Patek Philippe Annual Calendar Ref. 5205G-013
Patek Philippe is widely regarded as one of the most prestigious watchmaking firms today. This much deserved reputation is thanks – in no small part – to its rich, productive history. The manufacture not only boasts a long list of distinguished patrons, it is also responsible for numerous inventions and innovations, many of which are still in use today in one form or another. Perhaps one of its most significant contributions to watchmaking in the modern age is the annual calendar wristwatch, first introduced in 1996. The annual calendar – or quantiemè annuel in French – is similar to the perpetual calendar, except for the fact that it does not account for the month of February and leap years, and must therefore be corrected once a year, typically at the start of March. The rationale for the the annual calendar wristwatch is that it is arguably more user-friendly and definitively less expensive than the more complex perpetual calendar wristwatch.
The Ref. 5035 was Patek Philippe’s very first annual calendar reference, and after it, numerous other references with the complication have been introduced. This includes the much beloved Ref. 5205, initially presented in 2010. Only two versions of the reference were available then, both in white gold. This was followed by two rose gold variants in 2013. In 2018, Patek Philippe released a new iteration of the Ref. 5205 in white gold while simultaneously discontinuing the 2010 debutants. Two years on, has the 2018 Ref. 5205G-013 done its retired siblings proud? In short: yes, and then some more. Here, we bring you the low-down and our thoughts on the Patek Philippe Annual Calendar Ref. 5205G-013.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
As denoted by the ‘G’ in the reference number, the Ref. 5205G is indeed rendered in white gold. At 40 mm in diameter and 11.36 mm in height, the watch is modern in proportions but still small enough to slide under a dress cuff. Where the case really shines is in its design. The case, with its sensuous curves, provides visual and tactile pleasure aplenty. Our two favourite design elements on the case are the concave bezel and the scalloped, openworked lugs. The entirety of the in-house manufactured case is given a polished finish for a dressy look. In our opinion, the Ref. 5205 has one of the most gorgeous and nuanced cases amongst all of Patek Philippe’s regular production pieces.
The new Ref. 5205G has also got a dial to match its spectacular casing. While the old Ref. 5205G variants also had two-tone dials, the new guard has one that is gradated. The sunburst dial fades from an electric blue in the centre to black on the periphery. Put frankly, while the clearly-demarcated two-tone dials of old were nice, this new gradient dial is more sophisticated and exciting. Its full beauty can only be appreciated in real life as it interacts with light in magnificent ways. At the 6 o’clock position of the dial, there is a large sub-dial that houses the 24-hour indicator (displayed radially) and the bosom-style moon phase indicator. The annual calendar indications are located in the top half of the dial, in the form of discs viewed through apertures. The day window is located beside the 10 o’clock marker; the date window, at 12 o’clock; and the month window, next to the 2 o’clock marker. Over the years, these windows have been on the receiving end of some criticism. Some dislike the way the windows (along with the typescript) expand outwards, and some dislike the fact that only the month and day – but not the date – expand outwards. In our eyes, these are design aspects that actually add sophistication to the dial; having just straight windows and typescript would be boring. Of course, we also understand that beauty is subjective. What is not subjective, however, is Patek Philippe’s uncanny ability to design clean, legible dials – and the dial of the Ref. 5205G is just that: clean and legible. Thanks to the judicious use of aperture displays, the Ref. 5205G is able to relay as much information as possible while maintaining an elegant visage.
To indicate the time, the Ref. 5205G interestingly utilises three different types of hands: dauphine (with a strip of lume) for the hours and minutes, whitened lancet for the central seconds, and whitened feuille for the 24 hours. The hour markers are baton-style appliques with multiple facets and a polished finish, while the minutes are marked by dots along the perimeter of the dial.
Driving the Ref. 5205G-013 is the 356-part Calibre 324 S QA LU 24H/206. A common belief in the watch community is that Patek Philippe’s annual calendar calibres have more parts than its perpetual calendar calibres – this turns out to only be a half truth. Take for example, the Calibre 240 Q (no window displays) which has only 275 parts or 81 fewer parts than the Calibre 324 S QA LU 24H/206. But a fairer comparison would be against a calibre from the same family i.e. the Calibre 324 S QR which does use window displays, with 361 parts (5 more than its annual calendar counterpart). That said, it does appear that an annual calendar movement has a higher ratio of parts to functionality than a perpetual calendar movement.
Interestingly, the Calibre 324 S QA LU 24H/206 only has a 35-45 hour power reserve, which is less than ideal by modern standards. A respectable power reserve would be at least 48 hours to last through the weekend. Perhaps it’s about time the movement receives an upgrade but phasing it out will be an arduous task as the base Calibre 324 is still used in tens of Patek Philippe references.
From a finishing perspective, the Calibre 324 S QA LU 24H/206 is flawless and absolutely deserving of the Patek Philippe Seal. Visible through the exhibition case back are tell-tale signs of a well-finished movement: Geneva waves of even width, polished bevels on edges, circular waves on the gold rotor, polished screw heads, and perlage, among other things.
The Competitive Landscape
Annual calendar wristwatches are relatively uncommon compared to the more established perpetual calendar wristwatch. For the time being, it is Patek Philippe that has the lion’s share of the market, which isn’t surprising given that the manufacture was the one that introduced the annual calendar wristwatch to the world. The Ref. 5205 is one of Patek Philippe’s most popular annual calendar timepieces due to its good looks. The Ref. 5205R with black dial is often considered the most desirable of the lot as its rose gold/black dial combination is irresistible. But with the introduction of the Ref. 5205G-013, expect some of that attention to be diverted away, because the Ref. 5205G-013 looks just as sublime. The watch is priced at EUR43,520, which – all things considered – is a fair ransom.
About 14 years after the arrival of the world’s first annual calendar wristwatch, and 16 years after reopening for business, A. Lange & Söhne presented its own interpretation of the annual calendar timepiece. The Saxonia Annual Calendar is currently available in platinum, white gold, or pink gold. At 38.5 mm in diameter and 9.8 mm in thickness, the watch is both smaller and slimmer than the Ref. 5205G. Its annual calendar indications are displayed intuitively in a cruciform layout on the dial, starring the iconic outisze date display at 12 o’clock. One aspect where the Saxonia Annual Calendar truly impresses is in movement finissage. The Calibre L085.1, like all Lange calibres, is meticulously hand-finished and decorated to a superlative level that transcends even Patek Philippe. It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that the Saxonia Annual Calendar is priced marginally higher than the Ref. 5205G, at EUR47,000.
For something more accessible, look no further than IWC’s Portugieser Annual Calendar, an exceedingly handsome and modern timepiece. And when we say modern, we really mean it; the Portugieser Annual Calendar has a sunburst blue dial and a whopping 44.2 mm case. Like the Ref. 5205G, it displays its calendar indications via windows. The eccentric month-date-day format of the calendar display has sparked a fair share of discussion and criticism, but at the end of the day, everyone still gets together to admire the balanced design of the watch. Priced at CHF21,000 for the stainless steel version of the watch, the Portugieser Annual Calendar offers great value for money – so long as you have the wrist to wield it.
Is it paradigm-shifting? Is it even a novelty? No, and it doesn’t have to be. The Ref. 5205G-013 is no different to its predecessors from 2010 except for a new dial. But what a world of difference this dial change makes to reinvigorate the reference. The blue-to-black gradient dial is sophisticated and contemporary, and goes perfectly with the white gold casing. The Ref. 5205 may be a decade old, but to this day, it remains one of the most beautiful annual calendar references ever conceived by Patek Philippe.