Patek Philippe Ref. 5170J-001 Chronograph
Angus Davies reviews the Patek Philippe Ref. 5170J-001 Chronograph.
This detailed review of the Patek Philippe Ref. 5170J-001 Chronograph includes live images and specification details.
Throughout Patek Philippe’s 175 year history, the company has always retained its ‘finger on the pulse’. This prestigious maison, which occupies the highest echelons of haute horlogerie, has masterfully kept in step with the desires of the most discerning clientele. However, it has also remained faithful to watchmaking tradition and respected horological etiquette, imbuing its timepieces with a notable degree of high-end finishing.
I have always adored chronographs. The complication proves very useful in everyday life and the breathtaking complexity, with a commensurately high part count, never fails to impress me. Moreover, I also adore the physical interaction between the wearer and the watch, conferred with the pushpieces which are typically located on the easterly flank of the case.
The Patek Philippe Ref. 5170J-001 Chronograph was first introduced in 2010 and features the hand-wound Caliber 29-535 PS. This timepiece was initially presented in 18-carat yellow gold. In 2013, the maison launched an 18-carat white gold variant, the Ref. 5170G-001, equipped with a silvery-white dial.
Both watches feature a pulsimeter. This complication allows the wearer, in conjunction with the central chronograph seconds hand, to determine the number of heartbeats per minute. These watches feature a scale adorning the periphery of the dial, calibrated in such a way that the chronograph seconds hand is stopped after the patient’s heart beats for the 15th time. The patient’s pulse can be accurately determined by reading the prevailing value denoted, in this instance, by black Arabic numerals marked adjacent a railroad minute track.
Recently, I visited Berry’s, an authorised Patek Philippe retailer, located in the architecturally fascinating Victoria Quarter of Leeds, West Yorkshire. There, sat resplendently in a display cabinet, was a yellow gold Patek Philippe Ref. 5170J-001 Chronograph. I know the retailer well and was promptly invited to try on the watch for size. I felt my heart quicken at the very prospect and did not need to use the pulsimeter to gauge the magnitude of my excitement.
The dial canvas is a sea of seemly opaline silver. The chosen hue provides a tasteful foil for the black text printed on the dial.
Applied Roman numerals feature at 6 o’clock and noon with the other hours denoted with applied yellow gold batons. Both the numerals and batons are slender in profile imparting a sense of grace to proceedings.
The baton-style hour and minutes are presented in 18-carat gold and succinctly communicate with the wearer.
A black oxidised central chronograph hand spans the dial radius. It features a counter-balance but, more pertinently, the elongated tip is lithe in form, pointing to values on the minute track and pulsimeter scale with laser-like precision. Interestingly, Patek Philippe has somehow attained two mutually exclusive goals, namely functionality and style.
Offered a choice between tri-compax or bi-compax dial displays, I would always favour the latter. In this regard, the Patek Philippe Ref. 5170J-001 Chronograph again, appeals to my sensibilities. The bi-compax layout of the dial proffers an agreeable symmetry.
A 30-minute chronograph register is positioned at 3 o’clock and employs a black hand in common with the central chronograph seconds hand. This hand instantaneously jumps after each measured minute has elapsed, bestowing a sense of precision.
Positioned at 9 o’clock, a small seconds display resides. It shares the same scale as the subdial opposite, and in common with its nearby sibling, eschews snailed detail in favour of a chaste, pure complexion. One element which is clearly different is the hue of the baton-style hand which is presented in gleaming 18-carat yellow gold.
In the upper portion of the dial, the famous watch company’s nomenclature and place of origin are proudly proclaimed, an appellation which justifiably confers peace of mind.
The 18-carat yellow gold case has not featured in Patek Philippe’s catalogue since 2013 which, in my opinion, is a shame as the combination of the warm case material, innocent temperament of the dial and the rich brown shade of the strap collaborate to provide an eye-catching ensemble. Nevertheless, as my experience shows there remains a limited number of unsold examples in official stockists.
By adopting the strategy of discontinuing models, Patek Philippe perpetuates demand. Indeed, when the Genevan watch company ceases to produce certain models, values of well-loved, pre-owned examples have a tendency to rise.
I know some collectors who choose to invest in sought after timepieces, urge the retailer to leave said watch in its hermetically sealed packaging and secrete these to a bank safety deposit box. I have to be honest, I cannot relate to such behaviour.
I liken a Patek Philippe, or indeed any high-end watch, to a bottle of fine wine. A bottle of Château Haut-Brion should be opened, allowed to breathe and enjoyed. Likewise, with so much skill and time-served craftsmanship wonderfully imparted to a Patek Philippe, it should be worn and appreciated.
Returning to the matter of the Patek Philippe Ref. 5170J-001 Chronograph, its case is cold pressed from a small ingot of gold, heated to ‘relieve internal stresses’, deburred and subject to repeated polishing using successively finer abrasives. The resultant outcome is a blemish-free, mirror-polished case.
