There are times, an item becomes so synonymous with an individual or a brand that it becomes an integral part of their identity; An association formed that is so inseparable that doing without it, would diminish the character of the brand or person.
So for Patek Philippe? Perpetual calendar chronographs. Not much has been left unsaid about this legendary flagship family of watches, and rightly so. Deemed by many not only as the quintessential Patek but also as some of the best watches of all time, they have become graceful lessons in restraint and practicality, in balance and in tradition. The first-ever produced perpetual calendar chronograph by Patek Philippe was in 1941 with the reference 1518 and since then they have only released four more iterations, with the one you see here today, the 5270, the most recent. It goes to show that this reference is taken very seriously, with only five versions (1518, 2499, 3970, 5970, 5270) in nearly 80 years.
This particular example is perhaps my favourite iteration of the variations seen so far in the 5270. As Wei Koh said in his article for Revolution ‘There are gold watches, and there’s the Patek Philippe 5270/1R: where one would expect from Patek Philippe a timepiece with just a touch more flash from a reined expression in gold, there is a slack-jaw moment when first confronted with how the watchmaker is serving up gold in flaming spadefuls here.’ First released in 2018, this is the full-fat 5270R, housed in a rose gold case with a deep black dial, with the watch finished off fitted with a stunning integrated ‘goutte’ (French for droplet) solid rose gold bracelet.
I am absolutely a huge fan of gold and what may not be known, is that Patek Philippe worked closely with Gay Freres in the 20th century to produce a myriad of uniquely design gold bracelets. For instance, when you bought a Ref. 2526 back in the 1950s, you had four bracelet designs you could choose from! So while some might see this as gaudy, I do think there is some continuity with the choice to have a bracelet option in the catalogue.
Looking into the business end of the 5270, this is where Patek made headlines when this watch was first released in 2011. The calibre 29-535 PS Q was the first perpetual calendar chronograph made entirely in-house, replacing the Nouvelle Lemania based 27-70 Q used in the older 5970 and 3970. Although the 27-70 Q was an exquisite, top-tier movement, we live in an age where the term ‘in-house’ has become a selling point for manufacturers and a priority for customers.
In terms of tradition, this is as pure as it gets. Housed inside the 5270 is a classic column-wheel chronograph, using a lateral clutch engagement so you can see the watch functioning in all of its glory. While there are known drawbacks to a lateral clutch as supposed to a more modern vertical one, Patek opted for the former due to the fact that simply stated, they are architecturally and aesthetically more beautiful. It isn’t always the case that watchmaking is all about technicality, especially in Haute Horlogerie. Instead, it is the subtle alternations between the balance of beauty and functionality that truly defines a great movement.
To be able to see the wheels engage and disengage in the 5270 really is a beautiful thing. This provides a much more immersive experience for the wearer. After all, why have an exhibition case back if there’s nothing to see? Furthermore, it is important to note, that Patek being Patek, they combatted a lot of the downsides of a lateral clutch movement such as hand quivering and backlash through a series of ingenious inventions. This includes a patented tooth profile for the chronograph wheels to reduce wear and prevent tooth tip collisions (which causes hand jumps), a column wheel cap that is actually functional, allowing a more precise adjustment for the clutch lever and a slotted minute counter cam that prevents the second-hand quivering when reset. Above the base calibre, sits a newly developed perpetual calendar module, and at a thickness of 1.65mm, it ensures the watch remains discreet and slim, relative to the level of complications.
As expected, the 29-535 PS Q is beautifully finished, albeit understatedly. There is nothing superfluous, no flourishes or engravings and that is the way I like it. With expertly finished polished chamfers on all edges and satin-finished flanks, it is aligned with Patek’s pursuit of sophistication and understatement.
The 41mm case of the 5270 is perhaps my favourite part of the watch, which in my eyes achieved an amazing proportionality and balance. The flared, angular lugs that stick out of the watch are juxtaposed harmoniously with the roundness of the concave bezel. Looking at the side profile, at 12.4mm thick, the rectangular pushers are spaced perfectly, corresponding with the mentioned lugs that stream downwards and narrows at the end. Nothing here is obtrusive as the watch ebbs and flows between fluid shapes and sharp angles, between masculinity and elegance, complementing one another. It is truly a master class in case design. I never thought I’d say this about a watch sized at 41mm, but on the wrist, I was pleasantly surprised at how well it hugged my wrist. The profile really works and it doesn’t look bulky or oversized at all. (That’s coming from someone with a smaller wrist.)
The dial is unmistakably Patek, with two apertures for the month and day at 12 o’clock, and three recessed sub-dials for the minute counter, seconds counter and moon phase. Using rectangular rose-gold applied index markers, its relationship with the softer shaped Feuille hands is well-balanced. New to the 5270 was the removal of the day/night and leap year indicator from the sub-dials and it was replaced with two apertures that make for a far cleaner look.
I do think that there is something universally appealing about a rose gold watch with a black dial. This 5270R is further complemented by the tasteful accents of blue in the moon phase and the day/night indicator. There is no doubt that this watch has a huge presence and makes a big statement on the wrist. I always say, it is not what you wear, but how you wear something and when tastefully done, this Patek Philippe 5270R makes for a very classy and elegant watch.
Note: I wrote an article on the Patek Philippe 5270 back in 2015 for www.bexsonn.com and in this description, I draw heavily from what I wrote then. No plagiarism was involved ;)