A child of the late 1990s, born during the height of the dot-com boom, the Aquanaut was originally created by Patek Philippe to appeal to a more youthful demographic of luxury watch buyers. In our most recent installment of What Is On My Wrist, Craft + Tailored’s CEO Cameron Barr takes a closer look at a beautiful 2000 full-set example of the Patek Philippe Aquanaut ref. 5066A and explains exactly why so many of today’s collectors are interested in this sports-forward model from one of Switzerland’s most prestigious and traditional manufacturers.
The Patek Philippe Aquanaut was first introduced in 1997, and it took the core case shape of the Gérald Genta-designed Nautilus from the 1970s and reimagined it in a simplified and modern form. The rise of the internet and the rapid economic expansion that occurred during the 1990s resulted in a new generation of young, affluent buyer who embraced a more casual aesthetic to accompany their active lifestyles. To cater to this growing demographic, Patek Philippe launched the Aquanaut, which swaps the Nautilus’s hinged case structure for a more traditional approach to a rounded-octagonal design that also lacks the Nautilus’s signature integrated bracelet. Instead, fitted between the Aquanaut’s lugs is a black rubber strap, which includes a pattern that echoes the grid-style motif on its dial.
The very first Patek Philippe Aquanaut was the reference 5060 and the model that immediately followed it was the reference 5066, which was virtually identical to its predecessor except for the fact that its 35.6mm case featured a display caseback to reveal its beautifully-finished Caliber 330 SC movement. Produced in stainless steel as the reference 5066A, the dial of the Aquanaut maintains its sporty intentions, with luminous markings sitting outside of its applied Arabic numerals, along with a set of extra-wide luminous hands. While the tritium used on the dials of these early Aquanaut watches was originally white in color, certain examples like the one featured in this video have acquired a gorgeous golden-colored patina over the years.
Although some people refer to the Patek Philippe Aquanaut as the “Nautilus Junior” due to its similar case shape, smaller size, and more youthful target demographic, the Aquanaut is its own separate line of timepieces and it is now even starting to rival the Nautilus when it comes to enthusiast-level interest and recognition. The Aquanaut represents a significant point in Patek Philippe’s history when the iconic Swiss manufacturer first started to take on a more youthful approach to design, and watches like this full-kit Patek Philippe Aquanaut 5066A serve as wonderful examples of the brand’s original efforts at appealing to the next generation of luxury watch owners.
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