Patek Philippe combines two of its outstanding patented complications for the first time in one watch: the Annual Calendar (that requires a manual correction only once a year) and the Travel Time system for the display of a second time zone. The outcome is a travel watch whose date display is synchronized with the respective local time. It simultaneously adjusts the date when the time zone is corrected. The new self-winding caliber 31-260 PS QA LU FUS 24H movement is endowed with eight patents. To package it in style, the manufacture created a totally new Calatrava case. Its flanks are guilloched with the inimitable hobnail pattern and its dial is framed in the vintage genre inspired by old photo cameras. The same unique design also graces the Ref. 5226G-001 Calatrava, a watch without an additional complication powered by the self-winding caliber 26-330 S C movement.
Time for useful complications
In 1996, Patek Philippe merged all of its Genevan ateliers in Plan-les-Ouates under one roof and attracted attention with the launch of it patented Annual Calendar. It is a full calendar with day/date/month that only has to be manually corrected once a year on March 1. To develop the system that automatically distinguishes between months with 30 and 31 days, the engineers designed an innovative mechanism based largely on wheels and pinions. Since then, the Annual Calendar has become a highlight among the manufacture’s complicated watches. Today, it comes in a broad selection of ladies’ and men’s wristwatches and is also available in several self-winding flyback chronograph model versions. In the Ref. 5033, Patek Philippe even combined the Annual Calendar with a minute repeater movement.
For the first time, Patek Philippe has extended its range of useful complications by combining the Annual Calendar and the Travel Time in one watch. The manufacture departed from the ultra-thin self-winding caliber 31-260 that had been launched in 2011 in the Ref. 5235 Annual Calendar Regulator (31-260 REG QA) and was then reworked in 2021 for the Ref. 5236 In-line Perpetual Calendar (31-260 PS QL). Among the optimized features introduced in 2021, the new caliber 31-260 PS QA LU FUS 24H movement retains the 20% gain in barrel torque, the increased winding power of the minirotor thanks to the use of platinum, the frequency of 4 Hz (28,800 semi-oscillations per hour), and a reduction wheel that uncouples automatic winding when the watch is manually wound, which reduces wear. Energy-wise, the performance of the new movement was further improved by a minute wheel suspended between bearing jewels to increase efficiency.
For the new Ref. 5326G-001, Patek Philippe redesigned the Travel Time function as well. While the basic principle with two hour hands from the center is retained (solid hand for local time, pierced hand for home time), the two common time zone pushers in the left-hand case flank were replaced with a winding-stem setting mechanism that has three positions. It premiered in 2021 with the Aquanaut Luce Travel Time (Ref. 5269/200R-001). The user merely needs to pull the crown to the middle position and then turn it clockwise or counterclockwise to adjust the local-time hour hand in one-hour increments in either direction without affecting the precise rate of the movement. Aesthetic reasons favored the decision for this discrete crown setting system: Patek Philippe wanted a sleek design in the Calatrava style to emphasize the special motif on the case flanks. Setting the time in the home-time zone is done in the classic manner with the crown in the outermost position. The caliber 31-260 PS QA LU FUS 24H movement has a stop-seconds mechanism that allows the time to be set with one-second accuracy. This function is only active while the crown is pulled to the outermost position. This prevents the movement from stopping when selecting a new time zone and preserves the rate accuracy of the movement.
Eight new patents for greater reliability and more user-friendliness
To optimize the efficiency, precision, durability, safety, and operating convenience of the caliber 31-260 PS QA LU FUS 24H movement, the engineers developed several innovations that resulted in eight patent applications. For instance, these technical refinements make it possible to reduce the energy consumption and wear of certain components, to switch from the 30th to the 1st and from the 1st to the 30th without desynchronizing the calendar when adjusting the time zone, to prevent shifts and double jumps of the displays or avoid damaging parts of the movement if the moon phase, the month, or the day of the week are corrected in a time frame during which this is explicitly inadvisable.
The sapphire-crystal case back reveals the architecture of the caliber 31-260 PS QA LU FUS 24H movement with the elegantly cut and gently curved bridges. It affords a better view of the wheels of the base movement and the exquisite manually executed finissage that reflects the strict directives of the Patek Philippe Seal.
Another unique facet of the Ref. 5326G-001 is its vintage-style dial. It is crafted entirely by Cadrans Flückiger in Saint-Imier, a dial specialist which has belonged to Patek Philippe since 2004. The dial is charcoal gray with a fine gradation to the periphery and has a slightly granular structure that is reminiscent of the cases of old photo cameras. It is an aspect that quickly associates with getaways, wanderlust and exploration.