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Review: In With the New – The Patek Philippe Chronograph Ref. 5172G

by Frank Chuo on September 16, 2019

Patek Philippe Chronograph Ref. 5172G

For the longest of time, we thought of the Ref. 5170 as Patek Philippe’s resident dress chronograph, and looked at the Ref. 5070 with nostalgia. It was the new guard vs. the old guard. Well now the new guard becomes the old guard, as Geneva’s most prestigious watch manufacturer introduces its new flagship dress chronograph and, effectively, retires the Ref. 5170. As a new era dawns, we bring you the details and our thoughts on the Patek Philippe Chronograph Ref. 5172G.

The Case, Dial, and Hands

Remember the Ref. 5070? It’s got a tanky case with a wide bezel. Patek Philippe wanted to capture the world’s attention when it re-introduced the dress chronograph back in 1998 – and capture the world’s attention it did, with an oversized watch (for Patek standards anyway). Then, perhaps in attempt to compensate, the much more reserved Ref. 5170 came along in 2010. The Ref. 5170 is a pure dress chronograph in both dimension and design. The watch is truly elegant, though some felt that it is too textbook and conservative.

With the retirement of the Ref. 5170, it seems Patek Philippe may have found the Goldilocks Zone for its new household chronograph piece. The Ref. 5172G, crafted in white gold, sits between the Ref. 5170 and Ref. 5070 in case dimensions. It measures a diplomatic 41 mm in diameter and 11.45 mm in thickness. While we much prefer the 39.4 mm size of the Ref. 5170, the 41 mm diameter of the Ref. 5172G will likely please more people while still maintaining a sense of dressiness.

Of lines and edges. The case of the Ref. 5172G is highly nuanced. The sapphire crystal is also raised, giving the watch a vintage look.

Even the approach to the case design has been balanced out. Now, it is neither prudish nor provocative. If the case design looks familiar to you, it is probably because the Ref. 5172G uses the same casing as the Ref. 5230G (sans pushers). It features a stepped bezel and double-stepped lugs – certainly one of Patek Philippe’s more nuanced cases. Instead of the rectangular pushers of its predecessors, the Ref. 5172G has vintage-inspired pump pushers.

The dial of the Ref. 5172G can be largely described as ‘vintage-casual’. It’s not just the lumed Arabic numeral markers and syringe hands but also the typography used for the tachymetre scale. A blue dial – which seems to be in-trend this year – is appropriately utilised to ensure that the watch does not look anachronistic. The overall layout of the chronograph displays remain identical to that of the Ref. 5170. Needless to say, the watch is perfectly legible, which is extra important for a chronograph.

The use of Arabic numerals in the Ref. 5172 is reminiscent of the old Ref. 5070.

It’s pretty obvious that the folks at Patek Philippe have opted for a bit more fun and whimsy with the Ref. 5172G. The watch is even paired with a blue calfskin strap with off-colour seams, instead of the usual alligator leather with matching seams. Indeed, the Ref. 5172G has plenty going for it, and at times it might feel a little overwhelming to the senses. That said, we feel that given enough time, the community will get used to the watch as the new resident Patek Philippe dress chronograph, just as it has with the previous two references.

The Movement

Powering the Ref. 5172G is the same Calibre CH 29-535 PS that drives the Ref. 5170. No need to reinvent the wheel when your existing chronograph movement is already top-of-the-line. The manually-wound calibre, featuring Patek Philippe’s signature Gyromax balance, has a power reserve of 65 hours and operates at a modern 4 Hz beat rate. It is a special movement because it was the first fully in-house chronograph movement for Patek Philippe, and heralded the end of the manufacture’s dependence on Lemania-based chronograph movements.

The Calibre CH 29-535 PS as seen through the sapphire crystal case back.

The Calibre CH 29-535 PS is a lateral clutch, column wheel chronograph movement, but with half a dozen patented innovations that improve performance, it runs better than most of its modern peers.

The black polished column wheel cap of the Calibre CH 29-535 PS

As one would imagine, the finishing on the movement is exquisite, with polished chamfers on all edges, black-polished column wheel cap, Côtes de Genève on the bridges, circular graining on the wheels, perlage on the base, and numerous other finishes applied on parts visible or hidden. One thing to note, though, is that Patek Philippe appears to be inward-angle-shy here, as there are none in this movement – missed opportunities, really.

Impeccable finishing, but only outward and rounded angles can be found.

The Competitive Landscape

When it comes to dress chronographs, few do it better than Patek Philippe. This notion continues with the new Ref. 5172G. The watch is fresh and relevant, yet still grounded to its maker’s traditional values. Priced at SGD97,100 or just over USD73,000, the Ref. 5172G is clearly targeted at the ultra-luxury end of the market. The air is thin there, but there is one obvious competitor to the Ref. 5172G that is absolutely worth a look – fun fact: it’s not even Swiss.

The Ref. 5172G – in spite of its contemporary size – should slip under most dress cuffs with relative ease.

We’re of course talking about the 1815 Chronograph by German manufacturer A. Lange & Söhne. The dial of the 1815 Chronograph is somewhat reminiscent of the Ref. 5172G except that it lacks luminescence and is therefore dressier. Both cases are excellently finished, but is more austere in design in the 1815 Chronograph, which some may or may not prefer. Where the two masterpieces differ more noticeably is in the movement and functionality. The Calibre L951.5 that drives the 1815 Chronograph is very traditional in build and architecture. It is also exceptionally beautiful (as you may have heard). Objectively speaking, it has a higher standard of finishing than the Calibre CH 29-535 PS. The Calibre L951.5 also boasts an additional flyback function which the Calibre CH 29-535 PS lacks. But to the credit of Patek Philippe, their chronograph movement still is more modern, innovative, and technically advanced.

Interestingly, the 1815 Chronograph in pink gold retails for SGD70,400 – a whole SGD27,000 less than the Ref. 5172G. So, unless you are banking on the (potential) value retention/appreciation of the Ref. 5172G, the 1815 Chronograph remains a must-consider when purchasing an ultra-high end dress chronograph.

Visibility of the hands may be poor at certain angles due to its polished nature and the dial being black.

But what if one wishes not to break the bank and still experience a fine dress chronograph? Look no further than Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Master Control Chronograph in stainless steel. The watch features a retro design with its sector dial, openworked syringe hands, and blue-black prints. When it comes to movements, you can always count on Jaeger-LeCoultre to deliver, Beating inside the Master Control Chronograph is the in-house Calibre 751G. The key differences between the Calibre 751G and the Calibre CH 29-535 PS are that it is automatic, has a vertical clutch, measures time up to 12 hours, lacks a running seconds function, and has minimal hand-finishing. The Ref. 5172G is clearly the more finely crafted piece (inside and out) with plenty of R&D devoted to it, but at SGD12,400 or SGD85,000 less, the Master Control Chronograph indubitably offers the best value for money.

The Master Chronograph uses syringe hands like the Ref. 5172G except it is skeletonised and not lume coated.

Final Thoughts

Patek Philippe’s attempt to spice up its resident dress chronograph brings us the new Ref. 5172G. With its 41 mm size and neo-vintage makeover, it is safe to say that spiced up, it has been. The Ref. 5172G is a well-designed timepiece that is overflowing with character and has plenty to love about. Once everyone gets accustomed to its semi-casual aura, the Ref. 5172G may well outperform its conservative predecessor – the Ref. 5170 – in popularity.

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