Patek-Philippe-5500P-Pagoda-1997-Commemorative-Piece

New & Noteworthy: The Patek Philippe 5500P Pagoda

Of the holy triumvirate of Swiss watchmaking, Patek Philippe is the most firmly entrenched in traditional watchmaking and watch design. (Perhaps it has to be that way when your entire marketing campaign is predicated on generational transferability.) The brand’s catalog mostly consists of round cases (and yes, I’m counting the Aquanaut and the Nautilus) with designs that exude class and evidence the brand’s nearly 200-year history. While the Geneva maison does have its outliers, in 1997 it drew inspiration from a Patek classic when it made the limited edition Patek Philippe 5500P Pagoda to celebrate its new manufactory.

Patek-Philippe-5500P-Pagoda-1997-Commemorative-Piece
Patek Philippe 5500P Pagoda

History

When Philippe Stern sought to consolidate the 12 workshops of Patek Philippe, at the time scattered throughout Geneva, he chose a tract in the sleepy suburb of Plan-les-Ouates. What is now populated by Rolex, Vacheron Constantin, Piaget, and others, was then a collection of fields dotted with the occasional commercial building. The move was no small undertaking and came at the perfect moment: the brand was on the cusp of explosive growth (six years after opening the new unified facility, Patek had to expand). To celebrate the momentous occasion, the dawning of a new era, Stern decided to create the brand’s first ever commemorative timepiece. Drawing on the incredibly rare Art Deco reference 2441 “Eiffel Tower, originally released in 1948, the Patek Philippe 5500 Pagoda was revealed: 2000 were made, but only 150 were made in platinum (like the one we’re looking at today). After the production run was complete, the molds were destroyed, ensuring the model’s stature and collectability.  

Patek-Philippe-5500P-Pagoda-1997-Commemorative-Piece
Patek Philippe 5500P Pagoda

Design Details

Like its 2441 forebear, the Pagoda features a striking Art Deco case, with flared lugs that are said to resemble the legs of the Eiffel Tower (hence the 2441’s nickname). The platinum case measures 29mm in diameter and 41mm long, defined by its massive arch that bows from lug to lug. The platinum is entirely polished and features a small crown at 3 o’clock with the Calatrava Cross embossed. Perhaps most incredible is the curved sapphire crystal, which matches the contour of the case perfectly; looking down at the Pagoda, there is almost no bezel, just dial and flared lugs (which on the reverse come to flat bottoms, forming a base of sorts). Rolling the watch over, the solid caseback is surprisingly declarative for a brand recognized for its restraint (though it does remind one of more recent caseback crystal text on a certain Tiffany 5711): emblazoned against the brushed platinum are the year, the model name, and a proclamation of the model’s commemorative character. The watch is attached to an alligator strap with a branded platinum tang buckle. 

Patek-Philippe-5500P-Pagoda-1997-Commemorative-Piece
Patek Philippe 5500P Pagoda

The dial of the Pagoda is absolutely beautiful. While I try to avoid hyperbole, these may be the best roman numerals I’ve ever seen on a watch. Cartier may be the king of the style, but Patek has done something special here with the sizing, spacing, and style. On a watch that let’s its case do almost all the talking, the hour markers are content to quietly make their own statement to those who will listen. The applied white gold markers are matched with feuille hands of the same material. Surrounding the dial is a rectangular minute track, which is replicated in the small seconds sundial at 6 o’clock. 

Patek-Philippe-5500P-Pagoda-1997-Commemorative-Piece
Patek Philippe 5500P Pagoda

Inner Workings

Hidden beneath the solid caseback is the manual wind Caliber 215 PS. It’s made of 130 components including 18 jewels and Patek’s patented free-sprung Gyromax, which is thermocompensated and adjusted in five positions. The movement beats at 28,800 vph and delivers 44 hours of power on a full wind. Though you won’t be able to admire it, the movement is rhodium plated with fausses côtes embellishment and anglage on the bridges—such is the commitment to the craft that even the concealed movements are decorated. 

Patek-Philippe-5500P-Pagoda-1997-Commemorative-Piece
Patek Philippe 5500P Pagoda
×

Join 65,000+ other watch enthusiasts

See weekly new arrivals

Versus the Competition

Let’s keep it in the family: Patek isn’t all bland round cases for your kid to inherit. The Patek Phlippe Gondolo features a very 90’s, high-polish tonneau case. Just like the Pagoda, this example is made of platinum and has a deep black dial, this one ornamented with diamond hour markers. Unfortunately, its elegance is undermined by the 3 o’clock date with a white wheel, and so it does fall a bit short against the Pagoda.

Patek-Philippe-5500P-Pagoda-1997-Commemorative-Piece
Patek Philippe 5500P Pagoda

A true contemporary that might well go toe-to-toe with the Pagoda is this A. Lange & Söhne Cabaret. Made just three years after the Pagoda, it’s platinum, has a similar case, and another deep black dial with a mix of roman numerals and diamond-shaped markers. Unlike the jarring 3 o’clock date of the Gondolo, the Cabaret features Lange’s signature split-window big date at 12 o’clock, a much more pleasant integration of the display. To add to the appeal, the Cabaret has a display caseback showing off the beautiful handwound caliber L931.3.

Patek-Philippe-5500P-Pagoda-1997-Commemorative-Piece
Patek Philippe 5500P Pagoda

Perhaps no brand is better known for elongated cases than Cartier, though. While the Baignoire Allongée fully captures this renown, the Cartier Tank Cintrée is no slouch. With a curved case that is less pronounced but more refined than the Pagoda, the Cintrée beautifully combines its red gold case with a black dial that exchanges Cartier’s hallmark roman numerals for a stylized 12 and 6 and baton hours. The watch does, however, feature the brand’s sword hands and iconic minute track. 

Patek-Philippe-5500P-Pagoda-1997-Commemorative-Piece
Patek Philippe 5500P Pagoda

Personality

Given how far outside the typical Patek aesthetic it falls, the Patek Philippe 5500 Pagoda is undoubtedly for the die hard Patek enthusiasts with a deep appreciation for not just the brand’s history, but it’s continued accomplishments. With a watch that overtly commemorates a seminal moment in Patek Philippe’s timeline, as the brand finally moved everything under one roof,  the Pagoda is for the Patek collector looking to crown their collection with a highly limited piece of the brand’s legacy.

Patek-Philippe-5500P-Pagoda-1997-Commemorative-Piece
Patek Philippe 5500P Pagoda

Final Thoughts

With a distinctive case that defies what most expect from the brand while simultaneously capturing a critical moment in the brand’s recent past, the Patek Philippe 5500 Pagoda represents a unique offering. It eschews the traditional aesthetics and the high complications that are so cherished by the brand, instead focusing on a historical piece to commemorate a historic moment.

See More of the Patek Philippe 5500P Pagoda

Visit Europeanwatch.com