Rare Bird: Patek Philippe Aquanaut ref. 5065A 'Jumbo'. The History of the First Patek to be Fitted with a Rubber Strap.

Released in 1997 as the first Patek Philippe to be fitted with a rubber strap, the Aquanaut 'Jumbo' ref. 5065A is one of the most iconic watches of the 1990s. This ultra sporty Patek is turning 20 this year and we can only hope that Patek Philippe adds a few other references to their Aquanaut lineup at Baselworld 2017. While the Patek Philippe Aquanaut 'Jumbo' ref. 5065A is not the first luxury watch to be equipped with a natural rubber strap —as MDM Genève Hublot was the first one to do so in 1980—, the Aquanaut quickly gained momentum due to its case size, sporty appearance and variety of sizes and movements that were offered at the time.


The History of the Aquanaut

Released in 1997, only a year after the Nautilus celebrated its 20th anniversary, the Aquanaut was originally released in a 1,000-piece limited edition under ref. 5060A —stainless steel— and ref. 5060J —18K yellow gold. At the time both references measured 36 mm in diameter, were powered by the Patek Philippe automatic calibre 330 SC and were fitted with solid case backs rather than with sapphire crystal display case backs. The Patek Philippe Aquanaut blends in a few design cues from the Patek Nautilus line like the octagonal rounded bezel along with its very own 'persona' in a remarkable way that has proven to be a huge success. Immediately after the first reference was released, the Patek Philippe Aquanaut 'Jumbo' ref. 5065 was released with a larger case measuring 38 mm and also available in stainless steel as ref. 5065A and in 18K yellow gold as ref. 5065J. Discontinued a decade later at the end of 2006 and replaced in 2007 by the Aquanaut ref. 5167A we reviewed here, the original Aquanaut was offered in a variety of sizes, references and calibres. For instance, the Aquanaut was also offered in a 'Mid-Size' version —a more wearable size at the time— measuring 36 mm in diameter under ref. 5064A. powered by the Patek Philippe quartz calibre E23 SC.


The Case

Fitted with a satin-brushed finished case with alternating highly polished areas, a slightly rounded satin-brushed bezel, a black 'tropical' rubber strap and a screw-down crown guaranteeing water resistance to 120 meters, the Patek Philippe Aquanaut ref. 5065 was clearly designed in a way where it would be the perfect go-to Patek for water activities —hence its name Aquanaut— and perfectly understated to be worn outside of the boardroom without being too elegant.


The Dial

With its glossy black dial with raised guilloché motif mirroring the texture of its 'tropical' natural rubber strap and applied Arabic numerals, the Patek Philippe Aquanaut ref. 5065 is one of the most sought after watches by watch collectors around the world.

Without compromising the numeral '3' on its dial, the dial layout of the Patek Philippe Aquanaut ref. 5065 is simply perfect and much better than its successor. The numeral ' 3' appears next to the date aperture that almost blends in as another white marker on the dial. Optically, the date aperture seems to have a trapezoid shape due to the position of the markers and the white minute track.

From the dial side, the biggest tell-tale to differentiate the self-winding Patek Philippe ref. 5065A from its quartz counterpart ref. 5064A is that the latter doesn't have the applied numeral '3' next to the date aperture on its dial. From the back side, the 5064A is fitted with a solid case back opposed to a display case back.


The Lume

Along with the Nautilus and just a couple other Patek references like the 5524, the Patek Philippe Aquanaut ref. 5065A is one of the few Pateks that features super bright long lasting luminescent material on its markers and hands. Being the lume lovers we are here at WCL, we can tell you that the luminosity on the Aquanaut is as good as that on a Panerai. Exposing the watch to the slightest variation in lighting conditions makes the lume glow bright as a flashlight.


The Strap

Today, the Aquanaut still remains as the only Patek Philippe offered with a rubber strap as its main strap. The 'tropical' natural rubber strap is very soft and malleable and it features a unique pattern with raised rectangles that gives the watch a totally unique look.

Perhaps the biggest downside to the Aquanaut —yesterday and today— is the need to cut the rubber strap to the exact size of the owner's wrist —a sizing operation that could be quite tricky and that allows no room for error if you cut it too short. When new, the rubber strap measures almost 4 inches on each side and is fastened by a double folding clasp with the iconic Calatrava cross. Now, if you're wondering how much would it cost to replace the strap if you end up cutting it too short or if you find a Patek 5065A with a strap that won't fit you, get ready, you'll need to pay $510 USD for it.


The Movement

While five different calibres have powered the Patek Philippe Aquanaut since 1997 until now, the Patek Philippe Aquanaut ref. 5065A is powered by the automatic calibre 315 SC —also known as 315/290— which was introduced in 1984 and replaced by calibre 324 SC in 2005. This central rotor automatic movement with unidirectional winding, 29 jewels and non-hacking beats at a frequency of 21,600 vph to provide a power reserve of 48 hours when fully wound. This calibre with a thickness of 3.22 mm is thinner than its successor by almost a full millimeter. The movement powering this watch, still bears the Poinçon de Genève —Geneva Seal Certification— that Patek replaced with the Patek Philippe Seal starting in 2009.


On the Wrist & Pricing

A watch that is light as a feather —considering its stainless steel construction— with a total weight of 63.5 grams and perfectly suited for daily wear, the Patek Philippe Aquanaut ref. 5065A is one of our favorite all-time watches out there.

On the wrist, the Patek Philippe Aquanaut ref. 5065A 'Jumbo' wears slightly smaller than 38 mm and more like a 37 mm watch but with iconic wrist presence. A watch coveted by many and hard to find nowadays, the Patek 5065 is one of those watches that should complement every watch collection out there.

Approximate Sticker Price $14,500-$16,000 USD —depending on condition and availability of box and papers. For more info on Patek Philippe click here.