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Watches And Wonders 2021 witnessed a dazzling Patek Philippe trifecta as the blue-chip Geneva brand effortlessly demonstrated its hegemony across three very different horological sectors. First there was the “easy” win of the green-dialled Nautilus valedictory series. Somehow green seems to be the horological colour of choice this year: from Rolex (which “owns” green) to Cartier, which used it for the relaunch of its Tank Must. Chez Patek, it is probably a coded reference to the envy that collectors feel when not being able to get hold of what is arguably the most desirable iteration of the world’s most desirable grande-luxe sports watch.
The new Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref 5711/1A-014, £26,870
Patek’s emblem is the Calatrava cross and also the name of its simplest and oldest collection, which this year received the welcome addition of a time-only watch with Clous De Paris bezel, Ref 6119. This type of watch was hugely important to Patek during the 1980s, but it is in fact a style that can be traced back to 1934 to the Ref 96D.
The new Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref 6119 in rose gold, £22,770
However, it is as the king of the complicated watch that Patek is best known and the final member of the triumvirate of novelties this year is a classic Patek complication: a perpetual calendar with moon phase. So miraculous was the feat of predicting the right month day and date irrespective of leap year that Patek used to describe the perpetual calendar as “the watch that thinks for itself”.
The new Patek Philippe In-Line Perpetual Calendar Ref 5236P-001, £100,190
The brand was the first to make a perpetual calendar wristwatch almost a century ago, in 1925, and it was with the perpetual calendar Ref 3940 that Patek Philippe began the revival of complicated wristwatches in 1985. Since then, the perpetual calendar has manifested itself in a variety of forms, sometimes with a trio of sub-dials, sometimes with retrograde hands, sometimes with a pair of rectangular windows in the upper half of the dial and a sub-dial at six for the date, and sometimes with a trio of windows arcing across the top of the dial from eight o’clock to four o’clock. To many of us, that would be a sufficient breadth of choice, but close students of the marque will know that the permanent collection of the Patek Philippe museum has a pocket watch from 1972 made for the American market and featuring a single letter box-like slot in the upper half of the dial that conveys the date in the American style (month/date/year). It is to this museum piece that Patek has turned for inspiration for its platinum-cased Ref 5236P-001.
The self-winding mechanical movement (Caliber 31‑260 PS QL) inside the new ‘in-line’ perpetual calendar
In common with other perpetual calendars in the Patek Philippe line-up, the moon phase indicator is located at six o’clock, while the calendar display, this time in the European manner (day/date/month), is visible along a single line through a single window and generates its information by the interaction of four disks: one for the day, two for the date and one for the month. Patek has filed patent applications on three of the technical innovations required to make this novel display system work reliably.
With this watch Patek has created what is perhaps the ultimate perpetual calendar in terms of simplicity and this quality is carried through with a design of Bauhaus-like clarity: stick hands, applied baton indices and a simple chemin de fer minute track.
This is not a watch that anyone needed and therein lies its importance. It demonstrates not only that Patek Philippe is capable of mastering the series production of the classic complications, it shows it also has the capacity in terms of movement design, case making, production facilities and, most importantly, creativity to offer its customers a distinct variety of ways in which to enjoy a much-loved complication that is so essential to its history.