“A watch that is wound by hand at regular intervals is very precisely adjustable because the declining torque of the gradually relaxing mainspring can be taken into account in the poising process. Conversely, in a self-winding watch, the tension of the mainspring varies with the intensity of the movements of the wrist while it is worn. Another argument in favor of manually wound timepieces is the tactile experience of turning the crown between fingertips and feeling the smooth action of the winding train. It is like a recurring ritual that strengthens the relationship between the watch and its owner.”
The rectangular movement, Caliber 28-20 REC 8J PS IRM C J, contains components made of Silinvar, a silicon-based material developed at the Patek Philippe Advanced Research horological think tank, which is extremely hard, antimagnetic, corrosion-resistant and two-thirds lighter than steel. The new reference is reminiscent of its 2000 predecessor, the Ref. 5100 “10 Day,” except that here the power reserve is two days shorter because of the energy required to power the watch’s other complications, which include a day and date indication that switch instantaneously. (Click on watch photos to enlarge images.)
Patek Philippe says that the watch’s lengthy power reserve, held by twin inline mainspring barrels, will maintain a steady amplitude of the balance and rate accuracy up to and including the eighth day. The calendar mechanism ensures that the day and date disks both switch simultaneously at midnight, within three milliseconds, or less time than it takes to blink an eye.
The movement’s patented oscillator uses a Spiromax balance spring and a Pulsomax escapement with an escape wheel and lever made of Silinvar. These components allow the escapement to run without lubrication and still remain friction-free, thus conserving energy each time the lever contacts the escape wheel. The Spiromax balance spring is also made of Silinvar and ends in a Patek Philippe terminal curve. The wearer can admire the movement, which despite its elaborate calendar mechanism is only 5.05 mm thick, through a sapphire window in the caseback. Aesthetic highlights include the large mainspring barrel plate; a “trompe l’oeil” going train bridge that appears to be three separate curved bridges; surfaces decorated with Geneva waves and gold filled engravings; and chamfered and polished edges.
The well-known, curved, rectangular Art Deco case of the Gondolo, with its flowing organic contours and two-tiered flanks, is in 18k white gold. The case is crafted from solid gold bars at Patek’s Geneva workshops using cold-forming technology and polished to a mirror finish. The sapphire crystal over the dial is ground to a convex shape that follows the silhouette of the case. The dial is in “blue sunburst” (pictured) or silvery white. The 8-day power reserve indicator — with a numeral “9” in red to remind the owner to wind the watch — occupies the upper half of the dial, while the calendar functions, including the 31-day date scale and the day of the week in a large aperture, dominate the lower half. The seconds subdial is integrated into the date circle. The hour markers and the faceted, Dauphine-style hour and minute hands are made of white gold, mirror-polished for the blue dial and blackened for the white. The red-tipped date hand, as well as the hands for the power reserve display and small seconds subdial, are finished in white lacquer (blackened for the white dial). The hand-stitched alligator strap is in a dial-matching shiny blue for the blue dial or in matte-black for the silvery white; both have a white gold pronged buckle. The Patek Philippe Ref. 5200 retails for $59,400.
This article was originally published on June 14, 2013 and has been updated.