Spotlight will be a segment on The Young Horologists that gives us an opportunity to discuss watches that we see as horological masterpieces that serve very specific and fundamental purposes for watch collectors. Today’s article will be an opportunity to provide my opinion on what I believe to be is the best travel watch made to date. This will be the start of a multi-part series that spotlights, and pays homage to different vintage and modern timepieces.
Patek Philippe - Aquanaut Travel Time 5164A
I’ll start by admitting that I will always have a Patek Philippe bias as they are my favourite manufacture, and that they have not sponsored this article (however, if anyone from Patek is reading this please do feel free to sponsor us – we are ready to sell out at any time).
When the Aquanaut debuted in 1997 I was 2 years old, therefore I cannot provide any substantial opinion on what the watch world’s opinion on it was from that era - but from the first time seeing it I always associated it as the Nautilus’s more sporty younger brother. The reason for this is it had a circular octagon shaped case, and the fundamental differences being the dial design having Arabic numerals and the watch would come with a rubber like strap that is resistant to salt water and UV radiation. Therefore considering the lighter watch weight the Aquanaut wears much better during activity compared to a stainless steel or precious metal Nautilus. The Nautilus definitely serves a better purpose of being a formal or casual wear daily watch as opposed to a timepiece that’s comfortably worn during activity – like when you’re setting aboard your Sunseeker 115 or mopedding to a beach in Thailand (that was me trying to resonate with two very different reader demographics).
I ask myself would I ever take a 5711 or 3700 jumbo (that have respectively tripled in value from its retail price tag) to the ocean, travels or holidays – definitely not. So on a personal level I believe the Aquanaut is a phenomenal travel watch in general whether time only, chronograph or especially the travel time model.
So in 2011, Patek introduced the Travel Time 5164A in stainless steel, and I found it to be the one of the greatest timepieces ever made by them especially for the purpose of travel. Finally this provided a phenomenal opportunity for the Aquanaut to differentiate itself from the Nautilus. The sleek dial design is not much different from the time only with the addition of a date sub dial and two very sleekly presented boxes – one on the left stating “Local” and one on the right stating “Home.” However, do not be fooled by the simple and neatly presented embossed dial as there is a phenomenal time swapping complication powered by a Patek Caliber 324 S C FUS underneath. Caliber 324 S C FUS has 294 different parts and is able to provide the watch with a 45 hour power reserve. The movements complication allows you to see a second-time zone via a fourth hand function. The two boxes on the dial stating “Local” and “Home” allow you to see whether you are reading the local or your home time zone, and the easily adjustable GMT hand is controlled by the pushers on the left side of the watch. Considering the light weight of the watch and case diameter of 40.8mm there is a certain subtleness when wearing the watch which can slide under a shirt, jacket or sweater very comfortably. The easy wear from the comfort of the strap and the dial which wears much smaller than a 40.8mm allows the 5164A to be a very travel friendly watch. The complication allows you to easily illustrate two time zones with more user friendliness in interpreting the time zones because of the dial indications of “Local” and “Home.”
The 5164A has gold applied hour markers with luminescent coating, and the 6 o’clock marker is place to the classic Patek date sub-dial, however, on the 5164A this sub-dial does not crowd out the dial’s design at all. The crown is screw down that sits very thin and comfortably on the wrist as well and makes time zone adjustments much easier during travels. The sapphire crystal case back gives a very aesthetically pleasing view of the movement as well for those who can appreciate that. With 120m water resistance the 5164A serves to be one of the most optimal and functional travel watches made to date.
When considering what the best travel watch is, I always think about the airport and flight experience as well. I think there’s a certain beauty to putting your Aquanaut Travel Time on a security scan tray, and the process is made pleasing by the double folding clasp on the rubber strap which is far easier to put on and off compared to most other watches. The Aquanaut 5164A will always be the ultimate travel watch.