I am a Lancastrian. I was born in Blackburn, a locale once synonymous with cotton weaving. In the late 18th Century, the advent of the industrial revolution saw Britain become the world’s biggest producer of cotton. In particular, by 1860, Lancashire’s “dark satanic mills” were responsible for producing half of the world’s cotton supplies.
Despite the cotton-weaving industry suffering decline during the 20th century, culminating in its extinction, remnants of Lancashire’s former commercial success remain. A small percentage of the mills still stand, though today these monolithic structures have been adapted for a multitude of purposes, and continue to remind locals of the region’s history.
The neighboring county of Yorkshire sits on the eastern side of the Pennines, a series of hills that resemble vertebrae, dividing northern England into two halves. This county shares Lancashire’s rich history of manufacturing textiles, again formerly producing cotton, but also creating high-quality woolen fabrics. Indeed, many of these sumptuous fabrics continue to be made and often prove popular with clients of Savile Row tailors.
While many northerners talk of the so-called rivalry between the two counties, making reference to the War of the Roses (1455 – 1487), both Lancastrians and citizens of Yorkshire share much in common. Indeed, many of its inhabitants share a passion for cricket, rugby leagues, and a pint of beer.
Whenever I travel to England’s capital city and occasionally meet a Yorkshireman, we invariably joke about the ridiculously high cost of property and transport in London. Moreover, such is the importance of beer for many northerners, the prevailing price of a pint is often another source of consternation.
Today, I would go so far as to say that, despite being a Lancastrian, I share much in common with many Yorkshire folk. It is probably for this reason that I have purchased two watches in the past from the Yorkshire-based retailer, Berry’s.
A rare and truly remarkable timepiece
Irrespective of which Berry’s boutique I have chosen to frequent, I have immediately felt at ease. There is no unnecessarily aloof or snobby service; customers are greeted with “proper Northern friendliness.” I know that I am always able to see fine wristwatches at close quarters and receive informative advice.
However, It was during a recent visit to Berry’s Albion Street store in Leeds that I was surprised to discover a rare and truly remarkable timepiece from Patek Philippe. The Perpetual Calendar with Retrograde Date Hand London Special (Ref. 5159G-012) is based on the Ref. 5159G-001, first released in 2007, but in this instance is limited to only 80 pieces worldwide. It was created as part of Patek Philippe’s 175th anniversary celebrations, which culminated in the Patek Philippe London Watch Art Exhibition.
Patek Philippe London Watch Art Exhibition
As part of its 175th anniversary celebrations, the family-owned, independent Genevan watch manufacturer hosted the Patek Philippe London Watch Art Exhibition. With over 400 exhibits housed within the prestigious Saatchi Gallery, the event attracted watch collecting connoisseurs from around the globe eager to see rare exhibits and keen to immerse themselves in a world of peerless craftsmanship. The event was the single biggest exhibition held by the maison outside of Switzerland and took over two years of planning.
Visitors were able to see, firsthand, time-served artisans performing gem-setting, hand-guilloché and enameling. In a separate room, watchmakers sat at benches and explained some of the details of the watch company’s matchless movements. Using powerful microscopes linked to display monitors, visitors were shown some of the subtle nuances that distinguish the brand’s calibers as truly exceptional.
The exhibition ran from May 27th to June 7th, and with more than 25,000 visitors in the first seven days, its opening hours were extended. Indeed, once again, demand for things bearing the Patek Philippe nomen seemed to outstrip supply.
The Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar with Retrograde Date Hand London Special Ref. 5159G-012
Returning to my visit to Berry’s, Simon Walton, managing director of the company, clearly identified that I have a weakness for collecting timepieces. Simon expertly glided across the sales room floor, evidently aware that a watch addict was in his midst and before you could say “Honey, I’ve shrunk the kid’s inheritance,” placed the Ref. 5159G-012 in my sweaty palms.
For those readers unfamiliar with the non-limited Patek Philippe Ref. 5159G-001, it features a splendid, opaline-white dial adorned with a hand-guilloché center. The Ref. 5159G-012 is equipped with its own distinctive dial.
The opaline-white dial is usurped by a silver-hued dial canvas, featuring the same guilloché motif center-stage. The Roman numerals of the standard watch are supplanted with gorgeous Breguet numerals which evince a seemly finesse I could never tire of admiring.
The Breguet hour and minute hands contrast with those on the standard, non-limited watch. A railroad minute track replaces the subtle black strokes and Arabic numerals of the Ref 5159G-001 and, to my eyes, looks cleaner and crisper and bestows improved ease of interpretation.
All other aspects of the dial display remain unchanged. A rectangular-shaped aperture at 3 o’clock reveals the month, whereas an identical window, positioned at 9 o’clock, discloses the day. A leap-year indicator sits below 12 noon, placed between the retrograde date display and the watchmaker’s nomenclature.
The moon-phase indicator, positioned above 6 o’clock, remains unchanged and rounds off the inventory of functions.
The white gold case exhibits a muted air, stylishly engaging with adoring eyes without the need to crassly announce its presence with fanfare. The shade of the chosen noble metal has a courtly appearance, providing a pleasing contradistinction with the celebrity “bling culture” that seems prevalent today and an aspect of modern life I find most unbecoming.
The case diameter of the Ref 5159G-012 is 38 mm and the height is 11.8 mm. These dimensions are identical to the non-limited model and will suit most would-be buyers.
A white gold dust cover, typical of Patek Philippe’s “officer” watches, is engraved with the wording, “Patek Philippe”and “London 2015.” Opening the hinged cover reveals the self-winding Caliber 324 S QR behind a pane of sapphire crystal.
The automatic Caliber 324 S QR has a diameter of 28 mm and height of 5.35 mm. It is exquisitely finished and bears Patek’s own quality label, denoting a high degree of finish and precision. Examining the movement at close quarters, sublime anglage, polished jewels sinks and a wonderfully defined côtes de Genève motif disclose the no-compromise composition of these incredible watches.
I applaud Patek Philippe. Not only is the company a masterful practitioner and guardian of haute horlogerie as well as a consummate exhibition organizer, but it also remembers that not all of its admirers live in glamorous cities around the world.
Several watch brands choose to keep the rarest of models for their own boutiques, preventing them ever reaching the doors of independent retailers and, more importantly, those collectors who are geographically remote from one of the preferred boutique locations.
Indeed, despite my traveling tens of thousands of miles each year, looking to see remarkable watches, this just shows that, wherever you live in the world, sometimes rare references can be found “close to home.”
Model: Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar with Retrograde Date Hand London Special Ref. 5159G-012
Movement: Caliber 324 S QR, self-winding movement; frequency = 28,800 vph (4 Hz); 30 jewels, power reserve = max. 45 hours, number of components = 361, indications = hours, minutes, central sweep seconds, retrograde date, month, leap-year display, perpetual calendar
Case: platinum, diameter = 38 mm, height = 11.8 mm, water resistance = 30 meters
Strap/bracelet: Black alligator leather strap with 18-carat white gold folding clasp
Price: £69,120 (recommended retail price as of July 1, 2015)
Where I tried on the watch: Berry’s Leeds Albion Street, 62 Albion Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom, England
Limited Edition: 80 pieces