Patek – Hand-Wound – Chronograph: three words that give you an immediate indication of what to expect. Classic, iconic, timeless, desirable, historic. This watch, a manual-winding chronograph by Patek, is a perfect example of the grail watch for many collectors. So, you can imagine that when it comes to replacing it, the brand simply cannot afford to make mistakes. And since there’s a new watch in the lineage, it is time to answer the question: what are our impressions of Patek Philippe’s new Hand-Wound Chronograph, the 5172G?
The classic, high-end chronograph (without additional complications) is one of the most representative watches of Patek’s savoir-faire, a compendium of the elegance, restrained attitude and timeless look for which the brand is famous. This type of watch feels so familiar that you get the feeling that it has always been represented in Patek’s collections… But you’d be wrong!
As surprising as it sounds, the classic hand-wound chronograph had been discontinued for almost 40 years at Patek Philippe. During the 1940s and 1950s, they were manufactured in different shapes, under several references – ref. 130, ref. 1579, ref. 530, ref. 533 and mostly, the iconic reference 1463. And believe it or not, the ref. 1463 would be the last of its kind for almost 40 years. In fact, Patek Philippe stopped producing this hand-wound chronograph in the early 1960s and we wouldn’t see a basic Patek chronograph again until 1998.
When Patek Phillipe relaunched a classic hand-wound chronograph (with no additional functions other than the chronograph) back in 1998, it was a big deal… For two reasons: first of all, it marked the comeback of an iconic type of watch for Patek; second, this reintroduction came in a very large case size – even oversized, you could say, considering it was more than 20 years ago. Reference 5070 marked the rebirth of the hand-wound chronograph, a 42mm watch equipped with a Lemania-based movement, entirely finished by Patek to become the calibre CH-27-70. Launched first in yellow gold with a black dial (the 5070J, produced from 1998 to 2002), this watch had a lifespan up until 2008/2009. Several versions were launched – 5070G white gold/silver dial between 2002 and 2006, 5070R rose gold/silver dial between 2004 and 2008 and finally, 5070P platinum/blue dial produced for a few months between 2008 and 2009. Around 250 pieces a year of the ref. 5070 were produced before it was replaced in 2010 by a new, more restrained model.
At Baselworld 2010, Patek unveiled the 5170, a less controversial, more “academic” watch. With its classic 39mm case, its Calatrava-shaped lugs and bezel, its uncluttered dial – at least in its later manifestations since the first generation featured a pulsometer scale on the dial – the 5170 was a watch to please the masses, while the 5070 was more provocative. This watch is still one of the most elegant pieces recently created by the Geneva-based brand. Balanced, superbly executed, slightly vintage…
There was also a big novelty inside the case, the calibre CH-29-535, Patek’s own hand-wound chronograph movement, incorporated for the first time inside a men’s watch. There were three main manifestations of this watch: baton markers with pulsometer; Breguet numerals with pulsometer; and finally, Breguet numerals with only a seconds scale (no pulsometer). More details on this watch here. This reference was in the collection for the following nine years, until Baselworld 2019 and the launch of the reference 5172G.
The new Classic Chrono, the Patek Philippe Chronograph 5172G
Describing the 5172G as an ‘important’ watch for Patek Philippe is an understatement. It is a crucial watch, one that must please long-term collectors, true aficionados of the brand who know what the simple hand-wound chronograph represents at Patek… However, Patek is a company and as such, has to gain new customers too. The market for high-end chronographs is crowded; JLC, Vacheron, Breguet, Blancpain, Chopard LUC and Lange are all fighting on this battlefield. Competition is harsh and Patek has to innovate, but at the same time Patek has to please a conservative clientele too. That’s a tall order for the 5172G.
So how has Patek addressed the issue? With a simple yet very efficient recipe: take what is best in the 5170 – its restrained look, its elegance, its hand-wound movement – remove what makes it too conservative – Breguet numerals, overall shy-looking case, maybe a bit too small – add a pinch of vintage details, play on the success of the perpetual calendar ref. 5320G, shake that up, add a final touch of trendy colour and a slight dosage of casualness… and voilà!
OK, I’m being a bit reductive here but, in short, this is the recipe for the Patek 5172G. Does it taste good? To me, yes, very much indeed. But we’ll see why later. Let’s look at the watch in details.
To understand the 5172G you first have to look back at the perpetual calendar ref. 5320G, simply because I consider this as the main source of inspiration behind this chronograph. The 5320G was launched in 2017 and was almost unanimously acclaimed as a highly accomplished watch. Balanced, elegant but also fresh in terms of design, with multiple well-balanced references to glorious past models. The 5172G borrows some elements of this watch and adds a chronograph function to it.
