Grand accomplishments in watchmaking are often hidden beneath a simple, if beautiful, dial design. But flip the timepiece over or open it up, and the high art of the mechanical heart is revealed.
Take for example the new Patek Philippe In-Line Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5236P-001 with its day, date, and month displayed on a single line. On the surface, an unassuming, elegant design with a satin-finished blue dial. Yet within its 41.3mm platinum case is a wonder at work: the new self-winding mechanical Caliber 31-260 PS QL with a new patented calendar display consisting of four rotating disks, all embedded in the same plane.
This module required an extra 118 parts compared with a conventional perpetual calendar display to accommodate the leap year and day/night indication apertures, small seconds, and moon phases.
And while it’s busy accounting for discrepancies between the Gregorian calendar and solar years, adding Feb. 29 every four years, let’s not forget this is a tiny mechanical machine at work, not a supercomputer. To accommodate leap years as well as 31-, 30- and 28-day months, the movement requires a highly sophisticated mechanical “memory” of four years. This is where Patek Philippe shines as the unrivalled master of the perpetual calendar since creating the first such wristwatch in 1925.
Patek Philippe also celebrates the grand gestures seen in its Métiers d’Art watches, featuring skilled techniques handed down over many generations of artisanship. Among these is grand feu — literally translated as “great fire” — enamelling. This technique involves hand-grinding crystals of coloured glass to a fine powder, and applying it to the metal dial in layers or compartments before being fired in a kiln to achieve the rich, glassy effect.
At its recent Rare Handcrafts 2020-2021 exhibition at the Patek Philippe Salons on Rue du Rhône in Geneva recently, the manufacturer launched six models of grand complication timepieces or icons of watch design featuring artistic decorations such as manual engraving, grand feu cloisonné enamel, grand feu champlevé enamel, grand feu flinqué enamel, manual guilloching and gemsetting.
Among these, the grand feu champlevé enamelling technique requires a steady hand and utmost skill, and involves hours of delicate carving and repeated firing to achieve the dial decoration.
The 34.5mm x 39.5mm Patek Philippe Golden Ellipse Haut Artisanat features this rare handicraft on the dial of a new 18k white gold piece. The dial plate is first hollowed out to form the cavities for the grand feu black enamel. The gold areas left in relief are then hand-engraved with arabesque and volutes décor. Beneath the dial beats the ultra-thin, self-winding Caliber 240, which has a 48-hour power reserve.
The Patek Philippe Golden Ellipse Haut Artisanat is presented on a hand-stitched, shiny black alligator leather strap with square scales.
POR, Patek Philippe boutique 011 784 2595.