Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time Advanced Research 5650G-001

There’s a well-known saying circulating in both life and on the internet.
Five very simple words that are dripping in modern wisdom - 

F around and find out. 

We could summarise Patek Philippe’s “Advanced Research” project with this description, but that wouldn’t make for a very long discussion, so here we go. 

Patek Philippe was founded in 1839 so although not the oldest brand (that belongs to Blancpain, founded almost a century earlier) it is certainly one of the seniors. 

It has over 70 patents under its belt, 20 of which are considered groundbreaking.
The first self-winding mechanism, the first perpetual calendar wristwatch, the first world timer, and the first split-seconds chronograph.

The first wristwatch, full stop.

They are at the top of their game and you don’t become one of the holy trinity of horological brands without good reason. 

That said, with the slogan “You never actually own a Patek Philippe, you merely look after it for the next generation” combined with its advertising images of preppy looking man and cub doing lovely father and son things such as sailing, driving classic cars, leaning wistfully, and reading massive books while wearing suit jackets and crisp white shirts, they’re also synonymous with tradition and perhaps, if one was inclined to be critical, a little stuffy. 

I like to think of the Advanced Research Project of what father gets up to with his mates and a few beers once the little one has been safely tucked up in bed. 

Others may consider this to be an absolutely appalling analogy.

Patek was part of a cooperative consortium of brands (including Rolex and Swatch Group) that were looking into silicone components for use in watchmaking. 

Development was conducted at the Centre Suisse d’Electronique et Microtechnique (CSEM) with the consortium underwriting (funding) the research. 

Launched in 2005 as an expansion of their involvement with CSEM, Patek’s “in-house” Advanced Research Project is dedicated to innovation in watchmaking. 

They team up with external brains like electricians, physicists, micro-engineers, and in the case of fine-tuning their minute repeaters - acousticians. 

As well as CSEM, they have partnered with the Geneva School Of Engineering, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, The University of Neuchatel (pronounced nuh-chatel), and COMLAB. 

The partnerships have had one goal in mind - to find, test, develop and implement new materials and technology in watchmaking while maintaining absolute accuracy and efficiency. 

So far, the Advanced Research Project has produced six models. 

2005 - The 5250, a white gold annual calendar showcasing a new escape wheel made from “Silinvar” which is a contraction of SILicone and INVARiable, an iron-nickel alloy which defies temperature fluctuations. The resulting pairing is lightweight, antimagnetic and lubricant-free. Limited to 100 pieces. 

2006 - The 5350, a rose gold annual calendar with a “Spiromax" balance spring made from Silinvar. Going forward, the Spiromax spring becomes integrated into many Patek movements as since it is partially silicone, wear and tear is hugely reduced. Limited to 300 pieces. 

2008 - The 5450, is a platinum annual calendar with a “Pulsomax” escapement which comprises both the Spiromax spring and a ruby-free Silinvar pallet fork. This combination increases efficiency by 15%. Limited to 300 pieces. 

2011 - The 5550, ARP’s first perpetual calendar in platinum uses the “Oscillomax” ensemble which comprises of the Pulsomax escapement, Spiromax spring, and introduces the GyromaxSi balance made of Silinvar and 24-carat gold. Limited to 300 pieces. 

Fortunately, it is at this point in the timeline that everythingmax comes to an end, which lowers the level of confusion, but in a nutshell - Pulsomax + Spiromax + GyromaxSi = Oscillomax = increased power reserve, decreased wear and tear and took a few years of tinkering to master the full shebang. 

2017 - The 5650G, ARP’s first “sports” model, a white gold Aquanaut Travel Time using Spiromax and a brand new “compliant mechanism” for the Travel Time feature. Limited to 500 pieces. 

2021 - The 5750P, a platinum minute repeater which uses the “Fortissimo” module which is an entirely sound amplifying system which gives excellent acoustic quality regardless of the metal used to house it. Limited to 15 pieces.

Today we’re going to get up close and personal with Patek’s 5th Advance Research model, the Aquanaut Travel Time. 

As we know, getting hold of Patek's Nautilus and Aquanaut models is hard. It’s even harder to get hold of Advanced Research models due to their highly limited nature, and the fact they are offered only the most trusted clientele.

Combine an Aquanaut with Advanced research and you have a concise explanation of why a watch that retailed to Patek’s inner circle at $58,970 dollars saw a market peak at close to half a million. 

They never really owned it, merely looked after it for around 440k USD ;-) 

What a watch it is though, my absolute grail and if I were to be a “one watch forever” type, this would be it. 

To quickly recap - Released in 2017, 500 pieces, white gold, the 5th Advance Research model. 

It's very sensibly sized at just under 41mm (40.8 to be exact) so sits and fits well on most wrists and has a lug width of 21mm. Not the easiest for aftermarket straps but in truth, it looks just perfect on its matching night blue geosphere rubber so I wouldn’t change anything there which is high praise from one who is a bit of a menace for experimenting. 

120 metres of water resistance as it's an Aquanaut after all.

The “Travel Time” feature is operated using the pushers on the left-hand side of the case rather than by the crown (as per Rolex GMT’s etc) 

The top pusher moves the local time hour hand backwards, the bottom pusher flicks it forward revealing the “Home Time” hand so you can set the local time and display both zones. 

When you’re not using the travel time function, the home hand is completely hidden underneath the hour hand which declutters the dial.

Speaking of the dial, it is just glorious with the usual aquanaut geosphere design rendered in fume blue which is darker around the edge becoming lighter towards the hand stack. It has a lovely radiance as the watch moves on the wrist. 

Patek has added a cut-out to the dial in order to showcase the “compliant mechanism” which is one of two Advanced Research elements in the watch, the other being a modified Spiromax hairspring which gives this Aquanaut an accuracy of -2 to +1 seconds per day, tourbillon territory. 

The Travel Time Compliant Mechanism does away with conventional gears and pivots and uses “flexible articulations” instead, which is fancy-speak to describe four bendy steel springs used to operate the mechanism that advances and reverses the hour hand rather than anything jewelled or high maintenance. 

Basically, the Advanced Research Department has taken a mechanism that usually uses 37 individual parts, magicked it, and produced a new 12-part unit that reduces wear, doesn’t require lubrication, and is very easy to deal with at service time. 

I’m aware that I’ve simplified it all, but if you study the fit and tolerances of the springs, they are absolutely minute. It is a feat of complete precision and zero friction. 

Usually, I’m not a fan of “open heart” dials. 

With the exception of tourbillons, the peepshow rarely showcases anything interesting to me so I prefer the all-or-nothing approach. This is my exception to the rule though as I love being able to see the compliant mechanism at work. It’s something I’ve never seen before, and it's VERY SATISFYING to click backwards and forwards while watching the springs do their thing. 

It is also completely hand-finished so whoever got that labour of love deserves to see their work enjoyed. 

My admiration for this piece aside, It’s definitely a Marmite watch. 

Patek traditionalists had absolute conniptions when a sports model with a cut-out dial marauded onto the scene in a very marked departure from previous Advanced Research fare, which although innovative, was still presented with the level of restraint perfectly suited to cups of tea and leafy walks. 

The 2017 Advanced Research Aquanaut shook things up, not just because of its lairy porthole, but because for just one moment, it looked like daddy’s boy had sacked off his homework in favour of playing Grand Theft Auto and listening to Drake. 

It’s completely brilliant. 

Unfortunately, one of the side effects of such an achievement has been that those who are fond of nicknaming everything ranging from their reproductive organs to watches have decided to call it “The Terminator” 

Considering that the Advanced Research Department has not yet partnered with SkyNet, I really wish they wouldn't.