A Feminine Look at the Aquanaut Luce Annual Calendar.
During Watches & Wonders 2023, Patek Philippe copy launched a 39.9 mm rose gold Aquanaut Luce Ref. 5261R with a patented annual calendar mechanism. As the first Aquanaut to feature an annual calendar complication, Patek Philippe’s press materials firmly positioned the watch as the Aquanaut Luce, the ladies’ version of the Aquanaut line. A far cry from some of the brand’s more feminine watches of smaller sizes, muted colors and diamonds, today I’ll explain why I think the Aquanaut Luce 5261R is a great watch for women who love a big sports watch with horological content. A particularly attractive watch, but also why ignoring its appeal to men would be a huge mistake.
Patek Philippe woman
Patek Philippe is generally regarded as the supplier of the finest men’s watches in Switzerland and the pioneer of complication combinations. But that statement isn’t entirely accurate: Patek Philippe is Switzerland’s premier producer of watches for men and women, and has catered to men and women since its founding in 1839.
Don’t be misled; Patek Philippe and women’s history goes back a long way, well over a century before launching a dedicated Twenty~4 women’s collection in 1999. Files held by Patek, Czapek & Cie. show that One of the fledgling brand’s first customers was Mrs. Goscinska, who purchased three timepieces in 1839. Queen Victoria was also attracted to Patek Philippe’s creations and chose a pocket watch equipped with the brand’s innovative keyless winding system of 1851 (invented by partner Jean Adrien Philippe). Another client was Countess Koscowicz of Hungary, who commissioned the brand’s first wristwatch in 1868. Breaking with the tradition of wearing the timepiece as a pendant, she tied a gold Antoni Patek bracelet around her wrist to admire the delicate rectangular hinged case, which is set with a miniature diamond baguette movement. Interestingly, although these timepieces are beautifully decorated, they convey real horological content for women.
Entering the 20th century, in 1916, Patek Philippe launched the first women’s complication wristwatch – No. 174 603 – equipped with a sophisticated five-repeater mechanism. In 2009, it launched a women’s copy watch with built-in manual column wheel chronograph movement CH 29-535 PS (Ref. 7071, updated to Ref. 7150 in 2018). Just two years later, Ref. launched three ultra-thin high-complication women’s watches. 7000 minute repeater, Ref. 7059 monopusher split-seconds chronograph and perpetual calendar Ref. 7140.
While I appreciate gem-set and high-level craftsmanship watches, I am very excited about the 2018 launch of the Calatrava Pilot Travel Time 7234 ladies’ watch (see below). Not only does it boast a useful GMT complication, but the watch’s bold and unprecedented retro spirit is a breath of fresh air in a world of Amelia Earharts looking for a sporty unisex pilot’s watch with a diameter that won’t overwhelm the wrist.
Aquanaut Luce, released earlier this year, elicited exactly the same reaction. Like the Calatrava Pilot Travel Time, it avoids the stereotype of a women’s watch. With its diameter of 39.9mm, the Aquanaut Lucre Annual Calendar is the largest model in the collection and definitely stands out. All other Aquanaut Luce models currently in the collection – except the Ref. 7968 Rainbow Chronograph – are 38.8mm and 35.6mm in diameter. Interestingly, four of the nine Aquanaut Luce references are still powered by quartz, and eight are gem-set.
As the only non-diamond-set watch, the rose gold Aquanaut Luce Annual Calendar perfectly interprets the Aquanaut’s sporty design. Released in 1997, Aquanaut relies heavily on the design code of Gerald Genta’s Nautilus, and is often referred to as Nautilus Jr. Aimed at the younger dot.com generation, the Aquanaut has a less complicated case, but features an eight-sided satin-brushed bezel with a stylish tropical rubber strap that complements the raised guilloché checkerboard pattern on the dial. The Aquanaut Luce for Women was added to the collection in 2004 with quartz and mechanical movements. You can read all about the origin and evolution of the Aquanaut line in our two-part series.
The case in 18k rose gold measures 39.9mm from 10 o’clock to 4 o’clock, is 10.94mm thick and has a lug-to-lug spacing of 47.35mm. To accentuate the shape of the round octagonal bezel, it is finished with a vertical satin-brushed finish and a wide polished bevel, the same finish being used throughout the case. A flat sapphire crystal sets the dial and screw-down case back, and Aquanaut’s signature crown guard sits on the crown at 3 o’clock. However, water resistance is down from the Aquanaut’s usual 120 meters to just 30 meters thanks to four recessed buttons in the case band for adjusting the calendar. Not a deal breaker given the series’ sportsmanship, but a bit disappointing.
