Paris is always a treat, but Paris paired with a new Patek Philippe movement: ooh-la-la. On November 5, scores of reporters from around the world got just that, as Patek Philippe held a party at its newly renovated Place Vendôme boutique to launch its new in-house manual-wind chronograph movement, the CH 29-535 PS.
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The movement, which was long expected (it replaces the CH 27-70, based on the Lemania 2310, supplied by the Swatch Group), was nonetheless a surprise. That’s because it’s making its debut not in a men’s watch, as is standard procedure for such a launch, but in a women’s. And what a women’s watch: bearing the reference number 7071, it’s a rose-gold, diamond-encrusted model with opaline dial, stylishly asymmetric subdials, and a very Place Vendômey price of nearly $80,000 (the price hasn’t been precisely determined yet).
Men will not have to wait long for their own 29-535-equipped watch. The company plans to bring one out at the Baselworld watch fair in March.
Why make them wait at all? According to Thierry Stern, Patek Philippe CEO, there are a couple of reasons for making a women’s 29-535 model first (the watch is rather coyly named “Ladies First”). First, doing so is a way to make waves and thus garner attention for a movement that has been five years in the making (and incorporates a handful of inventions that have either been patented or for which patent applications have been filed: see below). Second, he says, Patek Philippe believes the market for women’s complicated watches is growing. Response to the company’s women’s annual calendar, introduced in 2005, is evidence of that, he says.
The new chronograph is what Patek calls “classic” in its structure, meaning that it has a column wheel and a horizontal clutch. But it has much that’s new besides. Its patents include one for the shape of the teeth of the chronograph and clutch wheels, which enables the wheels to engage more smoothly. This, Patek says, eliminates the jumping motion that chronograph hands sometimes make when the chronograph is started. The teeth shape also reduces friction, so much so that Patek says the chronograph seconds hand on the 7071 can be kept running continuously.
Other innovations include an eccentric column-wheel cap that the watchmaker uses to adjust the depth at which the column wheel and clutch wheel engage. Patek says the cap makes for more precise adjustment than the standard method of using an eccentric next to the clutch wheel. Another feature that makes the chronograph operate more smoothly in the new movement is the direct synchronization of the clutch lever and the blocking lever. Patek has added a finger to the clutch lever that causes the blocking lever to stop the chronograph wheel’s motion in response to the chronograph being switched off. In a standard chronograph, the column wheel engages the blocking lever, causing it to stop the chronograph wheel.
The movement bears the newly minted Patek Philippe Seal, announced at Baselworld in March. It is Patek’s first new movement to bear the seal, which requires, among much else, that the movement be accurate to within -3 and +2 seconds per day.
Holiday shoppers will be hard pressed to find a 7071 this season. “Very few pieces will be delivered this year,” said one Patek official. Supplies of the new movement will be a little better next year. Stern doesn’t yet know how many movements the company will make in 2010, but it could be somewhere around 500 or 700, he said.
For more on the 7010 and the Ch 29-535 PS, see the January-February issue of WatchTime.