Editor’s Pick: The Patek Philippe Calatrava ref. 5088P

We explore a rather unusual take on one of the most conservative icons within watchmaking. How does the Calatrava ref. 5088P play out?
By Aaron Voyles

Within every brand, there lies a group of aesthetic codes that are based on the foundations of particular collections. For a brand like Patek Philippe, their sports pieces are based on the Nautilus, and their dress watches are based on the Calatrava. While Patek has continuously expanded the Calatrava collection over the last few years, the ref. 5088P is, in my opinion, one of the strangest – and not in a bad way. I appreciate when a brand explores creative freedoms that exist beyond the realm of the ordinary, and I feel the Calatrava ref. 5088 does precisely that with utter class and decorum. 



Calatrava – An Historic Icon

I've said it before, but the word 'Icon' is often thrown around in the watchmaking industry as though it doesn't mean anything, but few watches deserve the title like the Calatrava does. A core piece in Patek Philippe's arsenal, the Calatrava is the prototypical dress watch par excellence. Say what you will about its style; it might not be up your street, but you have to admit that it has been profoundly crucial for Patek through the years, and as such, is an iconic piece given their standing as one of the finest watchmakers ever to grace the industry.

Released in 1932 and named after the cross paraded by the Calatrava Knights from 12th century Spain and Portugal, the Calatrava ref. 96 was released as a simple timepiece with broad appeal that would help secure Patek Philippe's finances after Jean and Charles Henri Stern bought a controlling interest in the brand in the same year.

Born from the shadows of the dwindling art deco period that had preceded it and designed with a remarkably Bauhaus-inspired aesthetic in mind, the original Calatrava models used simplicity as their means of establishing intrigue around the craftsmanship that went into building them. Without the exuberance of complications or a busy design, collectors gravitated towards the Calatrava's clean aesthetic and practicality. Today, the collection has evolved into several mini-collections that all remain under its broader umbrella. 



Starters Before the Main Course

Before delving into what is quite clearly the most notable aspect of the ref. 5088, I would like to examine its construction. Entirely made of platinum, the ref. 5088 features an extra-thin and round 38mm case with soft lines that flow gently from lug to lug around the case. Bringing a hint of flash to its construction, the ref. 5088 features some beautiful engraving work that covers the entirety of its mid-case and lugs. A bright piece thanks to its shiny black alligator leather strap, the ref. 5088's polished surfaces catch the light in much the same way as its strap, providing visual continuity that only the main course breaks. 


An understated case by design, the ref. 5088's case retains most of the minimalist Bauhaus-inspired aesthetic that has remained a lynchpin of the Calatrava collection since time immemorial. I would also venture to say that its case also serves as a wonderful appetiser that whets the palette before you dive into the bulk of the meal. Like a chef tingling your taste buds with flavours you didn't even know you liked, the case engravings serve as the perfect companion for the ref. 5088's most vital asset, its dial.



The Special Dial is Quite the Feast

I do apologise for the analogy that I am drawing here, but the ref. 5088's dial is such a feast for the eyes that I just can't help myself. Made from black enamel with Volutes and Arabesque decoration set in 18ct white gold, it is ultimately what makes the ref. 5088 so special, thanks to its intricate design and incredibly intricate construction.

Showcasing two of Patek Philippe's métiers d'art; enamelling and engraving, the ref. 5088 is rather appropriately a piece of Patek's Rare Handcrafts Collection whereby the brand's artisans exercise the skills they couldn't in mainstream timepieces. Using Champlevé enamelling techniques, the dial is hand-engraved from a solid piece of 18ct white gold before the enameller fills the remaining voids with black enamel to complete this piece of pure artisanal excellence. It is no coincidence either, the black enamel takes on a shiny appearance, just like the polished platinum case and black strap, completing the trifecta and feeding the ref. 5088’s glamorous execution.


Featuring stunning Volutes and arabesque-style scrollwork, the ref. 5088's engraved pattern features rhythmic linear patterns adorned with foliage and leaves that wrap and twist in and out of one another. A dancing display of intricacy, I have to admit the effect is rather breathtaking, even if it might not be my style. With the detail involved in the dial and case's engravings, it is no surprise the dial and case take 30 hours to complete. After all, perfection can't be rushed, and Patek chase perfection. 



The Dessert is Important too

To enhance the elegance of the Calatrava ref. 5088, it is fitted with the ultra-slim, self-winding cal. 240. Enabling the timepiece to retain an exceptionally thin 8.3mm case, the movement serves as the unsung hero of the ref. 5088, as without it, it would lack the elegance derived from its thin case.

Proudly on display behind a sapphire crystal caseback, the cal. 240 movement reveals itself as a stunningly finished piece of engineering complete with immaculate anglage, a 22kt gold micro-rotor and a litany of other finishing techniques that combine to ensure the ref. 5088's movement is as appropriately beautiful as its dial and case. Serving as this meal's final course, the movement is breathtaking and only adds to what is otherwise a perfect watch.



Quick Take

A timelessly elegant design with a rather heavy splash of eccentricity and extravagance, the Patek Philippe Ref. 5088P is worthy of its distinguished Calatrava heritage. Breaking from the Calatrava collection's conservative mould, the ref. 5088 establishes itself as one of the rarest models within the collection while also being one of the most desirable thanks to its unrivalled design and stunning execution.



Watch name: Patek Philippe Calatrava Volutes and Arabesques
Reference number: 5088/100P-001
Case size:  38MM
Thickness: 8.3mm
Material: Platinum
Crystal: Sapphire Crystal
Water-resistance: 30m
Movement: Caliber 240
Functions: Hours, Minutes
Winding: Automatic
Frequency: 21,600 bph
Power reserve: 48 hours
Strap: Black Alligator Leather with hand engraved prong buckle

The Patek Philippe Calatrava 5088/100P-001 is available on Wristcheck.

For further information, visit Patek Philippe online.

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