Behind The Lens: Patek Philippe Reference 5078P Minute Repeater
Recently, a good friend and avid collector gave me the mouth-watering opportunity to photograph not one, but two splendid Patek Philippe minute repeaters: the strongly masculine 5074P and elegant 5078P, both in platinum.
This is the second of three installments of a “Behind the Lens” series focusing on these two watches. For more photos of the 5074P, please see Behind The Lens: Patek Philippe Reference 5074P Minute Repeater. We will finish off the series soon with a video “chime-off” between the two watches, but for now let’s turn our attention to images of the Patek Philippe 5078P.
As you can see in the images, my friend owns the 5078 version that features a black lacquered dial with raised white Roman numerals; Patek Philippe also makes versions of the watch in both platinum and pink gold with white dials in fired enamel. While it would be great to have the black dial in enamel, to my eye the black lacquer is also quite nice and the effect of the black and white display in the gleaming platinum case is simply stunning.
In contrast to the 5074P’s metallic white gold hands and indices, all of the hands and markers here are coated in purest white, adding even more pop to the look of the watch. If you’re one of those who believe in wearing a watch with your tuxedo, I don’t think you’d ever go wrong pulling this one out of the safe to wear.
If there’s anything about this watch that bugs me a bit, it’s the appearance of the edges of the hands. As you can see in the photo above, the hands are coated white on top but the sides are a mixture of some white coating and glimpses of the underlying silver metal.
Let’s face it: you’re not going to see this – at all – when the watch is on your wrist, but those of us for whom macro photography is an obsession know it’s there!
On a more positive note, the image above highlights one of the more charming features of Patek Philippe’s platinum watches: the small diamond visible between the lugs at 6 o’clock. I’m sure that for the owner, catching a glint of light from one of the facets of that diamond is always a pleasant reminder, if one is ever needed, of the exclusivity of this watch.
On the reverse side, we’re treated to a front-row view of self-winding Caliber R 27 PS (“PS” referring to the “petites secondes”). At first glance, it looks almost identical to the R 27 Q we saw in the 5074P, but closer inspection reveals that the R 27 PS features gongs for the minute repeater that each encircle the movement once rather than the longer “cathedral” gongs that give the 5074P its distinctive sound.
And, of course, on the dial side of the movement the PS gains the useful small seconds indication but loses the perpetual calendar of the Q.
Photographing the Patek Philippe 5078P
Like the 5074P and other black-dialed watches, the 5078P is not that easy to shoot! The contrast of black, white, and platinum makes it easy to blow out highlights and to lose details like the circular grooves on the seconds subdial, visible in the straight-on shot below.
In person, as in the image above, the grooved subdial appears a very dark grey, giving a bit of contrast and visual interest relative to the deep blackness of the remainder of the dial.
The crystal of the 5078P lacks anti-reflective coating, and that can cause nightmares in the light tent as unwanted reflections and scattered light are the norm, somewhat limiting the range of positions in which the watch can be photographed. That said, it is possible to use the reflectivity of the crystal to advantage as in the shot below, where I’ve utilized a bit of scatter on the upper right of the crystal to give a sense of depth.
A big challenge in shooting almost all watches, but particularly high-contrast pieces like this one, is to get enough light on the dial without blowing out the details of the case. One remedy is the use of a small supplemental light – I use a small flashlight – to brighten up the dial area without over-lighting the remainder of the watch.
You can see the telltale signs of this approach in the photo below: the highlights visible between 8 and 9 o’clock on the left edge of the dial and on the case near the crown.
On the movement side of the watch, no such problems present themselves and like other top-end Patek Philippe movements, Caliber 27 R PS is interesting to view with its variety of shapes and mechanisms and excellent finish with black polishing, striping, guilloche, graining, and filigree work. I do think from time to time what it would be like to own this watch and affix the solid platinum case back that comes with it, but I’m not sure I could ever bring myself to do it!
By the book
It was fun to capture a few images of the 5078P with its descriptions from Patek Philippe’s Minute Repeaters book. While I can imagine that it got to be somewhat difficult after a while to come up with descriptive paragraphs for each of Patek Philippe’s many repeaters that were not, well, repetitive, in this case I think that the initial words characterizing this watch as a “paragon of understatement” is right on the mark.
I also enjoyed shooting the watch with the book’s corresponding photo, which I found to be remarkably accurate. One nice feature of the book is that the watches are shown at their actual sizes in the images, giving readers a real ability to compare one piece to another.
When it comes to Patek Philippe repeaters, I’ve already confessed that I’m partial to the masculine 5074P with its cathedral chimes; but if I judge from the occasional online exchanges I see about these two watches, I think that I may actually be in the minority relative to the number of collectors who would prefer the 5078P.
Of course, you can make your own determination! To get the final critical information you need to make your call, stay tuned for the final article in this series: a direct comparison of the 5078 vs. the 5074, including video of each watch chiming off the time.
Quick Facts Patek Philippe Ref. 5078P-001
Years of production: 2005-present
Case: platinum, 38 mm with interchangeable solid and sapphire crystal backs (also available in pink gold as 5078R)
Dial: black lacquer with raised white numerals and indices (also available with white enamel dial)
Movement: automatic Caliber R 27 PS, 342 components
Functions: hours, minutes, small seconds; minute repeater with two gongs
Price: current retail price approx. $385,000; most recent auction prices between $269,000 and $378,000