Marking the first annual calendar in the Aquanaut collection, the new Ref. 5261 is a purebred Patek Philippe product. Invented and patented by Patek Philippe in 1996, the annual calendar complication is more robust than a perpetual calendar, more complicated than a full calendar, and only needs to be corrected once a year, at the end of the erratic February. Although this was the first annual calendar for the Aquanaut, the complication was used in the sporty Nautilus Ref. 5726.
Blue dials are a dime a dozen, but Patek Philippe has a beautiful matte blue-gray dial that pairs especially well with rose gold. Reminiscent of the sky before a storm, blue-gray is a smart choice; it’s neither masculine nor feminine, but a captivating color that appeals to both men and women. Against the background of the iconic grenade pattern on the dial, the calendar function is intuitively displayed in two horizontal sub-dials (month at 9 o’clock and weekday at 3 o’clock) and a date aperture at 6 o’clock. However, this display is different from other Patek Philippe annual calendars. This is because the annual calendar module inside the movement has been inverted, which means that the moon phase is now displayed at noon and the date at 6 o’clock.
Patek Philippe’s new automatic movement with central rotor in 21k gold – Caliber 26-330 S QA LU – based on the Caliber 26-330 launched in 2019 in the Calatrava weekly calendar (ref. 5212A), with annual calendar with moon phases module. Equipped with Patek Philippe’s patented Gryromax balance wheel and Spiromax hairspring, the vibration frequency is 28,800vph, and the power reserve is between 35 and 45 hours. The movement also features a stop-seconds function that sets the time to the nearest second. Decorated with the Patek Philippe Seal standard, the exquisite decoration can be admired through the sapphire case back. The watch comes with a matching grey-blue Aquanaut composite rubber strap with a patented rose gold folding clasp and four separate buckles.
The Aquanaut Luce Annual Calendar is dual-faced and proudly flies a unisex flag. However, be wary of potential customers, especially women, who might consider buying it without trying it on. While the gentle curves of the case ensure the watch sits flush with the wrist and below its 10.94mm height, it’s a bit on the large side for women with slender wrists. Instead, it’s the perfect size for men who prefer a more compact watch. To give you an idea, our photos were taken on Brice’s tiny 16.5cm wrist. I have a smaller wrist at 16cm and this watch has a lot of presence, but combined with the heft of the solid gold case, that’s what I like.
Still, I’m not sure the vast majority of women will appreciate the size of this model, unless, like me, they like big, heavy unisex watches with solid horological content. It makes you wonder why Patek Philippe decided to include it in the women’s Aquanaut Luce rather than the men’s Aquanaut collection. In fact, I predict that Ref. 5261R-001 will end up appearing more on male wrists than female wrists. The 30m water resistance is a bit disappointing given the Aquanaut’s sporty allure, but for many, the annual calendar complication is worth the restriction.
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS – PATEK PHILIPPE AQUANAUT LUCE ANNUAL CALENDAR 5261R-001
Case: 39.9mm diameter (10 o’clock to 4 o’clock orientation) x 10.94mm thick (47.35mm lug to lug, 21mm width between lugs) – 18k rose gold, brushed and polished – case strap 4 recessed buttons in the center to adjust the calendar function – sapphire crystal front and back – 30 meters water resistance
Dial: Blue-gray embossed Aquanaut motif – 18k rose gold Arabic numerals, 18k rose gold hour and minute hands and minute track markers treated with white luminescent coating – 18k white gold baton day and month hands with luminescent coating – Central seconds Pfinodal luminescent mechanism – Day of the week at 3 o’clock, month at 9 o’clock, date at 6 o’clock, moon phase display at noon
Movement: Caliber 26-330 S QA LU – Manufacture self-winding movement based on Caliber 26-330 with annual calendar module with moon phases – 30mm x 5.32mm – 319 parts, 34 jewels – 21k gold Rotor – Gyromax Balance, Spiromax Balance Spring – 28,800vph/4Hz – Power Reserve Min 35 Hours – Max 45 Hours – Stop Seconds – Patek Philippe Seal
Strap: Slate gray composite with Aquanaut pattern – Patented Patek Philippe 18k rose gold folding clasp with 4 buckles