Launched in the late 1990s, Patek Philippe presented the Aquanaut as the younger, more modern, and more affordable alternative to the famed Nautilus sports watch. While the Aquanaut has long been compared to (or even overshadowed by) the Nautilus, these days the Aquanaut has its own set of fans and collectors. In fact, earlier this month a mysterious Aquanaut prototype sold for over $400,000 at a Geneva auction–over eight times its pre-sale estimate! So today, we’re taking a closer look at an early reference in the Aquanaut family, the ref. 5066 A-001.
The Origins of The Patek Philippe Aquanaut
Patek Philippe introduced the Aquanaut ref. 5060A in 1997 as the first reference in the lineup. It sported a rounded octagon stainless steel case, inspired by the Nautilus, but smaller at 35.6 mm and more streamlined, void of the case “ears” of the Nautilus. The Aquanaut also debuted the Patek “tropical” strap (aka a rubber style strap) that was resistant to salt water and UV rays. The black strap featured a square embossed motif, a pattern that continued onto the black dial.
The dial housed a trio of center hands, a date window at 3 o’clock, Arabic numerals, and plenty of luminescent accents. Inside the case was the automatic Caliber 330 SC. Patek Philippe only made 1,000 pieces of the Aquanaut ref. 5060A; some say to test the market to see if the watch would be a hit. And it was, therefore the following year, in 1998, the brand launched a slew of new references to round out the collection.
There was the mid-size 34 mm Aquanaut ref. 5064A, the ladies’ 29.5 mm Aquanaut ref. 4960A, the “Jumbo” 38.8 mm Aquanaut ref. 5065A, the Aquanaut ref. 5066/1A with a steel bracelet, and the Aquanaut ref. 5066 with a sapphire caseback.
Patek Philippe Aquanaut 5066 A-001
At first glance, the Patek Philippe Aquanaut 5066 is almost identical to the maiden 5060 reference. It also features a 35.6 mm steel case, a black “hobnail” dial, and a black strap. There are the familiar Arabic numerals on the dial, the date window at 3 o’clock, and the steel deployant clasp on the textured rubber composite strap.
However, turn the watch around and you’ll see a sapphire display caseback for a view of the Caliber 330 SC movement inside instead of a solid steel caseback. The Caliber 330 was Patek’s go-to self-winding movement until the mid-2000, complete with a gold rotor engraved with the company’s Calatrava cross. The “SC” in Caliber 330 SC refers to the center seconds (S) hand and calendar (C) date window.
It’s worth mentioning that despite the display caseback, the Aquanaut ref. 5066 retained the 120-meter water resistance–the highest of any sapphire caseback equipped watch at that time. Along with the stainless steel Aquanaut ref. 5066 A (“A” refers to “acier,” which is French for steel) version we see here, Patek also made the Aquanaut ref. 5066 J in yellow gold (“J” refers to “jaune,” which is French for yellow).
Over the following two decades, Patek Philippe has released a wide assortment of different Aquanaut models in different materials and sizes, along with a variety of complications. However, as one of the very first references in the collection’s history, the Aquanaut 5066 A-001 stays true to the watch’s original vision as a fresh and straightforward take on an ultra-luxurious sports watch from Patek Philippe.