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Watch-Highlight 2010

BASELNEWS 2010Patek Philippe Ref. 5951P - One of the Top-Watches at BASELWORLD 2010

It is absolutely legitimate to assign Patek Philippe’s split-seconds or rattrapante chronographs to the category of Grand Complications which also includes minute repeaters, tourbillons, and particularly elaborate calendar mechanisms as well as astronomical functions. The Ref. 5951P, which combines a split-seconds chronograph with a perpetual calendar, will therefore no doubt rank among the most exciting debuts at this year’s Baselworld show.

The specifications imposed another challenge: the movement was to be as thin as possible. Patek Philippe’s CHR 27-525 PS basic caliber is already the thinnest column-wheel-controlled split-seconds chronograph movement, so it seemed appropriate that the perpetual calendar cadrature should be similarly discreet. The task was compounded by the fact that the movement has a diameter of only 27,3 mm. Nonetheless, the workshops succeeded in designing a calendar module with a day/night display that indicates the date, day, month, leap year cycle, and moon phase yet measures only 2.05 mm from top to bottom. Together with the basic movement, this adds up to an overall height of just 7.3 mm, making the new Ref. 5951P the thinnest rattrapante chronograph with perpetual calendar ever crafted by Patek Philippe.

Perpetual calendar with moon-phase display

The outcome of this innovation is a perpetual calendar with a moon-phase display comprising 148 individual parts in a cadrature with a diameter of just 27,3 mm and a height of 2.05 mm. It controls a moon-phase display and an analog date as well as the day, the month, the day/night indication and the leap-year cycle in apertures.

This module with a perpetual calendar was developed expressly for the CHR 27-525 PS split-seconds chronograph movement launched in 2005 and now joins it in the new caliber CHR 27-525 PS Q. Due to its extreme complexity, this caliber is exclusively hand-crafted one by one. Among its special features is the 60-minute chronograph counter driven via the cannon pinion, an ingenious construction that contributes significantly to the ultra-thin silhouette of the movement. Of course, the chronograph wheels of the caliber also have Patek Philippe’s patented tooth profiles that improve its efficiency, reduce friction, and boost functional reliability when the chronograph is engaged.

Its Gyromax balance wheel is fitted with a Breguet balance spring that breathes with a frequency of 21,600 semi-oscillations per hour (3 hertz). The chronograph’s start, stop, and reset commands are activated by a single in-crown pusher. Lap times are stopped with a rectangular push piece at 2 o’clock.

Elegance and legibility

The design of the dial also proved to be a challenge. In a relatively small area, it delivers no fewer than 12 indications: three hands for standard time in hours, minutes, and seconds, three hands for the splitseconds chronograph functions, plus the day, month, date, leap-year cycle, moon phase, and day/night indication. Mission accomplished: despite the density of information that it provides, the sporty black dial of the Ref. 5951P is quickly and easily readable. The moon-phase display in the gracefully curved aperture at 12 o’clock deviates from the true lunar cycle by only one day in 122 years.

Standard time is indicated with leaf-shaped white-gold hands and applied baton-style hour markers. For contrast, short-time measurements are tracked with red hands. The fine tips of the chronograph and rattrapante hands follow a scale that precisely emulates the contour of the cushionshaped bezel. The subdial for the analog date is positioned at 6 o’clock flanked by round apertures for the day/night indicator and for the leap-year display. For once, the years are indicated with Arabic rather than Roman numerals, emphasizing the modern, masculine style of this split-seconds chronograph. The days of the week are displayed in an aperture between the date scale and the seconds subdial, whereas the month aperture is symmetrically positioned on the 60-minute counter side. With such a clear and aesthetic time and calendar data presentation, Patek Philippe demonstrates yet again that it tolerates no compromises, neither in functionality nor in design.

A contemporary, art-deco-inspired platinum case

In the spectrum of classic case materials, platinum occupies a special position, and because it is so hard, it is very difficult to machine. Accordingly, Patek Philippe often chooses this precious metal to pay tribute to an exceptional movement. This also applies to the Ref. 5951P (P = platinum), which has been endowed with a cushion shaped case to accommodate its ultra-thin movement. It is reminiscent of the famous art-deco watches for which the manufacture received rave reviews in the 1920s and 1930s.

The rectangular rattrapante pusher in the side of the case at 2 o’clock – it is used to stop lap times – was also inspired by historic models. Next to it is the knurled crown which contains the pusher that controls the chronograph. The sapphire-crystal glass duplicates the cushion shape of the case, a square form with curved sides. The sapphire-crystal insert in the snap back has the same contour. It is a show window on a magnificent movement, revealing many hand-finished components, the elaborate rattrapante mechanism, and the rhythmic beat of the Gyromax balance wheel. It is a sight that will never bore the true watch enthusiast even though the ballet repeats itself infinitely.