Gold Dust: the elusive Patek Philippe Ref. 5004A Split-Seconds Perpetual Calendar Chronograph – in steel!
A watch at the apex of an eminent manufacturer, the Patek Philippe 5004A Split-Seconds Perpetual Calendar Chronograph is as eclectic as it is miraculous
Sometimes one has to divert from the usual path, and this is what I am doing today: the ‘Gold Dust’ series usually deals with watches which comes with all the horological bells and whistles but are not really in the focus of the majority of collectors. For this edition its exactly the opposite, and the three keywords ‘Patek Philippe’, ‘Rattrapante’ and ‘steel case’ should suffice as hints for something special:
It is the Patek Philippe Ref 5004 which I am talking about – a holy grail for many, combining the manufacture’s highly sought-after split-second chronograph with a perpetual calendar, moon phases, as well as 24-hour and leap year indication. All this displayed on arguably one of the most classically beautiful dials ever created by Patek Philippe – but here in a rare (for the brand) combination with a stainless steel case:
The Ref. 5004A (‘A’ for ‘acier’ = steel) was created as the final swan song to a legendary era of Patek Philippe chronographs, and was offered exclusively through Patek Philippe’s Geneva Salon.
The watch is externally very close to its platinum sibling housed in the same gorgeous (but for some a bit thick, hence also called ‘the Hamburger’) 36mm case with the single discernible difference being the baton indices, in contrast to the Arabic ones of the ‘prestigious’ production version. Those indices are in a mesmerising dark grey finish, giving the watch a very subtle but strikingly attractive (to me) modern touch, amidst all this wonderfully classical ensemble.
The hands are equally fantastic with a magical dark grey, semi frosted finish which is said to change a bit over time. It ‘grows’ on you and with, if you like…
Then comes the 5004’s case, small at 36mm but substantial from the sides, created at an era when Patek Philippe would combine them with solidly dimensioned crowns and pushers, such as to emphasise the already marvellous haptics of their chronographs. Just note these details…
The movement, Cal. CHR 27-70, is not only marvellous to admire, it is also based on Patek’s most venerable chronograph base movement, the Cal. CH 27 born originally as a Lemania 2310. A hand wound chronograph of most traditional construction, revered by collectors, and here finished and assembled by the eminent specialists in the complications department – this makes a difference if you look closely (read also our article “The pinnacle of (fine) watchmaking: Patek Philippe”!).
It is not only the aesthetics which are remarkable. One would assume that a brand with Patek Philippe’s ample experience with complicated watches, most notably chronographs of many flavours and perpetual calendars, creating a rattrapante would be straightforward tasks. However, is is not, and this is a fine testament to the thoroughness and the technical ethics a haute horlogerie manufacturer prides itself: In fact, in a personal quest of then president Philippe Stern to ‘get it right’ the 5004 pushed the technicians and watchmakers in Geneva to their limits: