SINGAPORE (June 18): A stable of thoroughbreds necessitates judicious breeding, and Patek Philippe has always exercised conscientiousness in the pairing of classics and complications. Conditions must have been favourable, then, for the maison to update not one but two cult collections with new functions.
The debut of the Nautilus collection in 1976 showed clear affinity with its namesake. References to Captain Nemo’s vessel in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, the likes of the octagonal case shaped like a porthole, transferred the drama spun by Jules Verne onto wrists, as did the seamless integration of bracelet into case and the horizontally grooved dial recalling the strong, linear advance of waves. Prior models had seen chronographs and annual calendars worked onto their faces but Patek has now deemed the collection mature enough to take on its first grand complication.
Equipping the Patek Philippe Nautilus Perpetual Calendar 5740 with its eponymous complication is the self-winding calibre 240, a famously ultra-thin movement with a recessed 22-carat gold mini-rotor and slender calendar module. This is the slimmest perpetual calendar movement manufactured by the watchmaker and its shy proportions translate into a 40mm white gold case just 8.42mm thick.
The display on the dial — brass and coated in blue PVD with a subtle sunburst finishing — is a harmonious symphony of analogue indicators. The sub-counter at three o’clock informs the month and leap-year cycle while day of the week and 24-hour time are told in a mirroring counter at nine o’clock. A slightly larger subsidiary dial at six o’clock exhibits the date and an extremely precise moon phase in an aperture within, deviating from the exact position of the moon by merely a day every 122 years. Correctors for day, date, month and moon phase functions are neatly integrated into the face, optimising performance without interfering with the aesthetic, thanks to an ingenious system of deflection mechanisms.
Clutter, a common consequence of display-rich dials, is avoided by clear demarcation of indications. Legibility is further ensured by luminescent coatings on the hands and gold hour markers. The timepiece is fastened on by an ergonomic white-gold bracelet, polished, satin-finished and fitted with the new Nautilus fold-over clasp featuring four independent catches for effortless opening and closing.
The Aquanaut collection elicited some perplexity when it was launched in the 1990s, for it marked a distinct departure from Patek Philippe’s recognisable style. Its outlook was young and sporty, but elegantly so. Most outrageous was the first time use of a rubber strap by a brand whose name was synonymous with precious metals and unparalleled luxury. In one move, Patek Philippe dictated a new dimension to its repertoire and attracted a different set of audience beyond its typical demographic.
This season, the watchmaker bequeaths to the series its first chronograph. The CH 28-520C calibre is a self-winding flyback chronograph movement that combines a classic column-wheel control with a modern vertical disc clutch. The latter prevents hand bounce and rebound when starting the chronograph, creating a friction-free sweep of the chronograph hand that effectively doubles as a continuously running seconds hand. Resets are rendered superfluous with the flyback function, allowing seamless transitions from chronograph to running seconds.
All this occurs against the black embossed background supplied by the dial, further adorned with white-gold-applied Arabic numerals and sturdy baton hands enhanced with luminescent coating. Chronograph displays — the large chronograph hand, quarter-second divisions of the peripheral railway track minute scale and 60-minute counter — are outfitted in orange for contrast.
Vivid orange is also an option for the embossed composite strap should the black version prove too subdued, the first-time collectors are granted a selection in strap colours. The octagonal bezel and case are fashioned from steel with the elongated pushers flowing smoothly along both sides of the crown pusher. The screwdown crown endows the rugged case with water resistance of up to 120m, bolstering its sportive aesthetic claim.
Set to dazzle
Innate understanding of its feminine clientele led Patek Philippe to develop a watch of stirring sensuality and impressive technical specs specifically for that segment in 2009. The maiden model was the first classic chronograph movement — manually wound with a column wheel and horizontal clutch — entirely developed and crafted in-house in the manufacture’s workshops, earning it the handle of Ladies First Chronograph. It was produced in various iterations until 2016.
The watchmaker revived this collection of complicated ladies’ timepieces by replacing the cushion-shaped case with a sleek 38mm round case expressed in rose gold. The material imparts effusive warmth to vintage details such as the fluted strap lugs, round guilloched pushers and gently cambered sapphire-crystal “box” glass that shelters the face. A ring of 72 diamonds set into the bezel frames the silvery opaline dial where slender Breguet rose-gold hour and minute hands and applied numerals hold court. Measuring the cadence of an active lifestyle while recalling the traditional codes of old chronographs is a discreet pulsimeter scale
Six horological innovations are driven by the manually wound CH 29-535 PS movement — the same calibre that made its debut alongside the 2009 model. Its lavish finissage can be admired through the sapphire-crystal caseback, which mimics the angular slope of the glass protecting the front of the dial. A final touch of luxury is delivered by the 27 diamonds that decorate the rose-gold prong buckle at the end of the handstitched alligator strap executed in shiny mink grey.
A couple of high-flyers
Relatively new to the Patek Philippe family is the Calatrava Pilot Travel Time, an aviation-inspired line first unveiled in 2015. Not that pilot watches are a foreign venture for the brand — its history in that field of design dates back to the 1930s, when it created enormous military watches to be worn by pilots and navigators. Few of the vintage codes have worked their way into the contemporary series, but both past and present models bear an aesthetic that is distinct, though different.
The first point to note about the Calatrava series is its heart. Powered by the automatic CH324 S C FUS calibre, it is described as one of the most dynamic in modern horology. A Spiromax spring and Gyromax balance made from Silinvar, Patek Philippe’s answer to silicon, optimise performance while the Patek Philippe seal regulates accuracy to -3/+2 seconds a day, offering astonishing precision. In the latest reference, this manifests not only in the faithful telling of local time but also the second time zone and date, as well as day/ night indicators for local and home time in little apertures at nine o’clock and three o’clock respectively. A subsidiary dial nestled in the south between the two tracks the date. Finally, the movement is responsible for generating up to 45 hours of reserve power.
A hollowed hour hand tells home time while its solid contemporary marks the hours in the current time zone. Two pushers in the left-hand case flank move the local-time hour hand clockwise and counter-clockwise in one-hour increments as necessary without affecting the timepiece’s precise rate while a patented safety lock prevents unintended adjustments. Should the second time zone not be required for service, both hour hands can be superposed.
Where the original iteration employed white gold for its case and blue for its dial, this year’s model wears a rose-gold cloak with a complementary brown dial featuring black gradation. Applied, sculpted rose-gold numerals and broad baton hands are varnished with luminescent coating for prominence, as is the orange “1” of the analogue date. Remi ni scent of the harnesses that allowed pilots to keep their survival kits readily deployable is the rose-gold clevis prong buckle that secures the vintage brown calfskin strap.
Accompanying the men’s watch — which goes by the reference 5524R — is the first self-winding Travel Time in a ladies’ wristwatch format. Known internally as the 7234R model, the Calatrava Pilot Travel Time for women echoes the rose gold and brown palette of its masculine equivalent. At 37.5mm and waterproof up to 30m, it is 4.5mm smaller and charts half the water resistance of the men’s version. Its technical specs are identical, however, promising a timepiece of noteworthy performance housed in an assertive, feminine package.
Petrina Fernandez is a senior writer with the Options desk at The Edge Malaysia
This article appeared in Issue 835 (June 18) of The Edge Singapore.