Patek Philippe watch releases are greeted with more column inches and social media activity than a whole season of Love Island, such is their incredible far-reaching popularity. One pandemic, three lockdowns, and a ban on going to the pub later, has anything changed? Absolutely not. Patek continue to move the needle more than any other watchmaker.
We say some things never change… as you'll find out from the round up of our favourite Patek Philippe releases this year, actually somethings do indeed change. There's a new colourway on the ref.5711 Nautilus and, incredibly, there's a new-look Perpetual Calendar that is very much worth your consideration.
Elsewhere, a few old favourites have been given the ol' spit and polish. Of course, this being Patek, the polish is exemplary.
Whether you're a Nautilus junkie, a fan of high complication timepieces, or simply love a classic dress watch, we can assure you that Patek has looked after you with its releases in 2021.
Let's get started…
Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5711/1A-014
Depending on what corner of the digital watch space you occupy, the latest news from Patek Philippe is either the biggest of 2021, or a rather innocuous colour change.
The story began in January of this year when the watch giant confirmed rumours that the blue-dial version of its iconic ref.5711 Nautilus model (the ref.5711/1A-010, to be specific) was being discontinued with immediate effect. Blue dial = dead.
We’ve had to wait until April to find out what its replacement would look like, but Patek has finally broken the news to fans: the new-look ref.5711/1A-014 features a sunburst olive green dial.
It's rather lovely. A little more military and utilitarian in disposition, but there’s nothing more to say than that, really. The calibre 26-330 SC under the hood has been used in the 5711 Nautilus since 2019, and Patek fans will still lose their minds over the collection – blue or green, that doesn’t matter.
Given we have seen a number of green dials this year already (looking at you Audemars Piguet), perhaps 2021 marks the death of the blue dial and the birth of a new hero? Or perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Time will tell.
Patek Philippe Nautilus Travel Time Chronograph Ref. 5990/1R-001
Should news that the blue-dial 5711 Nautilus is off the menu leave your watch aspirations in tatters, might we suggest an alternative? This bad boy right here.
First launched in 2014, the Nautilus Travel Time Chronograph 5990 is… well, it’s a sexy beast. As one of the most complicated members of Patek’s iconic sports watch collection it has always been positively swoon-worthy – seriously, a 60-minute flyback chronograph, push-button dual-time zone complication, and a date display – but, just to make sure, the Swiss giant has introduced a new execution in rose gold with a contrasting sunburst-blue dial.
It is by no means the most notable Patek Philippe release in 2021, but it is certainly one of the prettiest. This gold-hued masterpiece just looks fantastic from every angle.
Patek Philippe In-line Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5236P
Perpetual Calendars are already incredibly complicated watches – and Patek Philippe is the undisputed master of making them. (Patek made the first commercial QP wristwatch back in 1925.) Yet somehow the brand keeps finding new ways to refresh and reinvent the complication.
This year, it has launched the Ref. 5236P-001 In-line Perpetual Calendar, which shows the day, date and month in a single panoramic aperture. In order to achieve this feat it had to invent and consequently file three different patents.
The technical term for this unique layout is ‘coplanar’ – essentially meaning the information is presented all in line and on one level.
Now, this is not the first time this has been done. Indeed, the inspiration behind it was a famous Patek Philippe pocket watch from 1972 (No. P1450) that features a calendar format ‘à l’Américaine’. There is one big issue with this – the month and day are the wrong way around. (Thanks, America).
So the challenge was set to Europeanise the layout, while making it small enough to fit on a wristwatch and still remain legible.
The solution was to build four discs that would remain inline but never touch one another. This mechanism alone required 118 parts in addition to a conventional perpetual calendar display.
These include double ball bearings which keep the discs at the correct height with negligible friction, not to mention some ingenious wheels with strategically missing teeth. To the uninitiated, they look like cogs that have been in a fight. Indeed, the tens star – with only four teeth – is the veritable Cletus Spuckler of the watch world.
Yet it is thanks to these missing teeth – along with the Ronseal-named ‘catch-up finger’ – that help ensure you never need worry about a leap year again. (At least, until 2100.)
All this mechanical genius is presented in a classic Calatrava case made from platinum. The blue lacquered dial – with its black gradation and vertical satin finish – is frankly a work of art in its own right, and a fitting frame from which to present Patek’s latest watchmaking art.
