To mark the completion of its new production building at the headquarters of the manufacture in Plan-les-Ouates, Patek Philippe is launching a limited edition Calatrava in stainless steel: the Calatrava Manufacture Edition Ref. 6007A-001. The watch couldn’t differ more from its predecessors.
Patek Philippe is one of the most formidable watchmakers in the world, and has been around since 1839. Meanwhile, its Calatrava has been a flagship model ever since 1932, when it first appeared in the form of the Ref. 96. There is one particular way to make Patek Philippe’s coveted Calatrava even more desirable: stainless steel. Steel has long been a very rare case material for the brand, making editions such as the new, unusually designed Patek Philippe Calatrava Manufacture Edition Ref. 6007A-001 highly popular amongst collectors.
Created to honour the horology house’s new PP6 manufacture building, the latest Calatrava takes a bold step away from the line’s timeless, traditional characteristics in favour of an astonishingly masculine, sporty piece. Limited to 1000 pieces, there’s no doubt that it’s a timepiece to be treasured, as well as an excellent investment.
So, what is so special about the new production building, which is simply named PP6 and resides on the foundations of the company’s old car park? Why did it instigate the creation of the new, and moreover steel, 2020 Calatrava? For one thing, like the Calatrava, the modern building seems to embrace the Bauhaus concept of ‘form follows function’, featuring streamlined aesthetics and a highly functional structure. The entire investment cost Patek Philippe 600 million CHF – of which 500 million went on structure alone.
At nearly 200 metres in length, the 10-floor building has notably abstract dimensions, measuring 67 metres wide. Its design allows for abundant amounts of sunlight inside. White passageways along the entire façade of the building emphasise this brightness. Meanwhile, bronze-coloured fire external fire escapes evoke something between a New York townhouse and an ocean liner. The passageways’ horizontal curves are reminiscent of the Nautilus case, while the fire escape ladders aim to evoke the silhouette of leaf-hands.
This space, which first started construction back in 2015, is actually an extension in itself. In 1996, then-President Philippe Stern created a manufacture in Plan-les-Ouates to bring the watchmaker’s many activities, which were spread throughout the city of Geneva, under one roof. Now, the 1996 building complex extends to include this new building, which will accommodate everyone from trainees to rare handcrafts professionals. It’s not the first time that a watch has commemorated such an event, but is rather a tradition; following the opening of Stern’s manufacture, Patek Philippe introduced two limited editions – the Pagoda Ref. 5500 (1,100 pieces) and the minute repeater Ref. 5029 (ten pieces).
The building separates itself into five main segments. The ground and first floor are appointed for production and manual finissage of movement parts, while the second floor is machining, manual polishing, assembly of exterior parts, gem-setting, and restoration of vintage pieces. The third floor accommodates departments such as Research & Development, a haute horlogerie department, and a new unit for prototyping operations. The fourth floor provides for training, and also has an auditorium. The crowning glory, however, has to be the fifth floor. It boasts a penthouse restaurant for 880 guests and four VIP lounges – all of which look out onto the Swiss municipality’s bucolic, mountainous surroundings.
In this sense, the building also represents the future of the horology house. Not only does it integrate current production needs, but also caters for both its future watchmakers and watches. It includes space for the development of new materials and prototypes, and positively prepares for the future by including empty space that allows for expansion over the next few decades. Furthermore, it takes the environment into consideration – a fundamental issue for any company in the 21st century – by integrating in a system that uses the building’s waste heat for heating purposes.
Long Story Short: The Calatrava’s History
By now, we are all pretty familiar with the history of Calatrava, so we’ll keep it brief. The line of dress watches was first launched in 1932, and a large part of the inspiration behind it was the Bauhaus movement. The reason for this is more than it simply being a popular new design concept; rather, the first Calatrava was conceived against the backdrop of a world financial crisis. Newcomers Jean and Henri Stern resolved to create a watch that had the ability to appeal to both its high-profile collectors, as well as the general public. The Bauhaus principles of simplicity and ‘form follows function’ provided the ideal blueprint. It is this timeless, functional concept that is responsible for the model’s enduring appeal.
The original Calatrava, the 31 mm (thus much smaller) Ref. 96, had a snap-on back and a flat, polished bezel. It subtly integrated the lugs into its three-part case, which was a mere 9 mm thick, in true Bauhaus style. The Calatrava’s first stainless-steel edition appeared two years after the Ref. 96’s launch, in the form of the Ref. 96 SC, fitted with Patek Philippe’s 12’’ 120 calibre.
