After the dust clouds settled at Baselworld 2019, the Patek Philippe Alarm Travel Time 5520P was one of the most talked-about watches of the fair. Another great introduction is the updated version of the Patek Philippe 5235R Annual Calendar Regulator. It may be less talked about than the Alarm Travel Time 5520P, but it’s at least as divisive.

It’s funny how most of the discussion about Patek Philippe as a brand is about the design of their new watches. There is hardly anyone that doesn’t think that Patek watches are technically brilliant and that their level of craftsmanship is almost unparalleled. The design of new Patek watches, on the other hand, does cause a lot of discussions. Some of the debate is fueled by the simple question of whether a design looks good or not? That has been primarily the discussion with the Patek 5520P-001 Alarm Travel Time. The looks are defined by its aviation-inspired design and the four big crown/pushers that are incredibly present. At Baselworld this year, the watch caused a lot of emotional reactions, and it’s safe to say not all of them were positive.

A second and more intricate discussion is started by the question of whether a new watch design fits under the Patek Philippe brand? The answer to that is defined by how people individually look at a new Patek Philippe watch and how it fits in their perception of the brand. Especially if the looks are ‘modern,’ it will lead to a lot of discussions. It’s a fun discussion to have but also one that is hard to find any real truths in because the brand has a lot to offer as far as design goes. Patek’s overall classical design signature is balanced out by the Aquanaut and Nautilus collections as the brand’s most progressive design collections. I agree that Patek Philippe’s overall style can be defined as classical, but I don’t think it should limit them in creating more modern watches as long as they are up to the usual Patek Philippe standards.

Patek’s overall classical design signature is balanced out by the Aquanaut and Nautilus collections

Patek Philippe 5235R Annual Calendar Regulator

Patek Philippe 5235R

One of the Patek Philippe watches that was part of the ‘modern-looks’ discussion is the Patek Philippe ref. 5235G Annual Calendar Regulator. Many thought it was too modern for Patek standards when it was introduced in 2011, but over eight years, quite a few enthusiasts have embraced the stylish looks of the 5235. The all-new Patek Philippe ref. 5235R Annual Calendar Regulator is the updated version of the in 2011 introduced ref. 5235G, and it is a change in overall aesthetics. Where the previous ref. 5235G came in white gold with a three coloured grey, white and bright white dial to create a cool and stylish watch, the updated version features a rose gold case with a black and graphite dial with white and rose gold details to create a warm and personal timepiece. It’s a step that will undoubtedly draw more people to the unchanged overall design and technique of the ref. 5235 and I have to say at first glance I am very much a fan of the new looks of the ref. 5235R.

Patek Philippe 5235R

The Story Of The Ref. 5235

Before we get into further detail of the new ref. 5235R, let’s first dive into the history of the ref. 5235. It’s Patek Philippe’s only regulator-style wristwatch that was inspired by the old regulator pendulum clocks that date back to the late seventeenth century. These regulator clocks used a weight driven movement for extreme precision and were utilised by clockmakers as precise reference timers to set and adjust other timepieces. To be able to read the time better, the hour, minute and second displays were separated, and this typical non-coaxial layout of hands that are still powered by the same movement without sharing the central pinion is standard to regulator-style clocks and timepieces.

the updated version features a rose gold case with a black and graphite dial with white and rose gold details to create a warm and personal timepiece.

Patek Philippe’s ref. 5235 was inspired specifically by a regulator clock hanging in former Patek Philippe president Philippe Stern’s office. After his son and current president Thierry Stern took over in 2009, he decided to create a regulator-style watch that was inspired by the clock in his father’s office. As usual, with regulator style watches the large central hand displays minutes and the two sub-dials display hours and seconds. But being Patek Philippe, that was not enough of a technical challenge, so the brand decided to incorporate an annual calendar as well. Besides creating an extra mechanical complication, the annual calendar also adds an extra visual element that creates a watch that has more to offer than breaking down the reading of time into three different dials with the usual vertical layout with sub-dials placed at 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock. It gives the watch that extra to make it a true Patek Philippe watch, or isn’t it?

