Why I Bought It: Patek Philippe Reference 5370P
The first weekend of November 2016 was a big one for me: in addition to attending the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève and meeting up with myriad friends there (see Year-End Auctions 2016: I Came, I Saw, I Learned, I Bought) I collected not one, not two, but three spectacular watches.
I’ve already written about my motivations for hunting down the A. Lange & Söhne Pour le Mérite Tourbillon (see Why I Bought It: A. Lange & Söhne Pour le Mérite Tourbillon) and will return later to the third part of this trifecta, a vintage Patek Phillipe Reference 1526 in pink gold.
The watch I left home certain to bring back, however, was one that I had been waiting patiently for since January 2016: the split-seconds chronograph Reference 5370P from Patek Philippe.
Why I bought it
I don’t think there’s any doubt that in my pal Terry’s taxonomy of watch collecting, the Reference 5370 is an “investment” piece: one that can be a longtime keeper and serve as a foundational watch in the portfolio.
I first became aware of the Reference 5370P when I saw images of it in online banner ads around the time of Baselworld 2015 and I was immediately smitten.
While Philadelphia merchant John Wanamaker’s famous line “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half” may be as true as ever, whatever Patek Philippe spent on that particular placement had its intended effect.
When I had an opportunity to meet several members of Patek Philippe’s family business during our visit to Geneva in late 2015 (see You Are There: Attending The Only Watch Auction 2015 With Patek Philippe), I made it clear that if I were to have access to only one of Patek Philippe’s high complication pieces, it would be the 5370; after further discussions I received the good news in January of 2016 that I could expect to take delivery late in the year.
Taking delivery of a Patek Philippe Reference 5370P
I’ve been fortunate to be in many of the most heavenly spots in the watch world, and the first-floor private seating area within Patek Philippe’s Geneva Salon has to be near the top of the list.
It’s now a bit of a tradition with our group to make a pilgrimage there on every trip we take to Geneva. If one of the members of the group is taking delivery of a watch, he has the special honor of sitting in “the chair” where I’m pictured seated below grinning like a fool after going through an introductory briefing and strap-fitting session with in-house watchmaker Marina.
The presentation ceremony itself is worth the price of admission: everything from unboxing the folio containing the papers to filling out the Certificate of Origin with the new owner’s particulars is done with style.
And the presence of one of my closest friends, a noted Patek Philippe collector, to share the occasion and record it in photos was something I wouldn’t have done without!
Why I love it
The experience of receiving this piece was wonderful, but what about the watch itself?
Happily, I can say that after several months of ownership I’m even happier with the 5370P than I thought I would be for many reasons.
That dial: the dial itself is fired black enamel, very difficult to execute and absolutely stunning when seen on the wrist. I’ve now photographed my watch several times at extreme magnification and have yet to find a flaw in Patek Philippe’s enamel work. Due to the characteristics of fired enamel the deep, glossy look of the dial should never change.
Those markers: the applied Breguet numerals, beautifully made, are complemented nicely by small dots at 4 and 8 o’clock, keeping the look of the dial in balance.
The markers themselves are white gold rather than platinum, and I quite like the way that the slight color and texture variations between the markers, hands, and case bring visual interest to the watch and keep it from appearing sterile.
In some light, the numerals take on almost a pinkish hue, and it’s always fun to check out the dial side just to see what it looks like in a particular set of conditions.
That case: the case design of the Reference 5370 makes clear reference to Patek Philippe’s classic Reference 1436 split-seconds chronograph in everything from the shape of the lugs to the slightly concave contour of the bezel – and it works wonderfully.
As a macro photographer, I sometimes find that it’s difficult to photograph the case of a given watch in interesting ways. With the 5370P, there are no such challenges as the mix of forms and textures provide a seemingly limitless set of photographic choices.
One particularly lovely feature is the use of pressed-in white gold cabochons at the tip of each lug to provide a visual link to the protruding rounded spring bar ends seen on the vintage Reference 1436.
That movement: this may be the latest point in any of my “Why I Bought It” articles that I’ve gotten around to talking about the movement! And in this case, it’s a corker: Caliber CHR 29-535 PS.
