Most watches, if you strip them down, tell you an hour and a minute. A Patek Philippe perpetual calendar watch, on the other hand, encourages you to stand back and be amazed.
We’re not talking about your average calendar watch, one that simply has the added function of providing you with the month and day. With those models, you still have to periodically pull out the crown and tell your watch if we’re in a 30-day or 31-day month. That’s all child’s play for the Patek Philippe 5140, which can figure out all that stuff on its own — and it won’t have to be reset until 2099.
“If you think about the end of a month, the moon phase is changing, the day, month, and time are changing,” says Brett Stein, store director at Leeds & Son Fine Jewelers in Palm Desert. “All of this is happening between 11:55 p.m. and midnight. There are no electronics in this watch; it’s all hand made. One of the reasons it has a 24-hour clock is that everything needs to sync with the moon phase.”
Now, you’d think a watch dial loaded with a bunch of analog displays could leave you cross-eyed. Yet, even though the 5140 has the month and leap year at 3 o’clock, date and moon phase at 6 o’clock, and a 24-hour indicator and day of the week at 9 o’clock, it’s still incredibly legible. What you don’t see is equally impressive. Every screw, every gasket, every gear in this watch has been hand polished. Stein tells a story about visiting the Patek Philippe factory in Geneva where he saw a woman who was polishing screws. “She had a bin of 50 or so that I thought were good and another with three that I assumed were the bad ones,” he says. “It was the opposite.”
But what really makes this watch so awe inspiring is that even with all its complications — and their incumbent gears, screws, and plates — this is the thinnest perpetual calendar watch Patek Philippe has ever made: 8.9 millimeters, or .35 inch. “Can you imagine putting together 275 parts in something that isn’t even half-an-inch thick?” Stein asks. “This particular watch took almost two years to manufacture. The dial itself took almost a year. You can’t help but fall in love immediately when you see it.”
For Stein, who’s been with Leeds & Son for 16 years, this is no sales pitch. He’s a true believer. “There’s nothing more gratifying in the morning than when you put on a suit and tie and then a fine watch,” he says. “It absolutely completes the outfit, and your self-esteem goes through the roof. There is always joy when I look at my Patek Philippe. It’s just the best.”