Few things in the world garner such scrutiny as a new Patek Philippe reference. The Patek faithful, typically a reserved bunch, come out of their wood-paneled drawing rooms to debate and argue the merits of a new complication, a new push-piece shape, a new dial font, with the fervor of a diehard baseball fan scrutinizing the field at spring training. Patek Philippe is a conservative company, inching forward in its designs at a measured pace — which leaves the cognoscenti to split hairs over minutiae. So when Patek introduced the Calatrava Pilot Travel Time at BaselWorld 2015, it was the horological equivalent of dropping a hand grenade on expectations.
It may be the most controversial watch Patek has debuted at BaselWorld since 1976, when it introduced another sports watch, the Nautilus. The new watch is so different from any other watch in the Patek stable, it had confused onlookers wondering if they’d stumbled into the wrong booth. First of all, it’s big — 42mm across, with massive locking crowns jutting out of both sides. The dial is bold and sporty, with stylized Arabic numerals and huge sword hands that recall the aviator’s watches of the 1930s and ‘40s. Indeed, Patek says this new Calatrava was inspired by a watch it made for pilots in the prewar years — but if you squint, it looks more like a Zenith or IWC of that era.
Of course, being a Patek, it also has exquisite finishing and an exceptional movement. The innovative Calibre 324 S C FUS tracks a second time zone and includes “home” and “local” day/night indicators on the dial, in addition to a central sweep hand and a pointer date subdial. Contained in a bold white gold with a varnished blue dial, the overall package is the most exciting watch Patek Philippe has introduced in decades — and the most controversial.
Movement: Self-winding mechanical calibre 324 S C FUS
Case: 42mm white gold
Water resistance: 60m
Functions: Time, date, second time zone and day/night indication
Strap: Calfskin leather