The new Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time (ref. 5524) automatic wrist watch was first unveiled around two weeks ago during Baselworld 2015 show. Combining in the same package a ‘historic’ dial layout of a 1930s pilot’s watch with a meticulously sculpted white gold body and an in-house self-winding movement that makes one drown in his own saliva, this is one of the most notable timekeepers presented at the trade fair.
According to the official specs, the wristwatch is powered by what they call Caliber 324 S C FUS automatic movement (we have already seen it animating their GMT-enabled Aquanaut 5146 model). This is in fact the good old Caliber 324 S C that also powers other members of the collection (like, for example, this compact Calatrava 5227 three-hander with date), but features a second time zone module riding atop of it.
The complication that allows adjusting time in a “home” zone without affecting isochronicity of the base movement was designed by Patek Philippe back in 1959 and was perfected in 1996. This particular iteration of the technology features a second hour hand that looks almost like the standard one, but is open-worked. It also shows home time in the usual 12-hour format, which is, for most people, a lot more comfortable than the 24-hour military scale that we often see on less expensive models that are powered by different sorts of ETA movements.
To make using the complication more comfortable, the Cal. 324 SC FUS also features two day/night indicators at both halves of the dial that are in fact just a couple of disks with light and dark parts representing days and nights (I guess here I am being a Captain Obvious).
Designed in the style of a pilot’s watch, the timepiece predictably features a very clean, easy to grasp at a single glance layout. The Arabic numerals are bold and, given the amount of lume on them, must be bright in darkness. The minute hand has a thin tip on that is long enough it to precisely indicate time on the finely printed minute, yet short enough to look very well-proportioned to the hand itself.
Perhaps, the only problem here is the circular calendar display that is not that easy to read, after all. However, this is a very common problem for this sort of smallish indicators. It sort of comes with the territory.
I have seen a number of comments that, quite condescendingly, compare this new Calatrava Pilot Travel Time to the last year’s Zenith Pilot Montre d’Aeronef Type 20 GMT 1903 (Ref. 96.2431.693/ 21.C740) limited edition watch. To compare these two timekeepers is like comparing a Mercedes-Benz S-Class Guard with a Humvee on the ground that both vehicles have four wheels, an internal combustion engine and, of course, both are armored. That is just not correct.
The only thing that reminds me of the aforementioned Zenith model is the overall styling of the dial with those vintage-styled hands and Arabic numerals that are covered with varnished Superluminova. That’s basically all.
However, if you look closely, you will immediately notice a lot of visual differences. The first of all, while the Montre d’Aeronef was made deliberately rugged with its worn-look leather strap and colored lume that looks like it was applied sixty years ago, the Calatrava Pilot was clearly designed primarily as a pilot-style dress watch.
While the Zenith model needs you to wear something like a vintage bomber jacket, the Patek Philippe with its delicately styled case, refined winding crown and pushers, as well as with its exquisitely decorated movement requires an expensive suit that costs more that an Omega Speedmaster.
The second is, of course, the physical dimensions. Compared to the 48 mm DLC-treated titanium body of Zenith, the 42 mm Pilot Travel Time is very subtle. Yes, it is bigger than your normal dressy three-hander, but is still very compact. Its lugs are deliberately short for the timepiece to occupy less space on a wrist, and all of its parts, down to the most miniscule once like the thickness of the calfskin leather strap are designed for the device to look as refined as possible.
Also, soon to be offered at an impressive price of almost $48,000, this new member of the Calatrava family is more than five times as expensive as the Zenith. They just play in different leagues and not because titanium is more affordable than gold.
In other words, seriously comparing the two models, as well as calling one of them a rip-off is just pure rubbish.
The only thing that put me off a bit at the time of writing this small review, was the official water resistance meter of just 30 meters, but then I remembered that this was just a dress watch that (quite successfully) tried to look like a real aviator’s tool and my serenity returned.
Photos: Patek Philippe
WWR preliminary verdict
Build quality: 5/5
Value for money: 5/5
Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time (Ref. 5524) watch specification
Price: Approx. $48,000
Movement: Automatic, Caliber 324 S C FUS, in-house, Gyromax balance, Spiromax Silinvar antimagnetic silicon balance spring, 294 parts, Swiss Made
Number of jewels: 29
Movement frequency: 28,800 vph
Power reserve: 35 – 45 hours
Movement decoration: “Cotes de Geneve” pattern on 18-carat gold oscillating weight and bridges, beveled bridges, polished screw heads
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, ‘local’ and ‘home’ time zone (GMT), date
Case material: 18-carat white gold
Bezel material: Matches case
Crown material: Matches case
Case shape: Round
Bezel shape: Round
Case size: 42.00 mm
Case height: No data
Lug width: No data
Dial: Anthracite, sunray
Numerals: Arabic, luminous (varnished Superluminova)
Hour markers: White railway track
Hands: Blued, luminous; Open-worked ‘home’ hand
Water resistance: 30 meters
Strap: Brown calfskin leather strap with contrast stitching, 18-carat white gold buckle
Crystal: Sapphire, antireflective on both sides, box
Case back: Sapphire