If you’ve been paying attention to the larger watch industry, and the trends thereof—and I am going to assume you have—you’ve likely noticed something: dress watches are becoming less and less popular. In every single segment of the watch market, brands are releasing more and more sports watches and less clean, formal timepieces. For brands like Rolex, Jaeger LeCoultre, and IWC, all with deep catalogs of sports watches, this hasn’t been a huge issue. For brands like Patek Philippe, with a lineup mostly consisting of precious metal dress pieces, this has meant new, sportier releases that diverge from the brand’s path. One such offering is the new Patek Philippe Calatrava 5226G, a watch that belies the elegance of most Pateks.
Patek Philippe is a brand that positions itself as the arbiter of traditional watchmaking. Of 142 watches currently offered, just 27 are steel (or have steel), and most of those are in the Aquanaut or Nautilus lines. Over the past several years (or maybe even decades) though, the world has become more casual. Casual Friday has little meaning because everyone dresses down, all the time. Millionaires wear hoodies, not three-piece suits. People have pairs of “nice jeans.” If that weren’t enough, a two-year (and running) pandemic canceled every instance where a dress watch would be appropriate or necessary: the office, a nice restaurant, a gala, the opera.
With a gradual cultural shift capped off by a sudden cessation of occasion, the world simply didn’t need dress watches anymore. The result for Patek Philippe has been a stream of more laid back designs, less steeped in tradition and more focused on enticing a new generation of customers who want modern, sporty watches: the Pilot and Travel Time watches especially, but also the 5320 and 5172, with their applied numerals and syringe hands, and modern cases. In 2022, Patek released two models that seemed to reassert its commitment to creating sportier offerings for a new customer: the 5326 Travel Time with annual calendar, and the matching three-hander 5226G with date. While the 5326 may have more of the complications for which Patek Philippe is known, the Patek Philippe 5226G demonstrates the brand’s desire to present a simple, casual offering.
The Patek Philippe Calatrava 5226G is an entirely new watch, from the case to the dial to the movement. The 18k white gold case is an exceptionally wearable 40mm with a height of just 8.53mm. While 40mm seems average when considering current trends, the 5226G is the largest Calatrava model currently available and among the largest uncomplicated models offered by Patek Philippe; for Patek, this is a large watch and its size is the first of many concessions to modernity made by the 5226G. Immediately, though, we encounter further shifts. The most obvious is the guilloche Clous de Paris hobnailing around the caseband. Less overt is the angularity of the case. Patek makes soft, round watches—this is even true with its prior sports offerings, the Aquanaut and the Nautilus. The 5226G, on the other hand, is all facets and sharp edges. The lugs—attached to the caseback to allow the hobnail motif to go uninterrupted—jut out from the case’s profile, with bold facets that meet at a sharp edge. The sapphire crystal is modern and flat, the bezel is a simple sloped instead of the rounded style typical of the brand. The only thing reminiscent of Patek’s other Calatrava models are the 3 o’clock pull-out crown and the fact that the entire case is polished. The sapphire crystal caseback snaps on, creating smoothness even on the reverse of the watch, and offering 30m of water resistance. The watch is strapped to the wrist on a decidedly informal textured calfskin and fabric strap with a signed white gold tang buckle.
The dial of the 5226G is a complete left turn for Patek. While the brand has certainly explored elaborate dials, like the enamels of the 5231 and 5531 or the arabesque of the 5738 and the 5088, those pieces are demonstrations of fine craftsmanship. The 5226G is comparatively simple, with a textured charcoal gray with a black minutes/seconds ring with 5-minute indications—this is not a demonstration of anything other than the brand’s acquiescence to current market trends. At 3 o’clock, a date window is in line with the arc of the numerals and features a small beveled edge; the black date wheel features beige text, but lacks the texture of the dial and could be seen as slightly disruptive. Applied white gold Arabic numerals are filled with beige luminous material, which also fills the polished syringe hands; the central sweep second hand is completely coated in the same luminous paint.
The Patek Philippe Calatrava 5226G is powered by automatic Caliber 26-330 S C, originally introduced in 2019 and having replaced the Caliber 324 in the 5711. The movement is made of 214 components, including 30 jewels, a Gyromax balance, a Spiromax balance spring, and an anti-shock system. The watch beats at 28,800 vph and has a power reserve of up to 45 hours. The rotor is 21k gold with striping and the Patek logo. The movement is rhodium-plated with Côtes de Genève decoration and a gold Patek Philippe seal, which guarantees deviation no greater than -3/+2 seconds per day.
Versus the Competition
As the times changed, another brand that seemed to find itself in need of a modern watch was German A. Lange & Söhne. After almost 175 years of not even a whiff of anything but the most formal watches, in 2019 the brand released a steel integrated-bracelet sports watch, the A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus. Without falling victim to the allure of the Genta design language that seems to define most other luxury steel sports watches, Lange managed to create a watch that is entirely true to its brand identity and is unquestionably a Lange timepiece.
While H. Moser & Cie. has always had a bit of fun, the Moser Pioneer collection was a shift from more classically designed cases to sportier models with increased water resistance. The two-tone rose gold and DLC titanium gives the watch an edginess that the 5226G lacks, as does the rubber strap. The Pioneer collection served as a stepping stone towards the brand’s more recent and more modern Streamliner collection.
While I’d argue it’s more divergent than the 5226G and less indicative of the brand’s abilities, the Patek Philippe 5522 Pilot Calatrava is another example of the maison’s push towards less traditional, more casual designs. Frankly, this model may be the dullest watch Patek has made in a good while, but it’s still a Patek, so here we are.
I’m imagining some Italian loafers, “nice jeans,” a crisp white shirt, and a perfectly tailored blazer. Things that are of the finest craft but still lean decidedly casual. That’s what this watch is: style, class, and grace without the stuffiness. It is for exactly whom Patek Philippe intends: a younger, hipper audience that at once values heritage, craftsmanship, and modern design.
If the Patek Philippe 5226G and the other recent sporty releases are a sign of things to come at the brand, I’m here for it. There’s a lot to like with the dial texture, markers, and angular case. If nothing else, it’s exciting to see a brand so deeply entrenched in its own heritage finally push out of those confines and start incorporating some fresh ideas and responding to what’s happening in the larger watch world.