Steel non-sports watches from Patek Philippe are always rare, and often fever dream fodder for collectors. Even if not a true sports watch like the Nautilus or Aquanaut, steel seemingly implies sporting intentions compared to precious metal alternatives. Patek Philippe even recognizes this, describing the 5935A World Time Chronograph as having “sporty vintage looks.” While maybe not as brutalist and bold as a salmon dialed Royal Oak Offshore, a steel salmon dialed complicated watch from Patek Philippe seems akin to putting a National Football League linebacker in a leotard; the combination of power and finesse may seem contradictory at first, but make for a potent combination when done correctly.
Plenty of attention has been given to Patek Philippe’s history of world time complications and chronographs, so instead, the focus here will be on its history of salmon dialed, white metal watches.
An interesting vintage example is the reference 1485 released in 1940. As an early attempt to make a water resistant watch, these watches were made in stainless steel, and one of the very few examples still out there was produced with a salmon dial. There are not many examples of the 1485 remaining, as this early water resistant technology was not particularly effective, often leading to damage, causing the few remaining existing examples to be refurbished and restored references rather than retaining their original dials/hands/etc. Still, this gives some merit to Patek Philippe for having made steel watches with salmon colored dials even in the mid-20th century.
In more recent history, there was the Patek Philippe Neptune. Famously made with salmon dials, this attempt at a sportier dress watch fell out of favor with collectors until more recently. With widespread attention focusing on integrated steel sports watches from famous manufactures, values have increased, making the Neptune less of a value proposition. Still, they are valued lower than the Nautilus or Aquanaut, and are an example of a steel, salmon-dialed timepiece from Patek Philippe.
On the more complicated and exceptional end, there is the Annual Calendar reference 5450P Advanced Research. Cased in platinum, this timepiece was meant to showcase Patek Philippe’s advancements in movement technology, including a Gyromax balance, a Silincar Spiromax balance spring, and silicon Pulsomax escape wheel.
While not definitive, there seems to be a trend of Patek Philippe pairing white metals with salmon dials when trying something new. The Patek Philippe 5935A World Time Chronograph seems to fit the bill as it is a non-traditional size, case metal, dial design, and combination of complications for the brand. Why not make it an even more bold statement by making the dial color a vibrant pink hue.
The 5935A is full of details that make this piece exciting to look at, complications aside.
The center of the salmon dial has a cross-hatched embossed pattern that Patek Philippe describes as a “carbon motif.” All of the hands and indices have luminescent material applied for improved legibility in darkness. The use of a white on black chronograph minute track further enhances its overall legibility. The 24 hour ring used to indicate the various time zones is black and brushed silver, with black indicated night time hours and silver indicated day time hours, allowing for ease of determining whether or not it is an appropriate time to call your overseas contact. The minute track matches the brushed silver section of the 24 hour indicator, and is graduated to measure 1/4 of a second. The chapter ring that indicates the global cities is a salmon color matching the dial, but is brushed in texture, matching the other brushed dial elements.
The stainless steel case measures 41mm in diameter, and 12.75 mm thick, which is a touch bigger than its 39.5mm platinum predecessor. That said, it’s also a whisper thinner than the platinum version, which is 12.86mm thick. The front, sides, and lugs are highly polished, with the welded lugs featuring a beveled edge that gives an architectural feeling to the design. The back of the case is brushed, with the outer ring of the threaded display caseback being polished for added contrast. The pushers also have a mix of finishing for that same reason; the sides of the rectangular pushers are brushed, and their faces are polished.
The strap is made of taupe grained calfskin with contrasting white hand-stitching, that compliments the salmon dial nicely. While not matching, the beige hue helps highlight the dial, and adds to the already more casual feel to the steel cased watch. Closing the strap is a high polished steel deployant buckle with the Patek Philippe Calatrava cross. The combination of the full deployant with the more casual non-exotic strap speaks to the sporting character of the watch, but still keeps up the level of luxury one expects from the brand.
