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Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time 5524: time to travel

Patek Philippe’s history is often synonymous with great human adventures. The launch of the Calatrava reminds aficionados of the brand’s constant involvement with the art of aeronautical travelling.

By Vincent Daveau

All watchmaking brands sought to meet the potential needs of airplane pilots since aeronautics was in its early infancy. Men’s fascination with the majestic flight of birds since the Icarus legend made them immediately understand what they stood to gain being part of the adventure. A plane flying in the sky is a bit like a ship right in the middle of the ocean, but during the early stages of the conquest of the skies there were no instruments specifically designed for the knights involved. Hence, those watchmakers who were constantly on the lookout for challenges decided to address the needs of these modern-day heroes. The Calatrava Travel Time was actually inspired by such a Homeric quest.

Noble ancestry

The “Faucheurs de Marguerites” (i.e. daisy mowers), as young women liked to call the first airplane pilots in the 1900s, soon became famous. 

Whilst watchmakers did not immediately grasp the full importance of the Wright brothers’ first flight on December 17, 1903, they did quickly understand how to take advantage of these crazy pilots of the Old Continent who carried out demonstrations in Bagatelle. The latter was an open, grassy space almost in the heart of Paris where pilots managed to give goose bumps to the muses of artists of the time.

It was a time for adventures and when World War I started, watchmaking brands realized that aviation was going to take on a whole new role in the contemporary world. Needless to say that at the time there was no built-in electronics and GPS. Airplanes were flown with muscle power and were guided – though this sounds quite incongruous nowadays – in the same way as ships. That is, with sextants, watches and (some time later) with “gonio”, which were radio beacons that relayed every hour to allow pilots equipped with transmitters to situate themselves in space. However, they needed a good watch to make swift, quality calculations. From the 1920s, most watchmaking brands introduced their interpretation of pilot watches to armies and civil mail and/or passenger transport companies.

Thus, Patek Philippe introduced two pilot watches that are today on display at its public museum in Geneva. These hour angle wristwatches, more precisely known as siderometers (from the term “sidereal”, the sky) at the time, were the main source of inspiration for the new Calatrava Travel Time Reference 5524.

An eternal invitation to travel

The subtly retro futuristic watch is a new addition to the collection of travelling timepieces. It is equipped with a blue varnished dial and big white gold hand-applied numerals which evoke the 1940s and military timepieces to perfection. As with all Travel Time watches, the original hour hand has been made in steel and has been subtly open worked to gracefully melt into the streamlined background of the original dial.  Two subtle and round apertures indicate daytime (in white) and night time (in blue).

The watch is driven by the self-winding mechanical Caliber 324 C FUS.

The movement is made of 294 parts and houses a double time zone mechanism (ideal for regular travelers) that was revisited and improved in 1996. It stops the system to prevent the hand, which is moved by two pushers, from affecting the amplitude of the Giromax balance. The balance is linked to a Selinvar® balance-spring whose setting has been improved to guarantee higher precision (-3+2 seconds late or early each day). The sapphire crystal reveals the movement so enthusiasts can see the meticulous work as well as to observe the Patek Philippe “Poinçon” each of the watch’s elements has been branded with.

All the essentials and beyond

The subtle 42-mm white gold piece displays the hours, the seconds (via a large and refined second hand), the date (via a hand that points towards the numbers indicated on a timer at 6 o’clock) and a second time zone which is indicated by the tip of a delicately skeletonized steel hand. The hand can be adjusted with two pushers on the left of the case middle at 8 and 10 o’clock that have patented security systems.

Frequent travelers who are also aficionados of beautiful objects will undoubtedly be proud of wearing this beautiful watch, which will be instantly recognized by those who are familiar with the powerful creativity of famous brands.

It comes with a vintage brown calfskin strap and is closed with a classic pin buckle that draws inspiration from parachute harnesses.

This piece hinted at becoming a “collector” as soon as it was introduced since it was the talk of the town at BaselWorld. In fact, right after the presentation, all the guests rushed over to examine it. It is indeed an uncommon, sober, traditional and yet extremely modern watch. Its appeal comes from the principle of the structural antagonism it evokes. Patek Philippe has shown a perfect grasp of that and should be gracing us in the future with references along these lines that will brighten the collection whose sober character deserves to be livened up a bit by powerful yet elegant watches.

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