Patek Philippe Annual Calendar Travel Time 5326G-001
Without sounding overly dramatic, something that which I am decidedly un-prone to, I’ve spent the last few days staring at this watch with a Jolly Rancher lolly stuck in my mouth wondering what to say about it, and in particular, what the opening statement should be.
The issue I have is not that it’s a Patek Annual Calendar Travel Time or that it is glorious to gaze upon, hold, and wear. All of which is true, but it's also an incredibly divisive piece and perhaps a signal that Patek has its eye on “trend”, a shift so seismic from the guardians of old world class and restraint that it feels almost dirty, but deliciously so.
So the question is, how do I pull many strings together to form something coherent, engaging, and most importantly, do this watch the justice that I believe it deserves while others are of the opinion that should be flattened by a steamroller for crimes against horological purity.
Under the circumstances, I think my first port of call is going to be addressing the elephant in the room: “Fauxtina”.
If watch enthusiasts are going to squabble, it’s going to either be about this, or whether watches should be left alone to wear their scars with pride versus polished to “minty fresh” whenever hairlines dictate. Given that there’s not enough coffee in the world to tempt me into covering these two topics at the same time, we’ll stick to modern vintage.
So what is it, exactly, and why so many twisted pairs of underwear?
“Fauxtina”, “faux patina” or “faking age” according to detractors is the practice of making a modern watch appear vintage through various methods including substituting bright white super-luminova for shades of cream, eggshell and beige-toned lume, fading dials to create a “tropical” effect beloved of vintage collectors, and occasionally creating surface scuffs and discolouring on watch cases.
Some brave souls have even put their modern “reissue” watch cases through the washing machine unprotected to create dings and dents and combined these cases with dials and bezels that have been oven backed at 200 degrees in search of the perfect new old daily wearer.
If you follow the world of watches and have been paying attention for the past few years, “Heritage Reissues” have been a big thing with many a back-catalogue raided to bring out modern reinterpretations of historic models.
Some have been released with white luminova like the Tudor Heritage Chrono, a nod to the beloved MonteCarlo chronograph of the 70s. Others have been released with eggshell lume such as the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms “Barakuda” reissue, the JLC Reverso "Tribute To 1931” and the Omega Speedmaster 57 Broadarrow.
Panerai has cranked vintage styling up a gear for 2023 with their “faux scuffed case with tropical dial and vintage lume” trifecta of heritage detailing Radiomir PAM01347,8 and 9 models with 8-day movements.
All are utterly modern with fitments, fittings, and specs from the 21st century, but equally, all look like they have been worn through the wars before retiring to a drawer for years with their tritium lume turning that gentle sandy colour beloved of vintage enthusiasts.
This, of course, is causing a great deal of strife with collectors bitterly divided on whether it's “good form” to have something marching out of the factory in full old-world attire while not having had the decency to age and patinate naturally and with dignity.
If you think of how long vintage lovers have hunted, and indeed, emptied their wallets and lived on beans to get their hands on long lost safe dwelling treasures with thick untouched cases and lume creamier than a profiterole, it can be considered quite a boot in the jewels to have someone sitting next to you with a modern reissue that is not only aesthetically very similar to your grail but is also waterproof, keeping time within COSC, and unlikely to require comparatively expensive servicing and the headache of finding period parts.
Obviously, I’m being a little on the dry-humoured side with this, because as a lover of vintage, I know fine well that the golden oldies are “the real deal” and quite capable of keeping pace with the new whippersnappers on the block.
I can see the perspective that deliberately created or “fake” WABI (worn and broken in) goes against the grain of preserving and enjoying time-capsule pieces and valuing their importance, but at the same time, I can see that the price and hen's teeth rarity of such perfection, particularly these days, can be utterly prohibitive for collectors.
Let's face it, with vintage being so hot for so long, the untouched high-end gems in all their glory are largely locked into safes by now with many having little hope of setting eyes on them let alone being able to purchase.
I suppose the question here is should people be able to achieve the same aesthetic, without the associated cost and maintenance, and is it purely “collector hierarchy” that makes some people answer with a resounding NO.
This question is not something I can answer as I am typically (or annoyingly) on the fence about it. I have a mix of vintage, modern, neo, and heritage reissues and I use and abuse them equally.
So much for picking a team.
