With its new Ref. 5216, Patek Philippe rises to a further level of sophistication in minute repeaters, launching the legendary caliber R TO 27 PS QR LU movement with the five most popular complications in a perceptibly larger case that encloses a more voluminous resonant cavity to enhance the sonority of the chimes. This new Grand Complication follows in the footsteps of the famous Ref. 5016 that was launched in 1993 and in the past 18 years has been widely popular among aficionados. Until the Sky Moon Tourbillon was introduced in 2001, it was Patek Philippe’s most complicated wristwatch. Now, the new Ref. 5216R occupies rank 4 in this category, behind the Sky Moon Tourbillon Ref. 5002, the new Triple Complication Ref. 5208, and the Ref. 5207, first presented in 2008.
Patek Philippe hits the right notes
Patek Philippe has been crafting pocket watches with repeater mechanisms since 1844. And in 1916, the workshops built the world’s first wristwatch (for ladies, by the way) with a five-minute repeater. Hardly any other manufacture has accrued so much experience in dealing with the special challenges of these unusual instruments for such a long and uninterrupted period of time. It takes many skills to craft a repeater mechanism with its filigreed racks, snails and springs and to assure that its sequence of strikes corresponds to the time displayed by the watch. The eloquence of the sound is an important aspect as well. The rule is: “volume sounds.” The case diameter of the new Ref. 5216 is 39.5 mm, tangibly larger than the 36.8 mm span of its predecessor, the Ref. 5016. In a micromechanical cosmos where watchmakers navigate hundredths of a millimeter when assembling the individual mechanisms, a gain of 2.7 mm represents a totally new dimension. And that’s exactly how the new Grand Complication sounds.
As soon as the slide in the left-hand flank of the case is actuated, the minute repeater starts playing a melody that translates the time displayed on the dial into sound – to the ears of the connoisseur, it is music of exceptionally rich sonority and fullness. First, it strikes the hours on the low-pitched gong, then the quarter-hours with double high-low notes, and finally the minutes that have elapsed since the last quarter-hour on the high-pitched gong. The highlight is at 12:59 when 32 consecutive strikes tell the time. To verify the perfection of its acoustic spectrum, each Ref. 5216 is tested in a soundproofed chamber equipped with modern instrumentation and digital sound analyzers. Finally, every watch is brought to the desks of the manufacture’s president Thierry Stern and honorary president Philippe Stern who devote their undivided attention to the chimes of the minute repeaters and then decide whether or not they live up to the strict criteria of the human ear. Patek Philippe minute repeaters owe their inimitable acoustic signature to this very personal appraisal.
Everything about the tourbillon revolves around precision
The mellow sonority of the Ref. 5216 will enchant lovers of complicated mechanical watches, but they will also recognize that the accuracy of this timepiece represents another dimension as well. This is due to the tourbillon, which in vertical orientations of the watch offsets the disruptive effects of gravity on the balance by rotating it about its own axis once a minute. Its cage is a dainty ensemble of 69 steel parts that together weigh a scant 0.3 grams. Because the sole purpose of the tourbillon is to safeguard the rate accuracy of the watch and for this reason must remain amply lubricated at all times, Patek Philippe respects horological traditions and does not expose it through an aperture in the dial. The UV spectrum of daylight would degrade the quality of the oil within just a few days. However, the tourbillon can be admired through the sapphire-crystal case back which is rarely exposed to sunlight. The reward for this discretion is a degree of rate accuracy that pursuant to the criteria of the Patek Philippe Seal for tourbillon movements tolerates a maximum deviation of -2 to +1 seconds per day. Accordingly, it can take months to adjust a watch to match the specification, but once accomplished, this is confirmed with a separate rate accuracy certificate delivered with each Ref. 5216.
Calendar and moon phases for eternity
To make matters even more complicated, the new Ref. 5216 is endowed with a perpetual calendar that automatically indicates the correct date, day, month, and leap-year cycle until 2100, provided the watch always remains wound. The day, month, and leap-year cycle are displayed in small apertures, while the retrograde date is indicated with a hand that advances along a 250° arc from the first to the last day of the month, and then jumps back to the first day of the next month. This mechanism incorporates a safety feature which assures that the hand cannot bounce forward to the second or third day when it performs this reverse jump. All things considered, details such as this safety feature of the retrograde date are among the factors that determine reliability and long-term rate accuracy – hallmarks of genuine expertise –, even in Grand Complication timepieces. The moon-phase display that shows the constantly changing face of our planet’s satellite also deserves a few explanatory words. Its choreography is fetching not merely because of the poetic aspects, but also because of the extreme precision involved. Only when 122 years and 45 days have elapsed will this moon-phase mechanism deviate from the true lunar cycle by one day, which is equivalent to one full lunation every 3420 years.
It gets simpler
However, the new Patek Philippe Grand Complication Ref. 5216 also has its simple facets: operation and legibility. From the outside, nothing much reveals the extreme degrees of difficulty embodied on the inside. The rose gold case is sleek and round, and only the slide that triggers the minute repeater deviates slightly from the classic Calatrava style. A large, comfortably fluted crown simplifies winding, and small push pieces are recessed in the case middle for adjusting the calendar indications. They are actuated with a stylus made of ebony and rose gold that is delivered with the watch. Thanks to the intelligently organized dial, the eight time and calendar indications are superbly legible. The hours and minutes are shown with faceted Dauphine hands and applied markers, the seconds with a slender baton hand at 6 o’clock. The calendar features generously sized aperture displays for the day of the week (9 o’clock), the month (3 o’clock) and the leap-year cycle (12 o’clock) as well as a retrograde hand from the center that points at the date with its red arrow tip. The moon-phase display at 6 o’clock is not only endearingly poetic but also contributes to the perfect equilibrium of the entire dial. On the dial, only a small inscription suggests the presence of a tourbillon, but its perpetually enchanting progression can always be admired through the sapphire-crystal case back. Owners who prefer an extra degree of discretion can have it replaced with a solid rose-gold back that comes with the watch.
Thus, one of the world’s most complicated wristwatches is distinctively understated in its appearance; its decidedly classic style is underscored by the hand-stitched alligator strap. Thanks to its ingenious design, the 18K gold foldover clasp is both comfortingly secure and amazingly simple to open and close. But that’s another story.
Patek Philippe creates what most experts would agree to be the finest timepieces in the world.
Harold Freeman Jewelers is an authorized Patek Philippe dealer located on the west coast of Florida. If you would like to know more about Patek Philippe watches please drop by our shop or give us a call at 866-240-7366.