Patek Philippe and the chronograph wristwatch go way back, but it wasn’t until 1998 that the modern-day chronograph references that we’re familiar with began production. The Ref. 5070 is a cult classic that’s highly sought after today. Its 42 mm diameter may seem normal today, but back in the late 1990s, it would’ve been jarring. The Ref. 5070 was one of the last Patek Philippe references to be fitted with a Lemania-based movement (part of the reason why the watch is so coveted). The last of the Ref. 5070s were made in 2009 just as the manufactory began switching gears to introduce the Ref. 5170. In contrast to its girthy predecessor, the Ref. 5170 is elegance incarnate. The Ref. 5170 is sub-40 mm in size, features Patek Philippe’s in-house Calibre 29-535 PS, and has an ultra-clean design – perhaps too clean. Where the Ref. 5170 gained in refinement, it lost out in character. The Ref. 5070 has always been deemed the more charming reference because of its more elaborately designed case, dial and movement. In 2019, the Ref. 5170 calls time on its status as resident chronograph wristwatch and passes the baton on to the Ref. 5172. The Ref. 5172 is the culmination of what Patek Philippe has learned since the Ref. 5070. It combines elegance with character and is, in a way, the answer to the question, “what if the Ref. 5070 and Ref. 5170 had a kid?”.
Patek Philippe Chronograph Ref. 5172G-010
Up until this year, there was only the one Ref. 5172 model with its rather casual blue dial and calf strap combo. In 2022, Patek Philippe ramps up the charm offensive by introducing a new variant that tugs hard on the heartstrings of enthusiasts. Here, we bring you the details and our honest thoughts on the new Patek Philippe Chronograph Ref. 5172G-010 with rose-gilded (salmon) dial.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
The case of the new Ref. 5172G-010 is rendered in white gold, just like the Ref. 5172G-001 that came before it. At 41 mm x 11.45 mm, the Ref. 5172 is well within contemporary watch territory. It is a departure from the sub-40 mm sizing of the Ref. 5170, perhaps to appeal to younger clientele. Even the case design is far more nuanced, embracing retro- over classical-styling. The most obvious changes can be seen on the lugs and chronograph pushers. In the former, the Ref. 5172 favours a more ornate design in the form of Art Deco-inspired, double-stepped lugs. The chronograph pushers are a nod to the Ref. 1463 from mid 20th century, Patek’s first waterproof chronograph watch. Monikered the “tasti tondi” or “round buttons”, the Ref. 1463 featured the same pump pushers with sunburst grooves on the pressing surface now found on the Ref. 5172. These vintage elements result in a case bursting with personality.
For the Ref. 5172G-010, Patek Philippe has upped the ante by fitting it with a rose-gilded dial, or more fondly known to the community as the salmon dial. The brand knows that the salmon dial is like a cheat code that turns any Patek timepiece into a siren song; what better watch to implement it on than the Ref. 5172 with its retro styling? Everything else on the dial remains unchanged save for the colour of the hands and applied numerals – now in charcoal grey – as well as the colour of the print, now in black for contrast. The best parts of the dial (apart from the colour) are the syringe hands and the tachymetre scale, both of which add to the charm of the watch tremendously. The Ref. 5172G-010 is paired with a shiny brown alligator leather strap, giving it a more refined look than the debuting model in blue.
Driving the Ref. 5172 is none other than the 270-part, 33-jewel Calibre CH 29-535 PS. This familiar hand-wound calibre also powers the Ref. 5170 as well as two other ladies’ references, the Ref. 7071 and Ref. 7150. It has a respectable power reserve of 65 hours while operating at a 4 Hz frequency. The Calibre CH 29-535 PS is a horizontal clutch, column wheel chronograph. The movement is protected by no fewer than six patents covering innovations pertaining to toothing profile, engagement depth and self-regulating zero-resetting hammers.
Distinguished by its architecture and high finishing, the Calibre CH 29-535 PS is visible through the sapphire crystal case back. Of note are the beveled and polished edges, the Geneva waves across the bridges, the outward angles, perlage across the base plate, and especially the black polished cap that covers the column wheel which has become somewhat iconic of the movement. A truly contemporary chronograph movement, traditionally built and finished.
The Competitive Landscape
There’s no two ways about it: competition is rife in the chronograph market. It is hardly surprising given the immense popularity of the complication. Not only is the chronograph a practical functionality, it is also a very interactive complication, giving watch connoisseurs a dopamine hit every time a pusher is actuated and a chronograph hand moves. Patek Philippe has always been one of the market leaders when it comes to luxury dress chronographs and it’s not hard to see why. Branding aside, the Ref. 5172 (and the Ref. 5170 before it) oozes class and quality. The chronograph dress piece might be done to death, but hardly any in the market look quite as charming or is as mechanically impressive as the Ref. 5172, especially now with the salmon dial (the horological equivalent of plot armor). The Ref. 5172G-010, a regular production piece, is priced at CHF68,000.
If there’s any watch that could match the charming good looks of the Ref. 5172G-010, it’d have to be the Vacheron Constantin Historiques Cornes de Vache, literally the most coveted Vacheron Constantin chronograph from the current collection. A tribute to the Ref. 6087 from 1955, the Historiques Cornes de Vache is textbook of how a vintage remake should be done. While its most charismatic feature is the teardrop or cow horn lugs, its most unsung feature is the dressy size of its case at 38.5 mm – a rarity in today’s modern-centric chronograph watch market. The watch is driven by the Calibre 1142, a derivative of the Lemania 2310 but completely revamped. The movement is gorgeous and finished to a similar level as the Ref. 5172. It features an uncapped column wheel with a Maltese cross design, and not just outward, but also inward angling (which can only be produced by hand). Priced at SGD84,000 for the pink gold version, the Historiques Cornes de Vache works out to be CHF10,000 less expensive than the Ref. 5172G-010, making it a worthy alternative for those in the market.
The next contender isn’t quite as flamboyant and is rather sober in comparison. That’s not to say it has worse craftsmanship, though. Quite the contrary, the A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Chronograph remains one the most adored chronograph watches in contemporary watchmaking. The case and dial design are straightforward enough but finished immaculately. Where the 1815 Chronograph truly shines is in the movement. Driving the 1815 Chronograph is the Calibre L951.5, effectively the Datograph movement sans date and power reserve. Often called the most beautiful chronograph movement ever made, it features a heroic level of finishing and decoration. Visible through the case back are plenty of outward and inward angles, gold chatons, heat-blued screws, a black polished column wheel, and a hand-engraved balanced cock, among other things. The 1815 Chronograph retails for around USD60,000 and poses as serious competition to its Swiss counterparts.
If there were any doubts on the Ref. 5172 when it was first released, this new salmon dial variation has effectively erased them. It’s hard to imagine how the brand plans to top this given how coveted salmon dial Pateks are. Something like a yellow gold variant, as a next step, would make perfect sense for a retro-inspired watch such as the Ref. 5172, but yellow gold watches (continue to) struggle to gain popularity in this modern age. The only way up is perhaps to go the nuclear option: non-precious metals. But we digress. There is no doubt that there will be plenty of attractive dial design/case material permutations for Patek Philippe to tinker with in the coming years. Some will look better than others, but one thing’s for certain: the Ref. 5172 will continue to be a leader – like its predecessors – with its refreshing design, modern movement, and brand heritage.