Patek Philippe 5496R Grand Complication – Perpetual Calendar with Retrograde Date

The Patek Philippe 5496R Grand Complication, Perpetual Calendar with Retrograde Date, appears seemingly simple, however, despite possessing an uncluttered dial which proves effortless to read, this timepiece houses much complexity within. Moreover, this automatic watch has an amazing capacity to predict the future, a trait which would be useful in other areas of Angus Davies’s life.

Patek Philippe 5496R

On the rare occasion I purchase a broadsheet newspaper, I invariably gravitate to the columns of share prices. With my forefinger outstretched, I touch the paper and draw my finger down the columns of company names and mean share prices. There are literally hundreds of firms listed but my attention is drawn to the shares I own, those I have previously sold and those I decided to pass up.

Regrettably, I am a hapless investor, often selling shares when they are in the depths of a prolonged trough only to see them subsequently ascend to lucrative heights. Likewise, there are some companies which have proved a tempting prospect but, fearful that my spell of bad luck might continue, I have walked away, missing out on the share’s inevitable rise. If only I could predict the future with a degree of certainty then I would be a wealthy man.

In the rarefied world of haute horlogerie, there are some watches which have the capacity to predict the future. The ‘perpetual calendar’, often described as a ‘grand complication’, has the capacity to mechanically see beyond the immediate horizon.

The movement is equipped with a series of cams and levers, possessing the mechanical intellect to determine those months with 28, 29, 30 and 31 days. As the current month concludes, the movement knows intuitively when to display the first day of the following month. Assuming the watch is kept wound, the date will only require adjustment in 2100, 2200 and 2300.

Patek Philippe, one of watchmaking’s aristocrats, has a rich pedigree of making perpetual calendars. In some instances, a peerless perpetual calendar is combined with a chronograph or a minute repeater.

I recently fell under the spell of a perpetual calendar which at first glance seemed to shun much of the mechanical complexity of some of its siblings. Indeed, on the face of it, the Patek Philippe 5496R appears comparatively simple. However, the majestic appearance of this watch belies the hard work taking place beneath the surface of the dial.

The dial

The Genevan Maison describes the dial of the Patek Philippe 5496R as ‘silvery opaline’, albeit I feel the word ‘cream’ is more apt. This dial hue exhibits a soft, gentle demeanour and exudes a palpable dose of elegance. Dauphine-shaped hour and minute hands enunciate the time clearly. Moreover, the facetted surface of each hand ensnares light, eliciting pockets of brilliance and shade.

Patek Philippe 5496R

Gold applied hour markers sit atop the dial membrane, enriching the vista presented with becoming depths. Once again, the indexes are facetted and toy with the light. Small, golden circlets grace the perimeter of the dial, enhancing the readability of the minutes and seconds. The central sweep seconds hand possesses a supremely slender torso and its narrow tip articulates meaning with laser-like precision.

Two apertures, positioned at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock, display the month and day, respectively. Each indication is presented on a black disc against a white background, while gold frames the rectangular openings. A leap year indication sits in the upper region of the dial, imparting information with Roman numerals.

One of the highlights of the dial is the poetic depiction of the date. An arc-shaped track circumnavigates the dial from 8 o’clock to 4 o’clock. Arabic numerals indicate the odd-numbered dates, while succinct dots, positioned in between, indicate the even-numbered dates. A short golden hand with a red arrow-shaped tip points to the prevailing date. At the end of the month, this latter hand returns to its point of origin with breathtaking alacrity, ready to commence a new journey. This type of indication imbues the dial with a notable sense of theatre, while proving eminently simple to interpret.

A moon-phase indication is located just above 6 o’clock. This celestial scene is comprised of a golden moon, numerous stars of varying size and a deep blue depiction of the nocturnal sky. The prepossessing beauty of this indication is clear to see.

