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Patek Philippe creates an innovative new face with twin in-line day and month apertures for its popular Annual Calendar

Luxois | 04.12.08 | 05:11 PM

In just 10 years, the Annual Calendar has been established as a landmark in the Patek Philippe collection. Probably the most useful complication in everyday life, the patented mechanism reappears in a round Calatrava case with a striking new dial featuring twin in-line day and month apertures.

A most convenient complication

Introduced in 1996, the Annual Calendar is one of Patek Philippe's greatest success stories. It is the first mechanical wristwatch that automatically displays the month, day of week, and correct date for months with 30 and 31 days and only needs to be corrected once a year, at the end of February. During the past 10 years, the Annual Calendar has been enriched with other useful functions such as power-reserve and 24-hour indications as well as the moon-phase display, a poetic yet ultra-precise complication. This mechanism has been reconfigured for distinctive dial layouts to suit different watches, including the tonneau-shaped Gondolo Calendario and the ladies' Annual Calendar introduced in last year.

A totally new personality

This year, a bold new dial design joins the family of Patek Philippe Annual Calendars. For the first time, this patented mechanism features twin in-line apertures at 12 o'clock for the day and month. This unusual treatment is presented in a case duplicating the original Calatrava Ref. 96 from the 1930s. With its perfectly smooth bezel, the slender 38-mm case of the Ref. 5396 is at once resolutely modern yet ageless. Its refinement lies in its simplicity, amplified by the soft warmth of the polished 18K rose gold.

A well-proportioned, clearly structured dial

As another tribute to the Calatrava legacy, the dial is inspired by a historic 1930s model that occupies a prominent position in the permanent collections of the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva. With its double railway track scale, the well-proportioned dial adds a subtle technical flourish to the Ref. 5396, and its graphic style will appeal to design connoisseurs. To complement the rose gold case, a two-tone dial with a silvery opaline shimmer contrasts against a velvety silver-gray background to accentuate the leaf-shaped hands in blued steel. The transfer-printed graphic elements in navy blue appear as a subtle relief pattern.

True to the Calatrava spirit, the readability of the dial is excellent; it sets the stage for a totally new layout of the Annual Calendar displays. The day of the week and the month are shown in twin in-line apertures at 12 o'clock - a typical arrangement for 1940s and 1950s watches - while the date is displayed at 6 o'clock in an aperture beneath the 24-hour subsidiary dial incorporating the moon-phase indication. The alert observer will notice another detail: the arced Patek Philippe signature.

A thoroughbred movement

The Ref. 5396 is equipped with the latest version of the self-winding caliber 324 S QA LU 24H movement with sweep seconds, an Annual Calendar mechanism with twin in-line day/date apertures, moon-phase display, and 24-hour dial. As simple as it is to use, the Annual Calendar is a sophisticated mechanical marvel. To eliminate as many levers as possible, the engineers at Patek Philippe totally redesigned the architecture of the movement, which now functions primarily on the basis of wheels and pinions and can be admired through the sapphire-crystal back. The movement is composed of 347 parts, as opposed to 275 for a traditional perpetual calendar watch with a moon-phase display. It qualifies for the Geneva Seal, the prestigious hallmark shared by only the very finest mechanical movements. All the calendar displays can be conveniently corrected using push pieces recessed in the case band. The new Ref. 5396 is worn on a matte dark brown, hand-stitched alligator strap with a fold-over clasp in rose gold.

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