175 Years Of Heritage And Legacy: The Patek Philippe 5304R Grand Complication
What in the world is heritage anyway? Is it even important? If so, why?
These are somewhat complicated questions with a lot of differing answers from different people. The first question − “what is heritage” − is pretty straightforward. Heritage refers to anything inherited from the past, something that leaves a legacy for future generations to uphold.
But this is where it gets difficult, mainly because heritage is really just anything left over from the past – good or, well, not so good. For the most part, though, heritage is usually a good thing, and is actually a very important cultural artifact that helps to define a people or a place through history, traditions, and tangible goods such as works of art and monuments.
Heritage is what helps historians and archeologists to study a culture, a society, or a group by what they have left behind as a part of their legacy.
In places all over the world people knowingly and unknowingly benefit from the heritage of the humans that discovered and domesticated corn or figured out which mushrooms were safe to eat.
And, of course, we benefit from the heritage of the humans who decided it was a good idea to take some beans from inside a pod, dry them for weeks, grind, heat, and press them into different substances, recombine those substances, add sugar and create the most amazing food on planet earth: chocolate.
If heritage is only important because we now get to eat chocolate whenever we want, I can live with that. But that isn’t the only reason it’s important, not by a long shot.
Heritage helps to shape our present and our futures in ever-compounding ways that we cannot even begin to understand. It also shapes almost everything we use and touch, because the inventors and designers at work today find inspiration in the world that came before.
This means that the heritage of tomorrow is directly influenced by the heritage of yesterday, a flowing river of culture passed from generation to generation.
So what do you get when you are a company making a product that traces its very own heritage back for 175 years? Well, you get the respect and admiration of an industry and the fanboy lust to match.
This also makes for a brand known around the world as the pinnacle of haute horlogerie and impeccable taste. Truly, all of this combines to make a Patek Philippe timepiece.
The average man knows what a Rolex is, and with good reason. It is Rolex’s strategy to make it clear that the company is the best at what it does, which is to mass produce high-quality, mechanical timepieces.
But the average man is not aware of a Patek Philippe in most cases, and with good reason as well. Patek Philippe does not place its watches on the wrist of the hottest tennis player or racecar driver. Instead, a Patek Philippe watch is worn quietly by people in the know as a true symbol of heritage and perfectionism, something that many other brands try to emulate but fall far short of doing.
Heritage cannot be created from nothing; it must be earned by time and effort. These are two things Patek Philippe has on its side. And another thing Patek Philippe has on its side is a stable of immaculately impressive timepieces, including one of my current favorites, the 5304R Grand Complication.
Serious piece of engineering
The 5304R Grand Complication is a serious chunk of horological engineering, every bit of it thanks to the heritage that has been fostered within the walls at Patek Philippe. The company prides itself on pushing the boundaries of what is possible to put inside a watch (Caliber 89, anyone?) and its grand complications succeed in style and restraint while being jam-packed with goodies for a mechanism nerd like me.
Patek Philippe really offers the best of both worlds when it comes to super-complicated timepieces.
True grand complications generally contain a minimum of three major complications (chronograph, minute repeater, calendar), so size can become an issue, especially if one of those complications is a striking mechanism, such as the minute repeater inside the 5304R.
And while the Patek Philippe Grand Complication might still be larger than the average timepiece this brand makes, it is far from being an unwieldy mass on the wrist. The case proportions are reasonable, with the overall diameter coming in at an understated 43 mm.
And that size is still rather small considering the contents. Caliber R 27 PS QR LU, which powers it, is a WIS dream composed of 517 parts combining to make an assembly of fantasy and metal.
First off, you start with a perpetual calendar with retrograde date hand. There is no dial, so you see the medley of wheels, levers, cams, and springs all dedicated to keeping track of the slow passage of the date.
Oh, and and there is a moon phase indicator too. In the 6 o’clock position you have a fantastically simple moon phase disc with a hand for easier setting.
