By Rebecca Doulton
Watches as works of art, as beautiful on the surface as they are in soul, has been a top priority at Patek Philippe this year, as evidenced by the recent unveiling of the extraordinary Sky Moon Tourbillon. Acclaimed for the sophistication of its movements and complications since 1839, both of Patek's novelties this year at Baselworld - the fruit of two years' research and development - are equipped with cutting-edge silicon-derived components on the inside and exquisite finishes on the outside.
Although the Gondolo collection didn't appear until 1993, its Art Deco styling and exotic name point to a much older chapter in Patek's history. In 1902, Patek created an exclusive pocket watch with a gold geartrain for its Brazilian distributors Gondolo & Labouriau. Known as the Chronometro Gondolo, its popularity paved the way for Patek's wristwatches in the new Deco style, with tonneau-shaped, square and rectangular cases.
Like its predecessor, the new Gondolo Ref.5200 8 Days, Day & Date Indication sports a new in-house calibre - similar to the 10-day calibre developed 13 years ago - and an architectural white gold case that echoes its Art Deco influences. Crafted from solid white gold bars, the sensuous case, built on frontal and lateral tiers, has been lovingly polished to a mirror finish. To respect the ergonomics of the watch, the crystal protecting the dial is convex, while the crystal protecting the caseback is lightly curved to fit the contours of the wrist. Presented as two models, the first has a blue sunburst dial with white gold hour markers and a blue alligator strap, the second a silvery white opaline dial with a black alligator strap.
The new Gondolo is equipped with a mighty 8-day power reserve and a large aperture for the day of the week and a date disc with a 60-seconds subdial. The manually wound rectangular calibre is packed with proprietary technology, including a Spiromax® balance spring and a Pulsomax® escapement built from silicon-based Silinvar® material, making it the manufacture's first 4Hz high frequency movement. Faithful to its impeccable workmanship, the movement has been decorated with Geneva striping and engravings.
The Calatrava collection is particularly dear to the Stern family, steering the fortunes of Patek since 1932. The Calatrava was in fact the first model to appear under the direction of the family 81 years ago, a refined round wristwatch with an uncluttered dial. The new 39mm Calatrava Ref. 5227 is a study in sleekness, with a novel secret door attached to the caseback - quite an accomplishment given its svelte 9.24mm silhouette. The dust cover that protects the sapphire crystal caseback is derived from a feature of the Officer's watch, but with a twist: the hinge that opens the protective cover has been ingeniously hidden, a secret door known only to its owner that reveals the workings of the automatic in-house calibre 324 SC. The technology contained within the automatic movement is rigorously tested in-house and ensures accuracy to a narrow tolerance range of -3 to +2 seconds per day, as stipulated by the Patek Philippe Seal.
Viewed from the front, the gently curved lugs of the Calatrava seem to melt into the solid gold case, and the cream-coloured dial of lacquered ivory provides a serene, elegant canvas on which consult the passing hours.