Last year, the horology house introduced the 5212A Calatrava Weekly Calendar. Aside from being the most recent stainless-steel model prior to this 2020 Calatrava – the old-school 5212A model serves as an example of everything that the Calatrava Manufacture Edition is not.
A Rare Case
You can discover a Calatrava’s case material simply by looking at its reference, which includes a letter after the digits. The reference indicates rose gold, for example, with an ‘R’, white gold with a ‘G’, platinum with a ‘P’, and yellow gold with a ‘J’. Then – rarest of all – an ‘A’ indicates that the watch is made from stainless steel. Such is the case with the Calatrava Manufacture Edition in stainless steel – the Ref. 6007A-001.
The 40 mm case features a wide, cambered bezel and a three-position water-resistant crown. The watch has a case height of 9.07 mm and is water-resistant to 30 m.
Dial It Up
Moving on to the dial, there’s no doubt that the brass-made dial will be a crowd-pleaser. A key reason for its inevitable popularity is its “gray-blue hue”. It enjoys a subtle circular satin finish and contrasts nicely with the dial’s white imprints.
This shade was a smart move by the horology house. It closely resembles Nautilus models such as the 5712/1A or 5711/1A models, showcasing the manufacture’s appealing “black-blue” dials. There is no doubt that the dial’s “grey-blue” colour is a rarity, with only a few recent appearances, e.g. the quartz-powered Aquanaut Luce 5067A or World Time 7130G. That said, the 2020 Calatrava’s dial actually appears to be significantly lighter in colour.
More importantly, the dial clearly defies the norm for the blueprint of the Calatrava in several ways; working our way from the centre, the central part of the dial has a fine-grain “carbon”-style structure. The watchmaker describes the structure as “an enigmatic footnote referring to the world of high-tech.”
Surrounding this textured, graphic centre is a railway track minute circle with triangular markers, providing a peripheral indication of minutes. Then, there are the applied 18-carat white-gold Arabic numeral hour markers – baton hour markers are a much more common choice in the line.
What’s more, the white-lacquered, white-gold numerals and hands are legible 24/7 thanks to a luminous coating. Again, this indicates that this is not just a unique, but also a notably sporty Calatrava. As a result, the watch becomes in a sense more than a dress watch; yes, it still looks elegant with a suit, but it also easily qualifies as an “everyday” watch.
A date window lies at 3 o’clock. Although the inclusion of a date window is not new (it also features on the 5227 Calatrava models), it is by no means the norm.
Powering the Calatrava Manufacture Edition Ref. 6007A-001 is the automatic caliber 324 S C. Patek fans will already be familiar with the movement, which is nothing new. Rather, it has already been used in a number of the watchmaker’s models. This includes the Nautilus, Aquanaut, Twenty-4 Automatic, and various editions of the Calatrava itself. Even last year’s 5212A Calatrava Weekly Calendar’s movement was not an entirely new calibre, but was rather built on the 324 S C. The automatic movement keeps things pretty simple, providing hours, minutes, seconds and a date. It has a decent maximum power reserve of 45 hours and beats at a frequency of 4 Hz.
The 324 S C is visible through the sapphire-crystal caseback, which, true to the 2020 watch’s form, also chose to stray from the norm. It features a large, white Calatrava cross and the inscription “NEW MANUFACTURE 2019”. This refers to the year that the first team moved into the PP6 building, although 2020 would undoubtedly have a better ring to it, and is, after all, the year of the watch’s release. Meanwhile, the unidirectional winding central rotor in 21-carat gold is visible through the caseback, and its more traditional aesthetic is a welcome reminder of the Calatrava’s heritage as the ultimate fine dress watch.
The watch comes with a matt gray-blue calfskin strap, that actually resembles textile. It sticks religiously to the watch’s colour scheme, featuring white stitching reminiscent of the dial’s white details.
Whether a fan of the unusual model or not, there’s no doubt that the watch is extremely well-executed. What’s more, it’s not the first more contemporary dial to ruffle the feathers of Calatrava fans. The Ref. 6006G also opted for a more contemporary dial, with an off-centre seconds subdial. Like the 2020 model, it featured modern-looking baton hands. As is likely the case this year, it also proved controversial amongst fans of the maison’s usually conservative Calatrava designs.
