Comprehensive review of the Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time Chronograph Ref. 5924G. With full analysis and competitive landscape.
When you think of pilot’s watches, you tend to picture household names like IWC, Zenith or Breitling, and rightfully so. But did you know that Patek Philippe – purveyors of the most famous dress watch in the world and some of the most complicated – once dabbled and continues to dabble in aviation timepieces? The legacy of the brand’s pilot’s watches is epitomised by two siderometer wristwatches dating from before World War II, in 1936. It wasn’t until 2015 that the pilot’s watch genre was revived at Patek Philippe, through the introduction of the Ref. 5524. The inaugural pilot’s watch features travel time functionality and is – interestingly enough – placed under the Calatrava collection. Every Patek Philippe pilot’s watch has since been attached to the Calatrava collection.
Review: Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time Chronograph Ref. 5924G
The retail price for the Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time Chronograph Ref. 5924G is SGD 101,800 inclusive of 9% GST.
Eight years and numerous new references later, the brand’s pilot line finally receives its first chronograph model. The novelty brings not just a new complication to the line but also ushers in a noticeable design change that could apply to pilot’s watches down the line. Here, we bring you the details and our honest thoughts on the Calatrava Pilot Travel Time Chronograph Ref. 5924 in white gold.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
The Ref. 5924G is rendered in white gold, which isn’t a material normally used on true utility watches. Of course, the Ref. 5924G is a luxury watch and more likely to be found on the wrist of a movie star than a fighter pilot, so the choice of material is fine. The case comes with modern proportions at 42.00 mm x 13.05 mm, which is around the midpoint between the sizes of a traditional Calatrava and a historical aviator’s watch. In terms of aesthetics, the case is crafted with finesse clearly in mind. The bulk of the case is polished and for the first time, the pushers for the travel time complication are recessed. On one hand, recessing the travel time pushers prevents the much-maligned 4-pusher configuration in the Ref. 5520.
On the other, it makes adjusting travel time – which is normally performed on the fly – a huge hassle. One will have to carry around a pointy object like a pen or a toothpick to actuate the pushers, which is a less-than-elegant solution. On the other flank, there are the standard crown for winding and time adjustment, and double pushers to start, stop and reset the chronograph.
The dial is available in either sunburst blue-gray (as shown in our photographs) or lacquered khaki green. The dial colours may be modern, but everything else hints at either old school dress or pilot’s watch.
Three central sword hands are used to tell the time: two lume-coated hands for the local minutes and hours and one skeletonised hand for home hours. The remaining central hand is for the chronograph seconds. There are two sub-dials at 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock displaying the date and the chronograph minutes, respectively. Much like hour and minute hands, the Arabic numeral applied hour markers are lume-coated for low-light visibility. Two apertures at 9 and 3 o’clock (just below the horizontal axis) indicate the day/night cycles for local and home time zones, respectively.
Driving the Ref. 5924 is the familiar 34-jewel, 370-part Calibre CH 28‑520 C FUS. This is the same calibre used in the coveted Nautilus Ref. 5990 now repurposed for the Ref. 5924. You’ve already got a perfectly fine travel time chronograph movement, so why re-invent the wheel? Well, for the Ref. 5924, it does result in the need for tools for travel time adjustments, because the brand’s designers have rightly opted against the dreaded 4-pusher configuration. This was not an issue for the Ref. 5990, because the pushers were cleverly disguised as part of the iconic Nautilus case. A manufacturer with Patek Philippe’s experience and resources could easily have designed an entirely new calibre to suit the Ref. 5924, for instance, one where travel time can be adjusted via the crown to negate the need for extra pushers. But perhaps numbers were crunched and the conclusion was that it’d be more profitable to simply repurpose a trusted old calibre. The term ‘old’ is used loosely here, because this movement beats at a modern 4 Hz frequency and has a silicon hairspring (Spiromax). It also has a respectable 55 hours of power reserve, which is more than decent for an automatic movement. Importantly, the chronograph portion of the Calibre CH 28-520 C FUS features flyback functionality which allows the complication to reset and restart with the push of a button.
The finissage is what you’d expect of a bread and butter Patek Philippe movement: executed to exacting standards, tidy, easy on the eyes, with a healthy balance between hand and machine-assisted finishing. The surface decoration of choice here for the bridges is the circular Côtes de Genève which lines up perfectly with the ones on the gold winding rotor. Many of the chronograph components are given a straight-grained brushed finish, contrasting nicely with the numerous polished screws that secure the movement. Despite being now ten years old, the Calibre CH 28‑520 C FUS still looks the part.
The Competitive Landscape
Let’s be honest: Patek Philippe aren’t the first to come to mind when it comes to pilot’s watches. Despite the legitimate links to aviation history, the brand is under no illusions to the fact that it isn’t a major player in this segment of the market. For Patek Philippe, the goal is simple: to show that the brand isn’t one-dimensional and attract a younger clientele. That much is certain, with the latest introduction of the Calatrava Ref. 5924 and its pilot’s watch design and exotic dial colours. The watch, which isn’t a limited edition piece, is priced at CHF64,000.
Patek Philippe aren’t the only great fine watchmaking house to offer aviator watches; Breguet were heavily involved in the aeronautical industry, supplying instruments in the 1930s under the auspices of the Brown family. This eventually led to the birth of the iconic Type XX wristwatch (post-WWII), developed initially for the French Air Force. Last year, the brand had presented its latest Type 20, an homage to the historical Type XX. The watch is a simple chronograph with a date display (which the original lacked). It’s not as well finished as Patek Philippe’s pilot’s watches or most of Breguet’s other wristwatches for that matter, but at USD18,000, and given its make, heritage, and complications, the watch offers superb value.
One brand that’s truly synonymous with pilot’s watches is none other than IWC. It all began in 1936 when IWC developed the “Special Pilot’s Watch” which boasted an anti-magnetic movement with shatterproof front glass. In 1940s, the signature Big Pilot’s Watch at 55 mm case size came to be. Perhaps the brand’s most famous pilot’s watch, the Mark 11 was created upon invitation by the British Royal Air Force in 1948. Since then, pilot’s watches have occupied significant real estate in IWC’s portfolio. One of the brand’s latest pilot’s watches is the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 Edition “Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Formula One™ Team”. It’s your typical IWC pilot’s chronograph with day-date display, but with the colours of PETRONAS applied to the print, lume, and the seams of the strap. Sure, it’s the least exclusive pilot’s watch of the lot, but at USD7,850 there really isn’t much to complain about. IWC pilot’s watches will always be the most recognisable in the industry and for good reason.
Patek Philippe’s pilot’s watches remain a polarising subject. To some, they look out of place in the brand’s catalogue, let alone the usually dressy Calatrava collection. To others, they represent Patek Philippe’s proven and important ability to adapt and diversify. The Ref. 5924 is a sensible addition to the existing line-up as a pilot’s watch collection without a chronograph reference would feel incomplete. The brand could have developed a more suitable movement for the case instead of repurposing an older movement, but the numbers probably didn’t add up from a commercial standpoint. What does add up, though, is Patek Philippe seizing the chance to fill up the interesting niche that is haute horlogerie pilot’s watches.