hat if I told you that I drove a Lamborghini, but you knew I lived on a farm? You might be skeptical. Yet you ask to visit and go for a ride, and I happily invite you over. When you arrive, I take you out to the barn and pull open the doors to reveal my glorious Lamborghini LM002, a V12 powered, four-door, sport utility truck.
Suddenly it all becomes clear.
That vehicle, barring the tractors that initially wore the Lamborghini badge (and still do) before Lamborghini made cars, is not what one expects when you say you own a Lamborghini. In fact, in the mind of any enthusiast it is probably the least “Lamborghini” Lamborghini out there. But the fact remains it is a true Lamborghini, down to the V12 borrowed from the iconic Countach.
This scenario represents the disconnect one may feel when something with very strong and defined characteristics breaks its own rules and forges a unique path. It can be a little disorienting and hard to accept the change. Most passionate people who follow something long enough will undoubtedly experience this, whether with movies, music, literature, products, or any other creative genre.
Heck, if we lived for a few hundred years then pretty much everything about the world would at some point go down a new path we don’t recognize. But this isn’t a bad thing, regardless of what some traditionalists say; it’s the natural evolution of time and ideas. And it demonstrates how new ideas may or may not stick around, but they still need to happen for advancement to occur.
In the world of watchmaking, there is a strong divide between people who want things to stay the same and those who enjoy the experimentation that comes with time. Usually the folks who value tradition and consistency choose brands also using those principles.
Tradition is awesome, don’t get me wrong: one could argue that without that solid foundation of tradition, the experimentation would have less impactful meaning.
But what happens when a typically traditional brand takes a collection that is considered one of its most classic and understated and does something decidedly not understated and only loosely tied to its classical roots?
Enter Patek Philippe and the ever popular Calatrava, a line that has always kept things clean and simple with an aesthetic forever seeking elegance.
However, Patek Philippe’s latest release within the Calatrava line basically gave a big old “meh” to keeping it simple, forging a newer path. Most appropriately, its release was a celebration for the opening of the new manufacture building taking Patek Philippe from a less centralized manufacturing chain (very traditionally Swiss) to a more modern integrated manufacturing facility with most production under one roof.
The Calatrava Reference 6007A marks a physical and spiritual shift for the brand and may be one of the most un-Calatrava Calatravas of recent memory.
Patek Philippe Calatrava Reference 6007A
The new piece is a basic three-hander plus date – still in the wheelhouse for Calatrava models – but the dial design and some details have strayed so far from the “typical” Calatrava that it was bound to cause quite a stir. This is an easily understandable reaction once you consider what Patek Philippe itself says regarding the Calatrava line.
I’ve taken the description for the collection directly from the website, and it is as follows.
“The Calatrava Collection – Legendary purity. With its pure lines, the Calatrava is recognized as the very essence of the round wristwatch and one of the finest symbols of the Patek Philippe style. Supremely elegant, it charms each new generation of watch lovers by its timeless understated perfection.”
Now take another look at Reference 6007A and ask yourself if it is the essence of understated perfection. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
I’m sure you’ll see that it is anything but understated, and I don’t know if anyone might argue that it is timeless in this iteration. Of course, that is probably why I like it so much.
Reference 6007A takes similar design cues from the somewhat recent 5212 Calatrava Weekly Calendar and the slightly older Reference 6000 and 5296 models for different aspects of the dial.
Most specifically, it features an hour chapter ring with triangular markers on the fives and a railroad track for the single digits that was found on Reference 6000, only now with the colors reversed and matching this dial.
Outside of this ring is a second set of hour markers, again similar to Reference 6000 but now instead of pad printed, the Arabic numerals are applied and white gold, filled with Super-LumiNova, a definite change for the typical “dress” Calatrava.
Finally, on the outside edge of the dial is a chapter ring bearing numerals and hash marks to indicate minutes and seconds, something taken from Reference 5296, only this time no hash marks for the beats of the balance are on exhibition.
