By Robin Swithinbank
These are expectant times for observers of the world's most important watch brand. Patek Philippe had indicated that it would be keeping its powder dry on its 175th anniversary celebrations until later in the year, because - we were told - it didn't want the moment to be lost in the Baselworld smog. Hard to believe that would have happened, but still, to date it's been true to its word.
Its attentions at the Baselworld fair centered around a couple of unprecedented stainless steel cased complications and the pin-up Nautilus Travel Time 5990/1 A, as seen on watch magazine covers here, there and everywhere in the five months that have passed since launch. Now we learn that the Geneva company will whip the covers off whatever it's had hidden up its sleeve all this time on 13 October. And so we wait.
As all the world knows, watch brands love an anniversary and fuel product and marketing campaigns with them, but there's no exact science to predicting just how much significance any one brand will attach to any one date. With Patek, we know its 175th will be washed down with fizz and fanfare, but whether the brand will go as big as it did for its 150th, or indeed as it might for its 200th, we can't be entirely sure.
For its 150th, it pushed the boat out further than ever before with Calibre 89, the pocketwatch whose 33 complications made it - and still make it, as the brand continues to insist - the most complicated watch ever made (Franck Muller would have something to say on the matter, of course).
Calibre 89 was nine years in the making, had 1,728 components and became the first watch in history with Easter indication. The last one to go under the hammer, it went for 5.1m CHF in 2009, making it one of the most expensive watches ever sold. Four have been made so far, and according to Patek's website, a fifth is in production at the moment, perhaps to be unveiled as part of its 175th celebrations (in platinum?). That's quite a benchmark.
So far, details of Patek's ambitions for its 175th have been predictably oblique. In the absurdly, gloriously plush invitation sent to journalists ahead of the October event, there's reference to a "new Commemorative Watch Collection", and a reminder that "we celebrate anniversaries by creating unique timepieces". It finishes tantalisingly with the promise: "The 150th inspired the Calibre 89 - the 175th will most certainly make history."
So, a watch with squillions of complications and an eight-figure price tag? Calibre 14? Calibre 175? Or perhaps, an achingly low-volume wristwatch with myriad functions? Four weeks to wait, people. Four weeks.
Patek Philippe's new Ref. 5960/1A Annual Calendar Chronograph watch in stainless steel.
The new stainless steel Patek Philippe Ref. 5960/1A watch houses the same automatic movement as the previous version in gold, which features annual calendar and chronograph complications.
Nine years in the making before its release, the Patek Philippe Calibre 89 features 1,728 components and became the first watch in history with an Easter indication.
The Calibre 89 was released to celebrate Patek Philippe's 150th anniversary - a pocket watch whose 33 complications make it, as the brand continues to insist, the most complicated watch ever made.
The last Patek Philippe Calibre 89 that went under the hammer sold for 5.1 million CHF in 2009, making it one of the most expensive watches ever sold.
Patek Philippe's Calibre 89 has two faces. Four have been made so far and, according to Patek's website, a fifth is currently in production.