The perpetual calendar and moon phase sit underneath the primary sapphire crystal dial, which has black circles overlaid for the actual phases of the moon. Everything is finished to perfection (no surprise) and highlighted by the gold-coated top plate.
The hands are skeletonized to make the movement parts underneath easier to see, while the day, month, and leap year discs are also made of sapphire with the indications printed on them. This combined with a printed outer track makes the dial a cleanly busy exploration of the main purpose of the timepiece: displaying time-crucial details.
Flip it over
Flip the piece over and you are treated to a typically restrained Patek Philippe movement. Solid and clean plates striped and beveled, gold micro rotor, chatons and jewels, and the “secret” repeater, whose presence is betrayed by spotting two perfectly polished hammers and a set of gongs.
And don’t forget to notice the PP logo idly posing as a cage around the centrifugal governor for the minute repeater mechanism.
This is the saddest part of this watch for me: the (I’m assuming) spectacular mechanism for the minute repeater is hidden within the movement, and the only parts one can see are the gongs and hammers. Everything else is carefully tucked away from my prying eyes, though I know it’s there.
If I could only change one thing…oh well. I suppose you can still watch all the fun happening on the dial and flip the piece over to see the hammers striking the gongs whenever you want.
Like a gentleman in a top hat
The real clincher to the 5304R for me is that it just looks like a good-looking watch with a playfully complicated skeletonized dial. There is nothing ostentatious about it, nothing that screams for attention. Instead there it sits on your wrist, like a gentleman in a top hat, waiting to say good evening to any who should glance its way.
That is the secret to a Patek Philippe piece: the unobserved regality that it holds in sway, thanks to many years of tried and true heritage at work; a heritage which definitely deserves to be recognized and applauded.
In fact, Patek Philippe’s 175 years of heritage deserves something, something big, like a celebration. To celebrate it being an immaculate piece of craftsmanship, engineering, and grace that you and those who know a thing or two about such things will instantly recognize and enjoy.
The 5304R Grand Complication is simply a terrific watch that when worn will be noticed by the right people and overlooked by those choosing flash over substance.
I am known for my love of crazy watches that are groundbreaking and over-the-top, and those pieces would be my daily wearers for sure. But on the days that I want to feel extra-special while playing incognito to the hoards, I would choose the 5304R because it requires no pomp and circumstance to stand above the rest as the best on the wrist. The 5304R Grand Complication is happy in the knowledge that it has no equal, aside from another Patek Philippe.
Does it even need a breakdown? Yes!
• Wowza Factor * 9.85 It almost tops the list because it wows in its sleep. The only reason it’s not a perfect score is because it doesn’t need it to be great, it’s that on its own.
• Late Night Lust Appeal * 123.45 gn » 1,210.630m/s2 It is a grand complication from the legendary Patek Philippe with a highly appreciated open and skeletonized dial. Lust away, readers…
• M.G.R. * 71.5 Almost a perfect score because of what I just said. Not perfect because I can’t see everything I want, oh shucks. Still ridiculously amazing.
• Added-Functionitis * Near Fatal Now this one has definitely got some serious issues with added-functionitis! Full perpetual calendar with moon phases and minute repeater calls for hospitalization and immediate appliance of Gotta-HAVE-That cream. You’ll be in our prayers.
• Ouch Outline * 12.98 – Herniated Disc And Torn Meniscus This is no laughing matter and some serious ouchie pain. And yet, to strap this on my wrist…I’ll take it any day.
• Mermaid Moment * Oh Sweet Heck, Is That A Patek?! Just walk down the aisle already, do you need to really think about this one?
• Awesome Total * 517 Number of components. In one watch. That can chime. I rest my case.
For more information, please visit www.Patek.com.
Case: 43 mm rose gold
Movement: manually wound Caliber R 27 PS QR LU
Functions: hours, minutes; retrograde date, day, month, leap year, age of moon, minute repeater
Price: You know what they say, if you have to ask . . ..