Sometimes called “Dual Time Zone” or “Travel Time” by the brand, this is a long-standing Patek Philippe complication that adds a second hour hand to the dial designed to display the time in another time-zone. The added hand is usually rendered in a manner distinct from the local hours and capable of being hidden under the local hour hand when not in use, and Patek mounts a pair of buttons in the left case flank to advance or retreat the extra hour hand.
For Patek, the original goal of this complication was to make the process of updating to a new time-zone as easy as possible. Where previous travel watches often relied on multiple movements, Patek Philippe turned to none other than Louis Cottier to design a solution fit for the rapidly growing popularity of airline travel. Those of you who have a love of world-time watches (or read my chapter in Watches: A Guide By HODINKEE) will recognize Cottier’s name, as he was the mind behind the birth of Patek’s first World Timer in the late 1930s.
By the mid-1950s, Patek wanted more options for travelers, and it called upon Cottier to design a time-zone jumping watch that could be updated without stopping the minutes or seconds and without taking the watch off of one’s wrist. It wasn’t a GMT or a world timer, but rather a watch designed to update quickly and easily to a new time-zone via a button-operated jumping hour hand functionality.
Now, nearly 60 years later, Patek Philippe still offers this functionality on a handful of watches, and it has even been evolved to offer a better understanding of your second time-zone (more on that in a bit). For a brand that doesn’t offer a conventional GMT model, the reference 2597 is the genesis of Patek’s most travel-specific watch and yet another Cottier-derived innovation put to lasting work by the brand.
And, while this article will focus on some of Patek’s twin hour hand models, Cottier’s first design, the jaw-droppingly lovely ref. 2597, was originally born in 1958 as the “Cross Country” with a single jump-set hour hand and list price of $ 1,000 (in the U.S.). By 1961, Cottier and Patek had updated the 2597 to a second series that featured dual hour hands (with the auxiliary hour hand in blued steel, shown above), with the auxiliary hand capable of being jump-set via tiny pushers on the case side (much like the local hour hand on the original specification). As mentioned above, this could be done without stopping the watch, without taking it off your wrist, and, if you weren’t traveling, the auxiliary hour hand could be hidden beneath the local hour hand.
This functionality is derived from Patek’s 12”’400 HS movement, where “HS” stands for Heures Sautantes and translates to “jumping hours.” Hand-wound and sporting 18 jewels, the 12”’400 HS formed the base of the brand’s 1959 Swiss patent (#340191) representing a “time zone watch.” In a modern context, the legacy of the 12”’400 lives on in the current-gen caliber 324 S C FUS which is likely best known for its use in the excellent Aquanaut Travel Time ref. 5164.
As Ben described in previous coverage of the reference, from the onset of the earliest 2597, the watch was essentially a reference 570 Calatrava in a 35.5mm yellow or pink-gold case (produced by Antoine Gerlach for Patek Philippe) with a few tweaks for the new movement and its controls. To re-iterate, the Series 1 is roughly confined to 1958-1961, with the twin hour hand Series 2 appearing closer to 1962. Interestingly, in speaking with John Reardon of Collectability.com (an excellent resource on all things Patek Philippe), I learned that, by the 1970s, Patek was selling upgrade kits to retailers that made it possible to update a single hour hand series 1 into a dual hour hand series 2.
While these years are sometimes debated (record-keeping being what it is), this is the loose understanding among the collector community and serves as something of a warning. Should you come across a 2597 with dual hour hands and a production date before 1961, dig as deep as you can before throwing down any cash as there is a chance the watch was not originally made with both hour hands, having been updated by a Patek retailer sometime later.
All told, the 2597 is an immensely cool and very rare watch that can also be found double-signed by Tiffany, Gubelin, and others. Values are high and climbing, with A+ examples like this one (offered by Phillips in November of 2017) selling for serious coin – CHF 540,500 before premium. Those curious can check out these lots, including this double-signed Series 1 example on a bracelet offered in 2019 via Bonhams or this more patinated Series 2 example from Phillips sold in May of 2018.
While widely appreciated by collectors as one of the most desirable travel watches of its era, the 2597’s capability was very slow to expand into other models, with only a handful of travel time Patek’s hitting the market in the subsequent 50 years and with varying degrees of success. In 1997, Patek launched the 5034 Travel Time, which offered similar functionality in a 90s Patek wrapper (you can see a white-gold example here), and the company also produced a ladies’ reference, the 4864 (example here). Both references used a version of the Caliber 215 PS which added a sub-seconds display and a 24-hour display for the second time-zone (helpful for AM/PM, but not the brand’s final evolution of the format).
In 2001, the 5034 was replaced by the 5134, a 37mm Travel Time example also using the manually wound 215 PS but offering a more modern take on the case and dial execution. Despite the considerable aesthetic departure of the 5034 and 5134 (from that of the 2597), these examples still employ the basic two-button jumping second hour hand function. Interested parties should know that the 5134 came in several iterations (including platinum and white, yellow, and rose gold), can be found double-signed, and has yet to develop the sort of following typically attributed to the Patek collector market. That is to say, they cost way less than a 2597. For an additional look at the 5134, check out the following auction listings, like this one from Phillips in November of 2019, this one from Bonhams in June of 2019 (feels like a very low number, no?), and this platinum and black dial example that Phillips sold back in November of 2017.
Patek Philippe continued to make the 5134 in some shape or form until 2008 when the model was discontinued, and with it, so too the brand’s use of this elegant take on travel time. Thankfully, that changed in 2011 with the launch of the wonderful Aquanaut Travel Time 5164A. This was the first time that Patek had fitted the Aquanaut with any sort of a complication, and I certainly think it chose well. Hinging on the combined ability of the Aquanaut’s sporty and casual design and the functionality established originally by the 2597 (though improved with a more specific way of managing AM/PM), the 5164 has become a seriously desirable modern reference. If you want to know more, read Ben’s In-Depth with the 5164A or my Hands-On with the 5164R (this post being the spiritual successor to that one).
Since 2011, Patek has put its travel time function in several watches, including the mega Nautilus 5990 (with a chronograph), the ever-cool Calatrava Pilot Travel Time (ref. 5524 and 7234), the big-boy 5520P, and even the 6300 Grandmaster Chime (this alongside some 19 other complications).
While this look at Patek’s Travel Time watches is not exhaustive, I do hope it provides some background for my favorite complication from the brand. The 2597 is easily among my favorite vintage watches, and the 5164 is just as easily my favorite modern Patek Philippe reference. As an ardent fan of travel complications, I adore the elegance and nonchalance of the Cottier-developed 12”’400 and how Patek has, especially in the past decade, iterated upon the form with new models and additional functionality.
In closing, I do hope that Patek Philippe continues to put this function to good use and that someday we see it added back into the Calatrava family. A modern 2597 could be a killer spec, and I have to think that the current-day 37mm 5196R would make a great starting point. Until then, I’m just a fella dreaming of a world with more jump-hour travel watches.