My first real Patek complication
My eldest son, who is entering high school (yes they grow fast) had applied to some of the best private schools in the city and most of the highly-ranked private schools require entrance exams. He had applied to three or four top high schools in the city but really only wanted acceptance to the one which most of his friends were applying. As it turned out, most of his friends were accepted to that particular school and my son was placed on the waiting list. He was understandably dejected not only because it was a top academic high school but because he would be separated from his best friends. The painful non-acceptance had affected his identity because he considered himself as a top student which he was. As parents, we were not overly concerned because he had been accepted to another top school, but seeing him in such a dejected state we felt for him and in turn we became dejected too.
We passed the weekend in a depressed family mode and tried to rationalize the grieving by the usual methods of postulating and comforting but to very little avail.
Of course what do watch enthusiasts do when they are feeling down or the opposite? They voraciously visit ADs and spend obscenely. As a consequence, that is exactly what I did. It just so happens that my local Patek AD had called me that very weekend to inform me that a piece I was interested in had arrived. I had mixed feelings about these two simultaneous events, one was a sad event and the other usually a happy celebration. How could I be so decadent as to buy a watch when my son and family were grieving somewhat?
After the weekend had passed, I decided to visit the AD to not only cheer myself up but to try on a piece I was searching for. In fact, I had no intention of purchasing such an expensive piece because of the price and because it was an unhappy moment of our lives.
Of course, when I visited, I made up many excuses to not purchase the watch while trying it on. With the watch still on my wrist, ten minutes passed, then twenty, then eventually one hour. I found myself unable to take off the watch, it was so comfortable. It does not take huge deductive powers to predict what would happen next. I felt slightly guilty but at the same time, it did cheer my spirits also slightly.
The story does not end there. The very next day my wife gets a phone call from the desired high school informing us that my son had been plucked off the waiting list and had been accepted unconditionally should we accept. And just like the watch purchase, the answer was a resounding yes.
While watch purchases can have special temporal meaning to people, this watch purchase was too coincidental to be an accident in my mind. This watch will forever be linked with a happy event in not just my life but my son and family’s. Naturally, my eldest will inherit this watch whether he likes it or not and Patek Philippe can substantiate their “generation” campaign with more proof. The more I hear of “You never actually own a Patek….” the more I believe it and live it.
It is also a truth that we don’t associate any other purchases with the same meaning as we do with watches. I guess it’s a time thing. Other objects do not delineate the exact time when great things happen except for dated photographs.
I had always desired a perpetual calendar preferably from Patek, but those run expensive and I simply cannot afford those pieces yet. But at half the price of a Patek Perpetual calendar a very agreeable alternative is a Patek annual calendar which was invented in 1996. They are still quite expensive at retail but I knew that eventually I would purchase a pure perpetual or annual calendar so why not now before inflationary prices increase without warning? There have been many instances where I pondered the question as all watch enthusiasts do, “Why didn’t I buy it way back when, when prices were lower?” In fact I had contemplated purchasing the 5065a back in 2000 but just couldn’t justify spending that much on a watch, although in retrospect, it seems like a bargain nowadays.
Back to relevance here, for a white gold complicated Patek watch, it wears surprisingly light comfortable and thin. While I am in awe of how Patek watchmakers can fit such a complicated movement in such a compact case, they better me by fitting even more complicated perpetual calendars in even more compact and thinner cases, i.e: the 3940 and 5940 models.
The 5146g dial is a creamy lacquer ivory colour which is not quite beige but off beige. The case is made of white gold which renders it more understated than its rose and yellow gold 5146 counterparts. The primary reasons I chose this dial was because ivory was an unusual and rare colour on a watch and not in keeping with my current collection which is composed of exclusively black dials. I also love that the watch looks like a stainless steel watch and invariably flies under the radar for 99% of the population.
But upon closer inspection, that ivory dial is the star of this show. It reflects like like only moonshine can and is in fact the opposite of sunburst. It is a pure ivory colour and there is nothing blingy about this dial. It is a Patek dial in its purest elemental form and colour. It does not shine gold or stardust but therein lies its beauty. It shines not of many molecules but one wavelength colour only and I find that its beauty lies in its simplicity of colour.
The day, month and moonphase subdials are perfectly proportioned on the dial and symmetrically triangulated with respect to each other. The white gold stick hour markers along with the 3,9, and 12 hour markers complement the white gold case but not enough to be overwhelming. The date window at 6 o’clock is the only number one really needs to read and it only has to be changed every end of February.
I have always loved the feuille hour and minute hands on a Patek. Even on the Nautilus, I actually find them much more interesting than the stick hands and as a consequence would prefer to own the 3800 with feuille hands. And speaking of them, check out the hands on the newly released Grande Sonnerie. They are not the intended highlight of the watch, the chimes take that crown. But to place feuille hands on such a bad ass watch must have been intentional.
The lume on the feuille hands and the lume dots at the hour markers are fantastic and clear at night. It is actually the most beautiful lume plot I’ve ever seen.
I also love the way the case encloses the dial like a 19th century painting frame. The 5146g is a classical Patek Phillipe aesthetic which reflects an equally classical and iconic mechanism.
While I alluded to the simplicity of the dial, the mechanism is far from it.
The official definition of the 5146 mechanism is Caliber 324 S IRM QA LU. S delineates centre seconds sweep. IRM is French for Indication Réserve de Marche, meaning power reserve located at twelve o’clock. QA meaning quantième annuel which is an annual calendar. The date need only be changed annually at the end of February provided the watch is wound perpetually. LU represents lune in French for the moonphase. Again it baffles me, 4 complications in a reservedly thin 5.32 mm mechanism within a 11.23 thin case. That I guess is haute horlogerie.
There are four pushers on the side at 10, 8, 2 and 4 o’clock which change the day, moonphase, month and date respectively.
To wind the watch for power, the crown need not be pulled out. I merely need to glance at the power reserve and wind the crown in the closed position and wind until it is at full charge. Very convenient and unique.
As I mentioned earlier I could not take this watch off, it wore so comfortably. At 39 mm the case is a perfect diameter for my 6.5 in wrist. At 11.23 mm thick too it fits very well under a sleeve.
One would think that a white gold watch with so many complications would wear thick and heavy but with the factory alligator strap and the counterbalance factory white gold Calatrava cross deployant clasp, it wears very light and compact. In fact so much so the I use it as an everyday wearer. Purists have warned me not to wear it everyday because it is strictly a dress watch and not a sports watch but I disagree. Because of its comfort and annual calendar complication it should be worn everyday otherwise why have such a complication? The whole point of wearing an annual calendar is to avoid the inconvenience of having to change the date at the end of every 30 day month. Now imagine if I owned a perpetual calendar I would wear it everyday and never have to change the date.
I find that the 5146g wears more comfortable than my maxi case Rolexes and even my 5167a Aquanaut which is why I wear a dress watch as an everyday.
One very convenient feature is the ease of removing the strap with Patek’s patented toolless pull tab spring bar which can be removed by hand.
The only con I find with the watch was that in low light conditions, there is not sufficient contrast to discern the feuille hands from the dial and I have trouble reading the time. The dial is also busy with the subdials and clutter the legibility of the hour and minute hands. A quick remedy would to paint the perimeter of the hands black like the 5320g.
Overall I am extremely happy with this purchase for many reasons. First, it is a great compact watch with a very useful and relevant complication. The aesthetics are pure Patek and monochromatically pure. And most importantly it demarcates and imprints an important life event for my family.
The paradox and enigma of Patek Philippe is that they design and manufacture such delicate and intricate watches with crazy complications but yet they are robust enough and intended to be worn everyday.