Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime: code name 5175
Vincent Daveau, journalist and watchmaker, gives us a second reading on this anniversary timepiece, the introduction of which was previously described in detail by our contributor Simon de Burton.
It is almost a principle at Patek Philippe: all iconic models have their own number like the Caliber 89 or the Star Caliber 2000. This is why purists will soon no longer talk of Patek Philippe’s Grandmaster Chime, but rather of reference 5175. The piece represents more than just a number; it is the sum of a success whose result can be revealed in just the same way a cracked code would.
Patek Philippe’s 175th anniversary was celebrated at the manufacture’s premises, which have been based in Plan les Ouates since 1996. The theme of the celebration gave a feeling of timelessness in order to pay a better tribute to the brand founded in 1839. The staging had as a common theme the maison’s history in the constantly changing modern world and celebrated watchmaking industry through the evening’s star timepiece: the extraordinary Grandmaster Chime.
The 6 pieces that were released were quickly sold for approximately CHF 2.5 million altogether. The exceptional watch is a true digest of skills and innovation. A seventh piece of this reference will be showcased at the Patek Philippe museum in Geneva. It bears the emblematic serial number 5 175 000. The reference 5175 was taken from this serial number and will most certainly become the abbreviation of this outstanding piece.
Nearing the golden ratio
We say that an art object follows the principles of Divine Proportion when it has harmonious proportions. This piece’s 18-K pink gold case clearly embodies the Golden Ratio, as when worn it makes us quickly forget that it measures 47.4 mm in diameter by 16.1mm in thickness. This is most likely due to the extremely refined engraving work that covers most of the piece’s surface. It took the engraver almost 220 hours of intense concentration to complete. This delicate treatment manages furthermore to integrate the 214 components in the most harmonious way possible. In particular, it makes the four push-pieces and the six correctors blend into the palm-leaf motifs and the foliage. In any case, an explanation of the functions of each component is provided in order to avoid mishandling.
However, these figures are not the ones collectors will immediately memorize. They will of course remember straight away that what really makes this watch – reversible through specific lugs containing 30 components each – is that it is in fact a double-faced watch. Each face displays useful information about the twenty complications that the watch features, for which six patents were filed. The first dial is more traditional and was made in silver and solid gold. It was also wire-cut, guilloché and hand-engraved to pay tribute to the “Cadrans Frères Stern” company, owned by the Stern brothers before Patek Philippe acquired it in 1932. It displays local time, a second time zone, alarm indications, power reserve and chimes. It also enables the user to know whether the crown must be set, wound or whether it is in a neutral position. The other dial is a traditional perpetual calendar; day, date, month, leap year indication and 4-digit date.
Technique in numbers
Under the gold dials and enclosed in this amazing and artistically hand-engraved pink gold case, there is a manual winding mechanical movement. During the four years that it took the manufacture to put it together, it was given the code name “Calibre 300”.
Indeed, that is far easier to remember than its official reference number: 300 GS AL 36-750 QIS FUS IRM. The movement’s plate required more than 22 hours of machining and contains a total of 1,366 components including more than 150 wheels, 108 rubies and 32 bridges. What’s certain though is that the production of this 37-mm movement hides a few trade secrets that the master watchmaker Christian Holtz meticulously compiled in a 164-page document. The aim was to help watchmakers Cédric Fague and Ludovic Punzi who were in charge of assembling the pieces.
The aim of this manufacturing guideline is also to guide future generations of watchmakers who will one day be in charge of rejuvenating these wonderful timepieces. For the record, they are the first wristwatches the brand has equipped with a “Grande Sonnerie” (with “Petite Sonnerie” and silence mode) on three gongs that are constantly perfectly adjusted to guarantee the high quality chiming this piece deserves. This essential information is what makes these pieces particularly appealing to the brand’s collectors. However, that is not all, as the timepiece features three more complications that use sounds, and consequently, the same gongs.
In order to differentiate the functions, the watch has five different chiming registers. The first one is for the “Grande Sonnerie”, the second one is for the “Petite Sonnerie”, the third for the minute-repeater, the fourth for the alarm with a time strike and the fifth one is for the date repeater. As you will have guessed, the latter is an original and new kind of complication for which one of the six patents was filed.
So yes, the watch is in line with the extraordinary watches only Patek Philippe knows how to make. It is original in the way it provides information and it is the culmination of more than 60,000 hours of research to develop, design and validate the shapes and chains of its components. To talk about it is one thing, but to live the experience of having it in your hand is really something else. It will be coveted by many but is already the prized possession of only a handful. This happens quite often with beautiful things like these but there will be others. We will just have to be patient even if we know it won’t be for everyone.