What I can say with confidence though, is that eggshell/beige is my favoured lume shade. Partly because it takes me back to my most comfortable horological timeframe “The Good Old Days” and partly because I find that some pieces just look so mellow and less visually jarring to my eye with cream as opposed to bright white lume.
This is where the Patek 5326G becomes really fascinating.
It's not a reissue, it has no heritage background, in fact, it's a completely new release in many senses.
It’s the first time Patek has combined the Annual Calendar and Travel Time complications, a feat which required a completely new movement, (calibre 31-260 PS QA LU FUS) 8 new patents, and an awful lot of head-scratching to successfully synchronise the two complications.
It's the first time that Patek has used their Clous De Paris Hobnail pattern in a band around the middle case rather than the bezel where it is usually seen.
It's the first time we’ve seen a granular dial from the brand.
And crucially, it’s the first time vintage-themed eggshell lume has been seen on a modern Patek.
I should add here that a matching Calatrava was released at the same time - the 5226G which is essentially a smaller three-handed sibling at 40mm.
The Annual Calendar Travel Time is full 18ct white gold and sized at 41mm with the calendar advances are taken care of by push buttons set into the case while the Travel Time side of things are taken care of via the crown. The use of push buttons decreases water resistance to a slightly uninspiring but not unsurprising 30m.
While it has a chamfered and polished bezel, it is thick enough to balance the dial and reduce the “dinner plate” effect that can sometimes occur. No such thing happening here as everything on this watch is just superbly proportioned.
The case design and finishing on this thing is just SO good.
Head-on it appears to be fairly standard with a wide bezel and substantial lugs, but as soon as you catch a glimpse of the crisp Clous De Paris encircling the middle case, it becomes far from the norm.
The hobnailing is a perfect touch which adds both depth and interest and who doesn’t love tiny glistening pyramids?
Strangely, I’ve become so accustomed to them in a short space of time that the idea of this particular watch being presented with a smooth case has become almost criminal in my opinion.
This is a masterstroke given 99.99% of watches are smooth-sided and nobody bats an eyelid, but this particular watch is all about texture, which it has in droves.
Speaking of texture, the dial. Oh god, the dial, the glorious dial.
It was made by Cadrans Flückiger, a specialist dial company owned by Patek and features a granular grey gradient which darkens into black as it reaches the outer minute track.
The texture is said to mimic that of vintage cameras, and it really does. If I wasn’t already aware of its muse, I would have described it as almost like coarse sandpaper, but “evocative of a well-loved Leica” sounds infinitely more refined so I’ll stick with that.
Arabic numerals and syringe hands filled with eggshell-toned luminova absolutely add to the old-world appeal here with the dial text and minute track continuing with the theme.
Despite packing in a lot of information regarding day/night, day, month, date, and moon phases, the dial remains utterly symmetrical and uncluttered.
There is just enough information to fill the space, but not enough to make it appear busy. Always a bonus.
This dial really is like nothing seen before on a Patek, and honestly, all the better for it.
This is not to say that Patek aren’t dial supremos, they are, but when they throw something out of the park that is completely unprecedented, it is refreshing as hell from a brand known for its restraint.
The mounted strap is a nubuck calfskin, which over time is pretty much guaranteed to bed down and begin to show tonal changes and differing textures with age and wear.
I suspect that this is entirely deliberate as Patek doesn’t tend to use nubuck as it doesn’t have the usual air of formality about it.
Should you wish to go for a less lived-in look, a black calf strap with beige contrast stitching comes as part of the package so you can switch around to suit mood or occasion. A great pair of options which both avoid the formality of exotic hides.
Aesthetics aside, despite my obvious difficulty in ignoring them, combining a Travel Time (GMT) function with an annual calendar is a master-stroke of practicality for those who are busy enough with travel to not be bothered with keeping an eye on the shorter months and changing the date to suit.
I don’t know about you lot, but having to set an alert to remind myself to deal with the date change 5 times a year can get right on my nerves given that I’m dealing with a collection rather than being someone who is satisfied and living life to the full as “one watch” people. (I don’t know how they do it)
That said, if I was going to swear off hoarding and become both horologically enlightened and monastic to boot, the 5326G would be up there on my sell everything and happily settle down list.
The fact that it isn’t one of the uber-desired and unobtainable sports Pateks makes this an achievable aim as well which only works in its favour.
