On the occasion of Patek Philippe’s hugely successful brand exhibition in New York last year, the brand launched the Ref. 5531 New York Special Edition as an exclusive debut for the US market. What’s presently making news in the world of horology is that the micromechanical masterpiece has now been added to the manufacture’s regular collection.
The watch enthusiast can now own a new grand complication with amazing features in a domain that Patek Philippe has dominated for decades: a minute repeater, a World Time mechanism, an enamel arts dial, and a rose-gold case crafted in-house.
In contrast to all other watches of this type, the Ref. 5531 is endowed with a World Time minute repeater that strikes local time rather than home time. On top of that, it can be conveniently set to the respective time zone with a separate pusher.
The new 2018 Ref. 5531 shows a remarkable dial that reflects a grand Patek Philippe tradition, which is a magnificent cloissone enamel depiction of the Lavaux vineyard terrace region on the shores of Lake Geneva, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Lapped rose-gold hands hover above this stage.
A trailblazing innovation, controlling the hour strike to one-second accuracy via the 24-hour display of the World Time mechanism, this is a horological feat that has never been accomplished so consummately. Needless to say, a patent application has been filed.
It is an achievement credited to the new self-winding caliber R 27 HU movement that consists of 462 parts crafted in the manufacture’s haute horlogerie workshops.
Winding is by a minirotor in 22K gold which is fully recessed in the movement and exhibits a hand-guilloched hobnail pattern.
The hour hand always indicates the local time in the city aligned with the 12 o’clock position. The times of the other 23 world time zones are displayed opposite the respective place names by the concentric 24-hour scale that doubles as a day/night indicator, courtesy of its two differently coloured ring halves. Geneva, instead of Paris, represents the Central European Time (CET) zone, accentuating the Lac Leman optics of the dial.
An elegant rose-gold case accommodates the movement and the World Time dial. The timepiece’s slender looks are due to skeletonised lugs and the special shape of the crystal. This master creation is the manufacture’s first minute repeater in which the gongs are attached to the caseband rather than to the plate, making the model produce a better sound.
Clearly a watch to covet and desire, the Ref. 5531R World Time Minute Repeater comes with a shiny chocolate brown alligator leather strap that has a fold-over clasp in 18K rose gold.
The year 1884 saw the International Meridian Conference adopt universal time and the world was officially divided into 24 time zones. Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) became in principle, the prime meridian. Since then, the watchmakers’ challenge has been to display multiple time zones on just one dial.
During the 1930s, Louis Cottier, an independent Genevan watchmaker invented the first mechanisms and dial components which could simultaneously and continuously display the time in all 24 time zones. These were referenced by the cities printed on the dial or engraved in the bezel. Always innovative and always able to know the next step forward for time, Patek Philippe worked with Cottier to develop and produce the company’s first World Time mechanisms.
The core principle of a World Time mechanism is that the city names circle the dial, along with a rotating 24-hour ring. Such principles can be found in the rare Ref. 515 HU Patek Philippe World time from decades ago, namely 1937. This has a fixed time-zone plate showing 28 locations and a 24-hour rotating disk.
Basically when turned counter-clockwise, the disk simultaneously coordinates the times in every time zone, while the hands indicate the local time in the city placed at 12 o’clock. Complications were quickly incorporated to this mechanism as per the Ref. 1415 with chronograph and pulsometric scale.
The 1950s saw city names moved beneath the crystal glass. Also, for the first time, two crowns were used to set the local time. This is seen in the Ref. 2523 from 1954, a mechanism patented by Louis Cottier for PatekPhilippe.
In 2000, a new model, the Ref. 5110 was premiered. It was equipped with a patented breakthrough which was the time-zone movement allowing the simultaneous adjustment of the city disk, the 24-hour ring, and the hour hand.
It was amazing that the manufacture’s first patented World Time mechanism did not require any manipulation of the crown; time zones were set with the help of pushers and all this was achieved without affecting the accuracy rate of the movement by even one second.
The year 2006 saw a new version of its Ref. 5130 World Time with a case that was slightly enlarged from 37mm to 39.5mm, improving the legibility of the city names. In 2016, with the launch of the Ref. 5230, came a new design for the Patek Philippe World Time with its 38.5mm case.
World Time Today
Fast forward to 2014 and to pay tribute to its 175th anniversary, PatekPhilippe presented a series of limited edition pieces featuring the World Time Moon watches with the Ref. 5575G and the Ref. 7175R. For the first time, these timepieces combined two complications: the useful indications of all 24 time zones with a highly precise moon-phase display. The final flourish was that Paris was replaced by Geneva on the city disk.
Ladies were not forgotten during the celebration of the company’s 175th anniversary and the Ref. 7175 World Time Moon in rose gold was released as a limited edition. Unique and attractive, these models featured an innovative local time hour hand, the Southern Cross constellation.
The Ref. 5930G was the first Patek Philippe that combined a flyback chronograph with world time functions. The design inspiration was the timepiece Ref. 1415 from the 1940s.
Launched in New York in 2017 during the Patek Philippe exhibition was the special edition Ref. 5531R World Time Minute Repeater as mentioned earlier. Only 10 pieces were produced for this special edition: five with the “New York by Day” dial and five with the “New York by Night” dial.
A Timely Journey
From the very first Patek Philippe World Time model, the Ref. 515 HU, introduced in 1937, through to today’s timepieces, the World Time complication has ranked amongst the most popular Patek Philippe timepieces for over 80 years.
The current Patek Philippe World Time collection displays an updated and contemporary design inspired by the 1950s models. The Ref. 5230 combines winglet-style lugs with a narrow, smoothly polished bezel and hand-guilloched basket-weave motif dial centre. The ladies Ref. 7130G features a sparkle of diamonds in white gold with a gray-blue hand guilloched dial centre.
The watches are a tribute to the manufature’s savoir-faire. They are also masterpieces of craftsmanship. Through the years, the unparalleled and unprecedented journey of Patek Philippe in the world of horology has inspired one and all. Coveted and treasured, a true watch collector will always want a Patek Philippe to keep and to pass on to the next generation.