The First Aquanaut
In 1996, Patek Philippe introduced the Aquanaut 5060S, one of their first attempts at repurposing the original Nautilus design. With its precious metal case, smooth dial, Roman numerals and leather strap, it's understood that this piece was met with a rather muted reaction. As a result, one year later, Patek Philippe went further still and introduced the 5060A - with the “A” standing for “Acier”, which means steel in French. With its stainless steel case, checkerboard dial and tropical strap, this is widely considered as the first Aquanaut ever made.
It is understood that the 5060 - in both gold and steel - was limited to 1,000 pieces, due to the number of movements which were available at the time. The stainless steel variant was produced for a brief one year period, making these pieces as rare as they are significant. The 5060A displays a range of features only found on the earliest pieces, such as the closed caseback, tritium lume, cursive font on the date disc and "Nautilus" signature on the clasp (as the Aquanaut was originally intended to be part of the Nautilus collection).
Its design elements were geared towards something much sportier and more contemporary than the manufacturer was then known for at the time. Though unconfirmed, rumour suggests that the model was first commissioned by high level military personnel, hence the utilitarian design and dial pattern reminiscent of a grenade. Ever since its introduction, the Aquanaut has only grown in appeal, with these early pieces reminding us of where it all began.
A Foundational Design
The Aquanaut case is understated in its dimensions, measuring about 36mm in width. At a time when sports watches were rapidly increasing in size, with the likes of the Royal Oak Offshore and the creations from Panerai, the Aquanaut 5060A was a statement of intent from Patek Philippe. They were seeking to create something which was pared back and refined, despite having a more contemporary design. It is in part this paradox which seems to have attracted collectors to the early pieces, in more recent times. The 5060A features a closed caseback, which is replaced by a sapphire in subsequent generations of the reference.
The dial has all of the characteristics one might expect to see from one of the early Aquanauts, from the patinated tritium lume indices, to the cursive font on the date disc. The hands on this particular example closely match the tone of the hour markers, further adding to the "neo-vintage" aesthetics of the reference. The white date disc also displays a playful, cursive font, which is understood to be correct for these early pieces. Indeed, this feature is found across most examples, and also appears on all the advertisements, instruction manuals and catalogues from the period which we’ve been able to find.
Each accurately bevelled brick gives a satisfying depth and definition to the otherwise pared back colour scheme. This texture is extended over to the brick styled rubber strap, with both of them complementing each other and creating a general sense of coherence. The unassuming rubber strap took over a year to develop and is comprised of more than twenty materials. This cocktail of different components led to the strap being practically impervious to the external elements. It was advertised as being resistant to salt water, ultraviolet deterioration and bacteria.
Rather interestingly, the clasp of this reference 5060A features a "Nautilus" signature, which is only found on the first 1,000 pieces. It is believed that this is due to the fact that Patek Philippe wanted the Aquanaut to fall within the Nautilus collection, when they first released the model.
This 5060A is powered by the self-winding calibre 330 SC. It features 29 jewels, a straight-line lever escapement, shock absorber mechanism, a self-compensating flat balance spring and a monometallic balance, adjusted to cold, heat, isochronism and 5 positions. Furthermore, the solid-gold rotor is finished in classic Patek Philippe style, with circular Geneva stripes.
This Patek Philippe Aquanaut 5060A is accompanied by its box, leather pouch, manuals and Certificate of Origin (confirming purchase in 1997, in Italy). It also includes a tropical rubber strap and corresponding stainless steel Patek Philippe deployant buckle, with "Nautilus" signature.
If sold within the United Kingdom, this Patek Philippe Aquanaut will be subject to 20% VAT. Viewings are currently suspended for the time being.
To find out more about the the Patek Philippe Aquanaut, you can read our in-depth article on the topic.