The Masquerade Patek: Introducing the new Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref 6007A-001
Pablo Picasso once said: “I who have been involved with all styles of painting can assure you that the only things that fluctuate are the waves of fashion which carry the snobs and speculators; the number of true connoisseurs remains more or less the same”. The new Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref 6007A-001 is one watch that will appease to the true connoisseurs but will most likely alienate a lot of others. It’s that kind of a watch.
These days simply add the word ‘steel’ next to Rolex sports watches and any Patek watch and what you get is hysteric pandemonium perhaps last deservingly reserved for the likes of Jerry Lewis & Dean Martin in early 1960s. This steel obsession trend of-course as many of you may know owes its birth to the launch of Gerald Genta’s Audemars Piguet Royal Oaks. Justified or not, the world (including me) has come to appreciate these steel watches — not the grey market price inflations though — and the new Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref 6007A-001 is in all fairness worthy of the praise I am about to shower in this article.
The Flip Side: Connoisseurs vs Enthusiasts
The Enthusiasts side
In my opinion, there will be a divide in appreciation of this timepiece when it comes to the tastes of connoisseurs vs enthusiasts. Looking at the expectations of the enthusiasts first, in terms of creating something unique and genuinely awe-inspiring, the new watch falls short by a mile. In also creating something very, very similar to their existing lineup it again falls short. In my humble opinion, when it comes to Patek, between this range of expecting something radically different to something very similar, lie most Patek watch enthusiasts’ expectations and interests.
The new Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref 6007A-001 features a mix-match of elements: design cues that reflect past pieces like Pateks’ Ref. 5208T (Only Watch 2017), Vacheron Constantin’s FiftySix, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Memovox, JLC Polaris Date, or Hamilton Blue Khaki Field; a non-decorated buckle; the references alluding to a building design that to many on first look might seem irrelevant; and the price point of USD 28’351 for a steel watch. All these factors could spell a nonchalant attitude amongst most enthusiasts with a capital N.
The Connoisseurs’ Side
But then comes the flip side, the true connoisseurs’ side. And this is where Patek scores, and scores big.
In an ever-changing world where one watch brand or type of watch may be the flavour of the season but loses all its sheen the next, there are certain watches that have stood the test of time. Patek Philippe’s Calatrava is one such watch. Embodying the sentiment behind the above quotation by Picasso, the new Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref 6007A-001 is truly a watch that will appease the insatiable appetite of true watch connoisseurs.
The new Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref 6007A-001 has a lot going for it, but namely due to the following it will leave its stamp on the 2020 watch scene: it’s a limited edition release in steel from a member of the watch ‘Holy Trinity’ and is launched in celebration of the completion of the new Patek Philippe manufacture production building in Plan-les-Ouates (Geneva).
In a nutshell, the new Patek is a limited edition steel watch. Simple. Period.
The Context & Irony
The Previous Limited Editions circa 1996/97
Whilst the new Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref 6007A-001 may be a first for the brand in its design aesthetic, the reason for its existence is not without precedence.
The Maison has a history of launching limited-edition commemorative timepieces. The Ref. 5500 ‘Pagoda’ — manual-winding men’s chronometer version — and the Ref. 4900R — manual-winding women’s version — spring to mind. Then there was the Ref. 5029P Minute Repeater that was released a year later. They were all released roughly 23 years ago to mark the official inauguration of the then new manufacture in Plan-les-Ouates.
If my research is correct, the Ref. 5500G ‘Pagoda’ was released in limited numbers of 2000 pieces only. Some pieces can still be found on Chrono24, the cheapest being AU$ 13,191 at the time of writing. These 2000 pieces were divided into 18K yellow gold, 18K rose gold, 18K white gold and platinum case materials, with the black dialled platinum version being my favourite of the lot. This unique rectangular case that looks like a pagoda when viewed from its sides, had a closed caseback unlike the new Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref 6007A-001.
On the other hand the Ref. 5029 Minute Repeater is even more rare and exclusive, given it was only produced in 30 pieces, all again in precious materials of yellow and pink gold, and platinum.
See where I am going with this? As limited and rare these watches are, they were still produced in precious materials. No steel.
The Previous Limited Editions circa 2006/07
Besides these three instances, two other examples come to mind, both from 2006/07. They were both released to commemorate the reopening of the Geneva Salon: the 35mm wide and 46mm long Ref. 5105P in Platinum and the 36mm diameter manual-winding calibre 215 PS Aig. 2 stamped with the Geneva seal watch Ref. 5565A. Allegedly the tools used to craft that specific case of the Ref. 5105P had been destroyed at the end of the production to ensure that that design would never again be made by the brand.
The Power of Patek Limited Editions
Last I checked one of these (Ref. 5105P) limited edition watches was sold at a Phillips auction above the estimated price of HK$ 500,000. On the other hand, the Ref. 5565A was a stainless steel limited edition release with a different two-tone dial that at a Christie’s auction last year sold again above the estimate for USD 43’750 (~340,000 HK$).
