01 W 5304R 001 AMB FOND

Patek Philippe Grand Complication 5304 R27

Passionately complex. This year, Patek Philippe celebrates its 175th anniversary.

By Vincent Daveau

In 1839, Antoine Norbert de Patek and François Czapek founded a watchmaking brand. Some years later, in 1851, the French watchmaker Jean-Adrien Philippe joined them and introduced them to his invention of the winding pendant. With a rich legacy and excellent reputation, the maison soon became a specialist in complicated watches. Before moving on to the reference 5304, allow me to offer what I think is a useful outline of the history of the company: The Stern brothers acquired it in 1932 and it has had an everlasting relation with beautiful watchmaking ever since. In 1912, the maison started the production of the first complicated watch for the car manufacturer James Ward Packard.

Then, in 1927, he ordered an astronomical pocket watch while the industrial tycoon Henry Graves Jr. asked for an even more complicated reference.

In 1989, the famous brand Patek Philippe, creator of some of the most complicated watches in watchmaking history, went further with its Caliber 89 pocket watch on the occasion of its 150th anniversary.

Patek Philippe caliber 89 P1989B

The company that today owns its own quality hallmark is also known for breaking its own records regularly. In 2000, it released the Star Caliber, a reference that was composed of 1,118 parts and 21 complications. Following the success experienced by the previous watch, the brand introduced the Sky Moon Tourbillon 5002 the following year. It was the most complicated wristwatch the band had created to that date. In 2008, it launched the Reference 5207 that featured a perpetual calendar, a minute repeater and a tourbillon. In 2011, the manufacture introduced the platinum version 5208 with single push-piece chronograph, perpetual calendar and minute-repeater. Last year, Patek Philippe revisited the Sky Moon Tourbillon and gave it the reference 6002 as the watch then used its great complexity to pay homage to the different crafts dear to the Geneva-based manufacture.

Patek Philippe Ref.6002 Sky Moon Tourbillon

Rumor has it that the 175th anniversary celebration will bring exciting novelties in terms of complicated watches. In the meantime, the brand deemed it useful to foster the interest in fine mechanics by introducing the Grande Complication 5304 R27 reference that was presented at BaselWorld this year. The pink gold 43-mm reference houses an in-house self-winding mechanical caliber - the R27 PS QR LU - and two of the most demanded major complications: a minute-repeater and a perpetual calendar.

Patek Philippe calibre R27 PS QR LU 184

It is worth highlighting that, in a way, the case, which features geometrical shapes on the case band, heralds a new era in the brand. Indeed, the brand had never really used this type of baroque work on wristwatch cases until last year’s reference 6002. In the same way, the dial of this remarkable watch features an open work as we had never seen before. Take the 2003 Tourbillon 10 Jours, which was not open worked like other brands’ watches at the time were. After only ten years, things have evolved and the maison gave in to the influence of its competitors, thus leaving behind its well-known sobriety, sign of true luxury, and its rejection of ostentatiousness.

Patek Philippe Ref.6002 Sky Moon Tourbillon

Brands do not need just technology to keep up with the times. They also need to be in synch with current trends in order to meet the requirements of aficionados. Since the advent of the so called “new watchmaking” brands, there has been a propensity for excessive luxury in the sector and thus institutional maisons have had to set the tone to keep in touch with their time. The dematerialization of this watch’s dial is obvious and refutes those who were skeptical about the brand’s talent (a brand who coincidentally has its own “Patek Philippe” hallmark) to apply finishes following the general rules of craftsmanship. If we take a magnifying glass and examine the visible components, we are left with no doubt: this is, as always, high-end quality. The steel elements, which have been drawn and chamfered, have been applied with the talent that only genuine craftsmen who have inherited their ancestors’ skills can possess. Let’s not forget that the brand has chosen to skeletonize this piece to allow us to see part of the components of the perpetual calendar’s mechanism, especially where the months’ length is visible through the aperture that displays their names. Furthermore, a hand points at a delightfully quaint date indicator, which is nevertheless very technical. Indeed, the whole timepiece is retrograde and all data is discreetly displayed on a blue background on the dial’s periphery to allow undisturbed sight of the mechanism.

Despite this precaution, the eye is likely to be distracted by the astonishing and imposing moon phase indicator that contrasts with the sobriety of the piece. Such a display, whilst justified, is still imposing on the layout that is otherwise bordering on perfection. Even the date, month and leap year sapphire plates at 12 o’clock suit their position perfectly with their slightly matt texture that makes the beholder forget that they are looking at a dial made in crystal and treated with anti-reflection (as a support to the apertures and seconds indicator at 6 o’clock).

This watch is however not just a perpetual calendar that reveals its interior slightly more than usual. This marvelous timepiece does also chime the time. In its own way, it could prefigure a creation that is known to be appreciated by true watchmaking aficionados and that could be the backbone of the manufacture’s 175th anniversary. Rumor has it (and this comes from well-informed sources in Geneva) that the piece created for the occasion might be a Grand  Sonnerie: a grand strike that obviously includes all the functionalities that this complication should have, namely the small strike and the minute-repeater. 

For now, however, this is pure speculation. What we know is that the manufacture chose to produce the Reference 5304 R27 in a traditional way, using two gongs and a mechanism with an embedded bolt on the case middle. The case of the classical watch is very modern and thus, the 5304 R27 has won over the experts who criticized the brand for being too traditional in its approach to Haute Horlogerie. The result is a balanced creation in spite of being very similar to the old version. This mechanical marvel that is worn with a superb hand-stitched alligator strap with square scales and closed with a pink gold deployment buckle.

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