Movement in Focus

From our special watch innovation report in issue 30, Alex Doak examines six beautifully exposed case backs

Calibre: 240

Watchmaker: Patek Philippe

Year of origin: 1977

Vital statistics: 161 parts; 48-hour self-wound power; 3Hz balance oscillation

Housing: Calatrava 4997/200G-001

Created when electronic quartz technology was slimming down wristwatches to diaphanous extents, Patek Philippe’s micro-mechanical engineers proved it could be done with moving parts too, ‘embedding’ the self-winding gold rotor into the height of the base movement where it would normally spin on top. So perfect, the calibre geometry has barely changed since.

Calibre: 7121

Watchmaker: Audemars Piguet

Year of origin: 2022

Vital statistics: 268 parts; 55-hour self-wound power; 4Hz balance oscillation

Housing: Royal Oak ‘Jumbo’ Extra-Thin 50th Anniversary

For the first time in 50 years, since AP’s iconic steel sports watch took the Riviera jet set by storm with its octagonal boldness, the mechanics inside – traditionally based on Jaeger-LeCoultre’s 2120 of 1967 – have been upgraded for this golden anniversary with the all-new, in-house 7121. Its energy reserves are up, among many things, charged by a rotor stencilled out all too appropriately.

Calibre: BVL 318

Watchmaker: Bulgari

Year of origin: 2019

Vital statistics: 433 parts; 55-hour self-wound power; 4Hz balance oscillation

Housing: Octo Finissimo Chronograph

Intricate ‘integration’ of the stopwatch mechanism into the already-wafer-thin base movement, along with a platinum weight rotating about its circumference, Bulgari scored its fifth slimmest-ever record in 2019, cementing Octo as so much more than a sculptural design classic.

Calibre: DUW 2002

Watchmaker: Nomos Glashütte

Year of origin: 2013

Vital statistics: 84-hour manually wound power; 3Hz balance oscillation

Housing: Lux Zikade

Since reviving interest in East Germany’s former Mecca of watchmaking, the village of Glashütte, Nomos has spent the last 30 years building a Bauhaus-designed horological tribe, with concomitant Bauhaus accessibility. Just occasionally though, its watchmakers like to dabble in the higher end, celebrating their indigenous Saxon traditions in the process: three-quarter baseplate (with glorious sunray polish), engraved balance cock and blued steel screws.

Calibre: 9R31

Watchmaker: Grand Seiko

Year of origin: 2019

Vital statistics: 72-hour manually wound power; 32,768Hz quartz-crystal oscillation

Housing: Spring Drive Omiwatari

A concept doggedly pursued from 1977 by Seiko’s ambitious young engineer Yoshikazu Akahane: an ‘everlasting’ watch powered by a traditional mainspring, yet delivering the one-second-a-day quartz precision that had made the Japanese giant’s name, with hands gliding smoothly via an electronic brake system. A mere 28 years and 600 prototypes later, Spring Drive was born.

Calibre: 3200

Watchmaker: Vacheron Constantin

Year of origin: 2015

Vital statistics: 292 parts; 65-hour manually wound power; 2.5Hz balance oscillation

Housing: Traditionnelle Tourbillon Chronograph

The apogee of modern haute horlogerie, steeped in brand heritage stretching back an unbroken 260-plus years, yet benefitting from all of today’s computer-facilitated CAD design and CNC machining. Note the 360-degrees-per-minute tourbillon, or ‘whirlwind’ cage, shaped as a Maltese cross, the emblem of Geneva’s oldest maison.

Photography Leandro Farina at East Photographic

Set design Alice Whittick

Production assistant Hermione Russell at artProduction

This article is taken from Port issue 30. To continue reading, buy the issue or subscribe here

Look While you Leap

This year has been good for owners of perpetual calendars, especially Patek Philippe perpetual calendars

At midnight on February 28th, those in possession of horology’s cleverest party trick experienced a satisfaction felt just once every four years: the muted ‘kerchunk’ of a sickle-shaped lever, lying just behind their watch’s dial, as it dropped into a uniquely gauged notch of a gnarly wheel. A wheel that completes a single 360-degree rotation in every leap-year cycle, guaranteeing your date display can show 29, as well as 28, 30 or 31 on the last day of the month.

It’s the processor at the heart of every quantième perpétuel (perpetual calendar, QP) – an analogue computer whose 150-odd micro-mechanical components manage to make head and tail of Pope Gregory XIII’s calendar. It was introduced as an awkward yet, crucially, accurate compromise between carving the year into 12 chunks of 28-day moon cycles (getting priests to stick their finger in the air and compensate along the way), and actually adhering to our ultimate calendar – i.e. the stars.

Thanks to the observable celestial calendar’s unwavering behaviour, perpetual calendars in chart-form long preceded those in horological form – by some 1,000 years. Deciphering solar time takes sophisticated mechanics, while the night sky is full of straightforward calendrical information. After all, early man may have had little or no need for the time of day, but his chances of survival as a hunter or farmer were definitely improved if he had a calendar – especially in higher latitudes, where the seasons have greater sway.

Like so many other innovations, it fell to 18th-century-London’s Thomas Mudge to take into account leap years, with his ornately crafted QP clocks. You can still pay your respects to his tour de force of 1764 with a pilgrimage to the British Museum’s clocks and watches gallery.

What about the the compact watch, though? In any conversation about QPs, Geneva’s favourite son, Patek Philippe, comes up first, thanks to its feverishly collectible lineage of greats. And indeed it was the first with watches overall – an 1864 women’s pendant to be precise, whose enduring system of ‘feeling’ the length of all 48 months went into the world’s first-ever perpetual wristwatch, in 1925.

By 1941, Patek Philippe’s ref. 1526 was the first serially produced wristwatch featuring a QP, serving as direct ancestor to the ivory-lacquered beauty you see here: the ref. 5327R-001 in rose gold (£69,450). As pure an incarnation of a classical QP as you’ll ever find, with a moon-phase indication into the bargain too. (Just to remind you of what made it all so difficult in the first place…)

Photography William Bunce

Creative direction and styling Paulina Piipponen

This article is taken from issue 26. To buy the issue or subscribe, click here

The Seal’s the Deal

The normal hallmarks of haute horlogerie just aren’t good enough for Patek Philippe – it has its own standards of hand-craftsmanship

When Patek Philippe launched its ‘Patek Philippe Seal’ – its own in-house standard mark – in 2009, the universal reaction to this renewed vow of precision and quality was little more than a slow, sage nod. After all, weren’t Patek and Philippe already bywords – the last words, even – for Swiss watchmaking at its finest? Auction record after smashed auction record, and escalating demand in the face of global recession, both seemed to indicate as much.

While neighbouring manufactures, such as Roger Dubuis and Vacheron Constantin, do well by the stringent guidelines set out by the ‘Poinçon de Genève’ – not to mention the many brands who fine-tune their movements to chronometer standard precision (still only three per cent of Swiss production) – Patek, typically, consider both hallmarks far too lenient, taking it upon themselves to set the horological bar even higher.

Turning things up to the proverbial 11, every Patek Philippe watch meets an ever-more demanding set of rules governing variance in precision, the painstaking hand-polish of its mechanical components’ edges, the angle of said polish, how the chamfering itself is executed, the decoration of surfaces, the use of precious metals…