At the London event Patek Philippe hosted at the end of October, I was able to see the latest interpretation of the Twenty~4 in person and get a feel for what this new watch is all about. Much has changed from the original rectangular Twenty~4 collection, in fact, the only element that has survived the transition is the elegant articulated bracelet. With its round case and overdue upgrade to a mechanical automatic movement, the Twenty~4 collection fills the gap in the brand’s repertoire for what Patek Philippe considers an everyday watch to “accompany style-conscious women and self-confident women day in and day out”.
Women count at Patek Philippe
Thankfully, women’s watches have always enjoyed a prominent place in Patek Philippe’s offerings, starting with the fact that the current head of watch creation is Sandrine Stern (who is also the wife of Patek’s President). Unlike other upmarket watch brands, Patek has set a precedent in the field for creating women’s watch complications – from minute repeaters to dual time zones, moon phases, annual as well as perpetual calendars.
Far from being something recent, the decision to offer ‘proper’ mechanical and beautifully decorated watches for women dates back to the 19th century. The first Swiss-made wristwatch was designed by Patek for the trend-setting Hungarian Countess Koscowicz in 1868. In 1916, Patek produced its first repeating wristwatch (Caliber 10), a five-minute repeater housed in a 27mm platinum case for women and, following a hiatus of 80-odd years, resumed its production of women’s complications with the women’s Travel Time Ref. 4864 of 1997. Finally, 2009 was a landmark year for women at Patek Philippe with the launch of Ref. 7071, the first chronograph conceived exclusively for women with a manufacture movement, recently updated in a classic round 38mm case (Ref. 7150).
The genesis of the TWENTY~4 Collection
In addition to its élite line-up of complicated women’s watches, Patek Philippe offers downsized and sparkling iterations of many of its iconic men’s lines including models from Nautilus, Calatrava, Gondolo and Aquanaut families. But there is no denying that these collections started life as men’s watches and there was a gap in the brand’s portfolio for a line of watches dedicated in heart and soul to women.
With the launch of the Twenty~4 in 1999, the gap was filled. A rectangular watch with a slightly Art Deco personality and a luxurious articulated and integrated bracelet, the Twenty~4 was positioned as an elegant, feminine watch designed for everyday life, 24 hours (hence the name) around the clock. Probably one of Patek’s best-selling collections for the last 19 years, it never got a lot of coverage in specialised watch magazines because it was fitted with a quartz movement. And I suspect that the Twenty~4 might well have been the kind of watch men bought for women, assuming they didn’t give a toss about mechanical movements and would be seduced by the gleaming exterior. Although this might not have supposed a glaring deficiency for many women, for others it felt a little half-hearted.
Times have changed and as more women are buying their own watches the reasoning behind many decisions is that if you are going to invest in a Patek timepiece, you really should be getting the full package and a quartz movement is fine, but not really on a par with Patek’s refined and select approach to watchmaking.
The revisited shape and upgraded movement of the 2018 Twenty~4 Collection
Launched into great fanfare with a deluxe event held by the brand in Milan in October, the new Twenty~4 surprised us all with its radical departure in case shape. Instead of the classic rectangular-shaped case of the original family (which is still going strong), the new collection features a more traditional 36mm round case and, what everybody with a mechanical bent was waiting to hear, an automatic movement!
Just for the record, the automatic movement inside the revamped collection is not new. Calibre 324 SC is also used in the Nautilus Ref. 5711, and many other hour/minute/central second and date watches. However, as the next generation of Twenty~4, the watch had to touch home base with the original and the bracelet, characterised by its large central rectangular link flanked by two-tier outer links, was respected.
A case for liquid lines
Presented in either stainless steel or 18k rose gold cases and four different dial tones (blue, grey, brown and silver), the 36mm diameter of the new Twenty~4 is spot on for most women’s wrists and has an attractive svelte profile of around 10mm. I tend to wear slightly larger watches and, during the event Patek Philippe hosted in London, was pleasantly surprised by the confident (and admittedly dazzling) presence this watch has on the wrist.
The case and integrated bracelet are impeccably crafted and form a unified flowing module making it hard to determine where one element begins and the other ends. To achieve this subtle, almost liquid sensation, Patek’s designers haven’t made the bracelet vanish under the case but have merged it directly onto the bezel. The central bracelet links at 12 and 6 o’clock are actually part of the diamond-set bezel. I hadn’t noticed this at first, but looking closely you can see how the top and bottom links of the bracelet on the bezel are actually slightly raised and separated from the double band of 160 brilliant-cut diamonds. The solution is ingenious and the overall effect is one of fluid and harmonious lines.
The bracelet, the forte of the original Twenty~4 collection is a beautiful piece of work. Composed of horizontal rectangular central links flanked by tiered vertical outer links, the bracelet is slinky and sits beautifully on the wrist. All the complex forms of the case and bracelet are polished to a brilliant sheen by hand and fitted with a newly patented foldover clasp.
There are four dial options, two per case material. The 18k rose gold cases come with either a brown sunburst dial or a silvery satin-finished dial while the steel models come with blue or grey sunburst dials. The choice of numerals for the dial is, I suppose, based on the premise that this is a 24-hour companion and should be highly legible.
Some of you will have noticed that the numerals on the new Twenty~4 dials are the same as the prominent Arabic numerals featured on the Calatrava Pilot Travel Time 7234R Lady, a stylish pilot watch for women with GMT functions released during Baselworld 2018. The gold numerals are very big and somewhat ‘elementary’ for my liking and have been treated with a Super-LumiNova coating. The round-tipped baton hands are also ‘borrowed’ from another classic Patek family, this time the Nautilus, and treated with luminescence. In keeping with its purpose in life as an all-rounder, everyday companion, there is even a nicely framed date window at 6 o’clock.
At last, an automatic movement!
An upgrade from quartz to a self-winding movement was long overdue and we celebrate Patek’s decision. Fitted with the in-house calibre 324 SC, this movement has a consolidated reputation for precision and features a Spiromax balance spring in Silinvar and displays the lavish manual finishings we have come to associate with Patek’s movements.
Measuring 27mm in diameter and with a height of 3.3mm, the movement is composed of 213 parts, beats at 28,800vph (4Hz) and offers a power reserve between 35-45 hours. The unidirectional rotor is crafted from 21k gold and the finished watch in its totality (movement, performance, case, bracelet, etc.) is vouched for by the Patek Philippe Seal of quality. As usual, we think that the power reserve is a tad short on this movement, even though self-winding.
Although a lot of journalists at the Patek event in London were swooning over the sleek slightly sportier steel model with a grey dial, I have to admit that my favourite was the rose gold and silvery dial combination. Much more than just a silvery dial, it recreates the organic crisscross pattern weave of wild shantung silk. The main reason I preferred the shantung silk model is the way the oversized numerals and sporty Nautilus hands don’t jump out at you as much as they do on the darker dials.
They are more subdued and in tune with the intrinsic glamour of the Twenty~4 – a watch I would be hard-pressed to label ‘sporty’. My main obsession would be subjecting this watch to my ‘everyday’ style of life and end up scratching those beautifully polished surfaces. I guess it depends on what Patek’s women interpret as ‘everday’ life!
Both rose gold models retail for EUR 41,500 and the stainless steel for EUR 23,860. There is also a high jewellery model with diamonds on the bracelet which retails for EUR 51,870. For more information, please consult www.patek.com.