Patek Philippe Standardizes Water Resistance To 30 Meters Across Its Lineup

Last week, several eagle-eyed Patek Philippe fans noticed that the Aquanaut Travel Time suddenly went from 120m of water resistance to just 30m. I noticed it as I wrote about the 5164G in my Hands-On, but initially, I assumed it was due to the model changing case material from steel to white gold. Then I realized that, no, the same model in rose gold (5164R) used to have 120m water resistance but was now also down to 30m. Looking through the catalog, the same thing has happened to the Nautilus line. From 5990 to 5811, everything had shed 90 meters of water resistance. So what happened? The answer is in a press release from Patek Philippe.
“To ensure the homogeneity and clarity of the information provided to clients, Patek Philippe has decided to introduce a new unified standard of water-resistance set at 30 meters for all watches certified as water-resistant – having been tested in air and underwater by immersion at an overpressure of 3 bars (corresponding to a depth of 30 m),” the press release says.
“This measure makes it possible to guarantee the same performance level across all the models concerned and to provide perfectly comprehensible information as to the day-to-day activities in which clients can engage while wearing their watch: washing their hands, showering, bathing, swimming, and other aquatic activities, including diving to a depth of 30m – which corresponds in large measure to actual utilization.”
While the change was meant to alleviate confusion about what you can and can’t do with your Patek Philippe , the opposite seems to have happened. That’s not surprising; questions about water resistance rarely have clear answers. Any time the topic is mentioned in a story, there’s a decent chance that the comments will erupt into arguments. We covered the topic of water resistance in a past story, but there are no real strict guidelines about what each depth rating can do. Some people would suggest that 30m means you shouldn’t even shower with the watch for fear that the increased force of water splashing at the crown would potentially surpass the rating. Others would say you shouldn’t dive in a watch with only 100m of water resistance – only 200m will do (which is demonstrably not true for recreational divers, who are commonly trained for diving to a maximum depth of 40 meters).

For Patek, this is not a complete revamp across the entire lineup that upgrades cases of their more technical watches. There’s no real engineering change, just a practical (and philosophical) one regarding how Patek pressure tests their watches. Pieces like the ref. 5178G “Cathedral Gongs” minute repeater and the Patek Philippe ref. 6300 Grandmaster Chime haven’t suddenly gone from humidity-proof to swim-ready. Those models have stayed “not water resistant.” I also wouldn’t assume that watches like the inline perpetual calendar ref. 5326P is now great for skin-diving up to 30m. Though technically, Patek has explicitly said that’s okay. But if you read between the lines, the final sentence implies they know that Patek watches aren’t the most useful for diving (the brand does not produce a dive watch), so the new ratings align with how their watches are actually used.

As someone who has long dreamt about an Patek Philippe Aquanaut ref. 5164A, this change is certainly interesting in light of the years-long debate about water resistance in watches holistically. While my first inclination would never have been to take an Aquanaut or Nautilus diving, there was something comforting in knowing that, even if I got the watch and took it in the pool, I had 20 times more water resistance than I needed. For many people, water resistance ratings mean peace of mind. In this case, while the number is now lower, I can’t imagine how it will change the way you use your Patek around water – unless you’ve simply got to go deeper than 30m – at which point we’ll just need to convince Patek to make a dive watch.