patek philippe calatrava ref 6006g 001 04

Patek Philippe: 2017 marks the 40th anniversary of a legendary caliber

In 1977, Patek Philippe launched an automatic caliber with a micro rotor. A generation later, the movement is still an indispensable reference. Here is a mechanical saga about three iconic pieces

By Vincent Daveau

Translated from the original French text

Watchmakers are well aware that long lasting mechanical calibers are quite rare to find. To be able to work flawlessly for years, they need certain qualities that no computer has been able to anticipate to date. In a nutshell, a movement is the result of so many factors that, to make it work, it took first a good deal of trial and error to obtain empirical data and then human ingenuity to come up with. These rare ebauches have the perfect combination of dimensions, technical elements and solutions. That is how we end up creating a product that ends up being  a reference caliber. The self-winding micro rotor mechanical caliber ref. 240 the movement we’ll be focusing on today.

Patek Philippe 240-111 caliber

A celebration that brings the invisible into the spotlight

To mark the caliber's 40 years of success, the manufacture has decided to make it the center of the celebration itself. The first step was to redesign it so that every detail could be seen. The manufacture’s skeletonizing artisans thus worked on the iconic movement's plates and bridges. Their skills and expertise allowed them to create a true work of art. The 240 SQU caliber's refined and transparent spectacle makes it look like a miniature kinetic sculpture. 

Patek Philippe 240 SQU 179 caliber

The plate and bridges have been as skeletonized as possible in order to optimize the components without hindering the mechanism's reliability. The painstaking work of skeletonizing not only requires a high level of artistic flair and a steady hand but also the skills of watchmakers who know how to design metal lacework. Indeed, it takes some serious skills to cut just enough material to give a view of the mainspring's coils through the contours of the Calatrava cross, Patek Philippe’s icon for over a hundred years now. It takes more than a week of patient work to complete the skeletonizing work on the caliber.

Besides, it seemed a shame to only chamfer the caliber. This explains why once the first week of skeletonizing was over, the open worked components were moved to the engraver's bench to be entirely chased by hand and adorned with decorations made of arabesques and curls. This stage alone requires over 130 hours of work that, on the whole, is carried out using a microscope. One final detail – while the “Patek Philippe Genève” signature has been engraved around the (also decorated) Calatrava cross in the cut of the plate surrounding the barrel, the “Patek Philippe” symbol of the “Poinçon Patek Philippe” has been placed on the 22K gold micro rotor for the first time.

Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref. 6006G-001 with 240 PS C caliber

Rekindle with classics

To mark the anniversary, the brand decided to reinterpret the Calatrava with an off-centered small seconds and a hand-indicated calendar in a new white gold edition, which is also 2mm larger than the original. The model, which was launched in 1991, was reinterpreted in 2005 and once again this year with a contemporary 39-mm size.

Purists will appreciate the strong aesthetically pleasing aura of the dial. Indeed, the hand-indicated date draws one’s attention, but so does the small off-centered seconds-hand. The latter is actually what makes the watch immediately identifiable as one of the manufacture's main standards.

Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref. 6006G-001 with 240 PS C caliber

Famous reference pieces (like the Calatrava) inevitably need to maintain their popularity over time. In a world where everything revolves around value, it's a real advantage to be reassured that a watch's value will not diminish at the levels seen elsewhere. Consequently, it is safe to assume that this version – reinterpreted to celebrate the 40th anniversary of caliber 240 – will see its popularity increase over the years. What more could we ask for? 

Breathe life with magic

Many people are under the false assumptions that only men are interested in haute horology.. Today, this is not entirely correct, as a growing contingent of female watchmaking influencers now know how important it is to astonish their male counterparts by showing their skills in reinterpreting watches in their own way.

Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref. 4899/900G-001 with 240 caliber

And so, the 38.5-mm Calatrava (ref. 4899/900) will most likely appeal to those who know what is behind its decorations – its engraved mother-of-pearl feathers and the 98 diamonds that adorn the dial – is the famous caliber 240. Delicate, thanks to its colored diamond-setting and curved angles, the piece is a treasure of comfort that enthusiasts will indulge in and wear with passion.

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