THROUGH THE AGES
Patek Philippe unveils the latest chapter in its storied perpetual-calendar history.
As the 178-year-old creator of many of the world’s most significant timepieces that remain highly covetable today, Patek Philippe has no reason to be hasty when it comes to developing additions to its formidable catalogue. This is why the renowned family-owned manufacture is only now launching a third wholly new perpetual calendar, Ref. 5320 – 24 years after the launch of its last key perpetual calendar model, in a family distinguished by its retrograde date hand indication. Its other perpetual-calendar pillar is the ultra-thin family that shows all calendar indications by hands.
The perpetual calendar, as watch aficionados would know, is one of the most vaunted high complications in horology. These timepieces feature a complex, mechanically programmed calendar – no batteries, no microchips; just wheels, gears and levers – that will accurately track the days, weeks, months and years and automatically take into account irregularities such as shorter months and leap years. If kept wound, they will not require adjustment until 2100, when the leap year is skipped.
According to Deepa Chatrath, general manager of Patek Philippe South-east Asia – the aim of creating the Ref. 5320G (the G refers to the white gold of the watch case) was “to design a new watch that would be attractive to both the younger and older generations”. The solution: Bring together elements both old and new to create what Chatrath describes as a “contemporary vintage” timepiece.
There was certainly no lack of historical inspiration when it came to designing its latest perpetual calendar. After all, the Genevan heritage brand was the creator of the first perpetual calendar wristwatch in 1925 (see sidebar: Journey through Time), and boasts nearly a century of experience in producing these high-complication timepieces.
A closer examination of Ref. 5320G reveals the influences of a number of Patek Philippe’s perpetual calendar timepieces from the mid-20th century – which remain highly sought-after collectors’ models. Set against a retro cream-coloured lacquered surface, the dial of Ref. 5320G reflects the layout of two of the brand’s earliest serially produced perpetual calendar watches, Ref. 1518 (a perpetual calendar with a chronograph) and Ref. 1526 (a pure perpetual calendar model).
Like these predecessors, Ref. 5320G features two apertures at 12 o’clock, showing the day and month; as well as a subdial at six o’clock that displays the analogue date and moon-phases. Affirming Patek’s timeless and subtle approach to design, the new timepiece has two useful yet unobtrusive additional indicators: Two tiny apertures, on either side of the subdial at six o’clock, reveal a day/night indicator and a leap-year display.
Adding a contemporary and even slightly sporty touch to this retro-styled piece are the applied gold Arabic numerals and five-minute cabochons, both of which have luminescent coatings; as well as its Superluminova-filled fine-tipped baton hour and minute hands. Indeed, the hands were inspired by another archival piece, the Ref. 1463 chronograph of the 1950s.
A NEW ENGINE
The face, of course, tells only half the story. While the face of the Ref. 5320G fuses clean elegance with vintage style,
the watch is driven by a modern engine – finished to traditional high-horology standards, of course. Chatrath shares: “The biggest challenge was how to marry the vintage style with the highest level of technology, in order to showcase the knowhow of Patek Philippe.”
This was achieved, thanks to the newly developed Calibre 324 S Q. This new in-house movement is based on Patek Philippe’s automatic base Calibre 324, which is about one-third thicker than its ultra-thin automatic Calibre 240. However, Patek Philippe wanted to keep the Ref. 5320G relatively sleek, in line with its vintage styling. Therefore, the manufacture had to modify the calendar module, which comes from the Ref. 5270 perpetual calendar chronograph, when fitting it to the Calibre 324. The slimmed-down module has allowed the height of the Ref. 5320G to be kept at a reasonably svelte 11.13mm.
Aside from faithfully keeping track of the vagaries of the Gregorian calendar without requiring adjustment for a century, the movement also has a highly precise moonphase that will require adjustment only once every 122 years. (Owners might want to leave a note for the next generation.) Not neglecting the basic goal of timekeeping amid these loftier functions, Ref. 5320G has a maximum rate deviation of just -3 /+2 seconds per day – which makes it more accurate than your average chronometer, in line with the requirements of the Patek Philippe Seal.
Of course, despite its modern workings, including Patek signature innovations such as its Spiromax silicon balance spring, the movement bears traditional fine finishings – as one would expect from the brand. The bridges, for instance, are chamfered and polished, and decorated with Geneva stripes and gold-filled engravings. The tiniest parts are similarly well-finished: The screws feature polished and chamfered slots, and are placed in polished countersinks. And of course, there’s the trademark of this automatic calibre: a large central solidgold rotor, decorated with finishes such as perlage, Geneva circular graining and an engraving of the brand’s signature motif, the Calatrava cross.
IN THE DETAILS
Aside from the dial and the movement, other refined details make the Ref. 5320G a quiet standout, and showcase how current technology has been used to improve on accents inspired by the past.
Consider, for one, the box-form crystal used for the watch, which allows the case middle to be kept slim. A box-form glass has high lateral flanks; its form is like that of a camera lens cover. Chatrath explains: “This is a vintage element often used in the olden days. Formerly, they were made of polymer.” Advancements
have made it possible to use sapphire crystal – instead of easily scratched or cracked polymer – for the box glass, as it is for the watch’s display caseback.
With additional treatment, this box crystal also made it possible to keep the bezel narrow. According to Chatrath, the edge of the glass was metallised so the glass could cover the periphery of the dial – a job typically done by the bezel. A neat sleight of hand. Showing that no detail is too small, the three-tiered lugs of this timepiece take their cues from a 1950s model, the Ref. 2405. It makes for a classical, refined detail that adds to the slim sophistication and modern-vintage feel of this Patek highlight for 2017.
With the Ref. 5320G, Patek Philippe now has three completely different perpetual calendar families, more than nine decades since it created the world’s first perpetual calendar wristwatch. What, we wonder, could be next?
Chatrath offers a tantalising hint as to how the manufacture might take these symbols of eternity into the future: “It would be to combine perpetual calendars with hitherto unseen complications.”
01 The dial side of the 324 S Q movement, showing what lies beneath its various calendar displays. 02 Curved, triple-tier lugs and a slim case middle give the Ref. 5320G an elegant profile.
03 The new Calibre 324 S Q features a calendar module, originally used in a Patek perpetual calendar chronograph, that has been slimmed down.