Patek Philippe Chronograph Ref. 5170P-001
Where dress chronographs are concerned, few in the modern era are more distinguished than the Patek Philippe Ref. 5170. The Ref. 5170 is somewhat of an icon in itself and is a fine example of what Patek Philippe does best: timeless timepieces. Since its inception in 2010, the Ref. 5170 has seen numerous variants introduced, all of which have been well-received by the watch community. This year, Patek Philippe introduces yet another variant to their simple dress chronograph reference: the Ref. 5170P-001. Here, we bring you the details of the new Ref. 5170 – available in platinum for the first time – before comparing it to two other simple dress chronographs from the brand’s closest rivals.
The case, dial, and hands
The case of the new Ref. 5170P measures an elegant 39.4 mm in diameter and 10.5 mm in thickness. The design of the case is utilitarian, though every surface is immaculately polished. The watch has a generously sloped bezel that will ensure that it slides underneath a dress cuff or tight sleeve with minimal fuss. Rectangular pushers located at the 2 and 4 o’clock positions allow for comfortable and gratifying actuation of the chronograph functions. These pushers are finished in a simple yet striking manner, brushed on the sides and polished on top for a pleasing contrast.
The 2017 Ref. 5170P has a mesmerising blue sunburst dial that gradates towards black at the periphery. As seen in previous iterations of the reference, the watch has a bi-compax chronograph layout with small seconds at 9 o’clock and the chronograph minute counter at 3 o’clock. While normally printed with a chronograph seconds scale with or without a pulsometre scale, the dial of the 2017 novelty does away with either and opts for a tachymetre scale for the first time. Also a first for the reference are the applied baguette-cut diamond hour markers. These unique hour markers were first seen in the 40th anniversary Nautilus models and we must confess that they are very well-executed on the Ref. 5170P. Plaudits to the team at Patek Philippe responsible for incorporating diamonds into the design of a timepiece in a manner that is as discreet as it is tasteful. Another design feature on the dial worth noting are the whitened feuille minutes as well as centre seconds hands for the chronograph, designed to distinguish them from the other hands associated with time-telling and to improve legibility. Interestingly, the manufacturer had decided to go for lume-painted, dauphine hour and minute hands in the new Ref. 5170P. These hands, together with the gradient dial and tachymetre scale, result in what is actually the most sporty and contemporary Ref. 5170 to date. All these elements combine to form a look that is unprecedented in the brand’s history of simple dress chronographs.
Powering the Ref. 5170P-001 is the 269-part, 33-jewel Calibre CH 29-535 PS. The manually-wound movement, featuring Patek Philippe’s signature Gyromax balance, has a power reserve of 65 hours while operating at a modern 4 Hz beat rate.
The Calibre CH 29-535 PS debuted with the Ref. 5170 in 2010 to permanently replace the old Lemania-based Calibre 27-70 PS as the brand’s movement of choice for hand-wound chronographs. The Calibre CH29-535 PS is special to Patek Philippe in that it was fully in-house and heralded the end of the manufacture’s dependence on Lemania-based chronograph movements. The Ref. 5170 was the first men’s watch to feature this iconic movement, followed by the perpetual calendar chronograph Ref. 5270 in the following year.
Building an in-house chronograph movement with modern features and better performance was a long time coming for the manufacturer. The Calibre CH 29-535 PS is a column wheel, lateral clutch system and thus offers an aesthetically-pleasing, architectural view through the case back.
As one would expect, 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, and numerous other finishes applied on parts visible or hidden.
The competitive landscape
Crafted in platinum and adorned with diamonds, the Ref. 5170P-001 is not going to be a watch for those seeking value. At an eye-watering price of USD96,392, Patek Philippe’s Ref. 5170 is one of the most expensive simple dress chronographs money can buy.
