April 12 2011
Last month at Basel World, watch collectors saw the introduction of what can only be described as “an instant classic”. I don’t sling this term around lightly but in this instance, it is all but guaranteed.
Patek Philippe is known for many things – being the enduring object of desire of some of the most powerful men (and women) in the world; an independent, creative spirit that seems to separate it from the rest of the watch industry; an ad campaign that has come to define the brand itself. But in the world of watch collecting, Patek is known for the distinct combination of two complications: the chronograph and the perpetual calendar.
In fact, Patek Philippe invented the perpetual calendar chronograph with the release of the Reference 1518 in the late 1940s; this watch, along with its successors, is considered the backbone to any serious collection – you simply have to have a Patek perpetual chronograph.
The new Reference 5270, announced at Basel World just three weeks ago, is Patek Philippe’s first truly in-house developed perpetual calendar chronograph – hard to believe, but true. For years, Patek based these iconic pieces on a heavily modified chronograph movement from a supplier called Lemania. Lemania movements are also used by several other high-end companies such as Vacheron Constantin, Breguet and Omega. But, as consumers become more aware of what a “manufacture” movement is versus one purchased from a supplier, coupled with dramatic decrease in access to parts from external suppliers, watchmakers the world over are bringing more under their own roof.
In addition to the Patek-bred calibre inside the 5270, the case of the new perpetual chrono has been increased to 41mm. While only 1mm larger than the outgoing 5970 perpetual chrono, it is a big deal to the die-hard Patek collectors of the world who, until just a few years ago, thought 36mm was the perfect size for such a watch.
The larger size plus black oxidised markers on the silver opaline dial give the 5270 a defiantly modern look, despite the traditional layout of the piece. The price of the 5270, which is only available in white gold at present, is $155,700. Yes, that may sound like a lot, but when one considers that the 5270 has the most Patek Philippe DNA of any perpetual calendar chronograph since the introduction of the series almost seven decades ago, you begin to understand why this watch stands a good chance of being sold out within weeks. Also, if you look at the prices of both vintage and modern Patek perpetual chronos at auction, they almost always sell above $150,000, and in the case of the earlier models, sometimes well above $500,000.
But, as with all Patek Philippes, the 5270 perpetual calendar chronograph isn’t about the money to be spent or made, but rather the joy of ownership – in this case, a joy compounded by knowing that your brand-new watch is indeed an instant classic.