The Patek Philippe Calatrava 5520P Pilot Alarm Travel Time

Peak Jetset: The Patek Philippe Calatrava 5520P Pilot Alarm Travel Time

If someone were to say “Patek Grand Complication”, what would be the first reference to come to mind? For many, the answer would be 5970, 3940, 3970, or 1518. These watches constitute the pinnacle of the industry, and arguably the best representation of the Patek Philippe brand ethos. Nonetheless, in the 21st century, Patek Philippe is introducing to the Grand Complications a new aesthetic, new approach, and new audience. The Patek Philippe Calatrava 5520P Pilot Alarm Travel Time is a fantastic representation of the contemporary extension of this legendary collection. 

Patek Philippe Calatrava 5520P Pilot Alarm Travel Time
Patek Philippe Calatrava 5520P Pilot Alarm Travel Time

History

In watchmaking history, Louis Cottier is regarded as one of the most significant figures in the industry of the 1900s. His designs and mechanical developments led to his creation of over 400 movements. At the start of the 1900s, advancements in transportation were for the first time facilitating easy travel across the continents and in turn, time zones. With this increased interest in global exploration and expedition, demand for multi-time zone timepieces began to grow. In 1931, Louis Cottier invented a world time complication capable of displaying all 24 time zones on a single dial. Patek Philippe adopted Cottier’s design in the creation of its very first world time complication in the late 1930s. 

Patek Philippe Calatrava 5520P Pilot Alarm Travel Time
Patek Philippe Calatrava 5520P Pilot Alarm Travel Time

Once again, in the 1950s, Patek enlisted Cottier’s brilliance in the release of an exceptionally rare reference that incorporated a pusher that allowed easy adjustment of the hour hand. Essentially, after depressing this pusher, the hour hand would jump exactly 1 hour ahead, without altering, or interfering with, the minutes or seconds. This jumping hand movement became the inspiration for the creation of Patek’s first Travel Time timepiece. The earliest references to experiment with Cottier’s design were the reference 2597, which used only one hour hand, and later, the updated 2597 Travel Time which featured dual hour hands— one hand to indicate local time, and the second to be the home time. 

Patek Philippe Calatrava 5520P Pilot Alarm Travel Time
Patek Philippe Calatrava 5520P Pilot Alarm Travel Time

In the following years, Patek continued to release more travel time watches including the references 5034, 5134, 5164, and 5990. The 5990 was one of the earlier pieces that Patek used to combine the practicality of the travel time with a chronograph. The 5524 is arguably the closest blood relative to the 5520P. The 5524 artfully incorporates the travel time complication into the pilot watch design of the timepiece. The 5520P, the piece we are discussing today, is a wonderful example of the fusion of the travel time complication, inspired by the original blueprint of Louis Cottier, an alarm, and a pointer date. At its core, however, the Grand Complication 5520P serves as the confluence of the years of historical refinement of the travel time complication harboring back to the 1930s era of Patek Philippe. 

Patek Philippe Calatrava 5520P Pilot Alarm Travel Time
Patek Philippe Calatrava 5520P Pilot Alarm Travel Time

Design Details

The Grand Complication Patek Philippe Calatrava 5520P Pilot Alarm Travel Time is clearly inspired by the aesthetics of the previous Patek pilot’s watch models, with bold white gold hour numbers filled with slightly off-white luminous material. The four pushers protrude off from the main case, and extend quite far from the 2, 4, 8 and 10 hour markers. Local and home time AM/PM indicators at 9 and 3 o’clock surround the pointer date display at 6. The alarm time and indicator are at 12, balancing the heavy lower half of the dial. To further accentuate the aviation-inspired aesthetics, Patek has chosen to place a railway minute track around the perimeter of the dial. 

Patek Philippe Calatrava 5520P Pilot Alarm Travel Time
Patek Philippe Calatrava 5520P Pilot Alarm Travel Time
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Patek refers to the 5520P as a Calatrava, although this piece more likely calls to mind the modern Calatrava pieces released from the brand, namely the 5526, 5524 and 5522, as opposed to the thin gold dress watches of old. The classic references 3923 and 5196, replaced by the larger 39mm 6119, are now accompanied by sportier models such as the 5224. This transition toward larger case sizes and more substantial tool watch construction speaks to the general shift of the market towards a “business casual” timepiece over the wafer thin classical watches of the previous century. 

Patek Philippe Calatrava 5520P Pilot Alarm Travel Time
Patek Philippe Calatrava 5520P Pilot Alarm Travel Time

If these aesthetics are for you, then the Patek Philippe 5520 will be a fantastic option. At 42mm in platinum, it certainly has presence on the wrist, yet the case shape and finishing would allow this watch to be worn in dressier environments without being out of place. This chameleon quality affords a versatility that is  appealing for a variety of environments. 

Patek Philippe Calatrava 5520P Pilot Alarm Travel Time
Patek Philippe Calatrava 5520P Pilot Alarm Travel Time

Inner Workings

The 5520P is powered by the caliber AL 30-660 S C FUS. As with most timepieces in the Grand Complications collection, the 5520p’s caseback is entirely filled by the impressive caliber, since the movement was developed especially for this timepiece. As you continue up the totem pole of Patek pieces, the movements become more specialized and often are used only on one or two references. With its various complications, the AL 30-660 S C FUS is composed of no less than 574 separate parts. The central rotor, fashioned from yellow gold, winds the mainspring, while one of the pushers winds the chiming alarm governor (more on this later). The alarm mechanism on the 5520P utilizes a standard minute repeater gong striking system. This produces a crisp, clear, and euphonious sound that is typically not found on mechanical alarm watches.

