The times are a changing (pun intended) with Patek Philippe releasing their first unisex timepiece, the Aquanaut Luce Annual Calendar 5261R-. This unexpected blend of women's and men's designs, coupled with a brand-new movement and a versatile case size, caters to wrists of any size. While the interpretation of the unisex design may vary, the result is one of the most well-balanced Patek Philippe Aquanauts to date.
Encased in 4N rose gold, the reference 5261R-001 features a 39.5mm case that showcases the automatic annual calendar in-house Caliber 26-330 S QA LU. The case design, with its combination of brushed and polished finishing, follows the Aquanaut line's signature style, which is also evident in the Nautilus collection. The dial and rubber strap introduce a new primary color for Patek Philippe: a matte-cloudy blue-gray that shifts between pale sky blue and muted gray, depending on the lighting conditions.
The unconventional pairing of blue-gray with 4N rose gold, a shade slightly more yellow than the standard 5N rose gold, aligns with the intentional non-gender-specific approach of the Aquanaut. Surprisingly, this color combination works harmoniously, resulting in a modern and elegant timepiece. Normally, Patek Philippe reserves specific precious metals for particular collections, employing 5N rose gold for men's watches and 4N rose gold for women's watches. However, upon examining the new releases alongside the 5N rose gold models, it becomes apparent that the choice of a more yellow-tone gold case was indeed the right one.
The Aquanaut line welcomes its first annual calendar movement, the in-house Caliber 26-330 S QA LU, which is visible through the sapphire caseback. This movement introduces a simple twist to the movement architecture, repositioning the calendar module to achieve a nearly symmetrical display. The moon phase is prominently displayed at 12 o'clock, showcasing a deep midnight navy disc adorned with a powdered-gold moon and star inlay.
The calendar functions, including the moon phase, are adjusted through inset pushers on the side of the case. However, this arrangement is a drawback of the new Aquanaut, as it limits water resistance. Patek Philippe has successfully implemented this technical feature in the new Calatrava Travel Time, providing both impressive technical and functional aspects. The Cal. 26-330 S QA LU tracks the number of days in each month and requires adjustment only once a year at the end of February, thanks to the annual calendar gearing.
Positioned below the moon phase complication, slightly below the midline of the dial, are two snailed subdials indicating the day of the week and month at 3 and 9 o'clock, respectively. The orientation of the text on these subdials alternates between the upper and lower portions, enhancing legibility. These subdials are surrounded by two deeply engraved channels that unveil the solid-gold dial beneath.
The hands and applied numerals on the dial create a high-contrast combination of white luminous material and 18k rose gold, resulting in one of the most luminous dials from Patek Philippe. While we were unable to provide a lume shot during our meeting with Patek Philippe at Watches & Wonders, the brand's provided image in the gallery below showcases the luminosity.
True to the Aquanaut collection, the watch comes with a fitted rubber strap, embossed with the grid pattern found on the dial, between the 21mm lugs. However, the new Aquanaut 5261R-001 introduces a unique mix and match that sets it apart from other models in the collection. The strap's embossing resembles the traditional women's Aquanaut pattern rather than accurately matching the dial, which features a borderless flat grid texture from the men's Aquanaut collection. This subtle variation went unnoticed initially but was later clarified by the brand, stating that the intentionally unisex Aquanaut Luce 5261R-001 combines the most balanced features from each gender's standard model, resulting in a watch that exudes both masculine and feminine characteristics on the wrist.
When worn, the Aquanaut Luce Annual Calendar 5261R-001 provides a luxurious experience. The case's gentle curve perfectly embraces the wrist, appearing custom-designed for each individual. Despite its 10.94mm thickness, it sits even lower, giving it a slimmer profile. With a width of 39.9mm and a lug-to-lug distance of 47.35mm, it may seem smaller than the 42mm men's counterpart. However, this is a matter of perception, as it is not a small watch but rather a substantial timepiece.
Combining carefully selected features from both the men's and women's Aquanauts, along with a striking new color and a radiant warm 4N rose-gold case, the new Patek Philippe Aquanaut Luce Annual Calendar stands out amidst the plethora of high complications and artistic creations unveiled at Watches and Wonders 2023. Besides being the first annual calendar in the Aquanaut line, it marks the first intentional gender-neutral watch created by the brand.
Patek Philippe is not the only brand to embrace this inclusive trend, allowing watch collectors to choose timepieces based on personal preference rather than being limited by traditional gender categorizations. While the blue-gray and rose gold combination may not appeal to everyone, the elegant and legible layout of the new annual calendar movement ensures its continued presence in various forms. MSRP is expectedly high at $61,506 USD.