Patek Philippe Calatrava “Clous De Paris” Ref. 6119
The Nautilus might steal the limelight more often than not – along with Patek Philippe’s ‘flashier’ grand complication pieces, of course – but it’s worth sparing a thought for the understated Calatrava collection. Dating back to 1932, the Calatrava is not just a standard bearer for dress watches, but is also one of the longest-running collections in continual production anywhere. Sure, it might not pepper your Instagram feed with the same regularity of its younger siblings, but this is one watch design that has stood the test of time better than most.
We’ve seen countless Calatrava models over the years, but the one that stands above the rest is probably the ref 3919. First launched in 1985, this iteration featured a distinctive hobnail guilloché bezel, known as a “Clou de Paris” pattern, that framed the otherwise demure dial with an elegant flourish. There’s nowhere to hide with this kind of simplicity, but that’s just how Patek likes it: those devilish details are executed to perfection.
You know where this is going… The brand-new Calatrava “Clous De Paris” 6119 breathes fresh life into the iconic 3919 model, with a few concessions to contemporary tastes and a new hand-wound movement under the hood for good measure.
First things first, the 6119 is not just a modernised version of the 3919 but it’s much larger as well. The case is a perfectly proportioned 39mm (up from 33mm) that benefits from reworked lugs – tapered and curved instead of the straight lugs of its predecessor – ensuring a slender profile in spite of the growth spurt. Elsewhere, faceted “obus” markers in 18K gold replace the 3919’s Roman numerals, and dauphine hands are used in place of more ornate leaf-style hands. Both decisions are justifiable: by removing traditional watch design cues and replacing them with more minimal aesthetics, you have a more timeless rendition that feels contemporary even if it’s still classic at heart.
Most importantly, however, is the presence of that lovely Cloud De Paris pattern on the bezel. The two rows of mini pyramid accents is just a dynamite feature that creates just enough flair to make this understated gem sing.
The 6119’s new case size predicated a new movement, and Patek has plumped for its Calibre 30‑255, which brings with it a host of modern day heft in comparison to the 3919. Think: 65-hour power reserve, and a stop second mechanism useful when setting the time.
Available in the classic combo of a rose-gold case and a silvery grained dial, or a more contemporary white gold and charcoal grey dial, it is a timeless timepiece – and a charming nod to a Patek icon.
We’re telling you now, this is a sneaky-good release from Patek.
Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillon Haut Artisanat Ref. 6002R
It turns out Patek was waiting until the summer to release one of its flashier watches of the 2021 roster. Hot on the heels of Patek’s first releases of 2021 is the June release of the Sky Moon – a watch that showcases the full force of the Swiss giant’s arsenal. This double-dialled, 12 complication ode to classic watchmaking is actually the second most complicated Patek wristwatch we’ve ever seen, with only the Grandmaster Chime able to compete with the Sky Moon’s myriad of features. The press release reads more like an encyclopedia of watch complications than items you’ll find on a single watch. But what are we actually looking at? Deep breath now…
On the main dial you’ll find the usual suspects of a perpetual calendar indication, including day, date, and retrograde month displays (neatly ring-fencing the outer perimeter of the watch), as well as a moonphase, a baby indication showing where you are in the Leap Year cycle, and of course your hours and minutes hands. Flip the watch over and the reverse side reveals all sorts of astronomical goodies, such as sidereal time, a sky chart, and the phases and orbit of the moon. In truth, these indications are really only pertinent to 1) an astronomer, 2) a werewolf or 3) a watchmaker who’s found themselves in a veritable clock measuring contest… by which I mean the craft in creating a sidereal time indication is an especially impressive one.
(If you’re wondering, sidereal time is the measurement of the time it takes a particular star to return to the same point in the sky. This differs from the solar day by approximately four minutes due to the stronger force of the Sun’s gravity on Earth versus distant stars meaning it has to rotate slightly more than one full orbital spin in order to return the stars to their original position. Is that clear? Let’s move on.)
Capping off this smorgasbord of watch features is a minute repeater and a hidden tourbillon – the latter being what one might describe as the ultimate watchmaking flex.
All of this is to say nothing about the estimated 100 hours of engraving, from the case to the hands, and beautiful cloisonné enamel decoration at the centre of the dial. This might be a complex masterpiece, but it’s a visual work of art as well as a mechanical one.
There’s also a matching pair of gold cufflinks, just in case the watch alone wasn’t enough to make you part with what is likely to be more than £1m (price on application, naturally) to own this whopper.
Patek Philippe Minute Repeater with Retrograde Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5304/301R-001
For those who like a little more sparkle on their wrist, the latest version of the Ref. 5304 adds 80 baguette-cut diamonds to the bezel of an already eye-catching timepiece.
