Several candidates spring to mind when one wonders what the most iconic Patek Philippe wristwatch might be. Is it the ever popular Nautilus? Perhaps one of the elegant world timers? In this writer’s humble opinion, the face of Patek Philippe is and has always been the perpetual calendar chronograph. And this is his story of his Patek Philippe Ref. 5270.
A brief history of time: Patek Philippe Perpetual Chronograph style
Patek Philippe’s perpetual calendar chronographs are among the most coveted watches in the world. The Geneva manufacturer is undoubtedly the grand master of this combination of complications. It is the reference standard from the day it created the world’s first of its kind, the Ref. 1518, to the launch of the Ref. 5270, the most recent interpretation.
The introduction of the Ref. 5270 in 2011 was a big deal, for it was the first ever perpetual calendar chronograph by Patek Philippe to use a fully in-house designed and manufactured movement. All earlier iterations have been based on either the Valjoux or Lemania ebauches.
Since then, two new generations of the Ref. 5270 have been introduced, both with relatively minor visual changes to the dial. Of the three generations of the Ref. 5270, the second generation, announced in 2013, was probably the most controversial as it featured what is famously (or infamously) known as “the chin”, referring to the jarring disappearance of the seconds/minute track at the 6 o’clock position where the date numerals overlap. The third generation of the Ref. 5270, released in 2015, was perhaps Patek’s attempt at fixing what caused so much bereavement among enthusiasts – “the chin” was finally gone.
The Patek Philippe Ref. 5270 Perpetual Calendar Chronograph
The watch in review here is the third generation Patek Philippe Ref. 5270, more specifically the Ref. 5270G-019. Many including myself feel that it has the best dial among all the Ref. 5270s, what with the striking blue sunburst dial and the banishment of “the chin”. Without further ado, let us take a closer look at the Patek Ref. 5270G-019.
The Shop Front
The dial layout of the Ref. 5270 quickly suggests that it is a direct descendant of the legendary and much-hyped Ref. 5970, or even the Ref. 1518 for that matter. Much like every ancestor of the Patek perpetual calendar chronograph, the Ref. 5270 indicates the day and the month with twin apertures at the 12 o’clock position. The date and moon phase indicator can be found at the 6 o’clock position, while the 3 and 9 o’clock positions on the dial are inhabited by the 30-minute chronograph counter and the small second sub-dial, respectively.
It is worth noting however, that unlike its immediate predecessor, the Ref. 5970, the two sub-dials at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions in the Ref. 5270 are not exactly on the horizontal axis of the dial – they are just below it. It is said that this was done to deal with the niggling issue of replica watches. The idea was that by lowering the two sub-dials, the watch becomes nearly impossible to copy, thus making it easier to spot a fake. (Editor’s note: this is because the location of these sub-dials are fixed in accordance to the calendar module used. As Patek was redesigning the movement for the Ref. 5270 anyway (the Ref. 5970 utilized a Lemania ebauche), it was a trivial matter to move the sub-dials. But for a counterfeiter to do so, would mean a new module, which will be expensive)
Also noticeably distinct from the Ref. 5970 are the day/night and leap year indicators. In the Ref. 5270, Patek Philippe decided to use two mini apertures at the 4:30 and 7:30 positions for these functions, as opposed to the sub-dials at 3 and 9 o’clock as seen in the Ref. 5970. With these changes, the dial does look somewhat easier to read while still maintaining its iconic balance.
Further reducing the clutter in the sub-dials is the use of stick hands in place of the feuille hands found in the previous iterations of the Ref. 5270 and past perpetual calendar chronograph references. In my opinion, while the stick hands look a lot simpler and less majestic than feuille hands, they do imbue a cleaner look on the sub-dials and on the dial as a whole. As they say, you can have too much of a good thing, and on the busy dial of a perpetual calendar, simplicity may be better.
Of course, no review of the Ref. 5270G-019 is ever complete without mentioning the stunning blue sunburst dial. One cannot help but think that Patek Philippe may be trying to appeal to a younger crowd with the introduction of a blue dial/white gold/blue strap combination on one of their most classical references. Blue might be a cold color but the dial on the Ref. 5270G-019 is alive and resplendent. Depending on lighting conditions, the dial could appear midnight blue, azure blue, or every shade in between in a gorgeous sunburst pattern. While a blue dial is undeniably less dressy than say a silvery opaline dial, it nonetheless still packs more than enough class for a suit and a Friday night dinner date with the missus at Alain Ducasse.
The hour/minute hands are still in the Patek feuille style (also known as swallow or leaf shaped hands) and applied hour markers in white gold only add to the regality of the timepiece, and much like the dial itself, they too dance in the light and can appear almost black or bright silver. The inscriptions on the dial, along with the central chronograph hand and the stick hands in the sub-dials are all in white, aiding in legibility.
The Business End
What is truly remarkable about the Ref. 5270G-019 is in actual fact its 456-part movement, the calibre CH 29-535 PS Q. For Patek Philippe, its creation signified the end of the manufacturer’s dependence on Lemania-based movements to power its perpetual calendar chronographs.