The case

The Patek Philippe 5496R exudes a seemly appearance. Nothing is crass or vulgar, everything is wonderfully refined. On seeing the 39.5mm rose gold case, I thought it appeared a tad small for my oversized physique, however, such thoughts soon dissipated after the watch was affixed to my wrist.

Patek Philippe 5496R

The watch is supplied with a solid case back, interchangeable with a second case back endowed with a pane of sapphire crystal. When swapping one case back for another, the brand recommends that the work is undertaken by an ‘authorised Patek Philippe retailer or authorised service centre’.

Four correction push pieces adorn the vertical flank of the case, allowing the wearer to adjust the day, date, month, year and moon-phase indication using a simple corrector stylus.

A brown alligator strap, featuring prominent square scales, is paired with a gold fold-over clasp, sporting the brand’s iconic Calatrava Cross emblem.

The movement

The Caliber 324 S QR is housed within the gleaming case of the Patek Philippe 5496R. This self-winding movement features a 21-carat gold oscillating weight embellished with circular Côtes de Genève motif and the brand’s logo.

Patek Philippe 5496R

Each bridge is adorned with Geneva stripes, gleaming bevels and golden text. The jewels and screws sit within polished sinks. The rounded heads of the pins are mirror-polished and the main plate features circular graining, often termed ‘perlage’. All elements are distilled to a pure conclusion. Patek Philippe provides peace of mind with the award of its highly regarded Patek Seal. This set of self-imposed criteria relates to the ‘technical, functional and aesthetic factors’ of the watch, including its accuracy.

The movement features Patek’s proprietary ‘Gyromax’ balance (variable-inertia balance). The four arms of the balance wheel are fitted with masselottes which are rotated in order to influence the moment of inertia. This in turn alters the rate of the balance, causing the watch to run faster or slower. The hairspring breathes more freely than it would if paired with a simple curb-adjuster type balance, hence aiding precision.

Patek Philippe has also equipped the Caliber 324 S QR with its Spiromax balance spring. This hairspring features a terminal curve which causes it to breathe more concentrically, aiding precision. In addition, the spring features an integrated collet and stud, mitigating the risk of human error when compared with manual methods of connecting the hairspring to the balance staff and stud holder, respectively.

Closing remarks

Like many self-confessed admirers of fine watchmaking, I adore a watch endowed with numerous complications. However, a problem with some watches possessing a long inventory of indications is that the dial can appear cluttered and, by default, prove difficult to read.

Part of the appeal of the Patek Philippe 5496R is that it imparts much information in a simple to understand format. Moreover, beyond its graceful appearance the movement is blessed with much intellect and an incredibly complex psyche.

The aesthetic restraint of the dial also extends to the case. It is the embodiment of elegance and good taste. Its size affords impressive levels of wearer comfort and tastefully circumvents the potential pitfalls of conspicuous consumption and ostentatiousness.

Appraising the Caliber 324 S QR reveals a sea of pristine finishing and numerous examples of horological goodness. I would challenge any aficionado to voice anything other than unbridled praise for this paragon of excellence.

While I concede that I have an innate inability to predict share prices, I can foresee with a high degree of certainty that the Patek Philippe 5496R will confer a lasting appeal for generations to come.

Further reading

Technical specifications

  • Model: Patek Philippe 5496R Grand Complication – Perpetual Calendar with Retrograde Date
  • Case: Stainless steel; diameter 39.5mm; height 11.19mm; water resistance 3 ATM (30 metres); sapphire crystal to the front. Supplied with interchangeable caseback full back and a sapphire caseback
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; day; central sweep seconds; month; retrograde date; leap-year indicator; moon-phase indicator
  • Movement: Caliber 324 S QRautomatic movement; frequency 28,800 VpH (4Hz); 30 jewels; power reserve – min. 35 hours, max. 45 hours
  • Strap: Brown alligator strap with gold fold-over clasp
  • Price – £67,280 (RRP as at 2.9.2019)

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