Watch collecting as a hobby is likely the most popular it’s ever been, and few categories are as hyped up as Patek Philippe stainless steel sport watches. Specifically, the Nautilus and Aquanaut. However, the extreme popularity of these steel sport watches is a relatively recent occurrence. The timepieces that made Patek Philippe the juggernaut it is today are their complicated ones. The watch we have here combines the versatility and durability of a stainless steel watch on a bracelet with Patek Philippe’s complicated horological know-how. This is the Patek Philippe 5960/1A with a black dial, and it might be the best stainless steel Patek Philippe model on the market.
The Patek Philippe 5960/1A is the culmination of Patek’s long history of creating innovative complicated movements. Released in 2006, the watch combines the annual calendar complication—which Patek invented in 1996—with an in-house automatic flyback chronograph. It was the first Patek Philippe to combine these two complications, and It was also the first-ever automatic chronograph movement Patek Philippe made in-house. This watch is a reminder that despite Patek’s over 100 years of watchmaking, they still have many recent milestone achievements. The 5960 also stood out with its distinctly sporty and modern design, which looked unlike a lot of Patek’s other complicated watches. This sportier look, along with its automatic movement, garnered it a lot of acclaim as an excellent daily wearer.
Fast forward to 2014, and Patek would further lean into the daily wearer versatility of the model by introducing a steel version on a steel bracelet. By this point in time, the steel sports watch market had started to heat up, and this introduction of such a complicated model in such a sporty, durable package served as a bit of a bridge for younger Patek collectors to move from the Nautilus into other more horologically interesting areas of the brand. In 2017 Patek introduced the watch you see here in steel but now with a black dial. However, both steel on steel variants were discontinued in 2018, meaning this specific reference was only produced for one year. Along with the numerous desirable mechanical and design traits, this timepiece’s scarcity makes it one of the more collectible modern era Patek Philippe’s.
Despite it never being marketed as such, this watch gives off strong race watch vibes. The matte black dial combined with the silver brushed outer tracks and the polished faceted day, date, and month apertures give off a bit of a checkered flag vibe, and the bright red chronograph hands just scream, “I wanna go fast!” Even the numerals that denote minutes and hours in the monocounter at six o’clock remind me of 1940’s era speedometers. That said, while its modern, sporty look stands out when compared to Patek’s other complicated models, it’s not a loud or overly casual timepiece.
Both the case and bracelet are highly polished, balancing out the sportiness of the dial. Additionally, the steel bracelet has five petite links, giving it a more formal look than a brushed three-link bracelet. The case is a little bit on the larger side, measuring 40.5mmx13.5mm, but it has elegant flowing lines and a concaved bezel, both of which help ergonomically and visually reduce the size. The lugs are thin and have a nice curve to them, allowing for a wide range of wrist sizes to wear this watch comfortably. Overall the watch is very visually balanced and would pair great with formal or casual wear. However, it should be noted that while its material and style are sporty, this watch only has 30m water resistance, so while it’s up to most daily rigors, swimming is not one of them.
Inside, the 5960 beats the in-house caliber CH 28-520 IRM QA 24H. In case the long name didn’t give it away, this is on seriously feature-packed movement. This is an automatic annual calendar with a flyback chronograph and power reserve display. This combination of complications is another reason why this is such a practical watch to wear daily. At a glance, you can see the day, date, month, and an am/pm indicator and elapsed time with seconds at center and minutes and hours in the subdial at six. With this many helpful features, this 5960 is rivaling an Apple watch.
Along with the bevy of useful complications, you also get excellent finishing. The rhodium-plated movement bears the Patek Philippe seal of quality and has 40 jewels, gorgeous Côtes de Genève finishing, and a 21k yellow gold rotor. Additionally, the movement is equipped with Patek’s advanced Gyromax balance and free-sprung Breguet balance spring, both of which increase the movement’s durability and accuracy.
Versus The Competition
In my opinion, the biggest competition for this black dial steel on steel Patek Philippe 5960/1A is its white dial sibling. This watch has so much going for it in terms of history and functionality that if you have the itch for it, not much else will scratch it. The white dial variant was produced much longer than the black dial variant but still had a relatively short production run—4 years—and I think it has a more polarizing look-no pun intended-but it’s otherwise the same exact watch. It’s also important to note that the white dial version is almost $50k cheaper, with the black dial version coming in at $119,500. If you’re on the fence about the dial color and don’t and don’t mind having the more common version, this white dial variant is a no-brainer at $66,500.
However, if you’re simply in the market for a high-end calendar chronograph watch, then this A. Lange & Söhne Datograph perpetual calendar is worth a look. This is an 18k rose gold manual wound perpetual calendar chronograph. The perpetual calendar gets the edge because you only have to set the date once a lifetime instead of once a year, and because this is a manually wound movement, it’s visually much more intricate and, in my opinion, better looking. However, that also means you’re winding it frequently due to its 36-hour power reserve. That, combined with the flashy rose gold case, make it less versatile than the 5960/1A. But like the white dial 5960 it does undercut the black dial 5960 on price at $89,900.
Interestingly despite this watch being originally made to appeal to younger collectors, I think it’s now most appealing to the OG Patek fans. It has all the hallmarks of what Patek does best and cuts through all the Nautilus mania. This watch is for the collectors who are baffled by a standard Nautilus selling for $400k and are content to put their money towards more rare and interesting steel watches.
On paper, this watch reads like it was designed in a lab to be the ultimate collectors watch. It’s rare, versatile, classy, and complicated. If you’re going to spend over $100k on stainless steel watch, make it this one, you won’t regret it.