Chronographs are so popular that cheap fashion watches today often feature bogus subdials with non-functional hands and pushers. But once upon a time, a chronograph was a simple tool seen more as an advanced stopwatch than a true complication. What was once a utilitarian tool for soldiers became an upscale choice for doctors, then an iconoclast choice for young people, and now a sign of fine watchmaking.
Photovoltaic cells were invented in the 1940s, and Patek Philippe produced a novel clock that used them. Once integrated circuit technology improved enough to build a quartz watch, American inventor Roger Riehl created the first solar-powered watch. His Synchronar paved the way for the solar digital watches that brought the technology to the masses in the 1970s. Then there was Uranus, with their wild calculator watch!
When people learn about my interest in watches, the conversation eventually turns to cost. Why pay so much for a watch? This is especially true once they learn that what they thought was expensive (a $10,000 Rolex) isn’t even considered “high end” in the world of watches, and once they discover that a modern gold or gem-set watch costs five times that much. Why are high-end watches so expensive?
I’ve got a thing for classic dress watches in general and Patek Philippe Calatravas in particular, so I get excited when I see a real classic come up for auction. Such is the case with this Ref. 5015 Moon Phase Power Reserve: It’s not technically a Calatrava, but it features all the best elements of that line. Starting at just €7,000, who’s bidding?
Today we take a look at Ref. 3960 and Ref. 5053, two “officer’s watch” Calatrava models. Although still not the perfect Calatrava, these are two very fine references!
Having rejected the original Calatrava Ref. 96 and its successors as well as the entire Clous de Paris line, I now move on to something really special. Ref. 5227, introduced in 2013, was a high-point for the series in terms of craftsmanship and was unlike anything before. Let’s take a look!
Continuing my quest for the perfect Patek Philippe Calatrava, I turn to the other main branch of the family. In 1973, Patek Philippe added “Clous de Paris” guilloche to the bezel of a straight-lug Calatrava and a new legend was born. Today, many people think of this Ref. 3520 rather than the clean, flowing original when they hear the name! Is this the perfect Calatrava?
Whenever this subject of iconic watches comes up, you can be sure the Patek Philippe Calatrava is all over the list. Yet it’s hard to pin down which Calatrava is the one to get. With over 100 references produced, I am still trying to identify The Perfect Patek Philippe Calatrava. Ref. 96 has a lot going for it other than “first”, with the perfect case, wonderful dials, and small seconds. Check out this white gold Ref. 96 from Robert Maron – it’s the best Ref. 96 I could find today!
On the subject of unusual Patek Philippe Calatrava references, may I present a very unusual sculpted model: Ref. 5090J from about 2000, also called the “Russian Watch” due to its limited production for that market. I found two examples of this unusual reference for sale, so I thought I would take a moment to talk about it.
This stainless tonneau is a genuine Patek Philippe Calatrava but Ref. 3574 is beyond rare. I bet most enthusiasts never even heard of this model!