Minute repeater, tourbillon, perpetual calendar: the complications contained within the Patek Philippe reference 5316 provide a welcome refresher on combining functions across the watchmaking spectrum, and what true fine finishing means in the traditional sense, in an era when the watch world has become increasingly enamoured with ever outlandish complications and overt movement aesthetics.
The origins of the reference and the movement contained within it tell an interesting story of the history of Patek Philippe over the last three decades. The calibre R TO 27 PS QR (R for répétition, TO for tourbillon, PS for petite seconde, and QR for quantième rétrograde) made its debut in 1993 within the reference 5016, which, at the time, was the most complicated watch offered by Patek Philippe. It would remain so until the arrival of the reference 5002 Sky Moon Tourbillon in 2001, and would eventually be superseded by the reference 5216 in 2011. During its 18 year production run, the reference 5016 would be presented in a whole host of precious metals, and would even make a brief reappearance in 2015 as a pièce unique for Only Watch, executed in stainless steel with a blue enamel dial. It would sell for 7.3 million Swiss francs, firmly placing it among the most expensive watches ever sold at auction.
Where the 5016 would house the multi-complication calibre within a compact 36.8 mm case that featured a number of design elements, such as stepped lugs, that echoed references including the 2497 and 2499 born in the 1950s, its successor would take a different path. With its more modern diameter of 39.5mm, combined with an aesthetic encompassing lugs that flow into the case and faceted baton hour markers, taking inspiration from the great Calatrava models such as the reference 96 and 570, it felt like a very different watch. But looking at the dial, the similarities were apparent, thanks to its distinctive three windows for the day, leap year and month indications, and of course the unusual retrograde calendar indicator that Patek Philippe debuted on a serially produced watch with the 5016, and its sibling, the reference 5050, way back in 1993.
The 5216 would see a significantly shorter production run than its predecessor, lasting six years before being discontinued in 2017, at which time it ranked as the fifth most complicated watch in the standard production catalogue, behind the references 5207, 5208, 6002 Sky Moon Tourbillon, and 6300 Grandmaster Chime. Fortunately for the most distinguished Patek Philippe collectors, it would be immediately replaced by the reference 5316, that would combine the best of the two previous iterations.
Utilising the earlier case style of the 5016, with its pronounced stepped lugs, but increasing the diameter to 40.2mm, it not only made the watch more wearable for larger wrists, but would also give more interior volume for the repeater gongs to resonate. Initially offered exclusively in platinum, the 5316 was fitted with a contrasting black enamel dial, mounted with faceted baton hour markers carried over from the reference 5216 (and distinctively different from the 5016, where nearly all watches featured Breguet numerals).
One of the great pleasures for owners of references such as the 5316 which contain the R TO 27 PS QR calibre is taking it off the wrist and admiring the movement. Until very recently, this was the only way to view a Patek Philippe tourbillon in action (with the arrival of the reference 5303 and its transparent dial), a welcome glimpse into a masterclass in classical Geneva finishing. Its elegant radial striping, contrasting perlage to the baseplate, anglage to the edge of the bridges, and judicious use of black polishing throughout, it is a feast for the eyes. Its most pronounced feature is the gold third wheel, with its stylised arms which are carefully pierced out of the metal, that beautifully matches the tone and technicalities of the Calatrava cross that covers the governor for the repeater. All of this comes together to showcase the virtues of Patek Philippe, particularly their renown for the sonic quality of their chiming watches.
The fascination of this combination of complications for Patek Philippe for collectors is not just the horological tour de force that they represent, but their ability to cement one’s place as a truly distinguished connoisseur of watchmaking, who can forgo open-worked dials, celestial maps, and extravagant case decoration for a relatively inconspicuous dial format, a repeater slide to the side of the case, and a tourbillon spinning away inside.