The Calatrava is widely considered to be synonymous with the Patek Philippe brand. Ultra-elegant and timeless, it is seen as the very essence of the round dress watch. This philosophy of the Calatrava has been strictly held as gospel since the debut of the watch way back in 1932 – well, until this year anyway. Because for 2022, Patek Philippe has released a brand new Calatrava model with a design language that is almost foreign to the rest of the collection.
Patek Philippe Calatrava Ref. 5226G-001
Introduced at Watches & Wonders Geneva, the watch can be described as casual, contemporary, and vintage-inspired, with aesthetics you never thought you’d see on a Calatrava. It’s already apparent that some are going to love the watch, while others will loathe it. In any case, if there ever was a time for the Patek Philippe to be bold, this is it – in tumultuous 2022. Here, we bring you the details and our honest thoughts on the new Calatrava Ref. 5226G-001.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
Crafted in white gold, the case of the new Calatrava Ref. 5226G measures a modern 40 mm in diameter and 8.53 mm in height. While these proportions cater for contemporary tastes, they run the risk of isolating traditionalists – the watch is, after all, the largest Calatrava in the current catalogue. One of our favourite flourishes to grace past and present Calatrava models is the hobnail pattern, typically found on the bezel. On the Ref. 5226G, the iconic decoration has been shifted to the case band. And while this is yet another move away from tradition, it is done in a tasteful manner, and is somewhat reminiscent of Breguet’s beloved coin edge cases. The bezel on the Ref. 5226G is, instead, smooth and unornamented, serving as the perfect frame for a dial exploding with flair.
Looking at the dial, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was anything but a Patek Philippe. Paired with a beige calfskin strap (or the additional black calfskin strap with embossed fabric motif, as shown in photos), the Ref. 5226G is almost certainly the most casual Calatrava ever produced. The most striking part of the watch has to be the asphalt-like dial surface. It gradates from charcoal grey in the centre to black on the periphery. Indicating the hours and minutes are syringe hands, the likes of which are being used for the first time in the collection. They, like the Arabic numeral hour markers, are coated with beige luminescent material that borderline resembles “fauxtina”. The decision to go with a tool-watch-esque minute and seconds track outboard of the hour markers is also an interesting one. This the only Calatrava in the current collection to have such a utilitarian design for a minutes/seconds track (printed in beige, no less), which reinforces Patek Philippe’s intent of designing the most funky Calatrava ever. For continuity of the beige-on-black theme, the date disc itself is also black with beige numerals.
Driving the Ref. 5226G is the familiar 212-part, 30-jewel Calibre 26-330 S C. Enthusiasts of the brand will recall that this was the exact movement that notably replaced the Calibre 324 in the Nautilus Ref. 5711 back in 2019. The Calibre 26-330 S C is also used today in the Aquanaut Ref. 5268/200R. It has a power reserve of 35-45 hours and operates at a modern 4 Hz frequency.
Stamped with the Patek Philippe Seal, the Calibre 26-330 S C is richly finished. Visible through the sapphire crystal case back is the 21k gold central rotor, with edges beveled and polished and the top surface decorated with circular waves and an engraved Caltrava cross. Underneath it are bridges adorned with Geneva waves with edges similarly beveled and polished. They are secured by screws with black polished heads, and feature rounded and outward anglage. As is tradition, the base plate is finished off with perlage.
The Competitive Landscape
Is it casual? Is it elegant? Is it neither or both? It’s kind of hard to place the Ref. 5226G in any box. But one thing’s for sure: it is different, very different. There is a deafening dissonance between the Ref. 5226G and rest of the Calatrava family. If the goal was to grab attention with a one-off ‘black sheep’ Calatrava, then mission accomplished. If the goal was to start the process of redefining the Calatrava collection, then Patek Philippe risks isolating its collectors and connoisseurs. Make no mistake, the watch is still gorgeous, handcrafted to the highest level using traditional methods. It is a regular production model and is currently priced at USD39,033.
So what does Patek Philippe’s biggest neighbour and competitor, Vacheron Constantin, have to match the Ref. 5226G? It’s not nearly as eccentric in design, but the Fiftysix Self-Winding is Vacheron Constantin’s most casual time-and-date-only wristwatch that isn’t also a sports watch. At 40 mm x 9.6 mm, the watch is almost identical in size relative to the Ref. 5226G. It, too, has central time-telling hands, a date display at 3 o’clock, and a central winding rotor to top-up its 48-hour power reserve. Available in five variations, the most casual variant, in our opinion, is the pink gold with sepia-brown dial and calf leather strap. The pink gold models currently retail at SGD33,200, significantly less than the Ref. 5226G. It bears mentioning, that this is likely because of the movement within which (curiously) is neither “in-house” nor stamped with the Hallmark of Geneva. Rest assured however, that the movement features finissage that is still worthy of its price bracket – just not to the obsessive level of the brand’s current in-house movements, all of which are Geneva Seal-certified.
The Breguet Classique 5177, despite being the dressiest of the three watches here, is another alternative worth considering. Like the Ref. 5226G, its case is rendered in white gold and is decorated on the band. Though more elegant in appearance, the dial elements are laid out similarly to the Patek (central hands, date window at 3 o’clock, brand signature at 12). The Calibre 777Q that drives the Classique 5177 is also self-winding and finished to exacting haute horlogerie standards. Priced CHF23,100 back in 2019, the Breguet Classique 5177 with blue enamel dial really is a must-consider for anyone in the market for a high-end time-and-date wristwatch.
The Ref. 5226G is one of the most atypical, most polarising Calatrava wristwatches ever introduced. Is this the start of a new direction that Patek Philippe is taking? Or is it just a one-off to jolt the status quo? Whatever it is, the watch in itself is a reminder that: 1) Patek Philippe are makers of beautiful objects, and 2) as history would suggest, they are flexible enough to adapt to changing times at a moment’s notice.