Patek Philippe Ref. 5470P: Extra Time
Watches & Wonder Geneva is completely over, even if manufacture visits and the like are ongoing, but Patek Philippe surprises everyone with a technically complex 1/10th of a second chronograph.
Although Watches & Wonders has come to a close, the watch reveals have not, as Patek Philippe demonstrated with the surprise addition of the Ref. 5470P-001. This is not an afterthought for the Genevan brand because this is the first 1/10th of a second Chronograph for Patek Philippe, and it has the first use of the full silicon escapement assembly (hairspring, balance and anchor) in a regular production watch. Given that this watch is a total surprise, we imagine that Zenith CEO Julien Tornare had a pretty interesting morning when news about this model broke; while other watchmakers do have 1/10th of a second chronographs — Seiko for example — Zenith is the main name tied to this game.
While the jury is out about the consequences of the Ref. 5470P, we are convinced that the watch industry is really betting on special complications to shake up the overhyped market situation. Not for nothing, it is actually probably good news for all brands that make high-beat watches. For now, we will focus on reporting the basic facts about the new watch, which Patek Philippe says is as complicated as a grand complication. There are no less than 31 patents in place here, including seven related just to the new structure.
This effectively references the fact that Patek Philippe is using not one but two chronograph mechanisms to create this 1/10th of a second feature: the hand in red (in silicon as it happens) races around the dial, completing a circuit in 12 seconds. There are indicated by a special display of 10 segments on the circumference of the dial. This is basically how Patek Philippe is addressing the issue of making the 1/10th of a second function useful.
There is a lot to get through with the all-new calibre CH 29-535 PS 1/10 and we will not get there in this story. It is perhaps time to once again look seriously at how traditional chronographs work, and that is where a proper description of the action here belongs. Briefly though, we have never seen a system like this in contemporary watchmaking. TAG Heuer, Zenith and Montblanc all deploy separate mechanisms to handle the fractions of a second, complete with separate escapement, but the technical team at Patek Philippe has opted for just one.
At the same time, the watchmakers have reached the same conclusion that the fraction of a second function is totally disconnected from the main chronograph function (itself separate from regular timekeeping). As always, Patek Philippe has opted for a horizontal clutch as opposed to a vertical one, which will continue to divide chronograph enthusiasts but probably please Patek Philippe loyalists. Speaking of which, aesthetically Ref. 5470P recalls a certain 1930s chic, especially with its monopusher function and twin-register dial layout.
In terms of dimensions, Ref. 5470P departs the realm of Patek Philippe classicism because it has a 41mm diameter and a thickness of 13.68mm, which is substantial for the brand. It is also a key consideration for user comfort because the case is in 950 platinum; the customer who likes his fine watchmaking to be suitably weighty will love it.
For more watch reads, click here.