In recent years, we have seen an expanding sub-category of pieces within the Calatrava collection with strong influences from Pilot’s watches. Interestingly, in spite of the aviation inspiration, until now, these Calatravas never featured the quintessential pilot’s complication, the chronograph. That is, until the March 2023 release of the Patek 5924G-010.
The origins of the Patek pilot watches lie within the archives of the Patek Philippe museum. A variety of aviator-style pieces on display honor the brand’s relationship with aviation, and shed light on an under-appreciated segment of the brand’s repertoire.
In 2015, Patek Philippe began their homage to the pilot’s watches of old with the introduction of the reference 5524 Travel Time, and later the 7234 (modified sizing of the 5524). Since these inaugural pieces, Patek has also contributed a variety of limited edition and charity auction pieces within the same design language.
In 2019, Patek introduced the new reference 5520 including the travel time and a minute-repeater style timer complication. The 5520 firmly asserted that the pilot’s line was not merely a one reference game, instead, the aviation pieces would become a staple of the contemporary brand offerings. In March of 2023, Patek launched their most recent reference, 5924G-010 with travel time and chronograph.
The Patek Philippe reference 5924G-010 Pilot Travel Time Chronograph maintains the design language of the brand’s other pilot’s watches beautifully. The same gold applied numerals, protruding pushers, and hefty crown accompany the minute track to create an oversized tool watch aesthetic. The same handset and local/ travel time indicators are presented in their conventional forms. At first glance, the piece looks just like many of the other watches within the collection. This piece, however, features the chronograph, one of the more practical pilot’s complications, and what was a considerable gap within the Patek offerings prior to its addition.
At 6 o’clock Patek placed a 60 minute chrono register, with a date indication at 12. The classic Calatrava-style case features a stepped bezel and swooping lugs that help its 42mm hug the wrist comfortably for its size. The watch is a sizable 13.5mm in thickness, yet it doesn’t look overly chunky, since the entirety of the aesthetic plays upon the oversized substantial construction the piece is designed to have as a tool watch. The dial features a sunray graining texture, while the subsidiary dials are snailed for depth. The numerals are shaved slightly to accommodate the oversized registers. As a whole, the piece presents as a capable yet elegant design, one that is on the dressier end of sports pieces and one that features inspirations from an earlier era of Patek Philippe.
The Calatrava Pilot Travel Time Chronograph is powered by the caliber CH 28-520 C FUS. The impressive automatic winding movement combines significantly more complication than might meet the eye. A flyback chronograph mechanism with dual registers for chrono and date, plus the local and home time functions are included in addition to the typical time indications. It’s a 34 jewel movement with a power reserve of between 45 and 55 hours depending on the engagement of the chronograph (when the chrono is in use, the drain on the mainspring is increased, and thus the power reserve is drained quicker). The movement itself is a mere 7mm in thickness and comprises nearly 400 parts. As is the case with many of Patek’s automatic winding calibers, the CH 28-520 C FUS has a solid 21k gold central winding rotor.
Versus the Competition
The first alternative that comes to mind is the IWC Pilot series, the 41mm pilot chrono, in particular, which shares much of the underlying pilot watch DNA. IWC, like Patek, has a legacy within the pilot’s watch space, and is the natural choice when considering pieces of this kind. That said, the Patek provides more complications within similar sizing. The IWC Pilot does not have a travel time like the Patek, and IWC pilot watches are a bit more crudely finished (as is reflected in price)
Alongside IWC, Breguet’s Type XX French Military Chronograph is a classic example of the type of vintage pilot’s watch that both IWC and Patek pulled inspiration from. Originally issued to the French Air Force, this piece in good condition is a grail among military watch enthusiasts.
Finally, for an entirely different take on dual time watches, the classic Rolex GMT Master II is one of the most popular options on the market. The GMT Master II was originally released for Pan Am airways to help track both origin and destination times for pilots, and serves as a celebration of the expansion of American exploration in the dawn of the aviation era.
Any one of these options would make a great pilot’s piece, and each represents a slightly different take on the underlying functionality.
It is sometimes surprising to see that often the collector that buys a Calatrava Pilot is not your typical Patek collector. There will always be a wealth of watch nerds feasting over 5970s, 3940s, and other works of mechanical mastery that helped to solidify Patek’s market positioning as a high horology expert. At the same time, watches with a contemporary presence such as the 5924G-010 Pilot’s Travel Time Chronograph afford a different take on high horology.
With this different take comes a slightly different collector.
The 5294 may be more popular among an AP crowd, or collecting circles favoring a trendy take on classic design. The Patek 5924G-010 is directly founded upon a centuries old foundation laid by Patek, yet the watches feel current, especially when placed in the Calatrava collection, which is known for laser-thin dress watches in the 33-37mm case size range. The pilot range is a recent phenomenon within the collection, with the 6119 preserving the traditional styling that the Calatrava is known for.
There are groups of collectors specifically looking to assemble all of the Patek Pilot’s models, each with a different complication, yet all bound by the overarching design language of the original reference 5524 launched in 2015. Thus, while the Patek 5924G-010 is a unique and niche watch, it fits in the collections of a variety of enthusiasts, each vying for one of Patek’s modern hits.
The Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time Chronograph, reference 5924G-010, shows a new direction in Patek’s brand focus. While the brand may be known for traditional dress pieces at modest sizes, the Patek 5924G-010 and others help to illustrate the maison’s versatility through history while reiterating that a watch is at its core a tool. For a pilot, the most natural complications are travel and chronograph complications. For the first time in recent history, Patek has an offering that checks both boxes and does a whole lot more.