At Patek Philippe, chronographs are something considered with an almost clerical serious. From the extremely complex split-seconds or perpetual calendar versions – or even both – to the most simple variation, all of them are extremely desirable. One thing to note in the actual collection is a sort of back to basics, with cleaner and more elegant watches, slightly vintage inspired – something we’ve seen with the 5370 or the 5270. Launched in 2010, with a first evolution in 2013, followed by a stronger lifting in 2015, the 5170 undergoes this year its largest cure of youth, becoming the Patek Philippe 5170R Chronograph, with 2 new references in rose gold – and one older reference being discontinued. But don’t expect a revolution. As usual, the devil is in the details.
Ok, what we’re about to show you is not the novelty of the year – even for Patek Philippe, as this title goes to the 5930g World Time Chronograph. This is not even an entirely new watch, neither a huge revolution we’re talking about. However, for Patek Philippe lovers, this is somehow bigger than for the rest of us, because for the first time, the 5170, Patek’s vision of the simple – let’s say essential as the 5170 is not a simple watch – chronograph comes in rose gold and with small but welcomed evolutions. And even if you’re not this kind of Patek aficionados, you can always enjoy this watch, that we already demonstrated to be a super cool timepiece.
The already complex story of the Patek Philippe 5170 Chronograph (2010 – 2015)
Before going deeper in the new 2016 Patek Philippe 5170R, it is important to look at what is the Ref. 5170 Chronograph. This watch has evolved, has seen new references coming, some others being discontinued, but overall, whether you prefer the early editions or the latests, it has to be said, this watch has gained into maturity, in becoming “less“, by being cleaner. The story of the 5170 started in 2010, when Patek decided to replace an iconic watch, the Lemania-powered 5070 and its 42mm diameter. Patek chose to change everything; from the movement to the design and the size. Huge modifications were made. The 5170 introduced for the first time in a men’s watch Patek’s in-house, manual wind chronograph movement, the CH-29-535 (this movement was first introduced in 2009 in a ladies watch, the ref. 7071). Then, Patek decided to go small and vintage-oriented, with a diameter 39.4mm, a sort of back to basics after an attempt to follow the trend of large watches with the 42mm ref. 5070.
The Patek Philippe 5170 was first launched in 2010 with the J version, meaning a yellow gold case (J stands for “or Jaune“) with a white dial. It came with applied batons and Roman numerals (at 12 and 6, something classical for Patek Philippe chronographs, and already seen in several ref. 130 or 1463). The hands were batons too, made in yellow gold and the dial showed two scales: a 60-second and a pulsometer. In 2013 came the first evolution, with the 5170G-001, meaning the white gold version. It was all identical to the first edition, to the exception of the indexes, which were Breguet numerals. On a personal point of view, I always felt that this edition was a bit “too much”, somehow clustered, with the presence of two scales and 8 applied numerals on the dial. It lacked readability first, but mainly some elegance and discretion, something that has always been part of the DNA of Patek’s chronographs.
This changed in 2015, with the 5170G-010. And here I’m going to be clear (yet personal): this was, at that time, the perfect version – and the version that showed the most differences with the rest of the previous editions. While the white gold case remained identical, this 5170G-010 showed a black dial, with a brand new layout, much, much cleaner. First, the two-scale layout was replaced by a single scale, showing only a 60-second track. Then, the sub-dials were also reworked, with a simplified look, again cleaner and easier to read. All of that created a dial more opened, more legible and more elegant, where the Breguet numerals were finally visible and legitimate, by not being anymore surrounded by multiple inscriptions and tracks. This gain of elegance also comes from the new set of hands, replacing the traditional batons by elegant (but discreet) leafs. However, Baselworld 2016 came, with its bunch of novelties.