Let’s take a look at the case. In terms of proportions, Patek Philippe slightly increases the diameter to 41mm – versus 39.4mm for the 5170 models – to make this watch slightly more casual, a bit sportier, a bit more modern, but not oversized either. The profile remains relatively slim at 11mm and the watch wears great on most men’s wrists. I could live with a 39mm case but apparently, the market required a slightly bigger watch.
The main evolution concerns the shape. Abandoning the classic Calatrava-shaped case of the 5170, this watch adopts the superbly styled lugs of the 5320. Just like the perpetual calendar, Patek adds a slight Art Deco touch with triple-stepped horns inspired by a relatively rare reference (the 2405, a simple 3-hand watch from the 1940s), yet with a very specific case with gadroons and triple-stepped claw lugs. These are, to me, the main attraction of this watch and give it an incredible charm. The case has sharp facets, straight lines and angles but never feels aggressive. Very elegant, slightly different… Mastered!
Another vintage detail can be seen on the pushers decorated with a guilloché pattern that recalls some antique references (see for instance the ref. 1463 pictured at the top of this article). Patek reincorporated the classic mushroom chronograph pushers but has adorned them with this discreet but beautiful detail. Again, well done! The final “vintagey” touch is the addition of a box-shaped sapphire crystal on top, something that adds charm, creates nice reflections/distortions and slims down the case.
On the dial side, the influence of the 5320G is also clear. The same Arabic numerals, the same “syringe” hands – which are named by Patek “fine-tipped baton” – and the same slightly less conservative attitude. For this Hand-Wound Chronograph 5172G, however, Patek has gone for a matte blue varnished dial. The result is a modern, casual dial that is clean, legible and a bit “dans l’air du temps” but very pleasant all around. The combination of hands/hour makers is also less strict than that featured on the 5170 and helps to set this watch apart from the other chronographs of the brand.
To further the vintage/casual vibe, Patek has reincorporated a tachymeter scale, which makes more sense here than the scale featured on the smaller 5170. The two sub-dials – small seconds and 30-minute counter – are classically positioned low on the dial, a “trick” to prevent counterfeits, but perhaps not the most visually appealing detail of the watch. Unfortunately, Patek will not be changing this.
Final touch… a simple blue calfskin strap to match the dial instead of the traditional, more dressy glossy alligator strap. Once again, this tones down the watch and adds a touch of “cool”. The strap comes with a white gold folding buckle, which I’d prefer to replace with a simple prong buckle, more suitable in this casual/vintage context.
There are no surprises inside the case since the movement is identical to its predecessor, the calibre CH 29-535-PS (petite seconde). This traditional, hand-wound, bi-compax chronograph movement was an important milestone for the brand when introduced on the 5170J. Indeed, it was the first men’s watch of the collection to feature this new movement (that also serves as a base for the 5204, the 5270 and the 5370). This is a modern movement (wheels with patented tooth profiles, self-adjusting hammers, a modern 4Hz frequency, a variable inertia balance wheel and 65 hours of power reserve) and is finished with great care (hand-chamfered and polished edges, Geneva stripes, circular graining, gold chatons, perfectly finished levers… attested by the Patek seal). One regret concerns the design and layout of this movement, which some collectors found less appealing than the Lemania-based calibre. However, even if it loses in terms of visual beauty, it gains in modernity and technicality.
So… has Patek Philippe managed to steer its lineage of hand-wound chronographs in the right direction with this new reference 5172G? If you ask me, yes. In spite of a few complaints, mainly regarding the dial layout and the size of the case (39mm or 40mm would be perfect, at least in my opinion), the watch manages to pay tribute to a venerable lineage without straying in weird directions, and at the same time, it brings fresh elements, a bit of casualness and a tempered, well-balanced dosage of vintage.
Considering the role of this watch – pleasing long-time collectors but also attracting new customers – I think Patek has done a great job in finding a balance between originality, answers to market demand and conservatism.
Price and availability
The Patek Philippe Chronograph 5172G-001 is – as is always the case with the hand-wound chronographs – not a limited edition but it won’t be massively produced either. It is priced at EUR 66,870 – which makes it substantially more expensive than its main competitors, the Lange 1815 Chronograph (EUR 51,000 in white gold) or the Vacheron “Cornes de Vaches” (EUR 56,000 in rose gold).
More details at patek.com.