Embark On The Journey Of Perpetual Discovery To The Pinnacle Of Fine Watchmaking With The Patek Philippe 5159R
Editor’s note: This review of the Patek Philippe 5159R-001 is part of our ‘W.R.A.T.H’ series, or ‘What’s Really Available Today Here’ watch photo reviews. It is a new series where we go hands-on with watches that can at least at the time of photographing be bought! For our other reviews of the latest novelties, please head here. For our in-depth deep dives, please head to our dedicated review section here. Today’s watch is brought with the grateful assistance of J Farren-Price Sydney
The Watch: The Patek Philippe 5159R-001 Grand Complications Perpetual Calendar Retrograde Date
Available At: J Farren-Price Sydney, 80 Castlereagh St, Sydney (02 9231 3299)
Suited For: Connoisseurs who would like to have a stately timepiece. It’s for those who like their timepieces to be rare and a mile apart from anything else on other’s wrists.
Will You Like It
The Patek Philippe 5159R-001 aesthetically bears all the fine hallmarks of what we have come to expect from a Patek timepiece, but on further inspection reveals an additional feature in the form of a hunter style hinged caseback that acts as the basis for a refined ‘officer’s-style’ timepiece.
Coco Chanel once said: “Elegance is when the inside is as beautiful as the outside”.
This could not be more true than in the case of the Patek Philippe 5159R-001. Hiding behind the hunter style hinged solid gold caseback is the elegantly decorated calibre visible through a sapphire crystal window.
In the present day, this style of design very rare and far between. Is it welcome though? In short, yes. You have to realise that the coolness factor here is high: imagine acquiring a Patek timepiece that features a beautiful display movement but it can be hidden by a second case that can also be personalised with engravings?
Heirlooms rarely get better than this.
If I rattle my brain a bit too hard, a few other brands come to mind that dabble in the officer’s-style watches: Speake-Marin and Chronoswiss in modern times make these cases, and if you think about vintage watches, then the Omega CK 2299 comes to mind. Though if you just look at the lug style of these watches they are reminiscent of the Ulysse Nardin Marine collection. Or even the Breguet Marine 5817ST features lug design resonating with the officer’s case language. But none of these first come to mind when thinking of modern officer’s-style watches, especially with added complications.
This top spot, both in my head and its watch database, and when researching the watch market in general, is reserved for the one and only Patek.
I would even go on to say that if people are willing to look beyond the Nautilus — and not that Nautilus is not legendary in itself — they will see that there is much more to Patek as a watchmaker than one steel sports watch collection. The Patek Philippe Grand Complications Perpetual Calendar Retrograde (5159R001) is an excellent case in point.
It’s for those who wish to embark on the journey that leads them to discover how and why Patek sits at the pinnacle of fine watchmaking.
Cut From A Different Cloth
There are three key elements (and their combination) that ensure that the Patek 5159R is cut from a different cloth: officer’s style case, retrograde date and the perpetual calendar.
Officer’s-style watches are easily identified as a result of the use of certain distinctive features.
These can all be used at once or only a few of them are incorporated, but as long as it’s got those soldered-on lugs — this is crucial because initially pocket watches were turned into wristwatches for army officers by soldering on straight legs to them — and a bulbous onion-shaped crown, it pretty much qualifies. Think of it as an IWC Big Pilot’s Watch meets Breguet Marine 5817ST. Add a hinged protective case-back and you are definitely in the trenches.
The Patek Philippe 5159R-001 features these elements, and adds a few more:
- the spring bars are missing and instead, we have the appearance of soldered-lugs (due to the presence of straight lugs);
- a fluted royal crown with relief-embossed Calatrava cross is present that makes it for easy winding;
- the sapphire crystal case-back is protected by a hinged dust cover (in 18K rose gold).
- the bezel is polished and the case design is overall minimalistic and not large (sub 40mm);
- the silvery opaline, hand-guilloched sunburst pattern in the centre of the dial. The dial despite multiple complications is still clutter-free
The Retrograde Date
Besides featuring the rather rare officer’s-style case, the 5159R also features rather rarely seen complication set featuring a perpetual calendar with a retrograde date display. Credit where due, Patek really knew what market niche to find and deliver.
