref 5650 Aquanaut Travel Time "Patek Philippe Advance Research" was also rolled out, offering a peek of the advancements in time-zone setting mechanism and chronometric performance which we will see in future Aquanaut models.