First launched in 2014 and now relaunched in 2021, this reference is something of an outlier in Patek’s Grand Complication line-up by dint of its modern openworked display. While it might be a black sheep, it’s no ugly duckling. There’s something deeply fascinating, and unquestionably beautiful, about watching the inner workings of a Patek watch slowly turning in perfectly choreographed motion, like watching a ballet dancer’s footwork as they twirl across the stage.
Too figurative? Well, the bare bones of the watch are plenty enough without metaphor. There’s a minute repeater and perpetual calendar with a retrograde date indicator, made all the more intriguing by the use of transparent sapphire crystal disks for easy viewing of the mechanical wizardry at play beneath.
Patek Philippe Minute Repeater with a Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5374G-001
Very much on the other end of the scale to the Ref. 5304 is the understated beauty of the Ref. 5374. Like its much louder cousin, it’s a minute repeater with a perpetual calendar – two hallmark Patek Philippe complications that the Swiss watchmaker would contend it does better than any other – but this time it is presented within a white gold case with an elegant blue enamel dial.
If I was in a reductive mood, I might say this is “traditional Swiss watch design at its best” (I’ve said that before), but this of course belies the beauty of this watch. The Mona Lisa depicts a modestly dressed, ordinary woman, and yet its universal appeal comes from the smallest of details: her gaze, the subtle smile, the delicately painted veil she wears. The Ref. 5374 is no different. The shade of blue, for example, is one of those unplaceable ones that only adds to its allure, while the sparse symmetry of the subdials, the minimalist font, the Breguet numerals, the dot indices all amount to something greater than the sum of their parts.
Patek might have the horological might to create watches as complex as the Sky Moon, but it excels at the seemingly simple perhaps better than any other watchmaker on the planet.
Patek Philippe split-seconds chronograph and perpetual calendar Ref. 5204R-011
In October, Patek Philippe launched a trio of watches to celebrate its mastery of the chronograph movement. Along with its minute repeater models from the summer, you might say that Patek has spent a large part of 2021 making the point that its renowned Nautilus is just one small part of its watchmaking arsenal – ignore the grander models at your peril.
The first and most complex of the three new chronographs is the Ref. 5204R-011, a split-seconds chronograph (or rattrapante, if you feel like using the fancy term) that also incorporates a perpetual calendar complication. In fact, so complex is this piece it boasts seven patented innovations, including six for the chronograph and one for the split-seconds mechanism.
First launched in 2012, this year’s model features a rose gold case with a contemporary slate-grey dial and strap combination. It’s a handsome overall effect, with the rose gold really bringing out the warmth in the grey. Patek is also offering this reference with interchangeable solid or see-through sapphire casebacks but, really, you’re going to want a good look at the traditional movement architecture of the calibre CH 29-535 PS Q ticking away under the hood. Typical of Patek, the finishing is second to none.
Patek Philippe self-winding flyback chronograph with annual calendar Ref. 5905/1A-001
Whether it's British racing, avocado or khaki, you can bet your bottom dollar that your favourite boutique is cashing in on the current trend for green watches. Even Patek is getting involved. Its olive-green Nautilus already made a splash earlier in the year and it wouldn’t surprise us in the slightest if the new Ref. 5905/1A followed suit – it’s a real looker.
Launched as a platinum model in 2015 followed by a rose gold iteration in 2019, Patek has now released its flagship flyback chronograph and annual calendar combination in steel; less precious than its other metallic siblings, but highly coveted by collectors. The composition of the dial really allows that new sunburst green dial to sing: the central chronograph hand, large 60-minute subdial, and day/date/month apertures arcing around the top of the dial leaving plenty of room for the dial to breathe.
Patek calls the Ref. 5905 “resolutely sporty” and while we can’t soundly advise you to wear this watch for anything more active than a meal at a restaurant (but still be careful, please), there’s something charmingly laidback about this watch design that belies its inherent complexity. This one’s on our wish list.
Patek Philippe self-winding world time flyback chronograph Ref. 5930P-001
Another case of green fingers from Patek Philippe’s watchmakers, the Ref. 5930P combines a self-winding flyback chronograph with the brilliant world time complication – an iconic complication that allows the wearer to simultaneously view the time in 24 time zones and reference cities.
First launched in 2016 with a blue dial and white gold case, Patek has changed things up this year with a green dial and hand-polished platinum case. The reference cities have also been finished in green, while the watch comes with a shiny bottle green strap for good measure.
We were going to make a joke about the high-spec finishing being such that collectors will be green with envy, but honestly we’re a bit greened out. It’s a smashing watch. We’ll leave it at that.