This has not been a vintage year for innovation and advancement from many major watch brands, but Patek Philippe is the exception, using its 180th anniversary year to launch some genuinely new movements and timepieces alongside updates to its most popular models. In a bite-sized review of the 2019 novelties, Tom Mulraney, publisher and editor of The Watch Lounge, runs through the magnificent seven models launched this year.
Patek Philippe may be celebrating its 180th birthday this year, and the last of the family-owned Geneva watch manufacturers still has plenty of surprises in store. Offering a carefully curated mix of innovation and refinement, this year’s novelties are sure to impress even the most discerning of aficionados. Interesting and unexpected models, like the Alarm Travel Time Ref 5520P-01 and Calatrava Annual Calendar Ref 5212A-001 have captured our imaginations.
While well-executed aesthetic updates to established models see us revisiting some perennial favorites. In total, 18 new models are joining the various collections this year. These are our seven that caught our eye for 2019.
First up is the Alarm Travel Time Ref 5520P Grande Complication, one of the most hotly debated releases of 2019. Impressively complex yet polarizing in design, it has split opinion across the industry. Much like the Calatrava Pilot Travel Time Ref 5524 did upon its unveiling in 2015. At the time, critics simply couldn’t wrap their heads around this very “un-Patek” Patek.
Four years on, however, the model is now a core part of the Calatrava collection. So much so that a second version – the Calatrava Pilot Travel Time Ref. 7234R Lady – made its debut last year to rave reviews.
With the Ref 5520P, Patek Philippe pushes the boundaries even further, both technically and aesthetically. Following five years of research and development, a new alarm mechanism has been developed and combined with the Travel Time’s two-time-zone arrangement. Rather than putting the alarm module on top of an existing caliber, however, the decision was taken to develop an entirely new integrated movement specifically for this watch. Unusually for a grande complication, logical operation and ease of use were stated as top priorities in its design and construction.
The result is the self-winding caliber AL 30-660 S C FUS, comprised of 574 parts, including Patek’s patented Gyromax® balance equipped with a Spiromax® balance spring made of Silinvar®. Four patent applications have been made relating to the development of the 24-hour alarm mechanism. These include:
• An anti-backlash mechanism for programming the alarm time, which offsets mechanical play making it possible to set the alarm strike with one-minute accuracy to the next quarter hour. For instance, at 12:14, the alarm can be set to 12:15;
• The alarm logic functions;
• The digital alarm display; and
• The alarm winding deactivation, which deactivates the alarm spring winding device when the alarm display shows ON.
As with the date, the 24-hour alarm is coupled with the local time display, making it easy to correctly set wherever you find yourself in the world. When the alarm is triggered, a hammer (visible through the display back) strikes a gong that circles the movement.
The striking continues for up to 40 seconds at a frequency of 2.5 Hz (2.5 strikes per second), or about 90 strikes in total. A centrifugal governor ensures a regular and sustained striking cadence. Power is provided to the alarm mechanism via a separate spring barrel that is tensioned with a crown at 4 o’clock. A built-in clutch prevents inadvertent overtightening.
Presented in a 42.2 mm case hewn from platinum, the Ref 5520P is surprisingly slim at 11.57 mm. The case is cold-formed with a high-tonnage press from a blank in platinum, followed by precision machining and elaborate polishing in-house. It’s worth noting here that this is Patek Philippe’s first chiming timepiece with a water-resistant case. To assure maximum sound quality, the gong for the alarm is attached directly to the caseband instead of the movement.
For the display, Patek Philippe has chosen a sunburst ebony black dial, similar in design to the earlier Ref 5524. The digital alarm indicator appears just below 12 o’clock. The 24-hour alarm can be set in 15-minute increments and has its own day/night indicator just underneath the apertures. A small, alarm-bell shaped cut-out provides a quick visual indicator of whether the alarm has been set or not; white for ON and black for OFF.
