In the arena of Patek Philippe, the perpetual calendar chronograph plays a singular and outsize role. When you consider the sheer quantity of auction catalog covers that such watches have graced, it would be fair to say that this combination of complications defines, on a certain level, what Patek is, or at least how it is viewed. Any day that Patek announces a new watch that advances what has become a great tradition of perpetual calendar chronographs is a big day in the world of watches. And that’s what we have with the announcement of the Patek Philippe ref. 5270J – the first watch in this reference to feature a case made from yellow gold, which in itself, come to think of it, is somewhat surprising. After all, this watch has been offered in every single other precious metal option to date, and in some instances in various options per metal.
Since 2011, the flagship perpetual calendar chronograph from Patek Philippe has been the ref. 5270, a watch whose basic design can be traced back to what is probably the most legendary of Patek Philippe references, the 1518. Reference 5270 was a landmark debut for Patek Philippe when it was initially announced in white gold. It marked the first time that Patek had made a perpetual calendar chronograph with a fully in-house caliber. Previously, right up to and including the ref. 5970, Patek had used supplied ebauches as the base upon which it made all of its perpetual calendar chronographs. But as the conversation around watches evolved through the Aughts, the imperative to shift all facets of movement production in-house became inexorable, even for a company that’s long been viewed as the unimpeachable watch king of Switzerland.
The 5270 has not had the smooth path to success that one would have expected given its historical antecedents. Sure, this reference offered a giant step forward in Patek Philippe’s most visible complication type. But not everybody was immediately in love. Whereas the 1518, the 2499, the 3970, and, most recently, the 5970 are generally praised, the same has not necessarily always been so for the 5270. What gives? The cal. CH 29-535 PS Q is as good as any movement that Patek makes, and its level of finishing is commensurate with what one would expect of a watch of this caliber from a brand of this caliber. When Paul Boutros spent a week with the 5270, he had very positive things to say about the movement’s performance. However, there were aspects of the design that some collectors faulted, starting with its size, which saw an increase of 1mm over the 40mm 5970, which was accentuated by large, ornate lugs. Having said that, on the wrist, the 5270 feels really good. I’ve not put hands on this new yellow-gold version, but I have had the opportunity to try on previous variations within the cozy confines of a Baselworld booth over the years. And while 41mm x 12.4mm doesn’t read small on paper or translate to a dainty wearing experience, it does convey a certain gravity that I think works well.
With the next wave of 5270s, in 2013, Patek added a tachymeter, connecting the new reference back a bit to the 5970. This feature resulted in a bump at the lowest portion of the dial, which some in the collecting community derided as the “chin.” (This controversial aspect of the design has since been remedied.) A major step forward came two years ago in Basel, with an extremely promising release in the form of the platinum 5270 with an exquisite salmon dial. With its vintage-evoking blackened gold baton numerals and handset, it was one of the most positively discussed watch introductions of the year from any brand. Some show attendees even ventured to say that it was just the shot in the arm that this reference may have needed; platinum being platinum, the 5270P became the reigning top dog of 5270s, which it remains to this day.
With this introduction, I would argue that the arc of the 5270 feels if not finished, certainly more whole. The current assortment of 5270s now includes the aforementioned vintage-inspired platinum version, a stunning all-rose variation on a bracelet, and as of today, classic warm yellow gold matched to a brown alligator strap. You now have three choices of 5270s in the PP current collection. White gold can be had in a few different flavors from years past.
And while this new version feels like the most conservative and predictable version that is currently available, I won’t deny that it is a beauty. The silvery opaline dial of the 5270J has yellow-gold leaf hands for the hours and the minutes and applied yellow-gold markers. The apertures for the day, month, leap year, and day/night indicator have subtle inner frames. As with other recent 5270 introductions, the 5270J has a tachymeter scale sandwiched between an inner chapter for the minutes and an outer chapter for the chronograph seconds. The minutes chapter and part of the tachymeter scale are interrupted by the date display at six o’clock, as we’ve seen in recent introductions to this reference as well as in the 5970. One could argue that this is undesirable from a legibility standpoint, and particularly for a chronograph, which should be all about precision. Nonetheless, many have welcomed it as a solution to the aforementioned “chin.”
The Caliber CH 29-535 PS Q inside is pure quality and, as you can see above, is very much in the vein of traditional chronograph architecture. It’s a hand-wound column-wheel chronograph with lateral clutch, which makes for a very pleasurable experience when putting the chronograph through its paces while viewing the movement. It comes with a second caseback in yellow gold should you want a more traditional look or perhaps even to have it engraved.
While today’s launch doesn’t feel quite as big as the 5270P of two years ago (which, incidentally, debuted alongside the rose-gold version on a bracelet), a yellow-gold version with silvery opaline dial does feel like an essential part of this reference’s story, perhaps even one that you could be forgiven for thinking already existed.
The Patek Philippe ref. 5270J Perpetual Calendar. 41mm x 12.4mm case in yellow gold with solid and sapphire casebacks. Silvery opaline dial with applied yellow-gold hour markers and yellow-gold leaf hands. Manually wound Caliber CH 29-535 PS Q beating at 28,800 vph with chronograph and perpetual calendar. Indications for the hours, minutes, and small seconds, as well as the day, the date, the month, the leap year, day and night, the phase of the moon, chronograph with instant 30-minute display. Power reserve of 55 hours to 65 hours. Movement measuring 32mm x 7mm. Matte chocolate brown alligator strap with yellow-gold folding clasp. Retail price: $ 168,970; see more at Patek.com.