One of the really smart things about this piece is that the annual calendar works in synch with the travel-time function, so rather than the date flipping at home-time midnight, it works with local time instead ensuring that both the time and date are spot on wherever you are in the world.
It took a whole new movement to ensure that the travel complication was the primary brain for the day, date and month triggers for the annual calendar.
Patek’s watchmakers shortened the “calendar jump” time from around 90 minutes to 18 which significantly reduced the potential lag and minimised the chances of a misaligned day/date etc in the local time zone.
This fettling resulted in 8 new patents which alone tells us that it was no small feat.
It also uses a micro-rotor, one of those (literally) small details which turns this calibre into an uber peach while keeping the whole shebang nice and slim at 11.7mm cased.
As per usual, the finishing of the movement is a joy to behold, and permanently on display behind a sapphire case-back.
As you have probably gathered by now, I’m a big fan of this watch. What I haven’t managed to work out yet is whether I’m in the majority or minority here. And that in itself is worthy of some discussion.
The 5326G has, on paper/pixels received some incredibly positive reviews, all commenting on the ingenuity behind the symbiotic complications, and praising the attention to detail and finishing of the watch.
This is hardly surprising. It's a Patek. It’s what they do.
However, pretty much every piece of feedback I’ve absorbed has included a caveat about how this particular watch (and this is a direct quote from Deployant) “Risks isolating Patek Philippe connoisseurs who may see the watch as an unholy aberration” and that, essentially, is why this particular piece is creating a glitch in the Matrix.
For many seasoned Patekophiles, the subtle shift towards appealing to a different demographic is seen as heresy, rather like the idea of inviting the Sex Pistols to join the Masons.
The brand for many years has been split into two very distinct customer bases. There are those who collect and adore the complications and refinement of the brand, the caretakers who never really own a Patek, but merely look after it for the next generation, and then there are the Insta influencer music scene thoroughly modern upstarts who exclusively pin their desires to the Nautilus and Aquanaut lines, and by doing so, upset the cultural applecart of the brand to the point where CEO Thierry Stern ended the 5711 in steel noting that he “did not want a single model to suddenly make up 50% or more of our collection and dominate Patek’s image“ swiftly followed by “It’s not enough to make the most beautiful watches in the world. I also have to make sure that they retain their value, and rarity is one of the keys to that. For the customers who invest in Patek, that’s important.”
Of course, everybody knows that before you can even take a shot at waiting lists for the Nautilus or Aquanaut, you’ve first got to buy into, or INVEST, should I say, in Patek’s offerings, and these, historically, have been very beautiful, very classical, and very refined old world horology in precious metal, something quite at odds with the palates of younger collectors.
Not that we’re discussing teenagers here since there are plenty of Millenial and Gen-X collectors who are utterly dedicated to stainless steel tool watches.
That leaves purchasers with the option of buying precious metal either with or without complication, or using the more direct route of the open market, and why would the brand want to push people in that direction?
Needless to say with the rise in popularity of the sports lines, Patek, needed to start appealing more broadly to those younger demographics, and rightly so.
Brands do need to keep an eye on future buyers.
Patek have launched pieces in the past with a view to producing modern offerings with an eye on the future.
Two that immediately spring to mind are the Calatrava Pilots Travel Time which had a healthy dose of wrist appeal while retaining its status as a complication cased in precious metal.
Ditto the 5270P in salmon which oozed enough vintage appeal combined with class and complexity to transcend the divide between the fanbases.
They have most certainly delivered watches that both the old guard and the newcomers have been thirsty for, which has been fantastic for widening appeal.
The 5326G has taken this up a notch by introducing “bang on trend” vintage styling, and certainly, my part of the crowd is going wild. It really does remain to be seen though whether its something that's going to increase the collector divide or conquer it and of course that all depends on where you position yourself in the great “fauxtina” debate which was my first port of call in this review.
Personally, if I had the opportunity to take on a steel 5711 or a 5326G, I can no longer say with confidence that the Nautilus would be on my wrist in an instant.
Patek has just delivered some stiff competition with the Annual Calendar Travel Time. It is brand spanking new in all senses, but old and comfortable at the same time.
That is a pretty unbeatable combination for me and I’m genuinely excited to see where the drive for wider appeal takes the brand next.