Existing amongst some of their best-known watches, the Patek Philippe Chronograph is a model that has always welcomed serious scrutiny from aficionados and collectors alike.
What we have on offer here today is the legendary Ref. 5070R, first released in 1998 as Patek Philippe’s first manually wound, chronograph-only watch since the Ref. 1463, which saw its production ceasing sometime in the 1960s. So, when Patek brought out the Ref. 5070 after a near 40-year absence of a manually wound chronograph model, it was considered a big deal in the watch world. Fun fact, the design of this Ref. 5070 was actually inspired by a rare and possibly piece unique aviator split second chronograph Ref. 2512 from the 1950s, which sold at Christie’s in the year 2000 for over USD 836,000.
Housed in a rose gold case and fitted with a beautiful opaline dial and applied Arabic numerals, I imagine that the Ref. 5070 would easily command the attention of the entire room due to its masculine size and proportions at 42mm x 11.6mm. Because of its down-turned beveled lugs and wide-stepped bezel, I find the overall appearance of the Ref. 5070 to be somewhat sturdy yet elegant without being overbearing. Although the Ref. 5070 was Patek Philippe’s first production model with a case size larger than 40mm, it was still quintessentially a Patek Philippe design at its very core as it still retains a lot of the little details Patek Philippe is famous for. For instance, the dial showcases a balancing exercise of running a tachymeter scale on the periphery to offset the “wideness” of the dial, and how the applied Arabic numerals partially disappear due to the placement of the subdials.
I personally find the Ref. 5070 to be a touch more appealing than its subsequent in-house successors, this is because the Ref. 5070 was Patek Philippe’s final chronograph powered by a Cal. CH27-70 that is derived from the venerable Lemania 2310 ebauche.
For those who already know, the Lemania 2310 is widely regarded as one of the finest chronograph movements to have ever been designed and produced and was used widely by brands from Omega to Breguet and from Vacheron Constantin to Audemars Piguet. While many watches do share this ebauche, Patek Philippe’s version is arguably the best in terms of finishing and modifications.
The last Ref. 5070 variants were produced in 2009 and were subsequently replaced by the Ref. 5170 with an in-house Cal. CH29-535 PS, which was again, succeeded by the Ref. 5172. While these days it is all about who produces in-house movements, and perhaps rightly so, there is a certain romantic charm about Patek Philippe of the past and the use of this Lemania caliber that makes the 5070 so collectible today. In fact, ironically, the Ref. 5070 is seen as far more desirable than its in-house successors.
Overall, the Ref. 5070 is an interesting offering of a pure chronograph by Patek Philippe, because, through this reference, I see a time when Patek Philippe was more open to taking risks in their watch design and approach. Despite it being somewhat of an outlier in terms of its lineage in traditional chronograph design, it still exudes a certain sense of grace and finesse that is only found in Patek Philippe’s timepieces.