2021/2022 de Boulle Magazine

J.B. Champion's Ref. 2458 with commissioned dial with movement's rating certificate by Geneva Observatory

pany can learn a lot in nearly two de- cades of uninterrupted business. And, so it was known that increasing the cir- cumference of the balance wheel would deliver a notable improvement in rate accuracy. This is an incredibly difficult task for the designers, working to orga- nize all 164 parts of this engine within a tight space — now made even tighter by incorporating a second mainspring barrel — all while keeping a slender pro- file. The brilliant minds would go to the greatest lengths to meet all objectives, and in the end, win figurative gold. In- tegrating this new balance wheel allows for a greater moment of inertia and offers a more robust platform to withstand dai- ly turbulence encountered by the wear- er — a solution as pure as virgin snow, free of gimmicks, and one that remains easily accessible to watchmakers, for reg- ulation. Having two mainspring barrels means an added jump in power supply: a minimum of 65 hours — nearly three days. Its case measures in at 31 millime- ters, and of course the watch fulfills the desired maximum deviation of -3/+2 sec- onds in 24 hours. The result is improved rate stability and simple precision ad- justment of the movement. Once again, Patek Philippe harmoniously pairs aes- thetics with performance. Maybe now you can see how every move that Patek Philippe makes in ad- dressing accuracy reminds me of those prestigious observatory competitions. Although medals are no longer awarded, every owner should feel proud to know they are wearing a bit of this history on their wrist — and that one manufactur- er remains steadfast in its investment in prizewinning levels of precision, just for them. About the author Michael A. Fratangelo spent nearly 10 years at Patek Philippe in its training de- partment, educating and interacting with clients, collectors and sales associates. Contact de Boulle for more information on the Calatrava Clous de Paris Ref. 6119G (white gold) & 6119R (rose gold).

THE OLYMPICS OF ACCURACY First, let’s briefly visit a piece of neat his- tory. We’ll look back at the competitive era when Patek Philippe’s mastery stole the show — at a time when mechanical accuracy mattered. The development of mechanical move- ments to achieve adequate precision for marine navigation is a fascinating tale. The hero of the story is John Harrison, a self-educated English carpenter and clockmaker who created the first porta- ble clock sufficiently accurate for deter- mining longitude at sea. In fact, his de- vice kept time to within three seconds a day, which made it far more precise than even the best watches of the time. This was a crucial development in naviga- tion during the 18th century. This type of progress in watchmaking would pave the way for chronometer-accuracy com- petitions, wherein the very best examples from various makers would compete for awards — not unlike the Olympics — held across western Europe at astronom- ical observatories, where telescopes and auxiliary instruments observed celestial objects and astronomical and meteoro- logical phenomena. Marine chronometers and scientif- ic clocks worked only in one position compared to their civilian counterparts, which were mobile. By establishing these observatories, the accuracy of civilian watches — which were carried around in pockets and spent time lying flat on bedside tables — could officially be mea- sured. That’s because observatory testing would account for the multiple positions of these watches and the varying tem- peratures they would encounter daily. With the framework and parameters for evaluation established, the distin- guished watch houses jousted to prove their worth at world’s fairs and great ex- hibitions during the 19th century. Patek Philippe passed with flying colors. In 29 international exhibitions, it would earn 20 gold medals and one silver medal. (The other eight times, representatives from the company served on the jury, so the company didn’t compete.) These results made a significant impact, and

← The case of the Calatrava Ref. 6119 fits the larger manual wind 30-255 PS movement like a well-tailored suit

↑ The Gyromax balance and the hand finished artistry on full display through the case back of the 6119R

the triumphant times for Patek Philippe elevated its appreciation among cus- tomers. Furthermore, the prizewinning movements would be cased and sold — the resulting timepieces being high- ly sought-after by collectors of the day. Accompanying each one of these watch- es was an official rating certificate from the respective observatory. So influential were these competitions that they would become the greatest marketing tool in es- tablishing a reputation of performance. Even in the 21st century, with the great observatory competitions now in the distant past, these award-winning mech- anisms still compel bidders to pay mil- lions at auction for an individual watch. An astounding testament of this is Ref. 2458, originally owned by J.B. Champi- on, a lawyer from Texas. Produced in 1952, the Ref. 2458 is a time-only watch with a second-hand indicator displayed in a subdial at nine o’clock. Champion commissioned a special dial that would bear the movement’s rating certificate is-

sued by the prestigious Geneva Observa- tory, along with the words “Made espe- cially for J.B. Champion.” On November 12, 2012, it achieved a final hammer price of 3,779,000 Swiss francs (more than $4.1 million today), at an auction held by Christie’s in Geneva — a very impressive result for a non-complicated timepiece! THE WATCHMAKING SPELL In 1959, Patek Philippe ran a two-page ad in American magazines with specific messaging on precision. Its main pur- pose was to address the astronomical accuracy of each Patek Philippe model, while also highlighting observatories. It stated: “An electronic observatory-motivated time-recorder presides at the work table of every Patek Philippe watchmaker. He makes adjustments with mathemat- ical exactitude until there is an abso- lute minimum of variance between the watch in his hand and the arbiter of time on earth at Greenwich, England.”

It goes on to say: “Every Patek Philippe must maintain its Observatory precision not just for a reasonable length of time, but indefinite- ly.” Therefore, the challenge for Patek Philippe during the observatory com- petitions — and still to this day — was twofold: achieve a high rate of accuracy and maintain it. And the cornerstone on which Patek Philippe builds its cathedral of precision is the mighty Gyromax® balance. The balance assembly regulates the flow of time and is responsible for the precision of the watch. Therefore, it is the regulating organ of a mechanical move- ment. This faction is composed of a bal- ance and a balance spring that oscillates under the impulse of the escapement. Through a series of patents in 1949, and again in 1951, the Gyromax® was an in- vention that further revolutionized the entire watchmaking world and is used in all modern Patek Philippe wristwatches.

Its genius design allows for extreme ac- curacy and convenient regulation.

WINDING AWAY INTO THE FUTURE As the fourth-generation president of Patek Philippe, Thierry Stern enjoys his responsibility of pushing the limits of watchmaking, tirelessly working to narrow the performance gap between digital and mechanical means. For him, there is no gear, wheel or spring inside a movement that is exempt from being redesigned, if necessary. With the strict criteria of the Patek Philippe Seal lighting the way — it is called the watch industry’s strictest set of directives, covering design, manufac- ture and service — today’s team ushers in the latest evolution of the Gyromax® with the unveiling of the all-new Cali- ber 30-255 PS movement powering the new Calatrava Clous de Paris Ref. 6119. This heavyweight of regulation just got heavier. I guess it’s easy to assume that a com-

84 deBoulle.com

deBoulle.com 85

Made with FlippingBook - Online catalogs