The in-house developed and manufactured CH 29-535 PS Q is manually wound and has a respectable power reserve of 55 to 65 hours (with the chronograph disengaged). The movement utilizes a free-sprung Gyromax® balance and beats at a modern 4 Hz (or 28,800 bph).
Patek decided to go for a more traditional and aesthetically-pleasing column wheel, lateral clutch system for their chronograph in this caliber.
Evidently, this was the right choice. A Lange Datograph it may not be, but make no mistake, the chronograph mechanism of the CH 29-535 PS Q is still breathtaking to behold! Peering through the case back, one can appreciate not just the amazing depth and layout of the movement but also the quality of its finishing. We’re talking about beveled and polished edges on the levers and old-style bridges, polished screw heads, glorious Côtes de Genève that span from one bridge to another, and a tight and even perlage on the base plate. It is quite literally as good as it gets in high horology. What is not visible through the case back, however, is the perpetual calendar module, which dwells just under the dial. As expected for a watch of this caliber (pun not intended), the moon phase indicator is accurate to 122 years, after which only a correction of one day is required.
On The Wrist
The Ref. 5270G-019 is a classical piece with modern proportions. The watch measures 41 mm in diameter and 12.4 mm in thickness and is Patek Philippe’s largest perpetual calendar chronograph yet. On my wrist, the 41 mm case is perfect – it is neither invisible nor overpowering. The watch at 12.4 mm thickness is relatively thin given the level of complexity within the case and should easily slide under most dress cuffs. I personally found the Ref. 5270G-019 to nestle nicely into the skin and sit comfortably on the wrist; not once have I found the watch to be cumbersome.
The case and the lugs of the Ref. 5270G-019 are polished to a mirror shine. Also worth highlighting are the grooved and stepped design of both the lugs and the case; I find this to be particularly pleasing to look at and to feel, and it just gives the watch that much more character.
The crown is beautifully crafted and decorated with the Calatrava Cross, but more importantly, it is appropriately sized for easy winding. The rectangular pushers for the chronograph function are thoughtfully brushed on the sides and polished on the top, giving the case a lovely contrast in finishing.
And speaking of those pushers, I must say, actuating them is almost akin to having a religious experience. The resistance of the pushers is neither “buttery smooth” like in the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph, nor “all-or-nothing” like in the Vacheron Constantin Harmony Chronograph; it is somewhere in between, in a place I’d like to call the “Goldilocks zone” – just nice. You hear (and feel) the very reassuring “snack, snack, snick” as you start, stop and reset the chronograph, providing you with immense aural and tactile satisfaction.
The dial layout is as good as it gets (in terms of legibility) when it comes to perpetual calendar chronographs, and the Ref. 5270 continues to show the world how it should be done. Admittedly however, as splendiferous as the blue dial looks, it does sometimes adversely affect the reading of time, especially when light isn’t reflecting off the black polished surfaces of the gold hour/minute hands and applied markers. When that happens, the hands and markers tend to look black, and on a dark blue dial, it does make it hard to tell time even for my 20/20 vision. In my opinion, the watch would also benefit from anti-reflective coating on the sapphire crystal as glare can be an issue occasionally, but I can appreciate why Patek Philippe might not want to go that route.
For many, a perpetual calendar chronograph, such as the Ref. 5270, is the ultimate Patek to own. Not only does it retain most of the dial layout that shot its predecessors to fame, it even features an in-house movement that impresses not just in performance but also in finishing. Many may think that the Ref. 5270 plays second fiddle to the Ref. 5970, but I beg to differ. I think the Ref. 5270 is a worthy successor of the critically-acclaimed Ref. 5970, especially with a sublime movement of Patek origin to boast. Only time will tell if the Ref. 5270 will reach such great heights as its predecessors did, though one thing is clear in my mind: the Ref. 5270 is one of the finest mechanical watches ever produced and is absolutely worthy of being the face of modern-day Patek Philippe. Okay, two things actually.
Editor’s Notes: Frank Chuo joins the Deployant Team as a guest writer, and will be contributing articles on a monthly basis. Frank’s interest in horology only began relatively recently. But what he lacks in number of years, he makes up for with an indomitable passion. When not working on his PhD, Frank can be found running his watch blog in Instragram, meeting other collectors, attending watch industry events, browsing in boutiques or writing about watches. His favourite brand is A. Lange & Söhne although he also enjoys offerings from Patek Philippe and Jaeger-LeCoultre. Apart from being a watch enthusiast, Frank is also a huge foodie and a loyal Chelsea F.C. supporter
Except for the wrist shot, which is Frank’s own photograph of his watch, the watch shown in the photographs is from the Patek Philippe Boutique in Ion Singapore. We are grateful to Cortina Watch for making the arrangements for the shoot. The watch is available for sale at the Boutique. Retail price is S$ 216,500 inclusive of GST.