Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Aquanaut in 2017, Patek Philippe presented the Jumbo Ref. 5168G in white gold with a larger diameter of 42.2mm, the most Jumbo size of this family to date and the first one to be housed in a white gold case. The fashionable blue dial of the 2017 model now has a sibling with a cool khaki green dial and matching “tropical” rubber strap. In essence, the exact same watch as the 2017 model with a green strap and dial, the khaki green dial adds a safari/adventure/military mood to the watch underlining its mission as Patek’s everyday sports watch.
This is not the first time the Aquanaut Jumbo appears in khaki green attire. In 2011, Patek issued a highly limited “special clients-only” Aquanaut Jumbo 5167A-010 in a 40mm stainless steel case with a khaki green dial and strap. One of these extremely rare models appeared on the auction circuit in 2015 and was sold for CHF 52,500 by Sotheby’s.
Scarcity, as Patek well knows, creates demand. But who would have imagined that even the khaki green rubber straps, sold separately by retailers, would become hot commodities in their own right? Bloggers and collectors started posting photos of their Aquanauts (5167s and other models with dark dials) customised with khaki green straps and the response on social media was so positive that Patek decided to strike while the iron was hot. So that’s the raison d’être of the Patek Philippe Aquanaut Jumbo 5168G with Khaki Green Dial.
Background of the Aquanaut
Launched in 1997, the Aquanaut (Ref.5060) was positioned as the brand’s entry-level, multipurpose sports watch designed to target a younger, trendier crowd. With its sportier, pared-down take on the hallowed Nautilus, the Aquanaut came with a friendlier price tag and, for the first time in Patek’s history, was fitted with a rubber strap. Shocking as this might be for Patek’s more highbrow clients, rubber had already sailed into the realms of watchmaking onboard Carlo Crocco’s groundbreaking 1980 Hublot watch with its gold case and black rubber strap.
Touted by some critics as a poor man’s Nautilus (please read the final paragraph to see why it is definitely NOT a poor man’s Nautilus), the Aquanaut has always been a controversial piece. Without going into the history of the Nautilus (you can read our extensive 3-part coverage here), nobody can overlook the immense influence this watch has had on the Aquanaut.
The rounded octagonal bezel and flat profile of the Aquanaut are direct descendants of the Nautilus and establish an immediate sense of brand recognition and continuity. In a departure from its forbear, the Aquanaut dispensed with the hallmark “ears”, substituted the baton markers for Arabic hour numerals, made the hands thicker and the lume more pronounced, and flaunted a trendy rubber strap instead of the integrated metal bracelet of the Nautilus. A less complex and more rugged 3-part case than its big brother, the Aquanaut jacked up the water-resistance to 120m and incorporated a sapphire caseback to view its manual-winding movement. Following the launch of the 36mm Aquanaut during Baselworld 1997, Patek decided to offer a Jumbo version of the watch with a case size of 38mm (Ref. 5065).
Given the elusive nature of the Nautilus – unless, of course, you form part of Patek’s inner circle of ‘special clients’ – folks wanting a sporty, everyday model that still lets the world know you own a Patek have turned increasingly to the Nautilus. Frank, our editor-in-chief and founder, has a good story to tell on his particular Nautilus odyssey, which you can read here.
With a 42.2mm diameter, this 2019 and the 2017 Jumbo are the largest models in the family to date. You can tell that our perception of large watches has altered since 1997 and a 42.2mm sports watch these days is pretty standard fare. The slim case height of 8.25mm, the flat profile and the almost weightless rubber strap make this Patek Philippe Aquanaut Jumbo 5168G extremely attractive to handle. Plus there is the reassuring and luxurious weight of white gold. The finishes are superlative – vertical satin finish on the bezel and polished flanks – and underline the watch’s pedigree. The choice of white gold is also smart because it can always be downplayed as steel.
Khaki Green Dial
Unlike the blue model with its gradient dial, this khaki green dial is uniform and has no colour variations. Coupled with the matte texture, the dial comes across as totally flat and is consequently liberated of reflections. The chequerboard embossing on the dial, with its decoration of parallels and meridians like those found on a globe (evoking world travel?), add volume and interest to an otherwise flat, matte dial.
The white gold Arabic numerals are applied to the dial and filled in with lume as are the markers above the numerals and the thick baton-shaped hands. The luminescence of the Aquanaut is powerful and long-lasting. Offering central hour, minutes and sweep seconds, the date window of the 5168G replaces the number ‘3’ and has a white background.
The rubber strap of the Aquanaut is a big deal. It was a differentiating factor back in 1997 and a provocative lure to attract a younger, hipper, sportier client. As you can see, the embossed pattern on the dial extends all the way to the khaki green strap, which I have to admit is extremely comfortable, flexible, and silky to the touch and feels very good against the wrist. Obviously, the strap is water-resistant but it is also resilient to traction, saltwater and UV radiation and comes with the new patented fold-over clasp with four independent catches.
Calibre 324 S C
Inside the case is Patek’s self-winding calibre 324 S C, a movement shared with all the other 3-hand Aquanauts. Simple in function, the thin 3.3mm calibre is fitted with some of Patek Philippe’s best developments like the Gyromax balance and Spiromax balance spring. The 21k gold rotor – decorated with Geneva stripes and Patek’s Calatrava cross – ensures a power reserve of roughly 45 hours. The decorations are not lavish but sufficient with enough attention to detail and accuracy to merit the Patek Philippe Seal.
The combination of a white gold case and khaki green dial and strap works extremely well. Cool, rugged, slightly military or safari (take your pick), the Aquanaut Jumbo is resilient and water-resistant, yet elegant and well-finished, bearing the Patek Philippe aura that is important to many buyers. It’s the kind of watch that insinuates an active outdoor lifestyle, and will no doubt be a big hit in the Aquanaut range.
My one reproach – and quite a big one – about this Aquanaut 5168G is its price. And you can dispel any nagging doubts about this being a poor man’s Nautilus! Retailing for EUR 36,010, the Patek Philippe Aquanaut Jumbo 5168G is more expensive than a time-and-date Steel Nautilus Ref. 5711 (EUR 27,780). Fair enough, it is white gold as opposed to stainless steel, but I can think of many other top-notch sports watches with a lot more to offer for half the price. I guess the fact of owning a Patek Philippe and making sure that everybody can recognise it as a Patek Philippe comes at a price. Does that make it a rich man’s sports watch? What do you think?
More information on the Patek Philippe Aquanaut Jumbo 5168G Khaki Green at patek.com.