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In good form: The new Patek Philippe Ref. 5098 Chronometro Gondolo

Luxois | 04.12.08 | 05:42 PM

A genuine surprise by Patek Philippe at this year's BASELWORLD is a watch of great poise with an evocative name: Chronometro Gondolo. In 1927, the last watch of this series was issued from Geneva. Now, 80 years later, the legend is reborn.

The new tonneau watch bears a name that resonates in the heart of every connoisseur. Particularly in Brazil, the name Patek Philippe Chronometro Gondolo inspires awe among collectors and aficionados. A hundred years ago, Patek Philippe was a synonym for watch in this country on the equator. "My Patek says it's half past two," people would state, even if they were not wearing a timepiece from the eminent manufacture in Geneva. Chronometro Gondolo was the name of an entire suite of watch models created by Patek Philippe explicitly for the Gondolo & Labouriau jewelry and watch retail company in Rio de Janeiro. For this once so important buyer, the workshops crafted the exclusive Chronometro Gondolo collection for nearly thirty years. It featured square and rectangular as well as tonneau- and cushion-shaped cases. This is why Gondolo remains the name chosen for all current form watches made by Patek Philippe in Geneva. Now, the collection has just been enriched with the new, exclusive Chronometro Gondolo Ref. 5098P. It transports the design of the historic 1925 Chronometro Gondolo into the new millennium with perfect aplomb.

The perfect tonneau

The tonneau is one of the classic case shapes in watchmaking, and it has never been as consummately refined as for the Ref. 5098. Departing from a 1925 Chronometro Gondolo model, the case design was subtly reworked, the contours delicately retouched, and the silhouette gently cambered for a snug, comfortable fit on the wrist. The curvature is also repeated in the crystal and display back. It takes advanced technologies and rare skills to shape sapphire crystal, an extremely hard mineral, to three-dimensional contours. The result is an aesthetically appealing case -available exclusively in platinum - with a beautifully balanced look and the functionality needed to protect the precious manufacture movement inside. Like all current Patek Philippe models with platinum cases, the new Chronometro Gondolo Ref. 5098P has a small diamond discreetly set between the lugs at 6 o'clock. The watch is worn on a matte black alligator strap with a platinum prong buckle inspired by its historic predecessor.

A new Patek Philippe form movement

The mechanical movement of the new Chronometro Gondolo Ref. 5098P was developed especially for this watch. It is the manually wound caliber 25-21 REC PS (REC stands for rectangular), the manufacture's first simple form movement since its famous 1930s and 1940s predecessors, including the 9-90 caliber that was introduced in 1934 and built for more than thirty years. Together with the 25-21 REC, the Patek Philippe portfolio of manufacture movements currently encompasses 23 basic calibers that are crafted in 45 versions. In decisive details, its architecture follows the formal design that accounted for the beauty of the Chronometro Gondolo movements of the early 20th century. This applies to the elegant, S-shaped minute-wheel bridge and the slender escapewheel and fourth-wheel bridges that afford a generous glimpse of the rest of the movement. Patek Philippe's proprietary Gyromax balance is one of the contemporary features of the watch. The movement beats at a frequency of 4 Hz (28,800 semi-oscillations per hour) to assure aboveaverage rate accuracy and convenient adjustability for long-term precision.

A face that reflects the times

The dial of the Ref. 5098P is as authentic as its 1925 precursor. It is a miniature work of art in rhodiumed gold, with a gentle curvature that extends to the horns. Its center and the zones outside the oval railway-track minute scale are carefully guilloched by hand. Guilloching has become a rare craft and this watch is a fine example of meticulous artisanship. The oval hour scale lies between these guilloche zones, and cartouches at 12 and 6 o'clock showcase the brand name "Patek Philippe Geneve" as well as the model designation "Chronometro Gondolo." Two pear-shaped hands in black oxidized gold hover above the dial and move with chronometric precision.

Gondolo & Labouriau: a legendary name

On the 12th of November 1872, Patek Philippe shipped a pocket watch to Gondolo & Labouriau in Rio de Janeiro. This marked the beginning of a long-lasting business relationship. In 1902, it culminated in a watch collection that Patek Philippe had designed explicitly for its Brazilian retailer: thus, he Chronometro Gondolo was born. In turn, Gondolo & Labouriau devised a totally new sales strategy especially for this watch collection. Since the sales price of 790 Swiss francs was roughly equivalent to what a qualified worker in Brazil earned in an entire year, customers were offered an attractive payment scheme: 10 francs a week for a maximum of 79 weeks and admission to an exclusive club with 180 members that operated the Plano do Club Patek Philippe System. Clubs like these were considered private societies and did not fall under the ban on public gambling. Indeed, the Plano do Club Patek Philippe System was a lottery in which one Chronometro Gondolo was the prize in each of 79 consecutive weekly drawings. The first winner received his watch for free, while the winners of the 78 subsequent drawings had to pay an amount between 10 and 780 francs for their watches. The remaining 101 members had no option but to pay the full price.

The first Chronometro Gondolo wristwatches - in square, rectangular and tonneau styles, and also in a cushion-shaped carré cambré version appeared around 1910. For this reason, all current Patek Philippe form watches - models whose cases are not circular - belong to the so-called Gondolo collection. In the second half of the Roaring Twenties, the global business climate began to chill and the last Chronometro Gondolo watch was delivered to Rio de Janeiro in 1927. Now, after a hiatus of 80 years, the collection is experiencing a spectacular comeback.

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