The perpetual calendar chronograph has long been the face of complicated watchmaking at Patek Philippe. Since the days of the Ref. 1518 – the first ever serially produced perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch – this particular pairing of complications on a watch has been thoroughly adored by Patek Philippe collectors and enthusiasts. In fact, the design of the Ref. 1518 was so effective that it has become the template for every reference down the line. Patek Philippe knows better than to fix something that isn’t broken.
Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Ref. 5270P-014
The Ref. 5270 is Patek Philippe’s current resident perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch. Born in 2011, the Ref. 5270 is the culmination of the brand’s watchmaking know-how, and a worthy successor of the cult-favourite Ref. 5970 before it. This year at Watches & Wonders 2022, Patek Philippe had introduced yet another variant of the Ref. 5270 – this time though it’s more than just a simple colour/material change. This latest release represents the first piece of the next (fourth) generation of the Ref. 5270. Here, we bring you the details and our honest thoughts on the new Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Ref. 5270P-014.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
One of the areas in which the new Ref. 5270P remains unchanged is in case design. Still 41 mm in diameter, the absolutely gorgeous case features tiered lugs and a concave bezel. As is customary for all platinum-encased Patek Philippe wristwatches, there is a diamond embedded into the band at 6 o’clock. The two pushers on the flanks – brushed on the sides, polished at the top – starts, stops and resets the chronograph function. There are recessed pushers all over the flanks that adjust the perpetual calendar indications when actuated. Of all the perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatches in the market, you’d be hard-pressed to find one with a more charming case. The only minor gripe that some connoisseurs may have pertains to its size; at 41 mm, it is the largest reference in the Patek Philippe perpetual calendar chronograph lineage. Patek Philippe is all about elegance and perhaps the Ref. 5270 can be seen as undermining that core tenet. Times are changing, however, and to be honest, the watch still wears with panache on the average male wrist.
Speaking of changing times, who would’ve expected one of Patek Philippe’s most classical and revered models to flex a green dial? Up until now, the dials on the numerous variants of the Ref. 5270 sported conservative colours like white or black; the colours only went as adventurous as dark blue or salmon. This is further evidence that Patek Philippe are increasingly targeting younger clientele – just take a look at the brand’s latest Calatrava watch. But we digress. To be fair, the shade of green used by Patek Philippe on their latest Ref. 5270 is more regal than casual. In fact, the way that it gradates to black on the periphery is truly mesmerising. Once you’ve gotten over the exotic new dial, you’ll find that there are other changes on the dial. The most obvious change is in the lack of a tachymetre scale, resulting in a less complex but cleaner dial. With one fewer scale, the date display no longer needs to cut through the remaining scales for lack of space. The name of the game is simplification and this extends to the new sans-serif font used for all the inscribed numbers. It also bears mentioning that the hour and minute hands are no longer leaf-style, and that the hour markers are now tipped on one end.
These on-dial changes are subtle enough that you’d probably not notice or mind them unless you’re extremely passionate about the previous versions. The one thing that definitely hasn’t changed is the layout. The Ref. 5270 remains the most intuitively legible perpetual calendar chronograph in the market thanks to its cruciform layout and judicious use of aperture displays. This is the one aspect of the watch that has remained a constant through all four generations of the Ref. 5270.
As hinted by the unchanged layout of the displays on the dial, the Ref. 5270P-014 is driven by the same Calibre CH 29-535 PS Q that has been ever-present in the Ref. 5270. After a long time of dependence on third party suppliers to provide movements, the Calibre CH 29-535 PS Q is the first Patek Philippe perpetual calendar chronograph movement to be fully designed and manufactured in-house. It is arguably the most technically advanced movement of its kind. No fewer than six patented innovations are found within, all for the purposes of improving efficiency, reducing wear, and even eliminating hand jitters. Just underneath the dial is the perpetual calendar module which features a moon phase indicator that deviates from the lunar cycle by merely one day every 122 years.
