STEEL RULES

Patek Philippe’s An­nual Cal­en­dar Chrono­graph Ref. 5960 now comes ex­clu­sively in stain­less steel with a match­ing bracelet, sub­sti­tut­ing all pre­vi­ous pre­cious metal mod­els – a move that caught even the brand’s more cult fol­low­ers by sur­prise.

Plaza Watch International - - Steel Rules - WORDS Y-JEAN MUN-DEL­SALLE IL­LUS­TRA­TION FILIPPA BR AGE

Hav­ing pre­miered in 2006, the An­nual Cal­en­dar Chrono­graph Ref. 5960 was Patek Philippe’s very first au­to­matic chrono­graph – a sig­nif­i­cant achieve­ment for the brand – and quickly be­came highly cov­eted among col­lec­tors. Its rather un­usual mono-counter chrono­graph and an­nual cal­en­dar dis­play in three large win­dows set a new style. At first avail­able ex­clu­sively in plat­inum, which meant that only the most af­flu­ent cus­tomers could af­ford it, sub­se­quent mod­els ap­peared in rose gold, with dif­fer­ent di­als. Now the Man­u­fac­ture con­founds ex­pec­ta­tions with its bold decision an­nounced at Baselworld 2014, that it would no longer be mak­ing this much soughtafter time­piece in plat­inum or gold.

While it’s not un­com­mon for Patek Philippe to cease pro­duc­tion of a popular ref­er­ence, the fact that it’s re­plac­ing it by a stain­less steel model is. This is be­cause it almost ex­clu­sively uses gold and plat­inum when it comes to its more com­pli­cated time­pieces. With very few ex­cep­tions – such as the ul­tra-thin Ref. 5950A split-seconds chrono­graph – all other Patek Philippe men’s wrist­watches have been sys­tem­at­i­cally cased in gold or plat­inum. The launch of the Ref. 5960/1A there­fore marks one of the Man­u­fac­ture’s very few steel clas­sic mod­els with com­pli­ca­tions out­side its sports watch col­lec­tions. And hav­ing a match­ing steel bracelet is even less common.

Whereas Patek’s Ref. 1463 chrono­graph in

“The aim when re­vis­it­ing the de­sign of this suc­cess­ful model was to work on a dial that would of­fer a new con­tem­po­rary style with per­fect read­abil­ity of the in­di­ca­tions, so there was a lot of de­tailed work to reach the unique tri- di­men­sional con­trasted de­sign.”

steel and the mod­ern Ref. 5004 split-seconds chrono­graph with per­pet­ual cal­en­dar in steel are rare and valu­able, the brand’s his­tory of mak­ing se­rial-pro­duc­tion watches in steel lies prin­ci­pally within its Nau­tilus and Aqua­naut fam­i­lies. By dis­con­tin­u­ing the Ref. 5960’s pre­cious metal edi­tions, those who al­ready own one of the ini­tial pieces can be as­sured that it will surely in­crease in value over time, and for Patek, it has gained new au­di­ences by giv­ing those for whom the time­piece was pre­vi­ously priced out of their reach the chance to own one of its com­pli­ca­tions. The use of steel and the colour com­bi­na­tion ren­ders the watch sportier (un­usual for a ref­er­ence that is or­di­nar­ily more for­mal) and gives it a younger, fresher ap­peal, while still re­tain­ing its un­der­stated el­e­gance; it can be worn for any oc­ca­sion, from morn­ing to evening. Not only will it catch the at­ten­tion of watch lovers in gen­eral, but it’s also a way to at­tract some of Patek’s younger col­lec­tors away from the Nau­tilus and Aqua­naut col­lec­tions to draw them to the brand’s more tra­di­tional lines.

A New In­ter­pre­ta­tion

Patek Philippe’s Pres­i­dent, Thierry Stern, ex­plains the idea be­hind the Ref. 5960/1A, “When the An­nual Cal­en­dar Chrono­graph first launched in 2006, it was an in­stant suc­cess in terms of style and be­cause it was in­tro­duc­ing the man­u­fac­ture’s first self-wind­ing chrono­graph. The new Ref. 5960/1A is an evo­lu­tion that I wanted to re­visit in a more con­tem­po­rary style, a more sportivelook­ing, every­day wear watch, with a strik­ing, dy­namic-look­ing dial and the choice of steel, so it’s aimed at new younger clients, but of course the model was very well re­ceived by our es­tab­lished clients. In fact, it was the same as when we launched the Aqua­naut in 1997: it was cre­ated for new younger clients, but it was so suc­cess­ful among our es­tab­lished clients that it took a cer­tain time to reach new clients. We work on de- sign­ing time­less evo­lu­tions, but we also need to sur­prise and bring nov­elty to our clients and catch the in­ter­est of new gen­er­a­tions of clients. Most im­por­tantly, our watches have to be el­e­gant; the de­sign must re­flect the Patek Philippe DNA.”

As­so­ci­at­ing a pre­vi­ously ig­nored ma­te­rial – even or­di­nary steel – to a flag­ship model al­lows it to gain in de­sir­abil­ity and can con­trib­ute to in­creas­ing its value. Con­se­quently, com­pli­cated Patek watches in steel tend to be very valu­able. Stern says, “Patek Philippe’s stain­less steel watches have al­ways ranked among the most de­sir­able time­pieces be­cause they were crafted only in small num­bers, so the aim was to re­visit a suc­cess­ful com­pli­ca­tion model and strengthen its de­sir­abil­ity by com­bin­ing a strong de­sign, strong type of com­pli­ca­tion with steel – a win­ning mix for our es­tab­lished clients and for new clients.”

But why walk away from a good thing? After all, the pre­cious metal mod­els of an ex­tremely mod­ern and im­por­tant cal­en­dar-chrono­graph in the company’s his­tory are still very much in de­mand and Patek could have con­tin­ued sell­ing them, while in­tro­duc­ing its stain­less steel vari­a­tion. Per­haps this hints at the up­com­ing launch of a re­place­ment model in a pre­cious metal, es­pe­cially as Patek turns 175 this year, with cel­e­bra­tions that have been seven years in the plan­ning.

The Ref. 5960/1A is truly a time­piece that no­body ex­pected, but that ev­ery­one will wish they had. The 5960P was the orig­i­nal plat­inum ver­sion, the 5960R in rose gold and now the 5960/1A. The “1” means it’s on a Patek “drop” links bracelet, and the “A” stands for “acier”, French for “steel”. Just last year, the brand had in­tro­duced the 5960P with a black dial, re­plac­ing the orig­i­nal model with a grey dial. Able to au­to­mat­i­cally dis­tin­guish be­tween months that are 30 and 31 days long, an­nual cal­en­dars only re­quire man­ual cor­rec­tion once per year, on the 1st of March, and they are less com­pli­cated and less

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