There is no single dial on this watch.
Multi layered sapphire crystal disks are printed with night sky, moon phase, stars, sirius, and cardinal points hover over a jet black enamel base.
These rotate at different speeds and work together to track the skies above while a pointer tracks the date around the outer edge.
All disks combine to make a truly three dimensional dial with stars passing above and beneath one another and their shadows cast on to the jet black enamel beneath.
Patek calls it a fascinating celestial ballet and they’re not wrong.
It is PHENOMENAL.
The patch of sky inside the ring denoting the horizon line with on the upper part of the dial is the sky above. It even shows what you’ll see where if you use the orientation points when looking north, south, east or west.
There are thousands of setting variations which Patek kindly pared down from the potential 25 billion gear ratio combinations that were available when they were working out the movement which has insane accuracy when charting the night sky.
The Celestial display is accurate to 0.08 seconds per day
The Lunar display is accurate to 0.05 seconds per day.
As a non mathematician I’ve got a headache just thinking about it but put in non technical terms, the way this thing works is like a mechanically marvellous Rubik’s cube for horological nutters, and I say that in the nicest possible way because, well, here we all are.
Setting this piece so that it directly reflects the sky above is an adventure in itself.
Fortunately Patek provide a step by step guide for this on the Celestial page on their website which works out setting for you. All you have to do is enter month, day, year, time, and city before pressing calculate on each of the stages and following the instructions, which must be performed in order.
We suggest making a coffee first and having a box of tissues handy to mop the away any tears that may arise from going one crown wind over and having to start again.
It’s a labour of love, and quite rightly so.
I suggest storing it on a winder once its been sorted as date and BST/GMT changes shouldn’t affect the sky.
For the lazy and less celestially particular types, time and date are adjusted by the top crown, and sky pattern and moon phase by the bottom crown.
Move the crown anti clockwise to move the sky, and clockwise to move the moon.
This method wont correctly sync the watch to the heavens, but if you haven’t worn it for a while and need to get out the door, job done until you’ve got some more time and patience on your hands.
OR, if you just want to play and watch the sky and moon cross the dial via the disks then knock yourself out, its a glorious way of spending 5 minutes appreciating this watch.
Although the 6104 and its platinum counterpart the 6102 are the daddies of celestials, the concept is not a new one.
Patek have been charting the skies for around 100 years.
Often referred to as “The Mona Lisa of Watchmaking”, the Patek Philippe Henry Graves Super-complication (ref No. 198.385) pocket watch holds the record for the most expensive timepiece ever sold when it sold for $24 million at auction in 2014.
Completed for Graves in 1932 after 7 years of building, the watch has a staggering 24 complications including chimes, repeaters, perpetual calendar, equation of time and pretty much anything you would need, or not.
The Super-comp was also a celestial which mapped the skies over his home in New York City.
Graves was a member of the American Aristocracy who inherited banking and real estate fortunes before branching out into the railways.
By all counts he was a spender and accumulator of prizes and luxuries whether they be art, porcelain, cars, boats or watches.
He had enough in the bank to demand “the best” without really caring what that was or what it meant.
The Henry Graves Super-complication nearly a hundred years later is still the stuff of legend.
That said, Graves was not the first purveyor of highly complex Patek celestials, there were others before him.
A notable rival for Grand Comps and celestials was James Ward Packard, a mechanical engineer and owner of the Packard Electrical Company and the Patek Motor Company which gave the USA its first taste of luxury motoring. He’s a really fascinating guy, if you’re tempted to go have a read up.
Packard differed to Graves in that he was a dedicated watch collector with a particular love of chimes. He ordered his first “Grand Comp” in 1905, and had a large collection which he didn’t really share publicly.
More know, less show, if you see what im saying.
The last Patek that Packard ordered was delivered to him in hospital in 1927. It was his final piece before death, and is known as “The Packard Astronomical”
This pocket watch featured a moving celestial map comprising 500 gold stars which charted the skies over his home in Warren, Ohio.
Patek have been a little bit naughty over this pair, implying that they were competing and that their collection gems were the result of a rivalry of giants.
Perfect marketing, but completely made up in the early 90s by Alan Banbery, a former Patek director who was charged with whipping up some interest in the current Patek Complications range. The rumour also resurfaced in the late 90s ahead of an earlier auction for the Graves super complication.
There’s no evidence that they had ever met, or were aware of one another's collections.
So, now we’ve done how it works and how it holds a special place in this history of Patek’s watchmaking, we should probably discuss how it wears.
Beautifully, would be the immediate answer.
At 44mm its a big piece, but you really do need some extra dial real estate to be able to experience this complication, anything smaller wouldn’t do the skies justice.
The rest of its dimensions do calm it down though.
The short lugs keep things compact and have a steep downward curve which hug the wrist, and at a 10mm high this isnt a top heavy wobbler.
If you can comfortably wear a 42mm piece, then you’ll find this just as comfortable size-wise.
Standard 20mm between the lugs.
This is an unsurprising price on request piece from Patek, but on the open market you’re looking at around 3 quarters of a million unworn.
The celestial is quite rightly a big hitter with celebrity watch collectors.
Travis Scott is regularly seen wearing his 6104
Kevin Hart wears a 6102, same celestial without the ice.
Jay-Z and David Beckham have the platinum 6102
Surprisingly I haven’t seen it on Mark Wahlberg or John Meyer.
Interestingly, somebody somewhere owns the worlds only TITANIUM model, ref 5102T.
This was a specially commissioned piece requested by a titanium Patek collector (who also had an officers watch set with a 9+carat diamond in the back, so we know what kind of heavy hitter we’re talking here) which was sold at auction by Sotheby’s for $545,000 in 2014.
Heaven knows what it would sell for now.
Please enjoy that pun.