Patek Philippe Calatrava 5520P Pilot Alarm Travel Time
Patek Philippe Calatrava 5520P Pilot Alarm Travel Time

The functions of the movement are all controlled from the four pushers protruding from the case. The upper and lower left pushers control the travel time hour hand, with a locking feature that prevents the time from being adjusted if a pusher gets depressed inadvertently. On the right side of the movement, the upper pusher controls the on/off function of the alarm mechanism. The lower pusher serves as the primary crown for the watch, with three separate setting positions. Wound clockwise, this pusher will wind the alarm mechanism; wound counter clockwise, the mainspring is wound. In the intermediate position, the time of the alarm can be set in 15 minute increments. In its outermost position, the crown controls the setting of the standard time of the timepiece’s two time zones. By moving this crown, both the local and home times move in tandem to adjust to the new time.

Patek Philippe Calatrava 5520P Pilot Alarm Travel Time
Patek Philippe Calatrava 5520P Pilot Alarm Travel Time

The movement’s layout contributes to an easy and logical setting of the various complications. Thus, although this timepiece has many separate complications, it does not take long to learn how to adjust each setting independently, leading to a valuably simple user experience. The AL 30-660 S C FUS features 52 hours of power reserve, which is especially impressive with the chiming mechanism that saps much of the power reserve of the mainspring. Additionally, when setting the time, the watch features hacking seconds. In spite of the array of complications, the 5520 is accurate to +2/-3 seconds per day and is adjusted for chronometric precision in 6 positions. 

Patek Philippe Calatrava 5520P Pilot Alarm Travel Time
Patek Philippe Calatrava 5520P Pilot Alarm Travel Time

Versus the Competition

The most natural alternative to the Patek 5520P Alarm Travel Time would arguably be the Blancpain Leman Alarm GMT. Although the pieces are very different in appearance and design, the underlying complications are very similar. Notably, the Blancpain has an alarm mechanism, as well as a GMT function that will facilitate timekeeping in more than one time zone. The aura of the Blancpain is more tactical, fashioned from titanium with a gunmetal blasted finish. Next to the Blancpain, the 5520P is noble, refined, and surprisingly classically styled. 

Patek Philippe Calatrava 5520P Pilot Alarm Travel Time
Patek Philippe Calatrava 5520P Pilot Alarm Travel Time

Girard Perregaux has also made many vintage references with alarm functionality that should be strongly considered for more affordable alternatives. 

Perhaps the most well known alarm watches are made by Jaeger LeCoultre. The JLC Deep Sea couples the alarm complication with a dive watch format, making for a robust alternative to the 5520P. Finally, within Patek’s own repertoire, there are many dual time timepieces to be considered. As highlighted above, in contemporary times, the most well regarded travel time pieces would be the 5990, 5164 and 5524. If you are less concerned with the alarm mechanism, but appreciate the contemporary interpretation of the Calatrava line with its aviation inspired aesthetics, 5224 is the most logical choice. The 5990 brings the travel time technology to the Nautilus collection, and the 5164 represents the Aquanaut’s offering. Regardless, if you are searching for alternatives that provide either similar aesthetics, or similar complications, there is a diverse array of options that will satisfy both your aesthetic and technical proclivities.

Patek Philippe Calatrava 5520P Pilot Alarm Travel Time
Patek Philippe Calatrava 5520P Pilot Alarm Travel Time

Personality

The collector that will gravitate towards the Patek Philippe Calatrava 5520P Pilot Alarm Travel Time is likely a big traveler, whether for business or casually. The versatility of the travel time complication makes for easy recognition of time differences between different markets and companies. Additionally, the alarm mechanism on this Grand Complication will attract many collectors who want the chiming complication of a minute repeater with its gongs and strikers, but converted into alarm functionality. This piece is likely not a one piece collection, and will comfortably sit next to other heavy-hitter timepieces in a 7 figure+ assemblage. 

Patek Philippe Calatrava 5520P Pilot Alarm Travel Time
Patek Philippe Calatrava 5520P Pilot Alarm Travel Time

There is an entire class of collectors (class in every definition of the word), that seeks to collect Grand Complications from Patek Philippe. There is no other collection in the industry that is as ubiquitously venerated, and scarcely produced. This combination of elements joined by the exceptional craftsmanship necessary to create any of these pieces, makes for a compelling choice for high end collectors. 

Patek Philippe Calatrava 5520P Pilot Alarm Travel Time
Patek Philippe Calatrava 5520P Pilot Alarm Travel Time

Final Thoughts

The Patek Philippe Grand Complications Collection comprises a diverse variety of highly ornate and sophisticated timepieces. Hailed as some of the most prestigious and desirable pieces in the industry, the Grand Complications are arguably unparalleled in reputation, admiration, and legend. The Patek 5520P provides a wonderful representation of Patek’s modern execution of the Grand Complications. Inspired by the pilot watch aesthetics of the Calatrava Pilot collection, the 5520P packs an incredible number of complications into a single, well finished, 42mm case.

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