The caliber CH 28-520 HU inside the Patek Philippe 5935A-001 World Time Chronograph made its debut in the 5930G in 2016. The movement measures 34.5mm in diameter 7.97mm thick, has 38 jewels, 343 parts, a power reserve range of 50 to 55 hours, and beats at 28,800 bph. The 21k center-mounted gold rotor is finished with Geneva striping, and perlage at the center — a detail that is often missed. While the rotor does cover a large part of the movement, moving the rotor around reveals a Patek Philippe seal finished movement, featuring a variety of Geneva striping, perlage, brushed finishes, and broader anglage that one expects from high end Patek Philippe movements. When taking into account that the movement finishing is done by hand, it makes the timepieces Patek Philippe produces even more remarkable.
The movement complications are controlled via the pushers on the case. The pusher at 10 o’clock is used to correct the world time functions. The pusher at 2 o’clock is to start and stop the 30 minute chronograph, with the 4 o’clock pusher utilized to reset the chronograph. If combining a world time and a chronograph was not enough, Patek Philippe also managed to fit in a flyback mechanism, allowing for resetting of the chronograph without stopping it.
Versus the Competition
From other high-end luxury watch brands, there are no other salmon dialed world time flyback chronographs. Even with world time chronographs, only higher volume brands offer a similar combination of complications. Depending on priorities, one could focus on the vibrant dial or the complications.
Focusing on the complications, the Girard Perregaux World Time WW.TC Chronograph used to be a flagship model for the brand. Larger at 43mm, and available in a variety of materials and strap/bracelet options, there should be a suitable fit for almost every collector willing to take the leap on one of these. These watches do have their own style and their own share of design quirks (like the date window position), but there is an opportunity for a value packed purchase here.
Another option is the Breitling Transocean Unitime Pilot Worldtimer Chrono. Larger still, at 46mm with fairly long lugs, the wrist required for this piece will have to be quite large. With the world time functions adjusted via the crown at 3 o’clock, it allows for a clean case design relative to other world time chronographs. Again, much more affordable than almost any Patek Philippe, but it’s also not in the same tier of high-end watchmaking as the 5935A.
If choosing to focus on the dial color alone, another value based option would be the Breitling Premier B25 Datora Salmon Dial. Offering a full calendar and 30 minute chronograph, the B25 Datora is an elegant and complicated piece in a wearable but modern 42mm size. The case, dial, and movement finishing are all very attractive, with sufficient level of detail to satisfy most watch enthusiasts.
If only the best of what watchmaking has to offer will do, Patek Philippe’s own 5172G could be a viable option. Even though it is in white gold and only a chronograph, it is similar in size to the 5935A, and offers the same level of high end case and movement finishing. If settling is not an option, the 5172G would make a great alternative.
The Patek Philippe 5935A World Time Chronograph is a peculiar watch for Patek Philippe. There is a rich tradition of both world time pieces and chronographs for the brand, but combining them in a modern sized steel case and with a contemporary dial design is very unique compared to Patek Philippe’s current and past catalog. Steel models outside of the Aquanaut and Nautilus have always been prized by collectors, with steel Calatravas and complicated models demanding prices much higher than its precious metal counterparts. Steel is much more modern of a material, and the blackened and lumed hands and markers make the watch more youthful. Because of this, two types of collectors come to mind: very well seasoned Patek Philippe collectors and young collectors new to the brand.
Seasoned Patek Philippe collectors likely need little explanation. If the model appeals to them, and if they are able to buy one (both from a financial and sourcing point of view), they will likely add one to the collection.
Newer collectors that would likely be interested in the 5935A will likely have a track record of purchasing watches in this price range, but maybe migrating from brands with more contemporary offerings. If large sports watches were once their main focus, the 5935A would make the drift towards more traditional watches and brands a little bit easier.
While steel can be difficult to discern from other precious white metals, it does manage to make a watch feel much more accessible, even if it is a piece of serious watchmaking. With a bold dial color, casual strap, and a contemporary dial design, the Patek Philippe 5935A World Time Chronograph manages to fit in in more casual situations when compared to its dressier precious metal counterparts. With steel comes a more affordable entry price, but Patek Philippe does not cut corners anywhere, meaning that more of the value of the watch comes from the watchmaking, making it a clear enthusiast favorite.