The perpetual calendar complication has been around since the 1700s and is one of the oldest and most complex watch complications. Because of this, it is often put into watches that look equally as old as the complication itself. But not all perpetual calendars have to look so dated. This is Patek Philippe’s take on what a truly modern perpetual calendar should look like. This is the brand new Patek Philippe 5236P in-line perpetual calendar.
Patek Philippe did not invent the perpetual calendar, but they may have perfected it. The brand patented the complication in a pocket watch in 1889, and in 1925 they were the first watchmaker to put the complication into a wristwatch when they built one on commission for Thomas Emery. It’s a complication that Patek has become famously good at making, and because of this, perpetual calendars from Patek are especially collectible.
The 5236P we have here is an entirely new model for the brand, but despite that, it still pulls a lot of inspiration from past references. Its in-line format that helps give the watch its modern look can actually be traced all the way back to the P-1450 pocket watch, which was introduced in 1972. Additionally, the 5236P’s case design is reminiscent of Patek’s first serially produced perpetual calendar, the highly coveted reference 3448. The 5236P was introduced earlier this year, and it represents a new direction for the perpetual calendar complication at Patek Philippe. One that’s focused on the future without forgetting the past.
The 5236P is not your grandfather’s perpetual calendar. It’s a modern, technical-looking watch that separates itself from the more traditional timepieces in Patek’s lineup. The stand-out detail is, without a doubt, the in-line calendar display. Just under twelve, you have the day, date, and month all neatly in a row. This in-line format removes the need for the multiple subdials often found on perpetual calendars, and it’s a huge reason why this watch looks so modern. On the rest of the dial, you have an AM/PM indicator in a circular window next to eight o’clock and a leap year indicator on the opposite side with the running seconds and moonphase in between. Everything is laid out in a simple and clean manner, making this one of the most intuitive perpetual calendars on the market.
The case is 41mm of glistening platinum, and it’s directly inspired by the reference 3448 with its flat angled bezel and sharply angled triangular lugs with a flat polished caseband. There are virtually no rounded edges anywhere on the case. This sharp technical aesthetic continues to the dial, where you’ll find a beautiful blue fume gradient that’s vertically brushed along with sharp baton hour markers and hands. The only sort of decoration or flourish is on the counterweight of the second’s hand, the moonphase display, and the old-fashioned serif numerals in the railroad tracks.
All of these little touches help give the watch character without ruining the theme. However, while this look is new to the perpetual calendar line, this is actually the second Patek Phillippe calendar watch to employ this sharp modern aesthetic, the first being the 5235 Annual Calendar Regulator. I think expanding this look to more complicated watches is a good move that will likely draw new watch enthusiasts to the brand’s complicated timepieces.
Inside beats the brand new caliber 31-260 PS QL. It is an exceptionally complicated automatic micro-rotor perpetual calendar movement. It is so complicated in fact that it contains an additional 118 components when compared to a conventional perpetual calendar. This caliber is based on the 31-260 REG QA, which is used in the 5235 annual calendar—the two watches have a lot in common. But that’s not to say this movement is behind the times; it has a ton of cutting-edge technology in it.
The caliber 31-260 PS is the subject of three separate patents. The first patent is for its double ball bearing and coplanar balls system, which reduces the amount of energy lost through friction. The second is an anti-shock system for the disks of the in-line calendar to ensure that there are no false movements of the day, date, and month disks, and the third is for a 31 point star that assists with switching the 31st to the 1st when the tens digit switches and the ones digit stays in place. Additionally, it has a power reserve of 38-48 hours, is wound with a platinum micro-rotor, and is, of course, finished to Patek’s stringently high standards and has the Patek Philippe seal to prove it.
Versus The Competition
The first brand I compare any Patek Philippe to is always A. Lange & Söhne, and this watch is no different. If you’re in the market for a platinum perpetual calendar that can go toe to toe with the 5236P, this Datograph Perpetual Calendar Chronograph ref. 410.025 might be it. It has a traditional but refined monotone design allowing it to straddle the line between classic and contemporary, and is powered by an excellently finished hand-wound in-house caliber. It also has the distinct advantage of having a chronograph complication on top of the perpetual calendar, but because of the traditional look and added complexity, it’s not nearly as intuitive to read.
If the simple design is a key trait for you, then this F.P. Journe Octa Quantieme Perpetual Calendar in platinum is worth a look. While not in-line like the Patek, the Journe perpetual calendar is arguably easier to read with its digital display and lack of moonphase. Aesthetically it’s not really modern or traditional; it’s a Journe with its own unique look all to itself, and it’s powered by Journe’s automatic in-house caliber, which has an astonishing 120-hour power reserve. The decision between the two here really comes down to whether or not you want to go with big-box Patek or indie Journe.
This 5236P is the latest and greatest iteration of a historically desirable watch line, making it the perfect watch for the collector who’s perpetually saying ” just one more.” This collector has probably been waiting for this watch since the press release hit and has already sold off some of their precious collection to make room. Lucky for them, here it is.
Patek Philippe has one of the most legendary archives of watches in the world. Their vintage references constantly set and break records at auction, and current models like the Nautilus couldn’t be more popular. However, despite having produced so many iconic timepieces, I think this 5236 shows us that Patek Philippe’s best days are still ahead of it.