When you think of Patek Philippe, what do you picture? Is it perhaps the iconic Nautilus, or perhaps the classic Calatrava? If your mental picture stops just at those easily-named icons of the brand, you actually end up excluding the pieces that show Patek Philippe is a master of watch complications. Dive into their “Complications” or “Grand Complications” models, and you’ll find a cornucopia of mechanical wizardry. One such watch that deserves that lofty title is the Patek Philippe 6102R Celestial Sky Chart Grand Complication.
To understand where the Patek Philippe 6102R came from, you need to go back to 2002, when Patek launched the reference 5102. Compared to the 6102R, the 5102 was a simpler piece, with the time, moonphase, and astronomical display on the dial. If you go back another year earlier, you’ll find the 5002, which has a dial that looks much the same as the 6102R. When you flip the 5002 over, however, then you find that there’s another layer of complications going on (including a tourbillon). That, of course, is just the direct history of models that are closely identified with the complications that are found in the Patek Philippe Celestial Sky Chart Grand Complication. If you were to take the individual complications, you could drive even further back in time in the Patek catalog.
When you first look at the Patek Philippe 6102R, you could be forgiven for overlooking the handset that indicates the time. They can almost hide away amongst the stars that fill the dial. These are the stars you can actually see in the sky, provided you align your direction with the cardinal directions that are printed (on one of several sapphire crystals) on the top half of the dial.
As the hours wind by, those stars move across the dial, giving you a realistic representation of what is in the sky. There is also a moon that orbits around the dial, both moving around the dial as well as indicating the phase of the moon as the days go by. If that were not enough, the sky chart also has Sirius, the brightest star that can be seen in the night sky.
With all of the focus on tracking astronomical bodies on the dial, you could almost forget that this is indeed a watch that is meant to help track more mundane slices of time. You know, things like the hours and minutes of the day, and the day of the month, here indicated around the edge of the dial with a third hand.
To make all of this work, you would be right to think that the Patek Philippe 6102R has something very special hidden in its 44mm case. In this case, it is known as the Patek Philippe Cal. 240 LU CL C. The Caliber 240 actually was first introduced in 1977, coming in with a thickness that rivaled any flat manually-wound movement of the day. The intervening four decades has seen a lot of innovation, with the LU CL C first appearing in 2002 as we discussed earlier. In any other watch, the presence of a micro rotor would be the shining star of the package; here, it is almost mundane in comparison with what all this movement is enabling.
While the movement is a mechanical wonder in its own right, you have to include consideration of the artistry happening on the dial side when thinking of the inner workings of the watch. You see, this is just a simple printed dial we have here. To get this all working together properly, there is a sapphire crystal disc for the moon aperture, with another disc under that for the moon phase. Over the top of the moon crystal is another sapphire crystal that is decorated with the sky chart. Even with all those layers — on top of what the movement is doing – overall thickness of the watch is just 10.58mm. That single spec is a testament to all of the inner workings of the watch, and elevates the artistry of the piece all the more.
Versus The Competition
With all that is going on with the design and movement of the Patek Philippe 6102R, it would be tempting to say there really is no competition for what has been built here. The most obvious stopping off point would be the Patek Philippe 5002, which adds even more complications to the equation, despite being almost two decades older.
If you wanted to search outside of the Patek Philippe catalog, you certainly can, finding a number of watches that have very complicated movements, and some measure of celestial tracking (albeit not as detailed as the 6102R). One such example would be the A. Lange & Söhne Grand Lange 1 Moonphase “Lumen”. Here, the manually-wound movement drives the time (including a small seconds sundial) and panoramic date display, as well as the luminous moonphase display. All of this is set on a sapphire dial that also has a power reserve indication. Not as many layers of sapphire as the 6102R, and not nearly as many complications, but still stunning in its own way.
For us, the Patek Philippe 6102R Celestial Sky Chart Grand Complication is a very rare combination of elements. In one way, it is very much an artistic piece, with how the dial presents itself. To achieve that artistry, a necessary understanding of astronomy had to be involved, such that the various elements interacted in a manner that reflected reality. Finally, this all drives the mechanical elements of the watch, dictating what needs to be built into the movement, as well as the necessary connections to the dial to bring everything together. In this way, it is as if you had somehow managed to combine Da Vinci and Galileo, distilled all that they were able to create — in both the arts and the sciences — and landed it all onto the workbench of a master watchmaker. That is the type of rarity that we have in this watch, a wonderful amalgamation of both arts and science, mechanical know-how and dramatic flourish.
Much as a clear night sky — away from city lights — can stop you in your tracks, the Patek Philippe 6102R Celestial Sky Chart Grand Complication is a watch that would stop just about anyone in their tracks. It is a watch that has obtained lofty heights, and will no doubt inspire its owner to elevate their own understanding of how the watch does what it does, and what all the celestial elements are and their place in the starry sky. While we may dream of reaching the stars, this is a watch that captures it on the wrist, all while ensuring we do not lose our place in time.