The 2016 Patek Philippe 5170R Chronograph, now in rose gold
After the yellow gold 5170J (now discontinued) and the white gold 5170G versions, it was time to have this chronograph in rose gold. Problem solved with the Patek Philippe 5170R Chronograph, both with a silvery opaline dial (5170R-001) and black dial (5170R-010). However, that’s not all. The heads at Patek not only add 2 new versions but they also remove one version from the catalogue, the white dial, white gold ref. 5170G-001. So what are the possible versions now?
- Patek Philippe 5170G-010 – white gold, black dial (though in limited production)
- Patek Philippe 5170R-010 – rose gold, black dial
- Patek Philippe 5170R-001 – rose gold, silvery white dial
The two new, 2016, editions of the Patek Philippe 5170R Chronograph
These two new references are based on the 2015 white gold / black dial version. Thus, the catalogue don’t comprise any versions with Pulsometer scale anymore. Clearly, the accent has been made on simplification of the design. We find back the simple and clean dial, with the 8 Breguet numerals and the leaf hands, both made out of rose gold, to match the material of the case. The inscriptions, still the same as the 5170G-010 (single outer scale, simplified tracks around the sub-dials) are printed in white on the black dial version and in black on the white dial edition.
As expected, the rose gold case brings a warmer look, which feels dressier and more formal than the actually quite sporty white gold version. This is even truer on the white dial version, which naturally feels very classical and elegant, just like a normal dress watch, with just the addition of the sub-dials. The black one, with its high contrast between the dial and the case, feels more “visible“. Nothing to complain about, it’s just a matter of tastes. On the wrist, the restrained diameter – just below 40mm – feels completely appropriate, elegant, with just the right presence and luxurious appeal.
One other small detail that has been updated in the Patek Philippe 5170R Chronograph are the hands related to the chronograph function – the central second hand and the 30-minute counter hand. While the central second hand has always showed a contrasting material, it’s now sandblasted, with a matte surface, and not brushed or blackened like in the previous versions. This also goes for the 30-minute counter hand. The main hands, as well as the small second hand, are all polished.
Turning the Patek Philippe 5170R Chronograph, behind the sapphire caseback, the superb CH 29-535 is still in place. This traditional, hand-wound, bi-compax chronograph movement was an important milestone for the brand, when introduced on the 5170J. indeed, it was the first men’s watch of the collection to feature this new movement (that also serves as a base for the 5204, the 5270 and the 5370). This is a modern movement (wheels with patented tooth profiles, self-adjusting hammers, a modern 4hz frequency, a variable inertia balance wheel and 65 hours of power reserve) and it is finished with great care (hand-chamfered and polished edges, Geneva stripes, circular graining, gold chatons, perfectly finished levers… attested by the Patek seal). One regret concerns the design and layout of this movement, which some collectors found less appealing than the Lemania-based calibre. However, even if it looses in terms of visual beauty, it gains in modernity and technicality.
Conclusion about the Patek Philippe 5170R Chronograph
Overall, this Patek Philippe 5170R Chronograph doesn’t break the codes. It was quite expectable to have a rose gold offer in the catalogue – and a platinum version will certainly come one day, and the collection will have gone full circle. However, what is more important is to see the move from a rather clustered, yet historically relevant dial, with the pulsometer scale, to versions with a less loaded face, something that in the end feels more mature, more essential, more elegant (at least to my tastes). With these 3 references, the 5170 feels like being adult – and clearly, what a sumptuous watch from Patek Philippe. Price: 73,560 Euros (inc. taxes). More details about the previous versions here.
Specifications of the Patek Philippe 5170R Chronograph
- Case: 39.4mm diameter – 18k rose gold – sapphire crystal on the front and on the back – 30m water resistant
- Movement: Calibre CH 29-535 PS, in-house with Patek Philippe Seal – manual winding – 65h power reserve – 28,800 vibrations/h – hours, minutes, small seconds, 30-minute chronograph
- Strap: black or brown alligator leather strap with 18k rose gold folding clasp
- Ref. 5170R-001 (white dial) – Ref. 5170R-010 (black dial)