Such is the power of Patek’s limited edition models. So yes, while some may scoff at the unusual design and the high pricing of a steel watch, the truth remains that the new Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref. 6007A-001 will not only appeal to the connoisseurs but most likely will end up being a valued item at an auction in a decade or two’s time.
The Power Enhanced by Steel
All of these limited edition pieces we have talked about barring the last one were in precious materials. Ironically, compared to these, the Maison’s latest watches are in a technically less expensive — and inferior according to the old standards of luxury — but much more coveted and desired material of steel.
As a matter of fact, even if you take Patek’s entire watch offerings currently, only 29 watches (including this one) are in steel out of the total of 174 watches in their catalogue.
That’s how rare and precious steel is for them.
Compared to the previous limited edition commemorative editions, the case-back of the new release is different: it features a sapphire-crystal caseback specially marked with a Calatrava cross and the “New Manufacture 2019” inscription.
Personally I would have preferred the inscription to read 2020 given it’s being released mid-way through this year, but the brand decided to go with 2019 as it was last year when their first work groups began moving into this new production building. Actually, if I really was creating a perfect caseback here, I would have liked it sans the inscriptions. They pretty much cover up the entirety of the back, hiding the otherwise beautifully decorated movement. This is one of my pet peeves that various brands are guilty of doing at one time or other, but the one brand that springs and drives to my mind is Grand Seiko.
New Building. Meet New Watch
The architect in me jumps in joy at every opportunity it is afforded when companies discuss their new boutique designs like the recent Hublot Ginza Boutique or in the present case the unveiling of a new production building by Patek.
Five years in the making, this new facility unites all of the manufacture’s Genevan ateliers under one roof. Designed to anticipate the Maison’s growth in the next 20 to 30 years, the new facility expands the 1996 building complex as it’s spread over 10 floors — of which four are subterranean — and across a length of 189 meters offering ample space for the rare handcrafts professionals and for basic and advanced training of its employees.
Like the new watch with its contemporary dial architecture, the new building also boasts of modern architecture that features elements inspired by the brand’s iconic watches. Let’s find out how.
Nautilus inspires the external facade
The Nautilus as you would know was designed by Genta. It features a gently rounded octagonal case. This case, in turn, has been inspired by the portholes on a submarine. All together the references allude to the ocean.
Now the design of the new building gives the impression of a huge ocean liner due to the presence of white concrete passageways along the entire façade of this new building, with intermittent bronze-coloured fire escapes. Besides looking like the aforementioned ocean liner, this architectural feature also assists in providing the new facility with excessive daylight. These concrete passageways have a slight horizontal curvature that in turn is reminiscent of the Nautilus case.
So you see it’s quite abstract but the new building takes its design cues from the Nautilus.
Watch hands further inspire the facade
Taking this design inspiration from its watches to its new buildings one step further is the inclusion of the balustrades of the fire escape ladders whose silhouettes resemble the form of leaf-shaped hands on the dials.
Pretty interesting, isn’t it?! Like I said, the architect in me indeed geeked out on the similarities with the watch nerd in me.
Beyond the similarities also lie various other features that are pretty interesting as well:
- The ground floor and the first floor are reserved for production and manual finissage of movement parts;
- The second floor focuses on machining, manual polishing, and the assembly of exterior parts (cases, bracelets) and gem-setting;
- The third floor accommodates further production-related departments such as Research & Development in the fields of new materials and new technologies, an haute horlogerie department, and a new unit for prototyping operations;
- The fourth floor provides space for further evolving and handing down of the rare handcrafts skills, and an auditorium;
- On the fifth floor, the building is crowned by a penthouse restaurant for 880 guests as well as four VIP lounges, all with a fantastic panoramic view of the landscape and the nearby mountains.
As a side note though, before you get your hopes up in deciphering that a larger facility means more production of watches, sadly that’s not happening anytime soon. According to their press release: “not to noticeably increase the volume of watches produced from currently almost 62,000 pieces per year. Annual production is already limited in a natural way by the extremely strict quality directives of the Patek Philippe Seal”.
Talking about their watches, let’s look at the specifications of the new Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref 6007A-001.
The heart used — Caliber 324 S C — in the reference 6007A-001 is a self-winding mechanical movement beating at the frequency of 4Hz (28’800 A/h). The movement uses a Gyromax® balance and a Spiromax® balance spring and bears the Patek Philippe Seal Hallmark; it is extensively used in other Patek offerings across the Nautilus, Calatrava, Aquanaut and Twenty~4 collections.
The calibre 324 S C is a variation of the original 324 family that includes the calibres 324, 324 S, 324 S C FUS, 324 S IRM QA LU, 324 S Q, 324 S QA LU, 324 S QA LU 24H/206, 324 S QA LU 24H/303, and the calibre 324 S QR.
Barring the present movement, the rest of the calibres combined usage across Patek’s range sees them being used in 33 other models. The calibre 324 S C itself is used in 29 other watches. Personally I would have loved if the Manufacture had used a new or a custom movement to showcase this beauty.