Adjusting and setting all the functions is done via the crown at 4 o’clock and the three additional pushers. There’s also a corrector for the date between 6 and 7 o’clock. All three pushers are fitted with Patek’s patented Interlock safety system. This means that before a pusher can be actuated, it must be unlocked with a quarter turn. A quarter turn in the opposite direction locks the pusher again. No doubt a very impressive watch technically but it may take collectors some time to make their minds up about its aesthetic design.
Moving on to something a little more conventional but no less intriguing, we turn our attention to the Calatrava Weekly Calendar Ref 5212A. Channelling that retro vibe that is so en vogue right now, this is one seriously good-looking watch. From the sector dial to the “handwritten” style font and the unexpected – but not unwelcomed – steel case, this is surely one of the most interesting and appealing Calatrava watches in recent memory. In addition to the time, the dial displays the months and corresponding week numbers, along with the day and date. All in an easy to read and enjoyable to look at format.
The design is inspired in part by the one-of-a-kind Ref 2512 from 1955 that now sits on display in the Patek Philippe Museum. Its complex two-tiered lug construction has been recreated on the Ref 5212A to stunning effect. Likewise, the baton-style indices on the dial are very similar to the vintage model’s facetted baton markers. In reference to the influence the Ref 2512 has had, the reference number of the new model incorporates the same numbers, just arranged in a different order.
Inside is a completely new self-winding movement, Caliber 26-330 S C J SE. It’s equipped with a semi-integrated calendar mechanism responsible for indicating the current week number, in addition to the day and date. The development of this mechanism (comprised of 92 parts) has resulted in the filing of two patents; one for the 24-hour finger (with its own return spring) driving the day of week mechanism, and a second one for the weekly calendar drive mechanism, which causes the week number hand to advance every Monday.
Another new addition this year, and one that is sure to be high on the list for collectors, is the Chronograph Ref 5172G. The successor to the popular Ref 5170, Patek Philippe has given its manual wind chronograph a stylish makeover with subtle vintage notes.
The 18k white gold case is larger than its predecessor’s at 41mm in diameter and boasts eye-catching three-tier lugs and round guilloched pushers. The dial also gets a new look with a blue background and contrast luminescent white gold applied Arabic numerals and hands. It’s protected by a sapphire-crystal “box” glass, another vintage touch. Inside is the same superb manual-wind Caliber CH 29-535 PS, its exceptional finishing on display through the sapphire caseback.
Attention has also been given to the sportier Nautilus and Aquanaut collections this year. The Nautilus Annual Calendar Ref 5726/1A gets an attractive gradient blue dial – something of a hallmark of the Nautilus collection. The white gold “Jumbo” Aquanaut Ref 5168G meanwhile is now resplendent in khaki green. It’s a bold choice but one that really works.
We turn our focus now to some of this year’s new ladies’ models, and once again there is a lot to love. Following hot on the heels of the success the Twenty~4 Automatic collection, Patek Philippe introduces a rose gold Haute Joaillerie model. The dial, bezel, crown and bracelet of the Twenty~4 Automatic Haute Joaillerie Ref 7300/1450R are paved with diamonds presented in a “random” or “snow” setting. It’s an absolutely dazzling sight to behold.
In the Ladies Nautilus collection, five new models join the line-up, three in steel and two in rose gold. The steel models – Nautilus Ref 7118/1200A – introduce a slightly larger case diameter (35.2 mm instead of 33.6 mm) as well as three new dial colors. They are blue opaline, silvery opaline and gray opaline, the last of which grades to black at the periphery. All are framed by a bezel set with 56 diamonds (approx. 0.67 ct.). The matching steel bracelets are endowed with a new fold-over clasp with an integrated adjustment system. This provides the wearer with between 2 and 4 mm of extra bracelet length for increased comfort.
The case size of the rose gold variations – Ref 7118/1R – are likewise 35.2mm. Two dial colors are available, silvery opaline and golden opaline. Unlike the steel models though, both feature plain bezels. This serves to keep the focus on the opulent dials, which will no doubt prove to be a popular decision.
All in all, it’s been another strong showing at Baselworld for Patek Philippe this year with enough variety to please just about everyone. As always, we anticipate demand will far exceed supply.
Author Credit: Tom Mulraney is publisher and editor of The Watch Lounge.