It is said that you never really own a Patek Philippe watch, you simply look after it for the next generation. The same is to be said for all of the prestigious brand’s watches, including the Aquanaut. That’s because every Patek Philippe watch is built to last an entire lifetime and forged from a selection of long-lasting premium materials. Aquanaut has an interesting history since it’s not quite clear which model definitively marks the start of its story. The Aquanaut is known as the second generation of the Nautilus, or indeed, its sibling. This makes sense since the design of the Nautilus received some updates and modifications before it eventually merged the lines between itself and the official Aquanaut watch. Patek Philippe Aquanaut watches are rounded, sporty and youthful, with a more contemporary design that appeals to a younger generation of watch collectors altogether.
The first Aquanaut was launched in 1997 and led on from the iconic Nautilus watch, designed by Gerald Genta. The watch featured a checkered dial, a porthole-inspired case crafted from stainless steel and a rubber strap. Eventually, Patek Philippe changed the font of the date window and the style of the dial’s deeper grooves was replaced with a somewhat flatter surface. The replacement of the tritium-coated hands eventually evolved into the Super-LumiNova models and the Aquanaut was also offered on an integrated stainless steel bracelet. Despite the steel bracelet option, the Tropical straps, crafted from a multi-material composite rubber material became one of the most collectable features of the older type Aquanaut watch, subsequently going on to become a very collectable element of the Aquanaut.
Whether you are new to collecting Aquanaut watches or an experienced enthusiast of this all-purpose sports watch, there are some things worth remembering when looking to add a pre-owned Patek Philippe Aquanaut watch to your collection. These luxury sports watches come at a high price tag since you pay for autonomy, brand heritage, materials, and quality when you invest in a watch from this world-famous brand. Unlike many other big brand names within the Swiss luxury watch industry, Patek Philippe manufactures significantly lower quantities of its timepiece each year, making each one instantly more collectable once it enters the pre-owned market. That said, there is plenty of choices when it comes to buying a pre-owned Aquanaut watch. Although not as easy to find compared to other high-end watches, Patek Philippe watches come in a range of materials and offer complications like flyback chronographs and dual time mechanisms for world travellers.
Before investing in a pre-owned Patek Philippe Aquanaut watch, you need to consider where you are going to buy from. Large pre-owned platforms like eBay can be problematic since you cannot always track down a seller once you transfer your money over to an unknown seller. Wherever possible, it is better to purchase from an official Patek Philippe stockist or a bricks-and-mortar store. Failing that, luxury watch enthusiast platforms on the internet will ensure you are buying from someone who knows what they are talking about. There’s also no harm in contacting a pre-owned boutique for more information if you need a little advice on what to look for when buying a pre-owned Aquanaut watch.
Like buying any pre-owned luxury watch, it pays to know your seller. Is the person you are purchasing from an enthusiast? Do they have a love for the brand? If there’s a particular pre-owned Aquanaut watch you have your mind set on, you’ll already know its model number. Current model numbers can be found on Patek Philippe’s official site, whilst other popular model numbers can be found online. As a basic guide, the model numbers relating to some of the first Aquanaut watches are those such as the 5060A, considered the first Aquanaut watch, or the 5060S that came a little before it. These models blur the lines between the Aquanaut we have all come to know and recognize today and the iconic Nautilus watch that struck gold before it. Some ways to differentiate an older version of the Aquanaut compared to newer ones at first glance would be through its closed caseback and the cursive font of its white date window at 3 o’clock.
After a year of success with the 5060 models, the Patek Philippe Aquanaut evolved. The 5064 was powered by a quartz movement. The 5065, known as the Jumbo, featured a larger case size, and the 5066 marked the transition from the old tritium luminous material on the hands to the more modern Super-LumiNova hands. These models were produced during 2004 and 2006 before the production of the 5066 ceased altogether. As the Aquanaut watch evolved, it was offered in 18ct rose gold and 18ct white gold, and was equipped with a sapphire crystal glass exhibition caseback for admiring the performance of the movement whilst in motion. From 1998 onwards, the Aquanaut watch was even made available on a brick-like bracelet, giving it a particularly distinctive look when paired with its grenade style dial.
The year 2007 saw the release of the Aquanaut 5165 and 5167 – both of which featured a patterned dial with shallower grooves. The hour marker at 3 o’clock was also taken away, donating more space for the date window. The rubber straps on these models were refitted with a new clasp and echoed the curvature of the case with a more rounded and ergonomic shape.
When you’re buying a pre-owned Patek Philippe watch, whether an Aquanaut or not, it always pays to buy the watch with the original paperwork and proof of its service history. The paperwork will provide information like the model’s serial number, but if the watch does not come with all the desirable paperwork, the serial number can also be found on the inside of the watch’s caseback. This number tells you what model of watch you are looking at but will also differentiate the year it was manufactured in. In addition to this, the case number of an Aquanaut watch will also appear on the interior of the caseback or on the interior of the ring that completes the watch’s sapphire crystal glass caseback.
If the pre-owned Aquanaut watch you’re looking to purchase comes inside its original presentation box, it will be worth more in the long run - especially if you look to sell it again in the future. A watch with full paperwork, authenticity certificate detailing its model and serial number, and original branded presentation box is more appealing to a collector of any luxury watch brand. There’s also the option of sourcing this key model and serial number information from the brand, however. Patek Philippe offers its customers an “Extract from our Archives” paper, which details the watch type, calibre type, case style, dial type, bracelet style, date of production, date of sale etc.
Like buying any pre-owned luxury watch, you need to set a budget in mind before you begin to look on the market for a pre-owned Aquanaut watch. The budget for your pre-owned Aquanaut needs to be sensible. These sports watches don’t come cheap. Patek Philippe watches on the pre-owned market are some of the most expensive out there. This is because you pay for brand provenance, the history of the collection, and how popular it has become (maybe due to discontinuation, rarity or popular collectables from years gone by). It’s also a good idea to know what to expect in terms of price when buying and selling pre-owned Patek Philippe Aquanaut watches, as this will give you a clear indication as to whether you are buying from a genuine seller or not. Ask those on specialist Patek Philippe collecting sites or an expert at an official boutique.
Lastly, before investing, it’s worth understanding that different models from the Aquanaut watch collection have different price tags depending on whether they are older, rarer models or younger iterations. The price of a pre-owned Aquanaut watch also depends on the case material, the complication and the movement inside the watch. For an affordable, stainless steel three-handed Aquanaut watch on the pre-owned market, prices start from around $52,000 for the ref. 5167A-001. Prices generally start to creep up thereafter. The white gold version with a green dial, for example, is rarer and is crafted from 18ct gold. Therefore, you can expect to pay around $78,500 for this model ref. 5168G-010. Steel chronograph iterations from the Aquanaut collection, like the ref. 5968A-001 cost around $112,000 on the pre-owned market, whilst one of the most expensive models of all is the Travel Time Advanced Research watch, crafted from white gold and limited to 500 pieces worldwide. This model costs anywhere around the $334,000 mark.