As you might have heard, Patek Philippe invested 600 million Swiss francs into its new factory building in Plan-les-Ouates, which was completed earlier this year. If you are wondering what such a large sum was spent on, and how the Stern family is envisaging the balancing act between preserving tradition and looking to the future, taking a look at the latest minute repeater, the 5303R-001, will give you a pretty good impression.
Keeping an open mind: What makes the watch so special?
This rose gold 5303R is a slightly modified version of the special edition limited to only twelve pieces that was presented at the “Watch Art Grand Exhibition Singapore 2019” last year. The unveiled design will now become a normal part of the exceptional Grande Complications, and is a novelty in two different respects. Firstly, until the presentation of the model in question, there had never before been a minute-repeater from the manufacture with a striking mechanism that was visible from the dial side.
Secondly, and equally unusually: the movement now offers an unobstructed view of the tourbillon on the dial side. Traditionally, Patek Philippe’s tourbillons can only be admired through the sapphire crystal back. This means that usually, the wearer is aware of the intrinsic value of his watch, but this value is not presented to the outside world. This is of course the best form of understatement, but at the same time, would be pretty strange on such a skeletonized model as the 5303R-001. This new model can therefore be interpreted as an expression of the attitude that, while remaining true to the brand’s core values, one should never shut oneself off from the willingness to explore new avenues.
Keeping Tradition Alive: Patek Philippe Minute Repeaters
One thing is certain: the minute repeater has a firm place in the Patek-Philippe DNA in a variation of forms. As early as 1845, the first pocket watch with minute repeater was produced, and since then, the expertise in this field has continuously expanded, often in custom-made and commissioned designs, but in the meantime also with great enthusiasm in the normal collection – if you can indeed call these timepieces “normal”.
Currently, these are various minute repeaters in combination with various other complications, from reference 5078 (enamel dial with small seconds) to references 5178, 5531 (with world time function), 5374 (with perpetual calendar), 5208 (with chronograph and perpetual calendar), 5207 and 5316 (both with tourbillon and perpetual calendar), the Sky Moon Tourbillon 6002, and the Grandmaster Chime 6300, which combines no fewer than twenty complications – including five percussion functions.
So, it can fairly quickly be surmised that minute-repeating is an area close to the heart of the watchmakers around Patek’s chief developer, Philip Barat.
The Movement: A Number Of New Aspects
These pictures show how spectacular the 5303 has become. Only real watch aficionados probably know the feeling of looking at their wrist so often that others around them begin to suspect that they are in a rush. However, when looking at a timepiece it is actually rarely about the time, but rather the joy of looking at the watch. And in this minute repeater with a tourbillon, the contented owner can and may absorb himself in it forever.
To achieve this, the basic calibre 103, which has been the basis of all Patek minute-repeater watches since 1991, has been reconstructed. The result? The calibre R TO 27 PS. To show the striking mechanism at the ten o’clock position of the dial, the base plate has been enlarged to 31.6 mm, and a support bridge for the hammers has been added. In addition, the plate has been perforated to expose the tourbillon. Various parts (including the hour wheel) were skeletonized and the rakes for counting quarters of an hour and minutes were modified and repositioned.
Also, the small gongs, which are usually located under the bridge, moved to the dial side. Additionally, a transparent sapphire crystal disc over the lower dial allows for the display of small seconds via a single red hand, and simultaneously protects the tourbillon from UV radiation.
All in all, the view into the inner workings of this 5303R is deeply fascinating and is characterized by a skilful play of contrasts through shades of rose- and white-gold and steel, as well as black accents such as the narrow hour ring with minute markers or the skeletonized hands. The artistic decoration techniques, ranging from Geneva stripes to circular graining and satin finishing, are also outstanding.
Visually, this small work of art is largely inspired by the Reference 5104, a minute repeater with a perpetual calendar and transparent dial, which was first presented in 2007, and also by the Reference 5304R from 2014 – but with an automatic rather than a manual winding movement, and without allowing a view of the striking mechanism.
The Case: Showing What Is Possible
Probably every collector interprets the core values of Patek Philippe a little differently. But what is particularly important to the horology house, and what probably every fan of the brand would confirm, is the following: Patek Philippe wants to achieve the greatest level of technical complexity, and it wants to accommodate this in the slimmest possible cases, which are as inspiring today as they will be in fifty years or more.
The 5303R has a diameter of 42 mm and a height of 12.13 mm, which is truly dainty for such an exceptional piece of watchmaking. Particularly beautiful is the repetitive “foliage” leaves that first appears in the black skeletonized hands, is found on the back of the case in the movement and adorns the flanks or the slider for the minute repeater. Here, the pattern is in white gold, which fits well with the otherwise dominant rose gold. Only those who aren’t big fans of bicolour will be less than pleased.
And its value? More Than A Number
One can write rationally, and indeed truthfully: “For around 661,000 Swiss francs, you can buy a very special minute repeater with tourbillon in the future – if it is allocated to you. A watch consisting of 356 parts and with a power reserve of at least 40 hours. Equipped with a hand-wound movement that beats at a frequency of 3 Hz or 21,600 half revolutions. A watch that is protected against dust and humidity, but is not water-resistant.” However, these facts simply do not do the 5303 justice; everyone who is enthusiastic about the art and science of horology knows that the 5303R-001 is so much more, and, to see that for ourselves, even simply looking at these pictures is enough.
With the 5303R-001, Patek Philippe has done even more. It allows its wearer to not only to be able to see time, but also to hear it – that is a true moment of happiness for every watch enthusiast. But to have it presented in this unique design and to be able to actually watch it at work, that is something truly special – not to mention the fact that the sound and tone of the minute repeater can move more freely in this case than when it is slowed down by a dial.
It’s worth mentioning that the sound of each repeater model is carefully checked for quality by CEO Thierry Stern himself. This watch in particular is also a piece of history; a commitment to striving for perfection, for change and staying true to one’s values. It is also, perhaps, a statement showing that especially in challenging times, one does not pause or play it safe, but continues to strive for the very best, distracting consumers from current problems with art by creating the most beautiful things in an otherwise tense world. The final question for now is: what will be created in the new factory building in the future?
|MODEL:||Grand Complications – Minute Repeater|
|CASE MATERIAL:||Rose Gold|
|DIMENSIONS:||Diameter: 42.0 mm|
Height: 12.13 mm
|WATER RESISTANCE:||Humidity- and dust-protected only (not water-resistant)|
|STRAP/BRACELET:||Alligator leather, hand-s titched, shiny black|
|MOVEMENT:||Calibre R TO 27 PS|
|MOVEMENT TYPE:||Manual winding|
|POWER RESERVE:||min. 40 hours – max. 48 hours|
|FREQUENCY:||21,600 vph (3 Hz)|
|FUNCTIONS:||Hours, Minutes, Small seconds, Tourbillon, Minute repeater with classic gongs|
|PRICE:||≈ CHF 661,000|