Patek Philippe 5235R

A Stylish Statement

The answer to the question of whether the style of the ref. 5235 fits your idea of what makes a true Patek Philippe watch is a very personal one, as mentioned before. But let’s see if it really is far from what we have seen from the brand over time. The styling of the previous ref. 5235G is what created a cool and stylish watch that could be also be seen as distant and a bit unconventional for a Patek watch. But the renewed aesthetic brings across a new emotion. Overall the style has not changed, so what remains is the typical round case with angular arrow-like lugs that were not used to seeing quite often from the brand. But sharp angular lugs have been used by Patek Philippe before on other historical references like the ref. 3448 and ref. 3450 perpetual calendars. The combination of round and straight lines creates a nice contrast in shape if done right. And Patek Philippe has done it perfectly as the placement and length of the lugs combine perfectly with the round shape of the rose gold case.

Patek Philippe 5235R

The case also contrasts very nicely with the stunning dial. The base colour is a beautiful graphite colour embraced by an ebony black ring that features the white transfer-printed railroad-style minute track with modern styled art deco numerals. Both the graphite base colour and black ring are finished in vertical brushing. The graphite dial also contrasts beautifully with the ebony black hour and second sub-dials that are surrounded by a rose gold outer ring and are decorated with a delicate concentric guilloche pattern. The sub-dials feature the same white transfer-printed railroad-style track and modern art deco style typeface that defines the look of the ref. 5235. The dial is complemented by the white gold baton handset lacquered in white, creating a nice contrast with the dark dial colours for optimum legibility of the hours, minutes and seconds.

The asymmetric layout is a detail that some people won’t be a fan of, but I find it a beautiful little feature that stops the watch from becoming too rigid in its layout.

The annual calendar is shown through three different apertures of which the day and month are placed asymmetrically in the upper part of the dial and the date at the 6 o’clock position. The asymmetric layout is a detail that some people won’t be a fan of, but I find it a beautiful little feature that stops the watch from becoming too rigid in its layout. It’s the quirky detail that brings some emotion to the look of the watch if you ask me. Finally, the big engraved Patek Philippe logo at 3 o’clock complements the overall style of the dial perfectly and stands out because of its almost stealth-like appearance in black. The combination of colours and the finishing makes for a fantastic dial that creates a different effect when looking at the dial from different angles and under different lighting. The level of detail and finishing of the dial is another feature that makes this unmistakenly a Patek Philippe watch.

Patek Philippe 5235R

And while we are on the subject of finishing, we also have to talk about the finishing of the 40.5mm rose gold case and lugs. The finishing is a clever mixture of mirror polishing and horizontal graining that creates a different view depending on your angle of looking at the watch. The flanks of both the case and the lugs are brushed and feature the horizontal graining. Looking at the watch from the top gives you a look at the mirror-polished bevel and bezel and gives the face of the ref. 5235 a very smooth look. A look that can also be found on the snap back, a choice the Patek Philippe watchmakers made to keep the watch as thin as possible instead of using a screw-down or screwed case back. The crown is mirror polished as well and contrasts well with the sides of the watch and features the well known Calatrava cross.

So there are a lot of familiar elements we know from Patek Philippe, and still, it is different than most of the watches we have seen from the brand.

So there are a lot of familiar elements we know from Patek Philippe, and still, it is different than most of the watches we have seen from the brand. The typeface used for the ref. 5235R is not something we’re used to seeing, and it is what creates the characteristic style of the watch. Inspired by the Art Deco style of the 1920s and 30s, the watch gets an entirely different presence than most Patek watches. It’s a style that is emphasised by the uniquely styled buckle that comes with the watch. The clasp on the black alligator strap is entirely in line with the shapes of the lugs and features an art deco style writing of the brand name. All in all, you could say the Patek Philippe 5235R Annual Calendar Regulator is the brand’s salute to the art deco movement of the early twentieth century, but they do it in Patek style.

A Unique Movement

Back in 2011, the ref. 5235G Annual Calendar Regulator was introduced with quite a lot of grandeur. The personal Stern family story, the modern styling for Patek Philippe’s standards and not in the last place, the specially developed movement of the ref. 5235G made the watch a big introduction for Patek Philippe. Due to productional difficulties, it wasn’t until 2014, however, before the production was picked up in significant numbers and people started to recognise the unique appeal of the ref. 5235.  The new ref. 5235R is technically the same watch as its predecessor, so it also features the self-winding Patek Philippe caliber 31‑260 REG QA movement made out of 313 parts. The movement is specifically developed for the ref. 5235, so it’s unique in the sense that it’s not used for any other Patek Philippe watch.