With a retrograde date dial on the 5159R, the wearer sees the date hand move along a 270- degree arc, and at about midnight of the last day of the month, it will jump back to the numeral 1.
Retrograde calendar watches are not uncommon, but only a handful of examples come to mind when looking at perpetual calendar with retrograde date: The Bovet Récital 21 Retrograde Perpetual Calendar, the Vacheron Constantin Quai de l’Ile Retrograde Annual Calendar and the Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Quantieme Perpetual Retrograde are all that I can find, and even then the VC option is an annual rather than a perpetual calendar timepiece.
And as distinctive and impressive these other offerings are, none pair these complications with the clean and stately aesthetics of the officer’s-style case.
Finally, even simple perpetual calendar watches while common come at a premium and for Patek to combine all of these into one is praiseworthy. For those who may not be aware of what a perpetual calendar watch is, in a nutshell, it’s a watch that provides for calendar changes without the need for physical adjustments.
We have actually covered how a perpetual calendar watch differs from simpler watches before while reviewing the Chopard L.U.C Perpetual Twin, but no harm in repeating ourselves I guess.
A normal calendar watch, that is, a watch with a simple date complication, is the simplest (and the cheapest) form of buying a calendar watch. This is because its mechanism can’t distinguish between 30 and 31 days of different months. The mechanism only features a date disc with 31 days. So every time when there is a month that contains 30 days, say June, at the end of the month the watch will show 31 in the date window, even though it should be 1 July. So the wearer has to physically change the date.
Next up are the Annual Calendar watches. Pricing wise they sit somewhat in between normal calendar and perpetual calendar watches. The Annual calendar watch takes into account the 30 and 31 days cycle automatically as long as the watch is wound up. So the wearer doesn’t have to worry about changing the date every alternate month. That said, it can’t handle February, given the 28 or 29-day cycle. So once a year or annually, the wearer has to change the date physically once at the end of February, hence the name annual calendar.
Now comes the last one in our discussion, and as the name suggests, this watch’s calendar keeps going on ‘perpetually’. It’s designed to take into account not only the date change in February automatically, but it also can handle leap year date changes automatically too. Not only that, often on the dial face they would display the date, day, month, week, year, and sometimes even the moon-phases. Therefore a perpetual calendar watch theoretically if its kept wound up and is working properly, will not need a physical intervention by the wearer until the year 2100, as according to the Gregorian calendar, the year 2100 is a special year that will not be a leap year.
And all this is achieved mechanically, often by parts made by hands, without computers assisting. You buy a cellphone these days and it doesn’t work properly after a couple of years. A perpetual calendar watch will not only work (when maintained obviously) for you but also for your descendants.
And when it comes to the world of horology and heirlooms, it rarely gets better than this. So you can imagine how impressive the mechanical watchmaking here is.
The heart used, the Caliber 324 S QR — S stands for sweep seconds, Q for perpetual calendar, and R for the retrograde date with the flyback hand — in the reference 5159R-001 is a self-winding mechanical movement beating at the standard frequency of 4Hz (28’800) though when it was first introduced, if I am not wrong, it beat at the low frequency of 3Hz (21’000 A/h).
The calibre 324 S QR 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 uses a Gyromax® balance and a Spiromax® balance spring along with bearing the Patek Philippe Seal.
The 5.35mm thick — it was slightly thinner at 5.28mm upon introduction back in April 2007 — and 28mm diameter movement is encased inside a 38mm diameter and 11.79mm — the crystal to display back height is only 10.79mm though — thick polished 18K yellow gold case. It comprises of 30 jewels, 361 components, 9 bridges, boasts of a min. 35 hours – max. 45 hours power reserve and only 25m (2.5 ATM) water-resistance. As one has to expect from Patek, the movement is beautifully decorated with the central, unidirectional winding rotor in 21K gold.
Our In-person Impression
Jon Franklin, the winner of the inaugural Pulitzer Prizes in two journalism categories once said: “Simplicity, carried to an extreme, becomes elegance.”
