Immediately recognisable within the world of watchmaking as the ultimate dress watch, the Patek Philippe Calatrava epitomises just about everything that makes Patek as highly revered a watchmaker as they are. Historically significant, with a consistent design language and an abundance of personality, the Calatrava serves as the perfect vehicle for Patek Philippe's horological innovations. With that, it is no surprise that Patek chose the Calatrava to equip with the new movement and dial design that features in their 2019 release, the Calatrava Weekly Calendar ref. 5212A.
The Calatrava as a design icon
Named after the 12th century Calatrava Knights from Spain and Portugal, the Patek Philippe Calatrava ref. 96 was released in 1932 as an understated and elegant timepiece that would bolster Patek Philippe's dwindling finances. Duo Jean and Charles Henri Stern had just bought Patek Philippe, and the brand required saving. The pair decided that a watch with universal appeal was their best bet, and so, the Calatrava ref. 96 with its gentle aesthetics was created.
Designed and released during the tail end of the Art Deco period, the Calatrava's stylish design was heavily influenced by the Bauhaus movement, whereby form followed function. Early Calatrava variants abided by this design language as their understated aesthetics flew in the face of any exuberance one may have expected a high-end watchmaker to include in their timepiece. This clean, stripped back, and utilitarian aesthetic has become one of the Calatrava's most defining features, even though some modern Calatrava collections seem to deviate from this principle in more ways than one.
The Calatrava Weekly Calendar ref. 5212A, somewhat paradoxically, breaks from the Calatrava's utilitarian and straightforward aesthetic, thanks to its moderately busy display, while maintaining legibility and a design that lacks overzealous exuberance. This balance is one that only a brand with Patek Philippe's design credentials and historical significance could achieve, for the Calatrava Weekly Calendar ref. 5212A is not an entirely new design; rather, its design has been taken from an older model and updated for modern tastes and engineering.
Taking inspiration from a design in one's archives is always a sure-fire way to ensure your timepiece is rooted in your brand's DNA -- at the same time, however, Patek are more than capable of branching out into unchartered territory. The Calatrava Weekly Calendar ref. 5212A is indeed inspired by the 1955 Patek Philippe ref. 2512: a one-of-a-kind piece, the ref. 2512 was a yellow gold 46mm time-only behemoth. Incredibly unique for its time, the ref. 2512 never became a production piece, but the Calatrava Weekly Calendar ref. 5212A took its design and ran with it.
As I've mentioned, the ref. 2512 was a time-only watch, so its mechanics indeed weren't the Calatrava Weekly Calendar ref. 5212A's inspiration. It did, however, take its aesthetic inspiration from its case design. While the Calatrava Weekly Calendar ref. 5212A is a much more wearable 40mm in diameter; it features the ref. 2512's two-tiered case and lug design, adding a level of sophistication and elegance to its form. A simple round case with gently angled lugs, the Calatrava Weekly Calendar ref. 5212A would look completely different without this extra detail.
Furthermore, the Calatrava Weekly Calendar ref. 5212A is not made of yellow gold – or any precious metal for that matter – rather, it is made of steel. A rarity amongst the Calatrava collection, this steel construction links to the Calatrava Weekly Calendar ref. 5212A's philosophy as a "useful complication."
With a 40mm x 10.8mm thick steel case, the Calatrava Weekly Calendar ref. 5212A can indeed act as an everyday watch with features that you might use on a daily basis, particularly if your industry uses the week number often, like in finance, supply chain management and so on. Patek's train of thought here might be to fill the gap left behind by their inability to meet the demand for their other steel watches, like the Nautilus and Aquanaut.
In keeping with this 'everyday' kind of laidback design, the Weekly Calendar ref. 5212A also features a silver opaline dial with a ‘handwritten’ style of font in black. Removed from the picture-perfect font you might expect, the Weekly Calendar ref. 5212A's font is ‘imperfect’ as letters appear ever-so-slightly asymmetrical and imbalanced -- which, in fact, pays homage to one of the designer's handwriting.
Of course, the Weekly Calendar ref. 5212A's dial remains astute in its legibility. While the font lends a relaxed tone to this timepiece's design, it detracts nothing in the way of clarity. Featuring five hands, all emanating from the dial's centre, the Weekly Calendar ref. 5212A remains wholly practical – something I feel is an achievement in and of itself.
Reading the hours, minutes and seconds as you would expect with traditional hands and the date via the standard aperture at 3 o'clock, the Weekly Calendar ref. 5212A's ingenious design reveals itself through the two thin hands with red perpendicular tips. With the shorter of the two hands pointing to the day of the week display found within the hour markers, and the longer of the two pointing to the week of the year found along the dial's periphery, the Weekly Calendar ref. 5212A's display remains abundantly clear. Not that I am intentionally harping on about this, but I feel the Weekly Calendar ref. 5212A's display should be much harder to read than it is, but Patek have truly outdone themselves here.
Interestingly, the week of the year display also corresponds to the month display found along the dial's extreme periphery. Going the extra mile and ensuring no stone is left unturned, Patek referenced ISO 8601 and deduced that the Weekly Calendar ref. 5212A required 53 weeks along its dial so that every 5 to 6 years, when 53-week years occur, the Weekly Calendar ref. 5212A could handle it.
Of course, when releasing a new watch like the Weekly Calendar ref. 5212A, brands will typically like to showcase a new movement, which is precisely what Patek did with this timepiece. Featuring four new patents, the new cal. 26 330 S C J SE is an automatic movement on display behind a snap-on sapphire crystal case back. It boasts 45-hours of power reserve, a unidirectional 21ct yellow gold winding rotor (itself featuring a new shape to distinguish it from other movements) and a plethora of gorgeous finishing techniques, as one may expect from Patek.
As always with Patek, this movement also features some market-leading innovations such as the new anti-backlash wheel that saves energy expenditure and increases the movement's reliability. In addition, it also features a hack-seconds function so that the time can be accurately set. Not exactly a new feature for any brand, it is still a nice modern creature comfort for wearers to have.
An elegant, casual and ultimately functional interpretation of one of Patek Philippe's most legendary collections, the Calatrava Weekly Calendar ref. 5212A adds a new and wonderfully innovative movement to Patek's repertoire with the sophisticated design and impeccable craftsmanship that we have come to expect of the legendary Genevan giants.
Patek Philippe Calatrava Weekly Calendar
Reference number: Ref. 5212A-001
Case size: 40mm
Material: Stainless Steel
Crystal: Sapphire Crystal
Movement: Cal. 26 330 S C J SE
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, day, week of year/month
Frequency: 28,800 bph (4Hz)
Power reserve: 45 hours
Strap: Light brown hand-stitched calfskin leather with a prong buckle
For further information, visit Patek Philippe online.
This watch is available on Wristcheck.