Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5320G
Vintage reissues were a thing this year at Baselworld. Evidently, Patek Philippe got the memo as well and turned up with the Ref. 5320G. The design of the latest perpetual calendar timepiece to grace the Patek Philippe collection was inspired by not one, not two, but three vintage references dating back as far as 1941. While the Ref. 5320G wasn’t exactly an earth-shattering release, it was very well-received by the watch community. Here we bring you details and our thoughts on Patek Philippe’s newest perpetual calendar watch, the Ref. 5320G.
The case, dial, and hands
The 18k white gold case of the Ref. 5320G measures 40 mm in diameter (47.98 mm from lug to lug) and 11.13 mm in thickness. At this size, we feel that the watch is at its most diplomatic – it doesn’t disappear on a larger wrist, nor will it overpower a smaller wrist. While the dial has been receiving most of the plaudits from the community, we feel that the case deserves just as much love. Immediately grabbing our attention were the very nuanced three-tier lugs. This retro lug design was inspired by the legendary Ref. 2405 that dates back to the 1950s. The stepped case design is very fitting of the look that Patek is trying to achieve with this timepiece and is very charming. Note, however, that the case is stamped from a single piece of gold and then finished. This will likely upset traditionalist collectors; but Patek Philippe’s stance is such that when a superior method to do something presents itself (e.g. technology), said method will be embraced.
A so-called box-form sapphire crystal was also utilised to keep the flanks slender and endow the watch even more of a vintage look. It visibly extends across the bezel and is dramatically cambered with parallel inner and outer sides to prevent optical distortion of the dial regardless of the viewing angle. In the 1940s and 1950s, it would be technically impossible to craft such a sapphire crystal to current standards. This is why easily formable plexiglass was often chosen, in spite of its susceptibility to scratching and cracking.
The cream lacquer dial appears luscious and is meant to evoke the vibe of an aged dial. The watch has the same face that has been the brand’s paragon for perpetual calendars since 1941 (the Ref. 1526 was the first): a double aperture for the date and month displays at 12 o’clock and a sub-dial at 6 o’clock for the radial date and moon phase. The Ref. 5320G does however boast additional useful indications over the Ref. 1526 in the form of two round apertures for the day/night and leap year cycles. The layout as a whole is very reminiscent of the Ref. 5270 (perpetual calendar chronograph) which we reviewed previously. We adore how intuitive and uncluttered all the indications are laid out, thanks in part to the judicious of apertures, and this helps keep the dial clean and classy. The applied Arabic numerals on the dial are crafted from blackened gold and coated with Superluminova, as are the dots outboard of the numerals and the fine-tipped baton hands (inspired by the piece-unique Ref. 1591). All these elements come together to make what is a gratifyingly legible perpetual calendar watch, something that Patek Philippe has a knack for.
Powering the Ref. 5320G is the 367-part, 29-jewelled Calibre 324 S Q (S for seconds, Q for quantième perpétuel – the french term for perpetual calendar). The self-winding movement, which is equipped with the manufacturer’s Gyromax balance and Spiromax spring, has a maximum power reserve of 45 hours while operating at a contemporary 4 Hz beat rate. The movement stems from the base Calibre 324 which is normally used in the brand’s annual calendar models (think the Ref. 5205 and the Ref. 5726). The perpetual calendar module of the movement cannot be seen from the case back as it is hidden just underneath the dial. Four disks, each completing a revolution at different rates, are used to display the day, month, leap year and day/night cycle. The moon phase function of the Calibre 324 S Q has a fidelity of 122 years, meaning that it only requires a one-day correction after over a century.
The movement as seen from the back of the watch is as well-finished as it is precise (-3/+2 sec/day); the watch bears the prestigious Patek Philippe Seal after all. The bridges in the Calibre 324 S Q feature Geneva striping on the top surface and polished chamfers on the edges. Also on the surface of the bridges are gold-filled engravings and polished screw heads, all of course done by hand. The unidirectional 21k gold rotor is decorated with perlage and circular Geneva waves, as well as an engraved Calatrava cross. On request, the sapphire crystal case back of the watch can actually be replaced with a solid 18k white gold. This of course has the unfortunate side effect of covering up the beautifully finished movement.
The competitive landscape
The Patek Philippe Ref. 5320G is priced at USD82,800 or SGD109,000. By no means is this a small sum of money, but the watch is fairly priced based on what the brand’s closest competitors are charging. The white gold Langematik Perpetual, the flagship perpetual calendar timepiece from Saxon manufacturer A. Lange & Söhne, is priced at around USD84,200. Interestingly, the Lange is slightly smaller than the Patek in terms of both case diameter (38.5 mm) and thickness (10.2 mm), something that almost never happens as Langes tend to be “overbuilt”. And while the movement in the Patek is without a doubt finished to high standards, the finnisage in the Lange is better still. Therefore, unless one dislikes the smaller size or the more contemporary design of the Lange, it would make more sense to choose the better-finished Langematik Perpetual over the Patek Ref. 5320G when they are priced so similarly.
Closer to home is the Patrimony Perpetual Calendar by Geneva-based Vacheron Constantin. The new SIHH 2017 rose gold/slate grey variant is priced at about USD74,000, almost USD9,000 less than the Ref. 5320G. While the watch is negligibly larger than the Patek in review (41 vs. 40 mm), it is quite a bit thinner at 8.96 mm. It is also worth noting that the movement used in the Patrimony Perpetual Calendar is based off of the Jaeger-LeCoultre-designed Calibre 1120 (although the perpetual calendar works is fully Vacheron’s). This base calibre is considered a legend amongst watch enthusiasts as it has been used by all three members of the Swiss “Holy Trinity” (Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin). Regardless, the movement is not fully in-house and that would most likely have contributed to the lower price of the Vacheron. The finishing on the movement of the Patrimony Perpetual Calendar is excellent and bears the Hallmark of Geneva; that said, we would still give the Calibre 324 S Q in the Patek Ref. 5320G a very slight edge. The Patrimony also lacks the seconds and day/night functions while the Ref. 5320G comes with them. In short, the price premium of the Patek over its Vacheron equivalent is justified by additional functions, slightly better finishing (contentious) and the use of a fully in-house developed and manufactured movement.
The Ref. 5320G has many admirers but that does not make it perfect. We feel that it tries a little too hard going for the vintage look. It is apparent that the cream dial was chosen to mimic the look of an aged dial from a vintage watch, but it just looks way too pristine. The use of Superluminova also gives off a sterile, almost cartoonish appearance on the hands and numerals; plus, Superluminova just doesn’t age the same as tritium. The fact that the case was stamped from a single piece of gold will also irk traditionalists. What we do love though are the tiered lugs, the box-form sapphire crystal and the unique syringe-style hands, on top of the neat layout of all the indications. Make no mistake, the Ref. 5320G is objectively a finely crafted timepiece (albeit a little derivative) that adds to the brand’s 92-year-old history of perpetual calendar watches and is worthy of the revered Patek Philippe name.
The watch comes with a matching matt brown alligator leather strap and 18K white gold fold-over clasp.