The Patek Philippe Calatrava is the quintessential dress watch and arguably the brand’s flagship timepiece. In fact, it’s such an important watch that it was named after Patek Philippe’s logo, a Calatrava cross. It is the ruler by which all formal timepieces are measured. Because of this legendary status, updating the Calatrava is no easy task. The watch needs to stay modern and keep up with the times while also—as Patek Philippe puts it—continuing “to be one of the most beautiful manifestations of timeless elegance.” With this latest iteration, the 2021 Patek Philippe Calatrava 6119R has done just that.
In 1932 Patek Philippe was struggling financially as the world was in the thick of the great depression. In an effort to get the Maison back on track, Jean and Charles Henri Stern, who had just recently taken over the helm at Patek, introduced a simple and elegant wristwatch that had mass appeal while also embodying Patek Philippe’s values. This watch was the Patek Philippe Calatrava reference 96. It was the first Patek Phillipe wristwatch to get a reference number, and it would go on to forever change the dress watch genre while becoming one of the brand’s most famous timepieces.
This Patek Philippe Calatrava 6119R which was released earlier this year carries that legacy and burden, but it appears to be up to the task. It possesses a state-of-the-art movement, while its design pays tribute to Calatrava’s that came before it. Models that served as inspiration for the 6119R include the original reference 96, as well as the reference 3520, which introduced the hobnail or “Clous De Paris” finished bezel to the Calatrava line. This latest iteration Calatrava pushes the product line into the future while respectfully acknowledging the past.
This reference 6119R is a modern watch with vintage details that allow it to transcend trends effortlessly. Measuring 39mm in diameter, the rose gold case has a classic round design with lugs that flow seamlessly into the case shape, which is reminiscent of the original Calatrava reference 96. Its curved lugs and 8.43mm thickness give it an ergonomic and elegant stance. The matte silver dial contrasts beautifully against the sharp rose gold indices and hands, allowing you to key in on little details that help pull the whole design together. Small touches like the applied rose gold dots in the railroad track and the rose gold inlay surrounding the subdial add a subtle touch of glamour that fits the overall ethos of the timepiece.
However, the stand-out feature is, without a doubt, the “Clous De Paris” hobnail finished bezel. This is a feature that debuted with the reference 3250 and has since become a staple in the Calatrava line, and to be honest, I’ve never liked it on any other reference but this one. Earlier references that have this ornate hand-finished bezel usually also have a round case with straight lugs, and I’ve never been a fan. However, the 6119R combines the hobnail finish with the reference 96-esque case and lug shape, and all of a sudden, I love it. It turns out it’s not the “Clous de Paris” finishing I don’t like.
On the back of the watch, we have a relatively large sapphire display caseback. This is because, along with the increase in case size, this watch has been outfitted with a larger movement specifically to better fill the case. It’s a beautiful caliber, and the decision to increase the size makes it visually more appealing and technically superior.
The caliber 30-255 PS is a brand new movement built specifically for this new Calatrava reference. It’s over 9mm larger in diameter than the 215 PS used in the 5196 Calatrava line and, with this added size, brings a whole host of modern features. On top of having a power reserve of 65-hours, the manually wound caliber is accurate to within -3/+2 seconds per day, has a Gyromax balance, Spiromax balance spring, the Patek Philippe seal, and —maybe most important for the accuracy nerds—hacking seconds functionality. It’s a big, bold, and beautiful new movement that’s as pretty to look at as it is reliable and accurate.
Versus the Competition
While the Calatrava is the king of luxury dress watches, heavy lies the crown. This is an extremely competitive segment, and the Patek Philippe name comes at a premium. This new 6119R has an MSRP of $29,570 and a second-hand price of about $10,000 more than that. The first alternative I thought of is the A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange reference 232.032. The Richard Lange is a beautiful rose gold dress watch with an in-house movement and a current market value of $23,900. It’s distinctly more old-fashioned, and its 38-hour power reserve isn’t ideal, but its finishing is second to none, and some might consider it the connoisseur’s choice.
Another challenger lies within the watchmaking Holy Trinity and is one of the Calatrava’s oldest competitors, the Vacheron Constantin Patrimony. This Patrimony Traditionelle Auto is a stunning 38mm rose gold dress watch with some practical touches. Along with the date, this Patrimony has an automatic in-house movement and a price tag of just $17,500. Among the options here, this may be the best candidate for a daily wearer. However, if you’re a stickler for dress codes, you know a true dress watch shouldn’t have the date, and this might be a deal-breaker for you.
Finally, Cartier. The brand is responsible for creating some of the most original and gorgeous dress watches of all time, including this limited edition Tank Basculante in 18k yellow gold. This unique square dress watch was released in 1999 as a celebratory watch to ring in the new millennium. Its design has stood the test of time, and this particular reference is limited to just 365 examples. At $31,500, this unique and rare Tank Basculante is a serious alternative to the new 6119R.
One of the great things about the Calatrava has always been its mass appeal. It’s part of why the watch was created in the first place, and this new generation of Calatrava is no different. This reference 6119R could hold its own in a vast museum-worthy collection of timepieces or could just as easily serve as a formal daily wearer in a two-watch collection. Its timeless design and legacy make it a timepiece that effortlessly complements a wide variety of styles, collections, and situations.
Improving on an icon is never easy, but somehow with this 6119R, Patek Philippe did just that. Not only did they make a great addition to the Calatrava line, but they may have just made the best Calatrava since the reference 96.