Its list of famous fans include rock stars Eric Clapton and John Lennon, as well as royalty (Egypt’s King Farouk, Romania’s King Michael). It has attained record-breaking prices at auction – a platinum-cased edition belonging to Clapton went under the hammer for 3.44 million Swiss francs (S$4.69 million) in 2012. We are talking, of course, about Patek Philippe’s perpetual calendar chronograph, a family of watches that proves, definitively, that all watch complications are not created equal.
In the realm of haute horlogerie, the perpetual calendar – with its ability to automatically keep track of differing month lengths and leap years – is one of the most desirable high complications. Combine it with the chronograph, one of the world’s most popular functions, and you get the perpetual calendar chronograph – the most sought- after and collectible of which are made by Patek Philippe. The Genevan manufacture has dominated this niche since 1941, when it created the first serially produced perpetual calendar chronograph, Ref. 1518.
The watches tend to leave a lasting impression on collectors and connoisseurs: Jeremy Lim, chief operating officer of Cortina Watch – a long-time retail partner of Patek Philippe – remembers how one of those watches made an impact on him as an 18-year-old helping out in the family-owned business in the 1980s. “I was working at the Raffles City shop before I went into the army, and saw the Ref. 3970, a perpetual calendar chronograph,” he recalls during a chat with The Peak. “It intrigued me because there were so many things going on in the watch. It had a few hundred components, yet they were all contained in a small 36mm case. It looked very nice and classic.”
This year, Patek continues to grow its family of perpetual calendar chronographs with the Ref. 5270P-001, the latest iteration of a model launched in 2011. The fifth model in Patek’s line of perpetual calendar chronographs (see sidebar), Ref. 5270 is most notable for being the first Patek perpetual calendar chronograph to be powered by an in-house movement, the Calibre CH 29-535 PS Q. Previous models contained Valjoux or Lemania base movements, which were extensively modified and decorated by Patek Philippe.
“It intrigued me because there were so many things going on in the watch… yet it still looked very nice and classic.”
CORTINA WATCH COO JEREMY LIM
Comprising 456 components, the CH 29-535 PS Q movement is the very first chronograph movement with a perpetual calendar entirely developed by Patek Philippe. The manually wound movement features a classic column wheel chronograph with horizontal clutch, and has six patents (such as one for the shape of the teeth of the chronograph gears, which enables smoother engagement). A sapphire-crystal display caseback allows the owner to take in the fine finishing of the movement, including the Geneva stripes on its bridges, the hand-bevelled edges of its levers and bridges, and straight graining on its levers. For those who (inexplicably) do not mind missing out on this view, Ref. 5270P comes with an interchangeable platinum solid caseback, which can be personalised with an engraving.
Since its introduction in 2011, Ref. 5270 has appeared in white gold and pink gold, and has undergone a few aesthetic updates. But the Ref. 5270P – the P is Patek’s code for platinum – marks the first time the 41mm watch is being produced in platinum, and with a salmon dial, no less. Says Lim: “It’s harder to work on platinum (than gold), so I believe the production number will not be higher than that of the previous models. Even though the price point is higher, platinum watches are quite sought after.” Aside from the gleam and weight of the watch, one discreet and tell-tale sign that the Ref. 5270P is crafted in platinum – as Patek fans will know – is the diamond tucked between the lugs, at six o’clock.
Adding to the allure of this perpetual calendar chronograph is its salmon dial, which you will usually find on Patek’s most important or customised watches – such as a few of the perpetual calendar chronographs owned by celebrity fan Clapton. A new touch that makes the Ref. 5270P easy to read and gives it a distinctive vintage character is the use of applied Arabic numerals – made of blackened gold – instead of the stick indexes of its more recent predecessors.
Elsewhere, the dial design will remain familiar to fans of the family. At the top of the watch, two apertures show the day and month, while the date and moonphase are displayed in a subdial at six o’clock. The small seconds are at nine o’clock, while the 30-minute chronograph counter is at three o’clock. Two small apertures flanking the moonphase reveal the day/night indicator and a leap year display. Encircling these dial elements is a tachymeter scale that allows for the reading of speed.
Asked why he thinks Patek Philippe’s perpetual calendar chronographs have proven enduringly popular with watch aficionados, Lim shares: “Many of our collectors buy what they deem the best, whether it’s a perpetual calendar or a chronograph. Models like the 5270 go a step further because they integrate the two functions – and people recognise that Patek does the best integration of the perpetual calendar and the chronograph, and has done so for a long time.”
Tracking Patek’s perpetual calendar chronographs over the years.