This year, the Watches & Wonders Geneva trade show is once again an online event — only this time, it includes brands such as Rolex, Tudor, Patek Philippe and more. Check back here often for our coverage of this horological mega-show to see all the latest watches.
Many fans of modern Patek Philippe are consumed with the Nautilus — and in particular, with the reference 5711, the steel, time-only variant that was recently discontinued, only to be brought back for a "victory lap" in green. But Patek is about much more than the Nautilus, which only debuted in the 1970s. Though it's frequently overshadowed, the Calatrava is really the essence of the maison.
Upon its debut in 1932, the Calatrava fairly quickly rose to prominence as the platonic ideal of the dress watch: slender and simple, with a sub-seconds display and a precious metal case paired to an elegant leather strap, the diminutive 30.5mm reference 96 was an instant classic, and formed the base upon which modern Patek Philippe was constructed. Indeed for many watch enthusiasts, when they think of a "dress watch," they think of a Calatrava.
The Calatrava, given its pricing, was long-considered the entry point into Patek Philippe, and indeed, may still be for many clients, depending of course on their taste. However, Mr. Thierry Stern, president of Patek Philippe, does admit that this is largely dependent upon a client's personal taste: Some will of course prefer the uber-trendy steel Nautilus — others, highly complicated watches. But there will always be those who love the elegance of a Calatrava, especially one like the new manually wound 6119 (see below).
"I believe everybody has different taste," he said. "Some people, yes, love the Nautilus, and for many different reasons — it could be fashion, it could be because of the style — but it's the same for the other products. Some people love to have the design, like the Calatrava — which has now been updated — because they saw it on their father's or grandfather's wrist — and they like the mechanical movement, also. Not everybody likes to have an automatic movement. I believe it's around 20% of our customers who are enjoying manually wound watches because it's part of your life: You wake up, you wind your watch...it's a process that you do, like doing sports. It's part of your life, and they love that."
"For me," he continued, "having a new client come to Patek and start with a Calatrava, I would be more than happy because that client would see the whole mechanics — he would understand it also. It's quite simple to understand. He would see the movement, which is quite beautiful. (This is why we always have a sapphire back.) Though I know that this will be only for 20% of our clients. The 80% who are left, they're not also all going for the Nautilus. Not everybody likes (the Nautilus). It's a trend, and this trend will end. We know that. I know it certainly, and I can end it myself if I want to."
"We did it with the 5711 because I think it was too dangerous (to have a piece like that). But you should not be worried. Patek has been providing s0 many new models during all these years. Today we have over 190 models in the collection. We are able to create new models that will always be successful. This is our duty, and this is my challenge. This is what I do, and I'm very confident. I think the Nautilus is a beautiful watch, but there will be some other ones. The Calatrava is also a beautiful watch, and it will suit also many wrists. We all have different tastes — we should not forget that."
So history marches on, trends change, and even a product line as enduring as the Calatrava must evolve. Given its 90th birthday next year, I fully expected 2022 to be the "Year of the Calatrava" (and it still may turn out to be...), but much to my surprise, Patek Philippe has debuted several new references with brand-new movements for the 2021 edition of Watches & Wonders — including both time-only variants and a stunning perpetual calendar. Let's see what we have here.
This is the first time Patek has included an in-line perpetual calendar display in a wristwatch
The brand-new 5236P-001 is a perpetual calendar with a unique display: it shows the day, date and month in a single, centered window below 12 o'clock via a group of four numerical discs. This highly elegant, in-line display appeared on one of the company's pocket watches in the 1970s but has never graced a Patek wristwatch before, chiefly because of space constraints in a wristwatch movement. (Remember: A perpetual calendar mechanically accounts for the different number of days in each month — as well as leap years and the phase of the moon.)
This unique display required a highly complicated, brand-new movement
In order to fit the-line display into a wristwatch, Patek Philippe engineered a completely new caliber, the 31-260 PS QL. It features a recessed micro-rotor for automatic winding, the in-line display system (which alone requires 118 parts), and several additional apertures: one for the leap year indication, one for a day/night indication, and one for the moon phase disc.
All of this is packed into a wildly beautiful platinum watch
Measuring 41.3mm wide by only 11.07 tall, the hand-polished, platinum case of the new perpetual calendar looks truly stunning. With its deep blue, satin-finished dial, applied hour markers and baton hands in white gold and matching blue alligator leather strap, the 5236P-001 is a fitting addition to the Calatrava catalog, and should satisfy both fans of the line's aesthetics as well as those fascinated by the architecture and engineering behind such a complicated movement.
Refs. 6119R-001 & 6119G-001 "Clous de Paris"
Patek brought back a famous Calatrava bezel type — the hobnail
This type of bezel debuted on a reference as early as 1934 but really came into its own on the ref. 3919 in 1985, which was part of the maison's catalog for over 20 years. Its design includes a series of concentric, pyramidal tips that makes for a striking look. However, since 2018, this “Clous de Paris” pattern has been noticeably absent from Patek's catalog. The new 6119 marks its return to the fore.
The case of this unique-bezel Calatrava has been updated to 39mm
The first Calatrava measured just 30.5mm, which is much too small for a men's wristwatch in 2021. The new 6119 measures a larger 39mm in diameter but retains an extremely thin case, at just 8.43mm, from crystal top to the bottom of the lugs. It features a sapphire crystal case back to display the new movement and is available in rose gold ("R") and white gold ("G") variants.
It features a completely new hand-wound movement
There's no dainty movement with limited power within the new 6119: Both references use the brand-new cal. 30-255 PS, an improvement upon the smaller, manually wound cal. 215 PS. Featuring dual barrels in a parallel configuration, it provides 65 hours of power reserve an increased torque for better power, reliability and accuracy. In short: it's the movement dedicated horologists have always wanted to see in a time-only Calatrava.
Price: ~$29,570 (both references)