Yes, you’re looking at a new watch. The Patek Philippe Annual Calendar 5396G-017 is a watch with a very familiar face. But that face underwent some serious yet subtle “cosmetic surgery.” The reference 5396 has been around since 2006 and has become one of the most recognizable Patek watches around. The vertical design, which shows day and month apertures at 12 o’clock along with a date indicator and 24-hour sub-dial with an integrated moonphase display at 6 o’clock, makes for a striking and, by now, classic dial design. This layout replaced the more conventional face of the very first annual calendar wristwatch, Patek’s reference 5035, which debuted in 1996. The latest iteration of the reference 5396 comes in shiny navy blue with 12 baguette-cut diamond hour markers. It clearly shows that the 18-year-old design is still relevant and fresh.

Did you know that the annual calendar function in a wristwatch debuted just 28 years ago? You would think that the perpetual calendar, which is more complex than the annual one, would be newer. It isn’t. Patek Philippe introduced the very first annual calendar wristwatch during the 1996 edition of the Baselworld fair. The reference 5035 was brought to life to bridge the gap between the relatively simple Calatrava collection and the much more complicated watches like perpetual calendars (FYI, Patek Philippe also released the first perpetual calendar wristwatch in 1925). To keep the price of the first annual calendar relatively reasonable, the automatic caliber 315 S QA was based on an existing movement with a date.

Annual Calendar

The classic reference 5035 worn most classically — Image: Sotheby’s

Introducing the radiant and refreshed Patek Philippe Annual Calendar 5396G-017

The annual calendar movement needs to be adjusted only once a year (at the end of February, to be exact). This is because it only recognizes 30- and 31-day months, whereas a perpetual calendar can do without human interaction until the year 2100 (when the leap year will be skipped) because it recognizes 30- and 31-day months, the usually 28-day month of February, and leap years. A master watchmaker working for a high-end Geneva-based brand once told me that to build a perpetual calendar, you just need mathematics. A tourbillon, on the other hand, needs the skills of a good engineer to come alive — clearly, he was a tourbillon man. And although there’s a lot of truth to the number-crunching side of the perpetual calendar, there’s also serious watchmaking involved, meaning many more tiny parts.

Patek Philippe Annual Calendar

Is it fair to state that the Patek Philippe Annual Calendar 5396G-017 looks more complicated than it truly is? The dial layout and functions sure look complicated. People mistaking your annual calendar for a perpetual one might be one of the perks of this type of watch. The navy-blue-dial reference 5396G-017 from Patek’s Complications collection has a price of €65,500 / US$63,510. Reference 5320G-011, a perpetual calendar from the Grand Complications collection with a salmon-colored dial and layout very similar to the 5396’s, will set you back US$98,160. The QP that first came out in 2017 most definitely takes its design cues from the less complicated watch that debuted 11 years before.

In all fairness, the look dominated by the day of the week and the month below 12 o’clock is reminiscent of two of Patek’s all-time great QPs, references 3448 and 3450 that were in the brand’s lineup during the end of the 20th century.

Patek Philippe Annual Calendar

The most radiant reference 5396

The Patek Philippe Annual Calendar 5396G-017 launched during this year’s Watches and Wonders takes its place next to the rose gold 5396R-011. The difference between the two annual calendars is almost like day and night. The rose gold version is quite a traditionalist, featuring a silvery opaline dial with applied gold hour markers and a brown alligator strap. Reference 5396G-017 is way more outspoken. For starters, there’s the radiant blue sunburst dial with a black vignette effect. And on that already vibrant dial, Patek chose to put 12 baguette-cut diamond hour markers, totaling 0.26 carats. The 38.5 × 11.2mm white gold case comes on a hand-stitched, square-scale alligator strap to complete the look. It’s a shiny navy blue to match the dial, and it closes with a fold-over clasp in white gold.

You might think that the 12 diamonds take center stage as soon as you see the watch, but they don’t. The slender, baguette-cut diamonds get overshadowed by the gradient dial. And after that, it’s the strap’s turn to hold your gaze. The diamonds quietly wait for you to get over the shiniest parts before grabbing your attention. But once they’ve done so, the gemstones on their blue background work their magic and captivate your attention.

Patek Philippe

A contemporary-looking annual calendar with a traditional “heart”

The shiny reference 5396G-017 has a contemporary look one could describe as “sporty chic.” The watch is not as “urban” as the World Time Date 5330G and Nautilus 5980/60G, the double denim duo that also debuted during this year’s Watches and Wonders. However, its strong use of color and shiny appearance are anything but classically introverted. Interestingly, the dial layout works for both the traditional silvery-white-dial version of the reference 5396 and this more exuberantly decked-out variation. The original dial design is so good that it can handle anything a designer throws at it.

Inside the watch and visible through the see-through case back beats the in-house, 339-part caliber 26‑330 S QA LU 24H. This automatic 4Hz movement has a silicon hairspring and a 45-hour power reserve. It’s also surprisingly simple to operate. That’s a good thing because it does (very rarely) require manual adjustment. Yes, this only has to be done once per year at the end of February, but still. FYI, if you want to set all the functions just right, start by setting the time to 6:00 PM. Then, take the special tool that comes with the watch and push the small buttons on the sides of the case. You start with the upper-left one and work clockwise to set all the watch’s functions. Come the last day of February, a simple manual adjustment of the date will suffice.

Annual Calendar

Final words on the Patek Philippe Annual Calendar 5396G-017

On the wrist, the Annual Calendar 5396G-017 fits effortlessly. Its 38.5mm diameter, 11.2mm thickness, and 46.8mm lug-to-lug length ensure that. Although I’m not the biggest fan of sunburst and gradient dials, in this case, I don’t mind it. On the contrary, the dial works very well with the vertical design of the different functions. Plus, the baguette-cut diamonds’ subtle sparkle completely wins me over.

Patek Philippe Annual Calendar

The strap is quite outspoken and might not be to everybody’s taste, but that’s an easy fix. Although not quite to my taste, I think the strap matches the dial very well. More importantly, the strap will most likely speak to a young audience. The Annual Calendar 5396G-017 is a casual-chic watch that’s easy to wear and with a complication that’s easy to use. Do you think this formula is a winner? Let me know in the comments.

Watch specifications

Annual Calendar
Sunburst blue with black gradient rim, 12 baguette-cut diamond hour markers (0.26 ct).
Case Material
18K white gold
Case Dimensions
38.5mm (diameter) × 46.8mm (lug-to-lug) × 11.2mm (thickness)
Case Back
18K white gold and sapphire crystal
Patek Philippe 26‑330 S QA LU 24H: automatic winding, 28,000vph frequency, 45-hour power reserve, 34 jewels, 21K gold rotor, Spiromax (silicon) hairspring, Gyromax balance, Patek Philippe Seal
Water Resistance
30 meters
Hand-stitched, square-scale alligator leather in shiny navy blue with white gold folding clasp
Time (central hours, minutes, and seconds, 24-hour sub-dial), annual calendar (day and month in apertures, pointer date), moon phases
€65,500 / US$63,510