Flight travel is back in vogue as nations look to put the pandemic behind them for good. More countries are dropping border restrictions in effort to boost tourism, with the most notable examples in recent months being Japan and Taiwan. There’s no better time for a watch manufacturer to re-introduce travel time watches than now. Patek Philippe evidently got the memo early and have been releasing at least one a year for the past couple of years. In 2022, we were treated to the rather left-field Annual Calendar Travel Time Ref. 5326G. This year, the new world timer model notwithstanding, there have been three travel-related novelties introduced by the brand at Watches & Wonders. The first two are the Calatrava Pilot Travel Time Chronographs with blue or green dial – the first time the chronograph complication is introduced to Patek’s pilot watch line. The third, and arguably the most original novelty released by the Swiss giant so far this year, is none other than the Calatrava 24-Hour Display Travel Time Ref. 5224R-001.
Patek Philippe Calatrava Travel Time Ref. 5224R-001
What makes the Ref. 5224R-001 unique is immediately apparent: its 24-hour display of both local and home time using two center hands – a first for Patek Philippe. However, this isn’t the first time a 24-hour display is used by the manufacture. That honour goes to the No. P-527 pocket watch, made in 1905 for Brazilian retailer Gondolo & Labouriau. For the Ref. 5224R-001, the good people at Patek Philippe have reinterpreted the 24-hour display in a resolutely modern spirit. Here, we bring you the details and our honest thoughts on this most atypical Calatrava reference.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
The case of the new Ref. 5224R-001 is rendered in rose gold and measures 42 mm x 9.85 mm. Its modern sizing is tempered by elegant design. Inspired by the Calatrava Weekly Calendar Ref. 5212A, the fully mirror-polished case is distinguished by its tiered lugs. To preserve its sleek lines, the case does away with dual time correction pushers and instead opts for a patented correction system using the crown. While a little casual for a Calatrava, the blue calfskin strap with nubuck finish and cream stitching that comes with the watch complements the dial to a tee.
And boy, what a handsome dial it is. It’s easy to go overboard trying to be trendy and end up with a tacky dial or playing it safe and look absolutely boring. But here, Patek Philippe has struck the perfect balance between sportiness and tradition. The navy blue dial features multiple types of finishes, from the satin brushing of the hour circle to the fine snailing of the seconds sub-dial. On it are applied Arabic numerals, baton-style hour markers, and cabochon 5-minute markers – all in rose gold and with luminescent coating. Indicating the time in hours and minutes are syringe hands, something that Patek have really gotten into in recent years. The hands for local time are coated with luminescent material while the hand for home time is openworked for distinction. The small seconds hand is sword-style and coated with white varnish.
What really sets the Ref. 5224R apart from other Patek Philippe wristwatches is in the way it exclusively displays time in 24-hour format; this is a first in the brand’s history of wristwatches. It’s interesting to note that the 24th hour is placed at the 6 o’clock position rather than the more conventional 12 o’clock position. There are a couple of benefits to inverting the display. For one, it is a little more intuitive to use in the daytime when the owner is more likely to be awake. For another, the hour hand doesn’t obstruct the seconds display in daytime, again, when the owner is likelier to read the time.
Driving the Ref. 5224R-001 is the 240-part, 44-jewel Calibre 31-260 PS FUS 24H. The base calibre 31-260 is one that the manufacture is very familiar with, having begun life as the movement for the Annual Calendar Regulator Ref. 5235 in 2011. Ten years later, the calibre was upgraded and fitted into the exemplary In-Line Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5236, with an increase in operating frequency, a boost in mainspring torque, and a change to a heavier platinum rotor. Then, just last year, the Calibre 31-260 was called into action again, this time to power the polarising Annual Calendar Travel Time Ref. 5326; no fewer than eight patents were filed. The latest iteration of the Calibre 31-260 for the Ref. 5224R can be seen as a simplified version of the one in the Ref. 5326, benefiting from three of the eight patents pertaining to optimised accuracy, durability, efficiency, and user-friendliness. One of these user-friendly applications is the aforementioned patented correction system for the dual-time display. Instead of actuating inelegant pushers, the owner only has to pull the crown out to its intermediate position to set the second time zone (by one-hour increments, backwards or forwards). This device is modeled after the one used in the Ref. 5326.