Patek Philippe 5235R

The 33mm automatic movement inside the 40.5mm rose gold case is only 5.08 mm high and is wound by a 22-karat gold micro-rotor and beats at an unusual 23,040 vph (3.2 Hz). For the development of the movement, the brand decided to incorporate Patek’s own Pulsomax silicon escapement, Spiromax balance spring in Silinva, and Gyromax balance, all developed by the Patek Philippe Advanced Research department. It’s also Patek Philippe’s first movement ever to feature hacking seconds, a feature that stops the second hand from moving when the crown is pulled out and allows for a more precise setting of the time. A feature very much suited for regulator style watches considering their history as reference timepieces.

The movement is specifically developed for the ref. 5235 so it’s unique in the sense that it’s not used for any other Patek Philippe watch.

As mentioned, the movement features an annual calendar automatically adjusts for months with 30 and 31 days, so you will only have to correct the date once a year at the end of February. The only downside to the movement is using that same calendar.  To adjust the calendar, you will have to use the three pushers on the left side of the case that set each of the calendar indications, which means you have to set each one after the other. And if you were looking for a single pusher to advance all the calendar indications at the same time, you won’t find it. Those are two impractical elements worth mentioning about the otherwise unique movement specifically developed for the ref. 5235 that is an absolute joy to look at.

Patek Philippe 5235R

The use of a micro-rotor allows for a good view of the other parts that make up the movement and allow you to enjoy all the craftsmanship that went into creating the caliber 31‑260 REG QA movement. The three bridges are beautifully shaped and feature pointed edges, something that is relatively uncommon the current day Patek Philippe movements that are usually more elegantly shaped. The combination of finishes ranges from Perlage patterns on the base plate and underneath the rotor and balance wheel to the circular Geneva striping on the micro-rotor that also features the Calatrava cross, to the Geneva striping on the bridges. They are all testament to Patek Philippe’s incredibly high standard of finishing of their movements. For the ref. 5235, it’s safe to say that the level of finishing is a lot higher compared to other Patek Philippe movements at the €46,630 price point.

Final Thoughts

Wearing the Patek Philippe 5235R Annual Calendar Regulator is an absolute joy. The size and height make this watch very comfortable to wear, and the new and improved aesthetic will have you looking at your watch a lot more than the previous model. I think that Patek Philippe made an excellent choice in changing the aesthetic to improve the warmth and personal feel of the watch. As far as the discussion about the style of the ref. 5235, I can only give Patek Philippe credit that they have decided to hold on to a watch in their collection that does not feel comfortable to every Patek Philippe enthusiast, although it still is very much a Patek Philippe watch. If you are a fan of the classic looks of Patek watches, there are plenty of options within the current collection, but this is probably not one of them.

This specific model is for people that love to buy something different from Patek Philippe. A regulator-style watch is an acquired taste as it’s not the most practical to read the time, and the rigid vertical layout is also something that you have to be a fan of.  Combined with the very distinct styling, I understand that the Patek Philippe 5235R Annual Calendar Regulator has people talking. Although I am not the biggest fan of regulator-style watches, I find the overall style of the ref. 5235R amongst the most beautiful in the Patek Philippe collection. It pushes the boundaries of what a Patek Philippe can be, and I like that idea. In an industry that is screaming for new watches that can become future classics, it’s too easy to say that something doesn’t fit a brand simply because it’s not in line with what we have come to know from them. That’s what I love about this watch. I like all the art deco details that characterise this watch and make it different from the regular Patek Philippe offerings. I like the style of the ref. 5235R  so much that I would love to see the brand create more models in the same vein, and I’m sure that more people will start to appreciate the special feel of the Patek Philippe 5235R Annual Calendar Regulator. It has that potential.

More information via Patek Philippe online.

Watch specifications

Annual Calendar Regulator
Two-tone graphite and ebony black, vertical satin finish, white transfer-printed
Case Material
Rose gold
Case Dimensions
Diameter: 40.5mm, Height: 10mm
Case Back
Transparent case back
Caliber 31‑260 REG QA, self-winding, Power Reserve: 38 hours - 48 hours, Jewels: 31, Ticking Speed: 23.040vph
Water Resistance
30 meter / 3 bar
Hand-stitched alligator strap with prong buckle
Hour and seconds subdials, central minutes hand. Day, date, month in apertures.
€46.630,- (including VAT)