The Patek Philippe Grand Complication Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Replica Watch would go on to become the most expensive watch ever sold at auction: an accolade practically reserved for antique Patek Philippes. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, another. But if you’re going to go to the heart of what it is that makes some watches more than the sum of their parts, then you have to start with Patek Philippe’s Perpetual Calendar Chronograph. In recent years, only one non-Patek watch has broken into the top 10 list of most expensive auctioned luxury timepieces, a testament to the enduring romance and fascination of the brand’s complications.
Patek unveiled its first perpetual calendar wristwatch in 1925. This was a big deal and an echo of things to come. Because in 1941, in the heat of the Second World War, Patek Philippe Grand Complication Replica Watch changed horological history with reference 1581: its first perpetual calendar chronograph.
The Patek Philippe Grand Complication Perpetual Calendar Chronograph (Patek reference 5971P-001) is more than just a luxury watch. In the same way that Louis XVIII was more than just a person, or Abbey Road is more than just an album. We’re talking lineage here. Royalty. And a whole heck of a lot of rock n’ roll. So let’s start at the beginning, with a luxury watch that was born in the fires of war.
While complications themselves have been around for pretty much as long as horology (Abraham-Louis Breguet, for example, patented the tourbillon in 1801), the history of complications in luxury wristwatches is much shorter. Prior to WWII, complicated watches of any sort (wrist or pocket) were a rarity, usually made to the order of industrialists and hyper-rich horology nerds like Henry Graves—for whom Patek Philippe created the Supercomplication pocket watch.
That’s how far ahead of the complications game Patek Philippe was, in 1941—and it’s why the luxury watch brand is revered above all others in the grail watch market. If you’re a serious collector, looking for a serious timepiece that mixes heritage, true watchmaking genius, and stellar quality, you look for a Patek.
Every now and then, you come across a luxury watch that’s a little bit special. A Patek Philippe Replica Watch that transcends the boundaries of personal taste. A watch that, as a watch geek, you’ve got to love even if you don’t like the way it looks. The Rolex Submariner is one. Packed into a tiny 35 mm case were a chronograph, month and day windows, a moonphase and date indicator, and a tachymetric scale in an enamelled ring. This was the first-ever perpetual calendar chronograph, and for 50 years it would remain the only one in the world.