Patek Philippe could bring out a Hello Kitty quartz watch and a portion of the watch fraternity would still fall over themselves to get a slice of the action. But that’s not how the towering Swiss brand does its business.

Patek has made its name through peerless watchmaking and a level of finishing rarely seen from a large-scale brand. Just take a look at the new Ref. 5235R Annual Calendar Regulator. It is, on all counts, stunning.

Let’s start at the beginning. Regulators date back to the mid-18th century where regulator clocks were accurate timekeepers using a weight-driven movement for the highest level of precision available. Such was their renowned accuracy that watchmakers used them as reference points when adjusting their own creations – and as a result the style of separating the hour, minute and second hands came into fashion as a matter of practicality.

The minimalist dial, designed for function rather than aesthetics, shares its utilitarianism with Bauhaus-inspired watches, which brings us onto Patek Philippe’s first regulator wristwatch, launched in 2012 and succeeded in stunning fashion this year.

Patek Philippe Ref.5235R Annual Calendar Regulator watch review
Patek Philippe Ref.5235R Annual Calendar Regulator watch review

The Ref. 5235 is a fascinating outlier in the Geneva watchmaker’s hallowed collection. It is the only time Patek has made a regulator-style wristwatch and as such looks quite unlike any other piece in the brand’s lineup. The sparse dial configuration, the ebony-black subdials and chapter ring, that sumptuous vertically-brushed graphite central section: it oozes contemporary elegance rather than the more familiar hallmarks of Patek classicism. It’s a feast of warm tones and restraint.

The best part is the watchmaker has leaned on its Advanced Research division to add a number of high-tech movement components that blend this traditional device with the pinnacle of modern horology.

Brace yourself for the big words: under the hood you will find a Pulsomax escapement, Spiromax balance spring, and Gyromax balance. This can get complicated pretty quickly so we’ll explain these innovations as 1) marginal gains within the components of the balance wheel to create greater efficiency, and 2) the use of hybrid silicone material Silinvar for further efficiency and reliability.

To put it another way, it’s a bit like the recent hybridisation of super cars. You’re getting the best of both worlds: the grunt of a traditional petrol engine and energy-saving efficiency of advanced electric components.

The hybrid car shares other similarities with the Ref. 5235R, too. Both have their detractors who simply can’t compute the confluence of tradition and technology, but many more are happy to see an old-school brand like Patek pushing the boundaries of what is possible.

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