In yet another sure sign that the watchmaker has taken a turn in a new direction, Patek Philippe has released a first for the brand in the form of a new watch (and when we say new we mean BRAND NEW and not just a new dial color or case material). And not only does it have an overtly vintage vibe in the same vein as 2015’s Calatrava Pilot Travel Time 5524, it also features a granular dial reminiscent of the cases of old cameras (again, vintage), a modular case construction, and a more casual presence.
Yes, right off the bat Patek Philippe’s new Ref. 5326G-001 Annual Calendar Travel Time is definitely less conservative and less classical, and is altogether more robust and more retro, speaking to a new generation of Patek Philippe clients while keeping one foot squarely within the Manufactures well-established staples of elegance and tradition.
And it all started in 1996 when Patek Philippe merged all of its Genevan ateliers in Plan-les-Ouates under one roof and launched its patented Annual Calendar at the same time. It takes into account all the months in the calendar and only has to be manually corrected on March 1 to account for the shorter month of February.
Just a year later the Travel Time mechanism was launched in 1997, which featured a clutch based on a Patek Philippe patent granted in 1959. It indicates a second time zone via a second hour hand from the center of the dial and can be adjusted in one-hour increments in both directions (a rarity in the field of GMT and world-time watches) and is done via two pushers in the left-hand case flank without affecting the precise rate of the movement.
In a first for Patek Philippe, these two patented complications have finally come together in one watch, thereby extending the Manufacture’s range of useful complication watches. That’s right, 2022 sees the introduction of the new Patek Philippe Annual Calendar Travel Time 5326G-001 and it’s powered by a movement based on the one used to drive 2021’s In-Line Perpetual Calendar 5236.
The new caliber 31-260 PS QA LU FUS 24H retains the 20% gain in barrel torque, the increased winding power of the minirotor thanks to the use of platinum, the frequency of 4 Hz (28,800 semi-oscillations per hour), and a reduction wheel that uncouples automatic winding when the watch is manually wound. Not only does this reduce wear, but energy-wise, the performance of the new movement is further improved by a minute wheel suspended between bearing jewels to increase efficiency.
But this all sounds easier than it actually is and accommodating both mechanisms “under one roof” came with its own set of technical challenges. The first being interaction: the date had to correspond with local time, or the time at the location of the wearer of the watch, which also had to adjust accordingly when the time zone is corrected.
Thus, in the new caliber 31-260 PS QA LU FUS 24H movement, the Annual Calendar is controlled by the Travel Time function, and it is the local-time hour wheel that drives the calendar. This is like the principle of the Ref. 5531 World Time Minute Repeater, which was the first of its kind to always sound local time because the World Time mechanism controls the minute repeater.
And that’s not all, the Travel Time function of the new Ref. 5326-001 was also modified. For aesthetic reasons, Patek Philippe wanted a sleek design in the Calatrava style to emphasize the special motif on the case flanks (more on that later). Thus, the two common time zone pushers previously located at the left-hand side of the case were replaced with the same winding stem setting mechanism in three positions that premiered in 2021’s Aquanaut Luce Travel Time.
The user merely pulls the crown to its middle position and turns it clockwise or counterclockwise to adjust the local-time hour hand in one-hour increments in either direction without affecting the precise rate of the movement. Setting the time in the home-time zone, however, is done in the classic manner with the crown in the outermost position. Otherwise, the Travel Time functions just as it should with a pair of hour hands working independently from each other (solid hand for local time, pierced hand for home time).
The caliber 31-260 PS QA LU FUS 24H movement has a stop-seconds mechanism that allows the time to be set with one-second accuracy but is only active when the crown is pulled to the outermost position. This prevents the movement from stopping when selecting a new time zone and preserves the rate accuracy of the movement. When not traveling, the pair of hour hands are superposed on top of each other looking for all intents and purposes like one hand.
Another modification has to do with the Annual Calendar’s accelerated date jump, which reduces the usual 90-minute rollover time for the midnight date change to about 18 minutes. This allows users to see the correct date for longer periods of time and helps prevent accidental misalignment when mistakenly adjusting the time zone during this period.
In fact, to optimize the efficiency, precision, durability, safety, and operating convenience of the caliber 31-260 PS QA LU FUS 24H movement, the engineers developed several technical innovations in the service of reducing wear and energy consumption that resulted in eight patent applications.
The sapphire-crystal case back reveals the architecture of the caliber 31-260 PS QA LU FUS 24H movement with the elegantly cut and gently curved bridges. It affords a better view of the wheels of the base movement and the exquisite manually executed finissage that reflects the strict directives of the Patek Philippe Seal.
And to properly accommodate this micro-mechanical wonder the new caliber 31-260 PS QA LU FUS 24H movement has been given an entirely new Calatrava case to reside within.
Feeling like a breath of fresh air the new 41mm white gold Calatrava case features a slightly chamfered bezel and polished, inclined lugs, which underscores the sleek and timeless elegance of the Calatrava design while expressing its own distinct personality. In other words, the new Calatrava case is spectacular, and it has a lot to do with the case middle.
Patek Philippe’s signature hobnail motif (a subtly shining pattern of tiny pyramids) was showcased on the bezel of the famous Ref. 3919 Calatrava “Clous de Paris” in 1985; it was produced for over 20 years to become one of the best-known models in the industry and was famously revived as the highly contemporary Ref. 6119 Calatrava “Clous de Paris” in 2021.
On the Ref. 5326G-001 Annual Calendar Travel Time the hobnail guilloché motif embellishes the entire circumference of the case middle and even continues behind the sharp pyramid-like lugs, which are ingeniously attached to the caseback to accommodate the guilloché.
This motif enhances the equally spectacular charcoal gray dial crafted entirely by Cadrans Flückiger in Saint-Imier, a dial specialist owned by Patek Philippe since 2004. The dial boasts a vintage-camera-case-inspired granular texture and a gradient effect to the gray color, which darkens slightly as it reaches the outer periphery of the dial. Combined, these elements bring the retro theme to the fore, and are aspects associated with getaways, wanderlust, and exploration.
The dial is enhanced by applied Arabic numerals in white gold with beige luminous material, while the hours and minutes of local time are indicated by luminous white gold “Seringue” hands that resemble syringes with their long tips. Home time, on the other hand, is indicated by a pierced “Seringue” hand, which, interestingly, is not accompanied by a 24-hour track. Instead, two small round windows marked “LOCAL” at 8 o’clock and “HOME” at 4 o’clock are day/night indicators for local time and home time respectively: white for day, blue for night.
Patek Philippe’s signature annual calendar dial arrangement once again makes an appearance here with the day of the week and month appearing on one line under 12 o’clock, while the date indication sits at 6 o’clock, all of which are highly legible with highly contrasting white backgrounds. Further, this perfectly symmetrical arrangement is complemented by a subsidiary seconds that sweeps the moon-phase aperture at 6 o’clock.
The calendar indications can be adjusted with the aid of small correctors in the caseband located near the respective functions: day at 10, month at 2, date at 4 and moon phases at 8 o’clock. And in a final ode to vintage watches, the dial is protected by a raised box-design sapphire crystal. Indeed, given the amount of useful information on hand, the dial is incredibly balanced, legible, and astonishingly uncluttered.
The new Ref. 5326G-001 Annual Calendar Travel Time can be had immediately with two interchangeable straps. The first is in beige calfskin with a nubuck texture, while the second is a black calfskin affair with an embossed textile finish and beige decorative stitching. Both enhance the vintage style of the case and dial, and both assure comfort and safety with a fold-over clasp in 18K white gold.