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Patek Philippe Calatrava

James Suckling
From the Print Edition:
Antonio Banderas, Nov/Dec 2005

It's hard to think of another watchmaker with a finer pedigree for craftsmanship than the Geneva-based Patek Philippe. With an annual production of about 30,000 watches, the company manufactures nearly all of the movements for its watches as well as the majority of their other components, and boasts a long and varied history for watch design and innovation. Patek sells about 6,000 timepieces each year in the U.S. market, and men's watches account for the lion's share (60 percent) of the sales.

This is why the release of some new models under its Calatrava design attracted a large amount of attention at this year's international watch show in Basel, Switzerland. The elegantly chic timepiece was first launched by Patek in 1932, but this year's rendition takes it firmly into the twenty-first century. Or, as some of Patek's representatives said at the show: "What is old becomes new again."

The Reference 5296 is clearly the best of the new Calatravas, with a timeless, contemporary look that the company says is influenced by its famous Calatrava Reference 96 from the 1930s. It shows an Art Deco sort of simplicity and look, yet its straightforward graphics and subtle two-tone white and gray face with blue-pattern time indicators give it an extremely modern touch. Its minimalist look makes it beautiful for formal use as well as casual, from black-tie to jeans and T-shirt.

The watch measures 38 millimeters in diameter (slightly larger than past Calatravas) and comes in a white-gold case with a blue alligator strap. It's a slim and easygoing watch, with a sapphire-crystal case back that reveals its self-winding mechanism (caliber 324). It has a sweeping hand for the seconds, indicates the date and is water resistant to about 80 feet. It sells for $17,400.

Patek said in Basel that it wants its "watches kept and passed on. We don't want something trendy. It has to be classic in style, which is a testament to the consistency in our customer." The Calatrava 5296 should illustrate these points nicely.

Visit www.patek.com.

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