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THE star piece among Patek Philippe's 2016 new watches is actually two existing popular complications put together as one. It's probably the first time anyone in the watch industry has done that. In any case, a world-timer and chronograph is a rare combination in a wristwatch for a start. Patek made a watch which has a world-timer and one-minute chronograph with pulsograph markings in 1940 for a doctor, but that was a one-off. The one-of-a-kind piece now sits in the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva. The new World Time Chronograph, Ref 5930, is probably the only such model coming into the market. With this timepiece, whose chronograph has a timing period of up to 30 minutes (instead of one minute, as in the earlier unique piece), Patek says it has added a new model to its regular lines.
Combining the Patek World Time and Chronograph wasn't simply a stitching job. Patek says the two complications have in their own right made so much progress since 1940 that the mechanisms running them have become not only more precise, but also more complex.
For instance, the automatic movement powering Ref 5930 has been reworked so extensively that it can be called new.
The World Time Chronograph, which comes in a 39.5mm white-gold case, is good value for money despite its S$97,100 price tag. Buying the Patek World Time and Patek Chronograph separately would cost a lot more.
The world-timer in Ref 5930 has been updated to keep up with the recent change in cities for some time zones. Thus, Dubai has replaced Riyadh, it's Brisbane for Noumea, and Moscow is relocated from UTC+4 to UTC+3. Such changes have also been made in the existing Patek World Time, as reflected in the new Patek World Time Ref 5230, which comes with a facelift and some other aesthetic improvements.
The case of the latest World Time has a thinner bezel and sports a winglet-style lugs, which stand out more than the more rounded lugs in Ref 5130 - that the World Time Ref 5230 is now replacing. The crown guards that flow from the lugs are also no more. The dial's centre has a new hand-guilloche filigreed woven pattern, a design inspired by a pocket watch on display at the Patek Philippe Museum.
The scissor hands of the previous model are abandoned. The pierce hour hand now takes the shape of the silhouette of the Southern Cross constellation. The minute hand features a lozenge-shaped contour. In contrast to the flatter style of the previous version, both hands have a sharp centre ridge running between two beveled flanks.
Ref 5230, driven by an automatic movement, comes in a 38.5mm rose or white gold case. Both carry a S$62,800 price tag.
The new Patek Philippe Annual Calendar marking the 20th anniversary of the brand's best-selling collection is also a renewed version of an earlier model launched a decade ago, Ref 5396. But the touch-up done to it is even more subtle.
The hours in the new Ref 5396, for instance, are marked in Arabic numerals; the original features baton- hour markers.
More interesting is the Ref 5396's strong resemblance to Patek's legendary Ref 3448 and Ref 3450 Perpetual Calendars of the 1940s and 1950s, save the Arabic hour indicators and 24-hour sub-dial at six o'clock, paired with the date markings.
Patek has an unrivalled dominance in perpetual calendars, being the first to introduce one in a wristwatch in 1925. What took it so long to produce the simpler annual calendar, which was launched only in 1996?
Patek hasn't given an answer. It might just be an oversight, or a matter of waiting for the market to be ripe for it. But 20 years after Patek introduced the annual calendar, it has brought 22 models of the Annual Calendar to the market, including the latest Ref 5396. While most have appeared in the Calatrava case, the Annual Calendar has also been incorporated into the Gondola and Nautilus cases.
The new Ref 5396, which comes in a 38.5mm rose or white gold Calatrava case, both priced at S$63,200, needs only to be corrected once a year, when February moves to March. But that takes only seconds, thanks to the small correctors in the case band. Once it's done, the calendar is calibrated for another year.
The moon-phase display requires even less attention; an adjustment by one day is needed only once every 122 years.