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In the hands of Patek Philippe’s master watchmakers, complications are turned into masterpieces with seemingly little effort. We look at three timepieces that embody just a small part of what the brand is capable of.
1. Annual Calendar Ref 5035
Since the advent of mechanical timekeeping, clockmakers and watchmakers have sought to create machines that give a more complete representation of time. To this end, man has been rather creative, coming up with a full gamut of timepieces, from the simplest calendar watches with date displays, then stepping it up with double calendars that show the day of the week in addition to the date, and complete calendar timepieces that give the month and even moon phases.
Despite the countless innovations, one problem continued to plague watchmakers up until recently – all calendar watches had to be adjusted at the end of 30-day months, as well as at the end of February. Only perpetual calendars were spared this hassle.
It was only in 1996 that Patek Phillipe unveiled a revolutionary creation that marked the end of the inconvenience. The Annual Calendar Ref 5035 was the world’s first patented annual calendar and its claim to the title lay in the fact that it required just one adjustment per year, on the first day of March.
The feat was made possible by an innovative mechanism comprising mostly wheels, instead of the levers and springs usually found in perpetual calendar movements. On the 24-hour wheel are two fingerpieces; on months that have 30 days, the second fingerpiece automatically pushes the month wheel forward, skipping the 31st day and jumping straight to the first day of the following month.
Now into its second decade since its debut, the timepiece has evolved significantly. In 1998, the model saw the addition of two complications – a moon phase and power reserve. The years 2005 and 2006 hailed new diamond-set versions for the ladies, which were then replaced in 2015 by Ref 4947 and Ref 4948.
Besides aesthetic revisions, the annual calendar is also the hotbed for Patek Philippe’s innovations, one of which is Silinvar, a silicon-based material now used for the escape wheel and lever. Three models – Ref 5250, Ref 5350 and Ref 5450 – carry Silinvar components, and each is issued in a limited edition numbering no more than 300.
The Ref. 5396 is the latest incarnation of the complication. Created to commemorate the annual calendar’s 20th anniversary, it’s a modern amalgation of all the best features of its predecessors.
2. Grandmaster Chime Ref 6300
With 20 complications, six patented innovations and a reversible double face, the Grandmaster Chime Ref 6300 counts 1,366 components in its movement and 214 parts in its case. It is the ﬁrst wristwatch with a grande sonnerie in Patek Philippe’s regular collection.
Despite being an ultra complicated timepiece, the Ref 6300 is made to be suitable for everyday wear. Hence, its two dials are in understated black and white. The black dial displays the time and sonnerie, while the white carries the perpetual calendar.
The acoustic complications truly form a work of art. The grande and petite sonnerie are powered by a separate double strikework spring barrel with a power reserve of 30 hours so that the complications will not drain the watch of power when they sound every hour and quarter of an hour. The same barrel delivers energy to run the minute repeater. The alarm and date repeater are also on the side of the black dial.
On the white dial, four subdials surround the four-digit year display in the centre. The month display is the subdial at three o’clock, the date and leap year cycle at six o’clock, the day of the week at nine o’clock and the time display at 12 o’clock.
3. World Time Chronograph Ref 5930G
To reﬂect recent changes in time zone designations, Patek Philippe has discontinued all its legacy worldtimers and replaced them with the new Ref 5230 with updated city names. The timepiece is available in two versions, Ref 5230R in 18k rose gold and Ref 5230G in 18k white gold. Ref 5230 wasn’t the only worldtimer the Genevan brand launched at Baselworld this year.
Patek Philippe wowed all with a stellar creation at the fair, the World Time Chronograph Ref 5930G. Previously, only one Patek Philippe timepiece – the wristwatch No. 862 442, which dates back to the 1940s and is now displayed in the Patek Philippe Museum – had the chronograph and worldtimer sharing a space. The debut of Ref 5930G marked the end of the wristwatch’s solo existence as the brand’s only world time-chronograph. Ref 5930G is believed to be the world’s thinnest world time-chronograph. Much research and development was put into achieving its svelte proportions – using the CH 28-520 from 2006’s 5960P as the base calibre, axes were shifted, bridges thinned and the chronograph hand made to do double duty as a seconds hand.
The chronograph’s start/stop pusher is at two o’clock while the reset pusher, which is also the ﬂyback pusher, is at four. The worldtimer is controlled by a button at 10 o’clock – simply press it to advance the city disc and the 24-hour ring counterclockwise in one-hour intervals.
The hour hand will move correspondingly and the time adjustment is complete when the wearer’s current city is at 12 o’clock.