The last few years have been kind of funny ones for Patek Philippe. The company’s enjoyed unprecedented growth but at the same time, it’s achieved some notoriety over its steel sports watches, rather than for complications in precious metals, and simple, precious metal dress watches which were, for many decades, its main stock in trade. Today’s release from Patek is a reassertion of Patek’s leadership in complicated watchmaking, and also an attempt to position its complicated watches not just as museum pieces (or at least, potential museum pieces) but as exercises in contemporary luxury watch design, as well.
First up, we have a new version of the 5204R, which is a split seconds (rattrapante) chronograph perpetual calendar. The 5204 has been available for the last six or so years in two rose gold versions, with opaline and ebony black dials. The new version, the 5204R-011, is in a rose gold case, but with a slate grey dial and slate grey strap. The new reference comes with interchangeable solid or sapphire casebacks (frankly for my 300 large I’m gonna want to see that lovely CHR 29-535 PS Q) and Patek will continue to offer the existing rose gold references, as well. Price at launch is $309,893.
Next up is the 5905/1A flyback chronograph with annual calendar. The ref. 5905 was launched in platinum in 2015, and then in rose gold in 2019. This is not the first time that Patek has launched an annual calendar with flyback chronograph in a steel case, with a bracelet – there was for instance the 5960/1A, in 2014. This is the first time this specific reference has appeared in steel, however, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the most talked-about of all three new releases. The 5950/1A will be $59,140 at launch.
Finally, there’s the new 5930P. The 5930P is a self-winding world time flyback chronograph, with a center chronograph seconds hand, and a 30-minute counter at 6:00. The world time complication is something of a signature complication for Patek, and the new platinum model joins the white gold version (with blue dial) in the current collection. Price at launch will be $100,538.
Of the many strange events in the last few strange years is the sudden explosion of demand for steel sports watches. Patek’s boss, Thierry Stern, has gone on record as thinking that the current overwhelming demand for them and for Patek, the Nautilus specifically, is a trend on which he doesn’t particularly want to bank as he feels it is a trend, rather than a sign of a permanent shift in the tastes of Patek’s clients, overall.
However, there’s also no doubt that having steel-cased watches in its collections will give Patek clients a wider range of choices, which, given the degree to which demand for luxury watches outstrips production, is never a bad thing.
The 5905/1A obviously doesn’t represent a seismic shift in the center of gravity for Patek but it is a welcome addition, offering a high end interpretation of two quite practical complications, from one of the three or four most prestigious watch brands on the planet. It’s hard to see how Patek could go wrong with this one. I have a couple of small quibbles about the watch – at 42mm x 14.13mm it’s fairly thick and wide, albeit the target audience may not feel the same way – if you’ve got the new hotness from Patek in steel chances are you think being noticeable is a feature, not a bug. I also think that for a watch which, if not a sports watch, is at least sports watch-adjacent, 100 meter water-resistance would have been nice (albeit more of an abstract than a real advantage, nobody’s diving with this watch, although the occasional swim doesn’t seem too out of the question). I’d also have liked to see lume on the hour markers, though again, that’s a minor point.
That said, I think the new 5930 and 5204 are lovely reminders of what sort of watchmaking has, historically, been what connoisseurs look for in Patek Philippe. The horological content in those two watches is enormously impressive, albeit prices are as breathtaking as you would expect – these days sticker shock has given way, more or less permanently, to sticker resignation.
The horological level of discourse has become very much dominated by frustration and suspicion, for reasons outside the scope of this article (which is not to say they’re not worth discussing). However, it’s always nice to reflect that there are a number of reasons why Patek is what it is today, and they’re not all just due to brand prestige (which is very real). Patek’s reputation may have taken on a life of its own, apart from actual watchmaking content, but the watchmaking content is still there, if you only know where to look.
Patek Philippe Ref. 5905/1A-001 – $59,140. Stainless steel case, 42mm x 14.13mm, water resistance 30 meters, with sapphire caseback. Olive green sunburst dial, gold applied hour markers. White gold hands with Super-LumiNova. Movement, caliber CH 28-520 QA 24H, 33mm x 7..68mm, automatic flyback chronograph with central seconds hand and 60 minute counter, annual calendar. Power reserve, 45-55 hours.
Patek Philippe Ref. 5930P-001 – $100,538. Case, 39.5mm x 12.86mm, platinum, water resistance 30 meters, with sapphire caseback. Slate grey sunburst dial, with applied gold markers and gold hands, both with Super-LumiNova. Movement, caliber CH 28-520 HU, 33mm x 7.97mm, 21K gold central rotor, automatic flyback chronograph with center chronograph seconds and 30 minute counter; world time, with 24 hour and day/night indications for 24 time zones. 50-55 hour power reserve (presumably dependent on chronograph use).
Patek Philippe Ref. 5204R-011 – $309,893. Case, rose gold, 40mm x 14.5mm, water resistance 30 meters; interchangeable sapphire and solid casebacks. Movement, caliber CHR 29-535, hand wound split seconds chronograph with instantaneous 30 minute counter, perpetual calendar with moonphase; 32mm x 8.7mm with Breguet overcoil balance spring. Power reserve 55-65 hours.