Without a shadow of a doubt, there is no need for Patek to worry about competition with this Patek Philippe Calatrava Manufacture Edition Ref. 6007A-001. Of course, this is fundamentally due to the rarity of Patek Philippe’s steel watches. Moreover, this seriously sporty interpretation of the Calatrava is honestly like no other watch from the – until now – largely traditional collection.
While it will undoubtedly appeal to collectors due to its sporty aesthetics, some ardent fans may be adverse to such a drastic departure from the watchmaker’s traditional designs. On the other hand, it opens up a whole new avenue of opportunities for Patek Philippe. The 2020 model also strongly signals the brand’s forward-looking stance, so clearly embodied by its new PP6 building.
A Striking Similarity
Initially, it appeared that the Patek Philippe Calatrava Manufacture Edition Ref. 6007A-001 was something completely new. However, the brand has, in fact, produced a highly similar watch – only once before. That watch is the titanium Triple Complication Ref. 5208T-010, created for the 2017 Only Watch charity auction. It sold for 6.2 million Swiss francs. The success of the Ref. 5208T-010 at auction is a clear indication as to why the brand decided to pursue this contemporary, sporty style further.
In terms of functions, the Ref. 5208T-010 is a world away from the Calatrava. Its virtues include a monopusher chronograph with 60-minute and 12-hour counters, a minute repeater, an instantaneous perpetual calendar with day, date, month, leap-year and a day/night indication in apertures, as well as moon phases.
In other words, its design blueprint couldn’t differ more from the simple Ref. 6007A-001 Calatrava’s. This is chiefly because it was designed to be a unique piece, as the first and only titanium version of the Ref. 5208. Meanwhile, the new Calatrava has historic design codes to consider, as well as a much larger availability (1000 pieces).
On the other hand, it is the aesthetics of the Ref. 5208T-010 that cause us to compare it with the Ref. 6007A-001 Calatrava. The most stark similarity between the Ref. 5208T-010 and Ref. 6007A-001 is the centre of the dial’s unusual guilloched “Carbon” motif. Secondly, Patek added a fittingly sporty feel to the blue-dialled mono-pusher chronograph watch by adding applied gold indexes with luminescent coating. A final similarity is the blue cordura strap with a fold-over clasp, which, as is the case with the Calatrava’s gray-blue textile-like calfskin strap, exudes a more everyday feel.
While the aesthetic similarities of the two watches are obvious, and the motives behind their designs are understandable, we are once again forced back to the question – why use such a different style on a Calatrava? Of all the possible lines and models, why implement such a drastic change on the watch with the most strict design code of all?
So, how will the Patek Philippe Calatrava Manufacture Edition Ref. 6007A-001 be received? Here at swisswatches, we have had some pretty varied responses amongst the editors. One of our editors thinks that it’s certainly a likeable piece, although bound to cause a certain level of controversy.
“One can assume that the watch, with its relatively modern design, may face criticism from very great Patek traditionalists,” he says. “But I like it a lot myself – also because I really like the 6006 reference, with which it apparently has some similarities. Apart from that, I share the taste of the masses when it comes to blue watches; I am also very much in favour of them. And this grey-blue carbon texture in the centre looks very charming. The strap’s textile look also seems to be interesting. There seems to be a certain joy for experimentation at Patek at the moment, away from the classic alligator bands. Last year’s blue chronograph Reference 5172 has already got a rather sporty nubuck strap in dark blue. All in all it is an exciting watch. It’s nice to take the opportunity to put the Calatrava collection in the spotlight.
I understand the controversy, but the new manufacture is also a step into the future, and the watch symbolises this. To have played it safe and made an all-too-pleasing piece, a worldtimer or perpetual calendar, with Breguet numbers or whatever, would have been a bit boring, whereby with this watch, the innovation idea is of a purely optical nature. The 1000 pieces will certainly go quickly, but it doesn’t seem to me to be that limited. Normally there are not many Calatravas of which such numbers are available in one year.”
Ultimately, Patek Philippe was brave, though not reckless, to release the drastically different 2020 Calatrava. There’s no doubt that the watch, which costs 25,506 euros, will easily sell out – and fast. However, the problem caused by this Calatrava’s bold departure from its pure, traditional design is that it arguably shows a lack of respect for the most beautiful, historic dress watch of all.
On the other hand, the Patek Philippe Calatrava Manufacture Edition Ref. 6007A-001, like the PP6 building, signals that Patek Philippe is going into a new decade with an open mind, a creative outlook, and is perhaps conceding that steadfastly sticking to tradition is not always the path that leads us to progress.