Just a rung down the pricing ladder is the Vacheron Constantin Historiques Cornes de Vache 1955 in platinum, coming in at approximately USD70,000. Like the new Ref. 5170P, the Cornes de Vache is a bi-compax dress chronograph. But unlike the Patek, the Vacheron is executed in vintage-style and retains the old world charm of the watch that it is based on, the beloved Ref. 6087. Since its unveiling in 2015, the Cornes de Vache has received an overwhelmingly positive reaction, and it’s easy to understand why. The watch with its vintage dial design and absolutely crisp pump pushers evokes a strong sense of nostalgia. It continues on the charm offensive and takes no prisoners with those sensuous cow horn lugs (hence the name of the watch); the way it curves and tapers will melt even the hearts of cynics. If that isn’t enough, the Calibre 1142 which can be seen from the case back, offers another reason to love the watch. The Calibre 1142 is based on the Lemania Calibre 2310 but juiced up significantly in terms of construction, function and finish in order to earn the Hallmark of Geneva. Like the Calibre CH 29-535 PS, the Calibre 1142 is highly architectural and picturesque, though admittedly, we prefer the aesthetics of the former. Overall, we’d say that the Cornes de Vache is a complete package: a modern chronograph with infallible vintage-inspired design. In our eyes, it would be pure madness not to consider the Historiques Cornes de Vache 1955 over the Ref. 5170P-001, especially at USD26,000 less, that is unless the vintage look doesn’t appeal to oneself.
When speaking of high-end, manually-wound chronographs, one cannot do without mentioning the name of A. Lange & Söhne. In 1999, when high-end, in-house chronographs were virtually non-existent, a plucky young brand turned the world of watchmaking upside down by presenting exactly that: a high-end, in-house chronograph. You know how the story goes – that brand was A. Lange & Söhne, and that watch, the mighty Datograph. The Calibre L951.1 that powers the Datograph wasn’t just an elaborately constructed and finished column wheel/lateral clutch chronograph movement, it also featured a flyback function and an outsize date display. The movement was so revolutionary that even today, it remains the standard by which all high-end, manually-wound chronograph calibres are compared to. Admittedly, it’d be a little unfair to pit the Ref. 5170P against the Datograph which has a few extra functions built in (though believe it or not, the Datograph is more affordable than the Patek novelty). Instead, it’d be fairer to compare Patek’s flagship simple chronograph to the Datograph’s little brother, the 1815 Chronograph.
The 1815 Chronograph is essentially the Datograph stripped of all non-chronograph complications. From a dial design perspective, the 1815 Chronograph draws inspiration from old Lange pocket watches with its inky Arabic numerals and railroad minute scale. From the case back, the movement of the 1815 Chronograph looks exactly the same as the Datograph’s. And that view never gets old – sprawling levers, wheels and bridges, all meticulously finished, one by one. It may not be as impressive as the Calibre CH 29-535 PS in terms of efficiency but when it comes to aesthetics, the Calibre L951.5 that beats inside the 1815 Chronograph is the undisputed champion. Oh and let’s not forget that the 1815 Chronograph also has a flyback function. The best part is, the watch is priced at around the USD50,000 mark, almost half of the Ref. 5170P-001’s ransom! Sure, you could argue that the 1815 Chronographs only come in gold and that the Ref. 5170P is crafted in platinum and decorated with diamonds, but that still doesn’t warrant a USD46,000 premium! Unless one highly values the history and heritage, as well as the dial design of the Ref. 5170P, one must look first towards the 1815 Chronograph as it boasts one of the finest movements ever made plus a flyback function at almost 50% of the price of the watch in review.
The Ref. 5170P-001 may not offer the best value for money but that does not take away from the fact that it is a good-looking timepiece. Its resplendent platinum case, blue-black gradient dial and diamond hour markers result in a look that isn’t just sleek, but also opulent. Some say that this is Patek Philippe giving the Ref. 5170 a final (decadent) hurrah before it is succeeded by a new model line. All we know is, the Ref. 5170P-001 has caught our attention and we like it.