I’m rapidly running out of Calatravas! I’ve rejected the classic Ref. 96 and its successors, the “hobnail” Ref. 3796 and its family, and even the glorious Ref. 5227! We’re left with some less-typical references, including some “Officer’s Watches”, the “retro-modern” Ref. 5123, and the unusual offset-seconds models. I won’t include the real oddballs, the Russian Watch and the Tonneau, because I covered them before.
Calatrava Officer’s Watch
Patek Philippe has diversified the look of the Calatrava right from the start. Within a decade of introducing the Ref. 96, they were already experimenting with fancy cases and lugs, unusual dials, and anti-magnetic “tool watches”. But one style they never ventured towards was a military model.
All this changed in 1989: To celebrate their 150th anniversary, Patek Philippe released a set of retro-styled models, including Ref. 3960, the first-ever Calatrava Officer’s Watch.
Ref. 3960 really stood out in the Calatrava line with screwed-in bars between the lugs instead of a springbar, a fancy crown, and classy Breguet numerals and hands on a clean white dial. But the sweetest feature was the hinged caseback which called to mind classic pocket watches from the Geneva company’s heritage.
I found this lovely Ref. 3960 on Chrono24 in Osaka Japan. It’s fairly priced at under $20k, is a complete set with box and stamped papers from an authorized dealer, and is in good age-appropriate condition. Note that the price does not include tax, so that’s what an international buyer would pay before shipping.
I believe that 2000 Ref. 3960J Calatravas were produced in yellow gold, but if you’re looking for something a bit more exclusive, how about a white gold Ref. 3960G? Only 150 of those were made!
Ref. 3960 is a really special watch. For one thing, it’s a limited-edition, single-year watch. It’s also the first of a continuing and popular line. And just look at that classic style! About the only things I don’t love about Ref. 3960 is the fact that there’s a plain case back under that hinged cover rather than a sapphire crystal and the fairly small size, about 33 mm.
Calatrava Ref. 5053
Ref. 3960 was a hit, so Patek Philippe made an unlimited Calatrava reference with a similar look. Ref. 5022 is commonly called an “officer’s watch” but it lacks many of the queues associated with that style: The lugs lack screws, there’s no hinged caseback, and it has a standard crown. I’ll skip that one.
Ref. 5053, on the other hand, is a really fantastic example of the officer’s look in a wonderfully-wearable watch. It ticks just about every box: A real officer’s case, complete with screwed lugs and a large crown, a lovely Breguet dial (numerals and hands), and a modern yet slim 36 mm case size. But flip open the hinged case back and you’ll see perhaps the best element: A sapphire window showing a lovely Patek Philippe automatic movement.
Ref. 5053 is better in many respects than even Ref. 3960 and it’s more available to boot: It was produced in reasonable numbers and can be had under $20k in yellow or rose gold. I found this lovely rose gold Ref. 5053R at Essential Watches for a reasonable $19,800 (wire price) with box and papers. They also have a white gold Ref. 5053G for $4k more if that’s more to your taste.
I don’t love the full-rotor Cal. 324 as much as Patek’s lovely micro-rotor Cal. 240, mainly because an officer’s watch ought to have small seconds not central seconds. But that’s maybe not a deal-breaker. More concerning is the superfluous date window at 6:00, with its incongruent font. It ought to be a crime to place a non-coordinated date window in the hour marker track!
Sadly, Patek Philippe took a sharp turn with their replacement for Ref. 5053. The current Ref. 5153 officer’s watch has a guilloche dial I can only call bizarre. This style is supposed to reflect history, yet the new dial is “unique” and modern. It really doesn’t say “Patek Philippe” to me.
On To Another Calatrava
Although Ref. 5053 is a wonderful watch, the quest for the perfect Calatrava must continue. Tomorrow I’ll take a look at another reference, the “offset seconds” Ref. 5000 and 6000.