Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar: A piece that probably went unnoticed during this year’s Basel world watch fair, probably due to all the focus on the stainless steel pieces introduced this year such as the 5990/1A and 5960/1A that we looked at. The Patek Philippe automatic perpetual calendar ref 5140, which is the epitome of simple elegance that is Pateks more traditional perpetual calendar, this year received dial updates.
THE PERPETUAL CALENDAR REF. 5140
The Patek Philippe perpetual calendar is the ultimate businessman’s perpetual calendar timepiece and quite honestly I can see why. First introduced in 1985 as the ref. 3940 in a 36mm case, with the ultra-thin calibre 240Q that was renowned for its reliability. After it enjoyed a 21 year reign in 2006 Patek Philippe introduced its predecessor, the ref. 5140 . Only a few small changes were made to the follow-up of the now iconic 3940 that included the case being upsized from 36 – 37.2 mm, a change of bezel that reduced the amount of crystal exposed therefore making the case more streamlined and of course a change to the dial font but most importantly Patek retained the trusted and reliable calibre 240Q movement.
When Patek first introduced Ref. 3940 to the market, it was the first highly complicated watch in regular production. The calibre 240Q is somewhat of a legend and was crafted entirely in the manufacture’s haute horlogerie workshops. The self-winding calibre 240Q movement is made up of 275 parts and yet only measures a mere 3.88mm in height. But this was only possible because of the off-centre mini-rotor, made from 22-carat gold. When you delve into the world of horology you’ll also see this mini/micro-rotor elsewhere too, from one Mr. Laurent Ferrier in fact – who coincidently also worked for Patek Philippe during these years. This little movement has a mechanical memory spanning 1,461 days or to speak more simplistically 4 years. The perpetual calendar will automatically display the correct date, taking into account months with 31 and 30 days, as well as February 29th leap years and will remain correct until 2100.
The case on this 5140R measures 37.2mm, made of rose-gold; on the case band there are small circular recesses, which are used for correcting the calendar function. At either side of 12 o’clock are the date and year correctors, at 9 o’clock is the day-of-week corrector and at 6 o’clock is the moon phase corrector. The 5140R comes on a hand-stitched alligator strap with the Patek Philippe fold-over clasp matching the case metal. It is presented with two interchangeable backs. Its original sapphire-crystal back reveals the calibre 240Q movement as well as the craftsmanship lavished on every detail: bevelled bridges, the circular-grained plate and Geneva striping on the bridges and rotor.
The 5140R originally came with a chocolate dial but this year at Basel World, Patek introduced a silvery-opaline dial encased in rose-gold and a platinum version with black-ebony dial and diamond minute markers, which you can see here. The dial of a 5140 is quite well-balanced; at 6 o’clock is the moon phase subsidiary dial with odd date numerals clinging to the periphery, though if you look closely you’ll see that the numbers 27, 29, 3 and 5 taper to allow room for the other two sub dials. At 9 o’clock is the day and 24-hour sub dial, with days indicated by a black nickel-plated 18-carat rose gold leaf-shaped hand and hours by a short gold hand. At 3 o’clock is the month and leap year sub dial, again with the months indicated by a black nickel-plated, leaf-shaped hand and leap indicated by a shorter gold hand – though the leap year indication also doubles up as a quarter year indicator too. If you look closely you’ll also notice in the centre of these two subsidiary dials, engine-turned graining. Time is indicated by Dauphine hour and minutes hands, and 12 baton markers made from 18-carat rose gold.
The Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar is among my favourite Pateks and the 5140R is a stunning example of gentlemanly sophistication and elegance but I also believe there is a casual, dressed down, side to it too. It has such a simple design but encompasses every function the modern man needs in a classically styled, sleek 37.2mm case – it is the everyday wearer. That said, personally for me, I actually prefer the 3940. Even though it has a smaller case and dial, the use of smaller font actually makes it more legible and gives it a cleaner look. I think the use of font on the 5140, while very elegant, makes the dial look just a little too cluttered though make no mistake, the 5140 is still a beautiful Patek timepiece nonetheless.
The Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5140R is priced at £61,440 with the 5140P 013 coming in at £76,620. For more information visit the official Patek Philippe website.