By Michael A. Fratangelo
At Patek Philippe, Thierry Stern has a great responsibility in maintaining the coveted Swiss watchmaking tradition while advancing it into a modern world with modern consumers. In doing this, he must not only appeal to the taste of this generation, but capture that of the next generation. Looking back in time and towards the future is a smart way for him to achieve this.
His latest iterations of tradition-meets-modern were on full display on March 30th at the annual Watches & Wonders exhibition this year in Geneva, Switzerland. My old teammates were once again taking retailers and media partners on a journey through the twelve novelties that were presented. Overall, there is a great deal of variety among this latest group of heroes representing Patek Philippe’s “Class of 2022”. It is a tight collection that features a new white gold interpretation of the Reference 5231G World Time with enamel dial depicting South-East Asia. A ladies white gold Ref 7121/200G with moon-phase shimmers with its diamond bezel and blue sunburst dial with applied Breguet-style hour markers. And even a Minute Repeater Reference 5374/300P took the stage with a bold diamond treatment on the dial and around the case.
But I’m interested in the multiple themes that emerged from this collection. Two of them are presented separately in isolated groups of four – and in my opinion, that’s very different than forcing two themes into one entire watch. One theme features an aesthetic from a bygone era, while the other is a response to a modern sweeping trend. And both are very intriguing to me.
Let’s do a fly over and assess each of them.
The first theme is that look to the past portrayed in the four charismatic vintage-inspired models: 5172G, 5320G, 5226G, 5326G. Ever wonder why Patek Philippe’s vintage inspired pieces appear so naturally executed? This brand is so connected to its own history and have a treasure trove of it at the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva – here, the design team to turn their imaginations loose and connect with iconic works from centuries past and get lost in a blizzard of ideas (some of these ideas might not become reality for several years). If you’ve never visited the museum and fancy yourself a horological connoisseur, this is an absolute must. You can wander around a sea of intricate details – particularly with the dial hands and hour markers.
References 5172G and 5320G are prime examples of what you might find in the museum – honing in on their rose gold dials – a detail related to a previous era. Each of them, outfitted in a white gold case and three-tier lug design inspired by Reference 2405 from 1940. While References 5226G and 5326G pleasantly premiere a new textured dial – reminiscent of the bodies of old 35-millimeter cameras finished in anthracite… one look, and I can hear my father’s camera snapping film and feel its metal case in my hands. For me, the cherry on top is the beige-colored luminescence on the numerals and dial hands.
The beauty of the 5326G isn’t only on the outside – it runs deep on the inside too. In fact, there is a technical milestone beating within the Clous de Paris decorated white gold case. This Caliber 31-260 PS QA LU FUS 24H, with no less than eight patent requests, is the first time Patek Philippe has ever joined the Annual Calendar and Travel Time complications together. A union combined into one caliber delivering engineering that relates to precision, reliability, security and user-friendliness. As a whole, these models are a modern interpretation of an alluring antiquey aesthetic.
The second theme is supercharged with inspiration from the latest color wave flowing across the industry in an energetic way – green dials.
When it comes to dial treatments, Patek Philippe artisans possess the deft ability in finessing a color range to achieve aesthetic tranquility – this time their works are adorned in green. Over the last two years, customers have been rushing to add this color to their collection – and brands have been equally keen on providing it for them. Patek Philippe now offers it in greater volume than they have recently, in two very different executions across a quartet of references: 4910/1200A, 7130R, 5270P, 5205R.
Beginning with the ladies’ Twenty-Four Reference 4910/1200A, in a beautiful olive-green dial and sunburst finish creates an elegant dynamic with the applied 6 and 12 o’clock numerals, while the World Time Reference 7130R is also wrapped in a warm olive-green dial and rose gold case. We see plenty of depth here thanks to the meticulous hand-guilloched old-basket weave pattern in the center and hand applied rose hold hour markers. Tying it all together is just the right amount of sparkle along the diamond set bezel.
Turning to the men’s, we have two heavyweight References also donning green dials – the 5270P and 5205R. The 5270P perpetual calendar chronograph is a legendary movement. This movement, engineered in 1941 for Reference 1518, would be the first perpetual chronograph to be fitted onto the wrist. I love the two-tiered lugs of this icy platinum case and the satin finishing on the pushers. This vibrant green lacquered dial, graduating to black around the minute track, is a vivacious edition of this classic. A truly legendary movement that, despite being over 80 years old, appears ageless.
Contrasting the striking 5270P is the warmer pallet of the Reference 5205R. Originally launched in 2010, originally in two gray options, this annual calendar now gets its moment in olive green. Rose gold framing around the date apertures and calendar display at six o’clock, along with the baton-style hour markers, neatly complement the rich olive-green dial. While this earthy tone perfectly harmonizes with the rose metal, the sunburst texture and color gradation to black along the perimeter provide an adequate degree of dimension and the ultimate finish.
That highlights the two visual themes – the past and the present – but perhaps the big surprise to many is the absence of sport watches. This decision may appear tone deaf, given the sport watch fanaticism that’s seized the entire industry, but this was a calculated choice. Patek Philippe moves away from the crowd and creates interest elsewhere. This clever little formula provokes their audience to consider something they haven’t thought about lately. Just consider these newly retro designed Calatrava-style watches for a moment. They offer a level of versatility – a characteristic that buyers of the Aquanaut and Nautilus crave – while maintaining that touch of formality associated with the traditional Calatrava design language. They are undoubtedly fresh, captivating, and not sport watches. My favorite quality is that reminiscent “tool watch” feel I get when looking at them.
In wrapping this synopsis, this is one of best collections in recent memory that definitively demonstrates Patek Philippe channeling two ends of a creative spectrum – one from long ago, and the other from a more forward- looking approach. And again, executing them independent of each other. For as strong as this class is aesthetically, the timing in which it has been unveiled is an equally powerful statement as Patek Philippe is luring the crowd elsewhere.