Introduced in 1994, the Patek Philippe 5004 Perpetual Calendar Chronograph is an exceptionally complicated wristwatch. It is so complicated that Patek Philippe—arguably the best complicated watch manufacturer on earth—only managed to produce twelve models per year during the watch’s 17-year regular production run. Altogether, including a batch of 50 models in steel that celebrated the model’s end, and a singular titanium example for the Only Watch charity, there are less than 250 examples of the 5004. This complicated, beautiful timepiece is one of the most collectible modern Patek Philippe watches in existence, and even if you exclude its rarity it is an absolutely fantastic watch. This specific example is the Patek Philippe 5004G-013 in white gold.
Powered by the Lemania-based CHR 27-70 Q this manually wound perpetual calendar split-second chronograph has a 60-hour power reserve. The combination of a Perpetual Calendar with a moon phase and split-seconds chronograph into one watch is at the highest echelon of complicated watch movements.
If you’re unfamiliar, a split-seconds chronograph complication essentially gives you two stopwatches in one. Say, for example, you find yourself in the position to want to time segments of something like laps in a race; you trigger the chronograph, both hands will start in unison, and then you can isolate and pause one of the hands by pressing the pusher located in the crown. While you’ve paused one hand, the other continues, thus giving you a time for lap one while still continuing to time lap two. It’s intuitive and simple to use but difficult to build. Add to that a perpetual calendar and moon phase that tracks the date, day, month, moon phase, and leap years until the year 2100, and you start to understand why this is such watch is held in such high regard.
Visually this 5004 has a lot going on. Looking at it, it’s obvious this is a complicated instrument. The first thing that stands out is the crown, it would be large on its own, but with the pusher inside it, it’s downright massive. The chronograph pushers that flank it are dwarfed in comparison. The stepped architecture, prominent lugs, and large crown and pushers all give the impression of a huge watch in photos. But this timepiece only is only 37mm in diameter and 15mm thick. Slightly on the thicker side, but otherwise, it’s downright small by modern standards. The modest size and quirkiness of the crown make the watch approachable and fun. If not for those two design traits, this watch would be intimidating.
The silver dial is well balanced with clean, modern san serif Arabic numerals in white gold and small gold markers where the full digit would take up too much space. Patek does an excellent job elegantly fitting all the information on the dial. There’s no “chin” or half numerals to complain about here. The printed numerals on the outer railroad track and the subdials have a classic stylized look that I really dig—especially the funky 7’s. The hierarchy of design keeps the dial from being too busy and ensures the essential things—the time and chronograph—can be read instantly.
The 5004 is an example of what Patek Philippe does best. It’s an elegant, beautiful, insanely complicated timepiece, and it’s made all the more remarkable due to scarcity. This watch pushed the boundaries of one of the greatest watchmaking Maisons in the world to the point that they tapped out after making a little over 200 examples. That alone is enough to make this stunning white gold example the crown in any enthusiasts collection. Besides that, split-seconds chronographs are just fun as hell.