The watch has a diameter of 39.4mm and a restrained height of 10.90mm. I use the word, ‘restrained’ to describe the depth of the Ref. 5170J-001. It wouldn’t be labelled ultra-thin, but it does exhibit elegant proportions. Moreover, in reality, its height, does not seem as great when worn on the wrist. I suspect that this is because the caseband is relatively shallow in profile and part of the depth of the watch can be attributed to the bevelled caseback. Indeed, the dorsal area of the Patek Philippe Ref. 5170J-001 Chronograph nestles within the fleshy part of the wrist, effectively causing the watch to sit flusher with the arm.
Admiring each element of this watch, each component is clearly the result of protracted consideration.
The pushpieces are rectangular in form and feature rounded-corners. The protruding sections of the pushpieces, which sit perpendicular to the caseband, are satin-brushed and accord an attractive contrast.
Whenever, I try a watch on my wrist for the first time I flex my wrist and look for any protrusions which will inhibit free movement of the wrist. On occasion, I have found bulbous pushpieces or over-sized crowns caused chafing of the arm. Patek Philippe has fitted a generously sized crown which proves simple to adjust, but does not rub against the arm or inhibit the motion of the wearer’s wrist. Furthermore, the pushpiece remains optimally sized, appearing neither too large nor too small. Indeed, every element of the design language synergistically fuses into one cohesive creation.
I own a few hand-wound watches and confess, with slight embarrassment, that I savour the daily ritual of winding them. In the frenetic pace of modern life, there is something cathartic, being at one with your watch, taking time out and winding it gently. It is a small snapshot of time when I pause, reflect and connect with my watch. Indeed, I can even sense when it does not feel quite the same, perhaps indicating a service is due or a more serious problem is manifest.
The Patek Philippe is equipped with the Caliber CH 29-535 PS sating my horological fetish for manual watches. In addition, the fitment of an exhibition caseback indulges another innate foible I possess, horological voyeurism. Examining the reverse of the watch reveals many of the 269 movement parts, pristinely presented in spellbinding glory.
The architecture of the Caliber CH 29-535 PS reminds me of many traditional movements of yesteryear. This is not a criticism, quite the contrary, I adore the unhindered view of the snailed gears. I also appreciate the pared back bridge work which allows the wearer to see the balance and levers at play.
Whilst the bridges are small, they exhibit sublime finishing. The anglage is exceptional with interior angles exhibiting smooth, sweeping lines and betraying no hint of hand-applied files. Close examination reveals the bevels are free of any distortion or twisting, everything is delivered in blemish-free brilliantly gleaming form.
This is a fully integrated calibre, controlled by a column wheel and horizontal clutch. One area where I am left a tad frustrated is that the column wheel resides beneath a polished cap. I enjoy seeing the levers interface with the pillars of a column wheel and was sad to be denied this view. However, in Patek Philippe’s defence, there is a good reason for fitting the cap above the column wheel, it ‘secures the chronograph levers in their positions’ and, in so doing, prevents them being displaced or damaged even in the event of ‘sharp jolts’.
The Caliber CH 29-535 PS is intended for connoisseurs of fine watchmaking and perusing the specification I never cease discovering other highlights which impart joy.
The balance is the ‘four-arm Gyromax’ type. The four poising weights are positioned in-board to mitigate disruption to the airflow and thereby enhancing the accuracy of the watch. Furthermore, the balance spring features a Breguet overcoil, further improving precision.
The Patek Philippe Ref. 5170J-001 Chronograph is a purist’s choice. It appeals to me on a myriad of levels. Its design is beautiful, its execution is top drawer and its functionality is superb.
Sat in Berry’s at Leeds, I was mindful that I did not want to outstay my welcome. However, thankfully the experienced staff present were able to readily spot a watch addict and patiently listened to my incessant praise for this splendiferous timepiece.
Earlier this year, at Baselworld, Patek Philippe released a further variant of the Ref. 5170, the Ref. 5170G-010. It shares the 18-carat white gold case of the Ref. 5170G-001 but employs an ebony black dial upon which its indications are presented. In common with the Ref. 5170G-001, Roman numerals and batons have been supplanted with gold applied Breguet numerals.
However, where this latest iteration of the Ref. 5170 treads new ground is by eschewing the pulsimeter scale and, in so doing, delivering a cleaner, crisper dial.
Nevertheless, as a middle-aged gentleman who perhaps indulges a smidgen too much in rich food and full-bodied reds, I can see the wisdom of owning a watch equipped with a pulsimeter. Indeed, this may well be the ideal watch to enable me to keep my finger on the pulse.
- Model: Patek Philippe Ref. 5170J-001 Chronograph
- Ref: 5170J-001
- Case: 18-carat yellow gold; diameter 39.4mm; height 10.90mm; water resistant to 3 bar (30 metres) sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
- Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; chronograph with instantaneously jumping 30-minute counter
- Movement: Caliber CH 29-535 PS, Hand-wound movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4Hz); 33 jewels; power reserve 65 hours; 269 components
- Strap: Matt-brown alliagtor leather strap supplied on an 18-carat yellow gold fold-over clasp
- Price: Price on application
I would like to thank Berry’s Jewellers, for kindly providing access to this remarkable timepiece.