The Patek Philippe Grand Complications Perpetual Calendar Retrograde (5159R001) is a testament to that.
The journey to the 5159R started with the ‘Calatrava’ range of watches and has led to the ‘Grand Complication’ collection. The Patek Philippe 5159R-001 is a sequel to a long list of exceptional timepieces born out of the same design language.
Starting from the ref. 3960 from end 1980s, we have the 36mm ref. 5053 from 2001, followed by 2009’s ref. 5153. The Patek Philippe 5159R-001 is very similar to this 5153’s design language, but of-course takes it several notches up with added complications.
We recently had the chance to visit the Southern Hemisphere’s largest Patek boutique here in Sydney. Like a museum piece, the Patek Philippe 5159R-001 sat in a display, commanding attention. It’s smaller case size and the relatively non-cluttered case for a perpetual calendar caught my eye. I had seen pictures of this before, but never in the metal.
The main impression, however, formed when I strapped it on. On my almost 16cm wrist, it’s 38mm size not only fit perfect, but it was the definition of elegance.
Despite being a gold watch, there is something understated about it; it’s got a quiet quality that whispers of elegance rather than shouting. It’s an exercise in how subtle a luxury timepiece can be. True it’s not completely clean dialled like say the Patek ref. 3960 from the late 1980s, but the bold use of elongated Roman numerals ensures that legibility is never compromised.
The Patek Philippe 5159R-001 also shines owing to the restrained and apt use of complementary colours and textures.
The blue Arabic minute track numerals, the black hour Roman numerals, the white date disc, the shiny gold case, the brown strap, the stepped window apertures, the hand-guilloched sunburst pattern in the centre of the dial, the blues and yellows of the moonphase, and the enigmatic burst of red of the date-display hand – all of these myriad details ensure that the 5159R-001 is an effortlessly elegant timepiece, one that is best appreciated as a sum of all its parts.
Like any Patek timepiece, there are always details that improve the ‘wrist’ experience. At first glance, the 5159R seems thick, almost like a hockey puck. But in reality, it measures only ~12mm and in terms of linear dimensions, the lug-to-lug is ~47mm. Both the thickness and the overall length hits a sweet spot that caters to a variety of wrist sizes and preferences.
Another detail I was impressed by was the closing and opening of the hinged-cover. Its presence is noticeable but subtle, and its snap has a satisfying sound. Furthermore, the crown rests on a plinth, bringing in a sense of geometry to the otherwise plain case.
There is also a play of different design styles brought about by the different kinds of hands used: pear-shaped hour and minute hands in black oxidised gold and arrow-style retrograde date hand in black nickel-plated gold with painted red tip.
The hand-stitched matte chocolate alligator strap with 16-mm Calatrava fold-over clasp in 18K yellow simply lays the final finishing touches to the stately timepiece. The 20mm lug interhorn spacing means that the straps can be switched easily should one desire to.
Last but not the least is the use of differing Geneva Stripes revealed when the case-back is on ‘display’ mode: the movement has linear Geneva Stripes while the oscillating weight has circular.
In short, the Patek Philippe 5159R has it all: friendly dimensions for a range of wrist-sizes, beautiful finishings, a rare officer’s-style case, a rarer mix of perpetual calendar with retrograde date display, a beautiful silver opaline dial, and decent legibility for a watch that showcases the functions of central hours, minutes and seconds, a leap year indicator, day, date, and a moon-phase indicator.
When the Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref 6007A-001 was released last year amidst mixed opinions, I remember finding a quote that defined it best. It also fits the 5159R to a T.
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 Patek Philippe Grand Complications Perpetual Calendar with Retrograde Date like the 6007A-001 is one of those kinds of timepieces that will best appease the true connoisseurs of horology rather than those who simply want what’s cool at the moment. The 5159R is in the true sense a timepiece regal enough to be passed on from generation to generation.
To find out more about the Patek Philippe 5159R and other PP timepieces, please head to the PP website here or visit their authorised retailer J Farren-Price at 80 Castlereagh St, Sydney (02 9231 3299). To explore the J Farren-Price website, please head here. All images unless otherwise stated are ©WatchYaGonnaDoAboutIt.