Beyond functionality, the Calibre CH 29-535 PS Q is quite the looker as well. Thanks to its old school construction, the chronograph mechanisms of the movement are in full view through the sapphire crystal case back. Of note are the brushed steel levers, springs and clutches that contrast against the bridges that have been adorned with Geneva waves. Not forgetting as well the column wheel cap that’s been black polished, an uncommon sight since the column wheel is more often than not exposed. There are numerous polished outward angles on the bridges and chronograph parts, which are a hallmark of an artisanal movement. The lack of inward anglage is a pity, though it is understandable given the volume of watches that Patek Philippe produces each year.
The Competitive Landscape
The perpetual calendar chronograph segment is rife with competition these days. There are a select number of specimens by manufacturers from Switzerland and Germany that are truly praiseworthy. Nevertheless, Patek Philippe remains the leader of the market given the brand’s long, intimate history with the perpetual calendar chronograph and their superb track record for creating some of the most adored references in watchmaking (think the Ref. 5970 and Ref. 2499). Patek Philippe’s announcement of the new Ref. 5270P-014 came as a mild surprise as some have speculated that there would not be a fourth generation for the reference. Not only was there to be a new generation of Ref. 5270s, this one came with a bang, green dial and green stitches and all. The Ref. 5270P-014 is priced at a whopping EUR189,500, EUR20,000 more than the salmon-dialed Ref. 5270P – the last platinum variant introduced.
If there was ever going to be a perpetual calendar chronograph that could match Patek Philippe’s, it’d be the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual. The Caliber L952.1 that beats within it is considered to be one of, if not the most beautiful chronograph movements ever made. Indeed, upon closer inspection one can appreciate the exceptional level of finishing bestowed upon it, surpassing even that of the Calibre CH 29-535 PS Q. Among other things, there are heat-blued screws, a hand-engraved balance cock, and numerous, sharp inward angles. All that said, the Calibre CH 29-535 PS Q objectively remains the more technical movement. From our point of view, the dial layout of the Ref. 5270P is also more legible and intuitive than the Datograph Perpetual’s which can look a little cluttered on the sub-dials. In the end, it all comes down to what a buyer values in a watch. There’s also the price to consider: the Datograph Perpetual in white gold comes in at around the EUR120,000 mark. This is significantly less pricey than the Patek Philippe – even after considering the platinum premium – making the Datograph Perpetual a worthy alternative to the Ref. 5270.
For something a little less classical, look no further than the Chopard L.U.C Perpetual Chrono. By far the most contemporary option of the trio, the Perpetual Chrono is an astounding 45 mm wide and 15.06 mm thick. This is not a watch for small wrists. The dial itself is also catered to modern tastes with its chunky hour markers and highly textured sunburst dial. The highlight has to be the orbital moon phase display which – like the Datograph Perpetual and Ref. 5270 – is accurate to within a day every 122 years. The Calibre 03.10-L that powers the watch features vertical clutch coupling which ensures smooth yet firm activation of timing-related components. Make no mistake, the view of the case back may not be as picturesque as the Lange or Patek but this is a Hallmark of Geneva-stamped movement with COSC certification. This platinum variant of the L.U.C Perpetual Chrono is made in a limited run of 20 pieces only and – at the time of its release – was priced at just over EUR100,000. The watch offers excellent bang for buck relative to its competition – so long as you can wear it on your wrist.
It’s hard to believe that the Ref. 5270 has been around for 11 years now. But what’s more amazing is how Patek Philippe has managed to keep the reference fresh i.e. by introducing new generations, bringing back the adored salmon dial, and this year, presenting a potentially divisive green dial. And even after more than a decade, it’s not a stretch to say that it remains the best perpetual calendar chronograph that is still in production. Patek will probably spin the wheel of case/dial permutations and release a few more variations for this new generation of Ref. 5270s, but what comes after that is anyone’s guess. While the Ref. 5970 was in production for only 7-8 years, older Patek Philippe perpetual calendar chronograph references such as the Ref. 3970 and Ref. 2499 had double-digit production years. For the time being, there’s not much impetus for the brand to create an all-new perpetual calendar chronograph reference given that the movement and design of the Ref. 5270 is still very much relevant. This just further reiterates how future-proof and timeless Patek perpetual calendar chronographs are.