This is a movement that looks great in photos, but even better “in the metal” at its actual size. In my opinion, Patek Philippe has done a splendid job using a variety of shapes, textures, and finishes to provide a feast for the eyes.
I’m also a fan of this watch as a single-minded split-seconds chronograph rather than, for instance, a more complicated perpetual splitter like Patek Philippe’s own Reference 5204.
I also like the way that some of the design choices made with the movement affect the appearance of the watch, including the rattrapante actuator positioned on the axis of the winding crown and the subdials positioned slightly below the centerline of the dial.
To my eyes, the finishing quality looks quite good even under high magnification.
We had an opportunity two years ago to visit Patek Philippe’s separate high-complication department where the 5370P and other super-complicated Patek Philippe watches are made, and the attention to detail in that manually-intensive atelier is evident in the finished product.
Caliber CHR 29-535 also contains a number of clever (and patented) technical improvements, including changes to the centering mechanism for the rattrapante hand to ensure that the two chronograph second hands appear perfectly aligned when returned to zero.
This is perhaps not earth shattering, but for me a good example of Patek Philippe’s thoughtful and continuous improvement within a philosophy of classical watchmaking.
In practice, I find that the chronograph functions of the 5370 work flawlessly, with no jumping at launch or visible jittering during operation, and the rattrapante mechanism is satisfyingly crisp to operate and the rattrapante hand swings beautifully back into place when actuated.
Also of note, the chronograph minute indication jumps instantaneously at each 60-second interval (a big deal for me) and, fairly unusually for Patek Philippe, the movement hacks when the crown is pulled out, allowing for easy synchronization with a reference time signal.
Well, it’s still true, at least in my view that the perfect watch has not yet been made! A few thoughts on the 5370P:
- I’d love to see some sharp interior angles in the movement with obvious signs of loving hand-finishing. While the finishing of the movement is quite good, it lacks that last bit of pop that some of the top independents provide.
- As mentioned above, the chronograph functions work well and feel good. But I’d be even happier if the force required to actuate the bottom “return to zero” pusher were stiffer and more consistent with the oomph needed to operate the other chronograph buttons.
- Finally, there’s “that bump!” Take a look above at the contour of the chronograph clutch lever, especially the spot left of the center of the picture where the lever curves around the jewel in its chaton.
While that slight bulge may be necessary for structural integrity, and the lever extension that departs upward from there is part of one of the functional innovations of this movement, I wish that Patek Philippe had found a more elegant solution.
Is a Patek Philippe Reference 5370P right for you?
I bought it, but in the event that you have the opportunity to add this piece to your collection, should you? I can shout an enthusiastic “yes” if:
- Like me, you find the aesthetics of this watch gorgeous.
- You are eager to own, and hold, an example of a limited-production Patek Philippe high complication that in time could become a classic of the likes of Reference 1436 or even the monumental Reference 1518.
- The beauty and coherence of the watch makes spending the premium that it commands over arguably more technically capable watches such as the A. Lange & Söhne Double Split worthwhile to you.
- You want the experience of owning a high-end Patek Philippe timepiece and all that it entails.
On the other hand, you may want to direct your attentions elsewhere if:
- Another high complication such as a chiming watch has won your heart in the same way that the split seconds captivated mine.
- You demand fully hand-finished movements with ample displays of sharp interior angles.
- The 41 mm case size is too big for your wrist.
- You prefer to own and wear a variety of more affordable watches rather than concentrating on a smaller number of more substantial pieces.
For more information, please visit www.patek.com/en/mens-watches/grand-complications/5370P-001.
Quick Facts Patek Philippe Reference 5370P
Case: platinum with pressed-in white gold cabochons on lugs and brand-characteristic diamond (signifying platinum) at 6 o’clock; interchangeable sapphire crystal case back and full platinum solid case back; 41 mm
Dial: gold with fired black enamel, applied Breguet numerals and markers and printed white scales including tachymeter
Movement: manually wound Caliber CHR 29-535 PS; 28,800 vph/4Hz; 55-65 hours’ power reserve with chronograph disengaged
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; 30-minute instantaneously jumping chronograph with rattrapante
Production years: 2015-present
Also published on Medium.