The finger bridge architecture of the Calibre 31-260 PS FUS 24H is reminiscent of old pocket watch movements, in stark contrast to the rather contemporary colour scheme and dial design of the Ref. 5224. Bearing the Patek Philippe, Seal, it goes without saying that the movement is beautifully finished. Geneva waves span across each bridge in perfectly parallel rows. Every edge is beveled and polished, every wheel brushed. It is also a pleasure to see so many sharp, outward angles, although there are no inward ones. Despite blending into the background, the platinum micro-rotor with the engraved Calatrava cross is ironically the most eye-catching part of the movement. More often than not, Patek Philippe winding rotors are rendered in rose gold so it is refreshing to see one in the silvery hue of platinum.
The Competitive Landscape
Travel Time and GMT watches are a dime a dozen but watches like the Ref. 5224 are the exact opposite of that. There aren’t many watches out there that display local and home time centrally on the same 24-hour track. One reason might be that it isn’t exactly the most intuitive way to read time for the vast majority of people. But that shouldn’t stop mechanical watch manufacturers from doing it, because if intuition was the goal, they’d be making iPhones instead. This is what makes the Calatrava 24-Hour Display Travel Time Ref. 5224R-001 stand out. Combine that with excellent craftsmanship and a balanced design, and really, it’s nigh impossible to dislike. The Ref. 5224R-001 is a regular production piece and is priced at USD57,370.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a watch just like the Ref. 5224R, but if you look at it from a different perspective, it’s in essence a refined, double-GMT watch. The first alternative that jumps to mind is none other than the Chopard L.U.C GMT One in rose gold. While GMT watches tend to be sporty, this one is as classy as it gets. Like any typical GMT watch, only the time in the second time zone is displayed in 24-hour format (unlike the Ref. 5224, where both local and home times are in 24-hour format). The L.U.C GMT One also features a discreet date display at 6 o’clock which some argue is a must in GMT watches because of the nature of its functionality. In defense of the lack of date on the Ref. 5224: adding a date display would almost certainly undermine the purity of the dial. But we digress – the L.U.C is priced at USD22,200, less than half the price of the Patek. Sure, it’s not as mechanically sophisticated and likely not as well-finished, but at USD22,200, it is a bang-for-buck alternative to the Calatrava.
The Blancpain Villeret Quantieme Complet GMT is a watch that has featured in our “Competitive Landscape” segment many times in the past and it’s not without merit. The watch is one of few truly dressy GMT watches in the market. As the name indicates, the Villeret Quantieme Complet GMT also has complete calendar functionality. It is the smallest watch of the trio here – measuring just 40 mm in diameter – but it is a tad thicker at 11.8 mm. From a design perspective, the watch is also the most classic, starring Blancpain’s famous smiling moon just below the center of the dial. The red gold variant of the Villeret Quantieme Complet GMT is no longer in the brand’s catalogue but it was priced around the CHF24,000 mark a few years ago. While its movement isn’t as finely adorned as the Patek or Chopard, the finishing is still nothing to be scoffed at. The biggest selling point of the Quantieme Complet GMT is perhaps the value it offers being packed with functions, attractively finished, and priced competitively. For even greater value, look no further than the stainless steel variant of the watch that is still a resident in Blancpain’s current catalogue.
There are many who still see the Calatrava collection as the last bastion of men’s dress watches, that it should be kept completely classical and pure. Recent additions to the historical line have been more adventurous by Patek Philippe’s standards. Some see these newcomers as aberrations to be shunned, others as trailblazers that will stop the collection from going stale. Everyone else straddles the fence. To be fair, whilst the Ref. 5224R-001 is certainly not old-school, it is also one of the more restrained of the “trendy” Calatravas. The truth is, there are enough reasons for either camp to appreciate the watch. And let’s not forget this has been one of, if not the most original Calatrava to come out in a long time. That, for us, is reason enough to give the Ref. 5224R-001 a thumbs up.