The center of the dial also features an embossed damier checkerboard pattern, which Patek Philippe labels a “carbon”-style texture. Anyone familiar with guilloche knows exactly what that is. But surprisingly this isn’t actual guilloche, even if the handcrafted form has been featured on other Calatrava dials in the past, so it is another shift away from the standards of the collection.
Details create a different aesthetic – but not out of left field
The hands of Reference 6007A are a thicker baton style filled with Super-LumiNova, two elements common to sport watches and unheard of for the classy Calatrava. Finally landing on the date display, we see the final change that seems out of character for the Calatrava: a date disk that doesn’t match the dial color, a design element seen on other Calatrava models with a matching date window.
None of that even touches on the fact that Reference 6007A is also cased in stainless steel (hence the A in the reference number, standing for acier in French), something usually only seen on sporty models like the Nautilus and Aquanaut or in one-off editions. Definitely not in the Calatrava line. Those are precious metals only, please. Except for that 5212 Weekly Calendar, which also was in steel, but that is another “offender” to purists.
When you consider that the design aesthetic matches a few previously released Calatrava models, at least in certain aspects, it becomes a bit more apparent that this design isn’t out of left field but directly from the archives of Patek Philippe, even if just the last few decades.
But when you compare it to the overall collection, and what the general collecting community and even Patek Philippe itself say, the Calatrava might be one of the most un-Calatrava pieces ever to grace the Calatrava collection.
For many, that’s a problem. For me, that’s the highlight.
When I looked for these design elements in past models, I really liked what I found. So much so that the predecessors are some of my favorite modern Patek Philippe models. I’ve even written about the 5212 Weekly Calendar and said as much. But even as much as I like them, I would have to agree with the community that Reference 6007A doesn’t seem to fit within the Calatrava collection.
Of course, the watch is still classic compared to many watches I love, and the case dimensions – 40 x 9.07 mm – are still well within dress watch standards. But the details just create a different aesthetic that breaks away from the traditional Calatrava dress watch.
The printer dial center, the applied lume, the fabric texture embossed on the leather strap: all of these details show a fair amount of modern progressive design that isn’t trying to stay hidden under the cuff of a tuxedo.
But, then, I think that is kind of the point. The watch commemorates the opening of the new manufacture, a distinctly modern building that is anything but traditional in looks or function.
In 1996 when Patek Philippe moved into a new production facility at Plan-les-Ouates, Geneva, Henri Stern, the current brand president’s grandfather, is said to have scrunched his nose at the new place. But his son, Philippe Stern, knew updating needed to happen.
Now Thierry Stern continues his father’s legacy in the hopes of continuing his grandfather’s legacy by opening the integrated production facility, which is also in Plan-les-Ouates, Geneva.
I see Reference 6007A as a symbolic marker. Not only because the rear sapphire crystal is inscribed with “New Manufacture 2019,” but because, like the 1996 facility, it has updated the most classical way of making watches.
The new Calatrava is rather unlike the typical Calatrava, and it would make no sense for it to be if it were meant to celebrate industrial progress.
We can debate aesthetics all day, and most traditionalists and Patek Philippe purists will undoubtedly have their problems with the piece, but as a person with a more progressive mindset and one that likes shaking things up a bit, I welcome the aesthetic shift.
Perhaps it isn’t what a Calatrava usually is, and Patek Philippe could have chosen to not put it into that collection and instead make it a standalone watch, but then I do think the message might have gotten lost a little.
It’s like in movies when an uncomfortable theme is presented in a slightly disturbing way, many critique how the filmmakers chose to incorporate the idea. People tend to like to suggest ways to soften the impact or make it more subtle, making sure it isn’t so in your face. But filmmakers usually do what they do for a reason: they want that theme to hit hard to make people squirm.
I may be wrong, but I honestly wonder if that isn’t what Patek Philippe did with the Calatrava Reference 6007A: intentionally make people squirm so they understand that the brand is very aware that tradition isn’t always the answer and sometimes we need to shake things up.
It could be a sign that the powers that be within Patek Philippe might not be so mesmerized by the tradition of the brand and are ready to not take it quite as seriously. Or maybe all the loyal Patek Philippe collectors are correct and the brand just made a very un-Calatrava Calatrava reference.