12. time-keeper


Patek Philippe manual chronograph calibres

THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAIL

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May 2018


Patek Philippe manual chronograph calibres

November 2009, Place Vendôme

Thierry Stern made his first major appearance since becoming the new president of Patek Philippe. It was a dream event, as he had just presented the Ladies First Chronograph, which features the first manual chronograph movement made entirely in-house, the CH 29-535 PS Calibre. Behind this austere name (which becomes obvious when you know that ‘CH’ stands for chronograph, ‘29’ for the diameter – 29.6mm to be exact – ‘535’ stands for the height – 5.35mm – and ‘PS’ is for its Petite Seconde, or Small Seconds) hid a new, magnificent and very fine chronograph movement designed to replace and overtake the famous CH 27-70 Calibre, based on the Nouvelle Lémania (property of the Swatch Group), which had been used by Patek Philippe up until then. The programme took five years.

CH 29 535 PS 224 Calibre
CH 29 535 PS 224 Calibre

Although in 2009 the trend was for the most spectacular threedimensional structures possible, this new Patek Philippe calibre, so eagerly anticipated by collectors of the brand, decided to play it ultra-classic: a column wheel with a polished cap, S-shaped toothed-clutch lever system, an elegant and refined chronograph gear bridge and minute counter gear bridge, large four-arm Gyromax balance and four poising weights vibrating at a frequency of 4 Hz, which is 28,800 vibrations/hour, and a Breguet balance spring. All of the 269 components are harmoniously contained in an extremely small space.

2009 – Reference 7071 Ladies First Chronograph CH 29-535 PS Calibre
2009 – Reference 7071 Ladies First Chronograph CH 29-535 PS Calibre
A new chapter in the history of Patek Philippe women’s watches with reference 7071, Ladies First Chronograph, equipped with a new traditional column wheel chronograph movement, the CH 29-535 PS calibre. Reference 7071 features an elegant, cushion-shaped pink gold case and contains 136 diamonds unusually set on the flange of the dial, highlighting the exclusivity of this women’s complication watch.

But under this most traditional of appearances, under these stylish pieces and old-fashioned chamfered, polished bridges adorned with the Côtes de Genève motif, under these refined, classically crafted surfaces, hide six new patents that aren’t looking to revolutionise watchmaking in terms of appearance, but that want to improve the substance – and that makes all the difference. Because watchmaking is all about detail. These six new patents relate to a very comprehensive improvement of details that contributes to a deeper understanding of the art of the chronograph. Not only do they bring improvements in terms of better energy transmission, reducing friction, increasing precision and reducing vibrations or unevenness of the hand movements; they also directly affect the work of the watchmaker. The large ‘eccentric cap’ placed directly over the column wheel makes it easier to set, meaning greater operational reliability. Moreover, the calibre has a sophisticated and instantaneous 30-minute counter. A rhythmic touch that enhances the sought-after readability.

But let’s go back a little further

In 2005, Patek Philippe had already introduced the flattest manual split seconds chronograph (5.25mm) ever created, reference 5959P – the first wrist chronograph to be entirely designed, developed and made by the manufacture. Produced in a traditional way and in a very small quantity in Patek Philippe’s fine watchmaking workshops, this prestigious movement features two column wheels and can memorise a reference time.

In 2006, it was the turn of reference 5960P, the first automatic chronograph entirely designed, developed and produced by the manufacture. Enhanced with the famous patented Annual Calendar mechanism, this new automatic column wheel chronograph has a flyback feature, a power reserve display and a day/night indicator. With its highly original construction, it offers an elegant, dynamic, balanced face as well as its characteristic mono counter, which brings together the chronograph’s hours and minutes counters. The same calibre would also go on to equip the Nautilus chronograph, but without its annual counter. All these creations would lay the groundwork for the new manual calibre presented for the first time under the charm of the Ladies First.

In 2010, this same new CH 29-535 PS Calibre had just been used in the men’s reference 5170J.

2010 – Reference 5170J CH 29-535 PS Calibre
2010 – Reference 5170J CH 29-535 PS Calibre
The new traditional column wheel chronograph movement is presented in a yellow gold case with rectangular pushpieces, in a nod to the retro style of major Patek Philippe wrist chronographs from the 1940s-50s. Reference 5170 embodies the classic chronograph in all its purity. It contains the new CH 29-535 P5 calibre, developed and produced according to Poinçon Patek Philippe standards.

Very pure and stripped back, with no additional complications, in order to preserve its absolute readability, this chronograph features harmonious proportions that evoke the 1940s-1950s (a 39-mm diameter with a thickness of 10.90 mm and a lug width of 21 mm). One of the first to be awarded the Poinçon Patek Philippe, it stood out for the elegance of its stylish pieces, its traditionally crafted bridges, and the attention paid to the finish of all the surfaces, which are usually handdecorated. An instant classic in the world of chronographs. Having ‘overtaken’ the famous and historic basic 27-70 calibre of the Nouvelle Lémania, on which it had developed the most beautiful chronographs, Patek Philippe pursued a new area devoted to developing and perfecting the art of the classic chronograph.

In 2011, Patek Philippe bolstered this new line of chronographs with a first complication with the CH 29-535 PS calibre, the Perpetual Calendar. Deriving from the 5270 reference presented in 2011, it is remarkably slim and slender, contains 182 components but only measures 1.65 mm (for a total movement height of 8.70 mm).

2011 - Reference 5270 CH-20-535 PS Q Grande Complication Calibre
2011 - Reference 5270 CH-20-535 PS Q Grande Complication Calibre
Patek Philippe adds to its classic chronograph collection with the introduction of a new perpetual calendar model. Reference 5270 features a new column wheel chronograph movement, CH 29-535 PS Q calibre. The day and month appear in a double window at 12 o’clock, along with a pointer date display.

The dial of the Reference 5270 perfectly expresses the classicism of its movement: day and month in a double window at 12 o’clock, pointer date display at 6 o’clock with integrated moon display, small seconds at 9 o’clock and instantaneous jumping 30 minute counter at 3 o’clock. Following in a great tradition.

In 2012, this same Perpetual Calendar Chronograph calibre acquires a split seconds mechanism. It equips the Reference 5024 chronograph.

2012 – Reference 5204 CHR 29-535 PS Q Calibre Grande Complication
2012 – Reference 5204 CHR 29-535 PS Q Calibre Grande Complication
Grande Complication Patek Philippe highly sought after by connoisseurs and collectors, the split seconds and perpetual calendar chronograph in platinum is available with a new ebony black dial with hands and applied chapter markers in white gold.

Here, too, the absolute classicism of the approach doesn’t prevent the creation of two technical innovations that, once again, play on the perfecting of ‘details’: a new isolator system removes the permanent contact between the split seconds lever and its centre, which means that when the split seconds wheel stops it doesn’t affect the amplitude of the balance. Moreover, a subtle mechanism reduces the small alignment problems (by 75%) between the split seconds hand and the chronograph hand. But as they say, the devil is in the detail! And that’s all the more true when it comes to chronographs.