At Baselworld 2018 Patek Philippe released the first chronograph Aquanaut, a fitting complication for the sportiest line from Patek. It was introduced 21 years ago in 1997 as an entry to the brand less expensive than the Nautilus and less stuffy than the simpler Calatrava models. This new Patek Philippe Aquanaut Chronograph Ref. 5968A is a very cool looking watch, appealing to a younger demographic interested in contemporary touches like a 42.2mm wide case and touches of color, as there are orange accents (a color I have a personal fondness for) as well as the option for a full orange-colored rubber strap in addition to the existing black rubber strap. What it’s not is cheap, though at 38,600 CHF we are talking about 3,000 CHF more than the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph 41mm watch.

All images by Ariel Adams

So far, the Aquanaut has been available in the classic 40mm three hand plus date model, the travel time model, and the very cool white gold 42mm released for the model’s 20th anniversary last year in 2017. The chronograph is a natural next step, and there are a lot of people out there who want the brand image of a Patek but in a piece with a contemporary size and sporty design to feel natural on the wrist. This is definitely that piece, in my opinion.

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The 42.2mm wide and 11.9mm thick case keeps from being the typical chronograph since the flyback chronograph CH 28-520 C caliber movement allows the chronograph hand to function as the seconds hand as well, with Patek crediting the friction-free clutch for this. As a flyback chronograph with no seconds sub-dial, you see the 60-minute chronograph counter which is aesthetically similar to the case shape of the watch at 6 o’clock. Again, the orange chronograph hand, 60-minute sub-dial hand, and sub-dial minute markers add just enough color to the watch. What irritates me to no end is the fact that the date window can’t match the dial color. It’s a shame, and one that carries across several Patek models including the Nautilus.

The CH 28-520 C caliber is made of 308 parts, operates at 28,800vph, and has a power reserve that ranges between a minimum of 45 hours up to 55 hours depending on use. Turning the watch around reveals the exhibition caseback, showing off the movement with a 21k gold central rotor. On the right side of the case are two pushers and the crown, with the 2 o’clock pusher for starting/stopping the chronograph where the 4 o’clock pusher is used for the chronograph reset and flyback functions.

Of course it wouldn’t really be an Aquanaut without the composite rubber strap, and the chronograph comes with both the black and the orange straps. While the black one looks great, I would probably go all out and wear the orange one until I start to get bored of it. It’s also worth noting that Patek has updated the strap and it now features four catches to improve the clasp. Of course, the watch isn’t just sporty by design, it’s also got a water resistance rating of 120m, so go ahead and wear it out on weekend trips.

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While I appreciate the Aquanaut Travel Time for what it is and the fact that it is indeed a useful piece for frequent travelers, it’s a complication that I would never use as much as I’d like to and honestly I don’t find it all too attractive. For all but a select few (even after limiting the pool of people who can afford these watches) it’s tough to make the Travel Time an everyday watch while at the same time the three-hander lacks a certain edge or attitude, so Patek is right on the money with this (relatively) more mass appeal watch.

Whether or not the execution of this watch was successful (and it absolutely is), there is a global and wealthy class of young watch enthusiasts who are going to want this watch no matter what. That being said, I would absolutely put this near the top of my list of ultra-luxury sports watches. That easily recognizable “globe checkerboard pattern” dial has never looked or worn better in my opinion. Considering it’s a Patek, less than 1% of the population can probably reasonably afford one and at 38,600 CHF it’s one of my favorite pieces of 2018.

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