Three Complications by Patek Philippe For When Simplicity Isn’t Enough
by Daniel Yong
It is almost ridiculous or, dare I say, brave, for one to not pay respect (and more) to Patek Philippe where it is due. The Genevan giant is famed for possessing the highest standards in everything they do. From the movements, cases, and other exterior parts, the level of attention and heart put into manufacturing these components has been a tradition since 1839. To sum it up for you, Patek Philippe is horological royalty, and there are absolutely no questions about it. It is therefore natural to find their time pieces on the wrists of the world’s historical influencers and modern celebrities. The list ranges from Queen Victoria, Pablo Picasso, the Dalai Lama, John Mayer and others. But we do not admire and love the brand because they find homes on the wrists of the greats (although that’s cool too), but for the fact that they pay great attention to developing their employees through ongoing training. Remember, without great people we would not have great watches.
On a personal level, my favourite watches from Patek Philippe have always been their time only pieces like the Calatrava 5196 collection and the Golden Ellipse. But sometimes, there comes a time in one’s life where you aim for a challenge, aspire to greatness, or crave for something that surprises you and humbles you. You know, reminds you that there are brains and hands out there that are almost extraterrestrial. That’s where Patek Philippe’s complications come in (take a look at the Patek Philippe Nautilus Perpetual Calendar 5740-1G, for example). For the purpose of this story, I will explore three of my personal favourite pieces from 2019.
The Patek Philippe Calatrava Weekly Calendar Reference 5212A-001
Upon first glance at this technical beauty, one could be overwhelmed. But as the saying goes, we cannot simply judge a watch based on first impressions. The 5212A is a joy to read after you digest the purpose of its design. The Weekly Calendar is exactly what its name suggests as it indicates to the lucky wearer what week it is. But there is so much more; the dial is broken up neatly into the day and month. But wait, there’s more! There is a very intricate detail to the typography on the dial, and that is the mimicking of handwriting. Come on, is there not a sense of something romantic about this? When I learnt about this design element, it evoked a sense of nostalgia. You know, when one would handwrite postcards to send to loved ones overseas.
So you may be wondering, why would anyone want to know what week or month it is from a watch? I also want to add that Patek clearly mentions that this is true in terms of the average person. But one could also counter-argue that we do not need to wear watches to tell the time because our phones can do that. So why do we still wear them? Well, we wear and collect these things for many reasons, and one of them is not to tell the time. Moving on, the 5212A Weekly Calendar features an entirely new movement. If other brands were to attempt this, I dare say that their dials may be around 42 mm or more due to the case needing to accommodate the movement.
Patek, being Patek, achieves this by elegantly packaging this complication into a very comfortably sized 40mm. I know what you are thinking, “alright, it’s 40 mm, but I bet the thickness of this piece is 14 mm or more”. Am I right? Well, ladies and gentlemen, I am happy to inform you that the height of the watch is a mere 10.79 mm! Furthermore, another interesting feature about this model is that the case is made of steel. I believe the design team nailed it with this one because if you are going to target this piece to the travelling businessman or woman, precious metals can be a bit well…dainty. Think about it for a second. I know that it has been a while since we were all allowed to travel, but remember all the stress and anxiety involved in travelling? The last thing you want to worry about is damaging your watch.
The Patek Philippe Chronograph Reference 5172G-001
Haruki Murakami, a Japanese writer, wrote, and I quote, “Unfortunately, the clock is ticking, the hours are going by. The past increases, the future recedes. Possibilities decreasing, regrets mounting”. As depressing as this may sound, if I had the Chronograph 5172G on my wrist, I would regret nothing. So, you want a complication that already exists but with a twist? Then look no further than the highly attractive Chronograph 5172G. Unlike the previous model, this one features everything that we love about chronographs and so much more.
Typically, when we think of sport or tool watches, we think of pieces made of steel. Something tough and handsome that can take a few beatings and still look cool. But what if you could have all of those qualities and take it up another level? The 5172G is, as the teenagers say, “so extra,” that it effortlessly becomes a statement piece. Wearing this honestly tells those in the know that you got it because you could. More into the watch, this fusion of elegance and masculinity comes in at only 41 mm with a height of 11.45 mm. This is a decent size for a chronograph (compared to competitors), and I bet it would look amazing in most outfits.
In today’s modern society, no one really cares that you would wear a chronograph with a suit, and something tells me that the white gold used on the case and Arabic numerals would enhance the overall elegance of the watch. But the real winner here is of course the dial. As Patek refers to it, the varnished blue is the type of blue that invites the wearer or casual wrist observer to take a closer look. Everything is balanced well on this dial, from the tachymeter scale and the hands, it all comes together like the night sky bursting with stars illuminating the fields of the countryside.
The Patek Philippe World Time Cloisonné Enamel Reference 5231J-001
Remember how I discussed earlier that the Weekly Calendar 5212A might be overwhelming at first to the uninitiated? And that the more you savour the details, the more you would understand and appreciate the piece? For our last Patek model, I want to introduce you to a masterpiece. Forget GMTs or Weekly Calendars; let us take a trip and delve into the horological masterpiece that is the 5231J World Time. It is worth noting that world timers are incredibly challenging to design because it could either make or break a brand.
If the design is too cluttered or difficult to read, it can be extremely off-putting. Only a handful of brands got it right, Patek being one of them. Now not to sound like a fanboy, but if any brand could get this complication right, it’s this brand, and they have been doing it since the 1940s. Let us cut to the chase and talk about the winner here, the dial. Some people pay closer attention to the case, the dial, the movements, or even the typography.
But on the 5231J, one must respect the workmanship gone into creating the cloisonné enamel dial (which is entirely accomplished by hand). In Patek fashion, because no one does world timers like the Gevevan powerhouse, they masterfully portray Africa, America, and Europe. I might also add that the canvas holding this painting is an 18 K gold dial plate. Oh yes, let that and the 24 different time zones sink in! All this comes packaged in a solid yellow gold case measuring at 38.5 mm with a height of only 10.23 mm. Seriously, how do they do it?
(Photo credit: Peter Tung for Horbiter®)
Daniel Yong @Horbiter®