The 3.3mm thick and 27mm diameter movement is encased inside a 40mm diameter and 10.34mm — the crystal to display back height is only 9.07mm though — thick polished stainless steel case. It comprises of 29 jewels, 213 components and boasts of a max. 45-hour power reserve and only 30m (3 ATM) water-resistance. As one has to expect from Patek, the movement is beautifully decorated with the central, unidirectional winding rotor in 21K gold.
But enough of the movement specs; like we said, as impressive as they are, they aren’t something novel with this release. The real star is the dial and its execution.
The 40mm diameter sector dial is relatively on the larger side to be frank, but given the odd placement of this watch that fluctuates between a dress and a tool watch for me, I can see the relevance of the case size chosen.
Whether you decide to like it or despise it, there is nonetheless a fair amount of surface nuance to it. The brass dial almost has a dynamic face, that under different lights will react differently. Let’s start from the inside out.
Smack in the centre is the JLC Memovox lookalike ring that doesn’t sound an alarm but features a “carbon”-style fine-grain texture that plays with light. Whilst this criss-cross mesh tile-work pattern or basketweave guilloche doesn’t scream Patek in its design, it still sets a playful, contemporary mood.
Honestly, I like it. It’s different, just like 2017’s titanium self-winding minute repeater, chronograph and instantaneous perpetual calendar watch, the Ref. 5208T. It’s also similar to it in the use of a grey-blue dial faintly replacing the blue dial of the Ref. 5208T. And it features the similar hand-guilloché “carbon” pattern in the centre. Also, they both feature white gold applied hour markers with luminous coating, with the new watch featuring white lacquered Arabic numerals instead of indices. Visually the straps are also very similar giving out a fabric feel, at-least aesthetics wise. The Ref. 5208T made use of a blue Cordura strap with folding clasp while the new Ref. 6007A-001 features a calfskin strap with white decorative seams on a prong buckle with a delicately embossed structure reminiscent of textile fabrics.
Anyway, coming back to dissecting the dial, surrounding this “carbon”-style centre disc is the white-printed railway scale of the hour circle with triangular markers around the center. Now here, I am stumped. I honestly can’t think of any reason to put this on the dial except to maintain a sort of coherency when it comes to creating limited releases as I remember seeing this in the unique Ref. 6000T “Children Action” with two-tone dial release from 2007. In my humble opinion the dial would have been more clutter free and perhaps minimalistic and nicer without this.
Moving on beyond are the applied numerals we talked about above, that do aide the legibility of the dial as they contrast nicely against the circular graining of the gray-blue brass dial. And finally there’s the white-printed 5-minute scale at the periphery that brings a more sporty look to the dial face.
Complementing this dial architecture of white on grey-blue are the 18K white gold pierced baton style hands with luminous coating for the hours and minutes that recall the Ref. 6006 Calatrava. I am going to refrain from talking about the date window at 3’o clock. If you like it or dislike it, it’s totally personal and subjective, so there’s really no need for me to chime in (though personally as a thumb rule I like watches with dates). Last but not the least, the white lacquered bronze sweep seconds hand completes this very different looking and might I dare say youthful Calatrava dial.
Like I said earlier, on first glance, it’s not for everybody. The more you peel the layers though, the more impressive it appears. Overall the watch …
- … features a decagon case-back — reminiscent of Ref. 6006 Calatrava
- … features a similar dial layout to that of the Ref. 5212 Calatrava Weekly Calendar (featuring two concentric circles)
- … features a broad cambered bezel with relatively long lugs
- … features a dial divided into four zones
… features tons of personality.
Watch Ya Gonna Do About It
Oscar Wilde once said: “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth”.
In my opinion, the new Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref 6007A-001 is the brand’s, and maybe even this year’s, best masquerade watch. And I say that because many watches come and go that are essentially accepted on face value. There’s nothing wrong in that, except perhaps that they lack a sense of mystique that this new watch brings. It sits weirdly in terms of its use within the Patek collection. With a low 30m water-resistance, it’s not really a sports or a tool watch. And with a more contemporary dial, it’s not really a dress watch either. (As a side-note, I would have preferred if it had at-least a 50m, if not a 100m water-resistance). This dichotomy of sorts, of not really belonging to any predefined category and standing on its own is what I especially admire about this release.
Sure, it resembles in certain aspects to other watches. Sure, it is nothing out of the ordinary in the grand scheme of things. But it’s got a charm of its own. Like the above quotation, Patek’s given this new release a sort of mask that allows it to hide yet reveal its true colours. They have a wonderful formula going on for themselves: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But where does it say that they can’t tweak it?
To wrap up let’s just say that this new release itself bears a few similarities to Patek’s other watches, notably the Ref. 6006 Calatrava, Ref. 5212 Calatrava Weekly Calendar, and the Ref. 5208T (Only Watch 2017). All of these products are from 2017 onwards, and if my guess is right, the new Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref 6007A-001 is an example of the direction the Maison intends to pursue. If this is so, I say bring it on. I am loving the more youthful, eccentric direction the Maison is taking. To find out more about this 1000 piece run and other Patek Philippe watches, head to their website here. To read our quick Infographic review of the watch, please head here. And as for the folks at Patek, keep up the good work mate.