2014 was the year of steel for Patek Philippe. Alongside the huge surprise of the sporty Annual Calendar Chronograph 5960/1, we at Monochrome Watches presented you, in an extensive hands-on article, the new Nautilus Travel Time Chronograph ref. 5990/1A, a complicated edition of the Gérald Genta-designed icon. However, even with this recent trend toward steel (which was in answer to several collectors’ requests), we shouldn’t forget that Patek’s specialty is dress and complicated watches. One from the 2014 collection particularly grabbed our attention, the Patek Philippe 5496P-014 Perpetual Calendar Retrograde, with its new “honey brown” dial and distinctive layout, which could be described as “controlled eccentricity” in an otherwise very traditional world.
The Patek Philippe 5496P isn’t really a “new” watch, as it had already been presented at Baselworld 2011 with a white dial. Also, the movement and its quite unusual layout is not specific to this reference, as the Caliber 324 S QR was already powering the 5159. The latter was somehow one of the most “off-the-beaten-path” watches in Patek’s collection back then (excepting a few very rare and limited editions). It came with an officer’s case (meaning straight lugs with screws on the side and a hinged dust cover on the back side), a guilloché dial with large Roman numerals, and unusual hands. In 2011, the first edition of the 5496P was a softer and more sober version of that layout, with its Calatrava case and “pure” dial design. For 2014, Patek Philippe brings back – in its usual, somewhat reserved fashion – a bit of eccentricity, a warm and pleasant color Patek calls “honey brown.”
The dial layout itself could be regarded as “out-of-the-way” for a Patek Philippe watch, as we are used to seeing Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendars with three subdials – like, for example, the iconic reference 5140. Don’t forget that we are talking about a brand build around tradition and classicism. What would be considered a total lack of originality in another, younger brand has to be seen in the context of one of the most conservative – in the best sense of the word – manufactures. Patek Philippe does not create MB&Fs of Urwerks. It does refined and classical watches, with elegance and soberness. So, in a sense, this layout is less conservative.
In the lower part of the dial sits the moon-phase indicator, represented with a blue disk and silver printings for the moon and stars. The perpetual calendar’s indications are displayed in three apertures: day at 9 o’clock, month at 3 o’clock, and leap year at 12 o’clock. The date is indicated by a retrograde hand that points to a scale between 7 o”clock and 4 o’clock. Time is classically displayed by dauphine hands in the center of the dial.