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Introducing: Patek Philippe In-line Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5236P-001

Patek Philippe In-line Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5236P-001

There are just a few releases that we wait for each year with baited breath, the kinds of pieces that you know are going to be worth not just covering but making your laptop’s desktop wallpaper for the next 6 months. Ok so maybe that last is just me, but let’s be fair, who doesn’t get excited ahead of Patek Philippe’s latest grand complication

This year though, Patek might just have outdone themselves, not with some insane, flashy take on a tourbillon or more complications than a back-alley heart surgery, but with a genuinely novel take on one of the three true high complications. This is the Patek Philippe In-Line Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5236P.

First, the disclaimer that in-line calendars aren’t actually anything new for Patek Philippe, at least in the larger format of pocket watches. This specific layout takes its inspiration from the 1972 ref. 725/4, dubbed the Perpetual Calendar al Americain, a key piece in the Patek Philippe museum.

Patek Philippe In-line Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5236P-001

That shouldn’t come as too big a surprise; there are few watchmakers out there better at calendar complications. This is however the first time Patek Philippe has attempted an in-line calendar in the much more limited space of a wristwatch, downsizing the concept from a big, 46mm case to a diminutive 41.3mm.

Perpetual calendars often have the downside of being just a bit too busy. No matter how elegantly restrained the layout, the need to have multiple separate indicators means that dial space is at a premium. Here though, day, date and month all fit into one small aperture, front and centre at 12 o’clock.

The moon phase at 6 o’clock is the biggest feature, with its silver moon and stars – which doubles as the small seconds indicator with its rail track periphery. The round windows either side mark day or night (8 o’clock) and whether it’s a leap year or not (4 o’clock).Otherwise, the deep blue dial is left to its own devices, with faceted platinum indexes to match the case. It’s subtle, elegant and superbly finished, as you’d expect from arguably the most prestigious watchmaker around. Of course, while the fine details are lovely, it’s all about what’s going on inside.

Patek Philippe In-line Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5236P-001

The new piece is powered by the micro rotor-equipped 31-260 PS QL, which uses four separate discs to display the linear calendar. The day and first digit of the date make up two concentric discs, the second digit and the month the other. This allows the discs to run at different speeds while staying on the same plane and, thanks to some Patek ingenuity, without touching one another.

While that might sound relatively straightforward on paper, Patek developed a new display method made up of 118 parts to make it happen – and that’s just the start. There are three patents in the movement: the co-planar display with ball bearings; the self-blocking mechanism for the date disc units to prevent misalignment and, last but not least, a way to ensure that the 1 stays in place for two days when going from the 31st of one month to the 1st of the next.

Patek Philippe In-line Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5236P-001
Patek Philippe In-line Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5236P-001

The precision needed to get all of this together is phenomenal, but that last is the one that really sets it all off. It involves some wizardry with missing teeth in gears, but it’s worth it. It’s also worth noting that despite being far smaller than that original pocket watch, the in-line calendar aperture is far bigger and therefore more readable.

Altogether it means that despite the immense amount of work that’s gone into Patek’s latest Grand Complication, using it and reading it are as simple as could be. It’s one of the least flashy true grand complications out there, but if you know what you’re looking at this is something special – even by Patek Philippe standards.

Price & Specs:

Model: Patek Philippe Grand Complications In-line Perpetual Calendar
Ref: 5236P-001
Case/Dial: 41.3mm diameter x 11.07mm height x 5.8mm thickness, 950 platinum, blue, black-gradient, vertical satin finish, gold applied hour markers
Water Resistance:  30m (3 bar)
Movement: In-house Caliber 31-260 PS QL, automatic, in-line perpetual calendar with micro-rotor, 55 jewels, 503 parts, Patek Philippe seal
Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz)
Power Reserve: 38h – 48h
Functions: Day, date, month, leap year and day/night indication in apertures, small seconds, moonphases
Strap: Hand-stitched navy blue alligator leather with large square scales and fold-over clasp in 950 platinum
Price/Availability: £100,190 GBP

More details at Patek Philippe.

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About the author

Sam Kessler

Legend has it that Sam’s first word was ‘escapement’ and, while he might have started that legend himself, he’s been in the watch world long enough that it makes little difference. As the editor of Oracle Time, he’s our leading man for all things horological – even if he does love yellow dials to a worrying degree. Owns a Pogue; doesn’t own an Oyster Perpetual. Yet.