THROUGH THE AGES

Patek Philippe un­veils the lat­est chap­ter in its sto­ried per­pet­ual-cal­en­dar his­tory.

The Peak Selections: Timepieces - - Contents - TEXT LYNETTE KOH

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.

MOD­ERN VIN­TAGE

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.

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