Patek Philippe have become synonymous with luxury timepieces for the most discerning of clients and the Swiss company have a reputation for really pushing the envelope when it comes to innovation and design.
One of the latest additions to the Patek Philippe Grand Complication Collection, the 5531R-001 may just have seen the Geneva based watchmakers exceed even their own lofty standards for turning horology into an artform. The basis of this stunning timepiece was premiered at the Art of Watches Exhibition in New York in 2017 with the limited edition Patek Philippe Ref. 5531R World Time Minute Repeater, New York 2017 Special Edition. Whilst the title may sound excessively grand to some, the watch itself more than earned such a lengthy moniker with its first of a kind complication now being showcased in the new edition.
So what is it that makes this new Patek Philippe Grand Complication so unique? Well, apart from its breathtaking design and stunning attention to detail there are actually a number of factors which make this watch extremely special indeed and below we’ve broken down some of the key elements of the piece to highlight why it is likely to be so sort-after.
The heart of every timepiece is in the movement, and the 5531R-001 has at its heart a world-first in the new R27 HU; an incredible piece of precision engineering that was reportedly undergoing research and development for 5 years. The R27 HU combines two complications in the minute repeater and the world-time display and is unique in that it is the “first minute repeater that always strikes local time everywhere”. That basically means that the watch can chime the time of whichever time-zone is represented by the city at 12 O’Clock, unlike previous minute repeaters which could only chime the wearer’s “home” time, irrespective of their actual location. Whilst this may sound relatively straightforward, in reality it required fundamental redesign to elements of the movement along with the development of entirely new parts resulting in several new patents having to be being applied for, all of which contributed to the design’s extended timeline.
The chimes or “gongs” themselves in the new Grand Complication are another first for Patek Philippe, being attached to the case band as opposed to the movement plate which gives clearer and more resonant tones. Reproducing clock-tower quality chimes in a wristwatch has always been a challenge in itself and this feature alone accounts for almost 100 separate components.
The self-winding mechanism is unidirectional and boasts an impressive 43 to 48 hour power reserve and considering that the 45 jewel caliber movement contains no fewer than 462 parts, Patek Philippe have done an admirable job in creating a movement just 32mm across and 8.5mm deep and housing the entire unit within a case approximately 40mm in diameter and a shade under 11.5mm deep.
The round case itself is tastefully fashioned in 18k rose gold with a guillochéd feature pattern around the outer edge. As already mentioned the case has been kept to fairly conservative proportions with the crown, slide mechanism (for the minute repeater) and function button above the crown also pleasingly proportioned so as to add to, rather than detract from, the overall appearance. The case back comes in two options, either solid or sapphire-crystal although given the beauty and complexity of the movement it would seem a shame to hide it away behind a solid case-back!
If the movement of the Patek Philippe Grand Complication 5531R-001 is about the beating heart of this work of art, then the dial is about providing a face to match the inner beauty. At the centre is a stunning cloisonné enamel depicting the shores of Lake Geneva; it is rare enough to find cloisonné artwork being practiced at all these days, let alone in such fine detail. This is essentially a private work of art in itself for the wearer to marvel at each time they look at their watch. Indeed Patek Philippe themselves have only once before used such a technique for the dial of a minute repeater, and that was for the New York 2017 Special Edition, where the limited edition run of 10 units featured the New York skyline, 5 at night and 5 during the day.
The hour and minute hands are subtle enough not to detract from the cloisonné artwork but sufficiently clear and distinct from one another to be easily read at a glance, assuming the wearer can simply “glance” at such a timepiece!
Around the central scene is an 18k dial plate with 24-hour ring, with 2 city discs outlayed around this in maillechort (German nickel-silver), each carrying 12 of the named time-zones. These outer rings have the effect of subtly drawing the eye back to the central art-work and is another example of Patek Philippe’s mastery of combining different handcrafts to create a single functioning piece of art.
Currently there is only one strap option to complement the watch though it has been designed to do so perfectly. The Patek Philippe 5531R-001 comes with a brown patent alligator leather strap with square scales and a fold-over clasp in 18k rose gold to match the case finish.
Patek Philippe have gone all-out to produce something masterful both technically and aesthetically in producing what is both a high-precision timepiece and an eye-catching work of art all in one. That is not to say that this watch isn’t sure of what it is supposed to be, quite the opposite in fact, so for those aspiring to find a truly special timepiece this Patek Philippe Grand Complication certainly makes its mark.