Watchuseek Blog

Monday, April 4, 2011

The sound of music: Patek Philippe Ref. 5216R Minute Repeater

The new Patek Philippe Ref. 5216R which was released at Baselworld 2011, combines a perpetual calendar, retrograde date, and moon phase, minute repeater and tourbillon, complications.

This Ref. 5216R is an updated version of the Ref. 5016 launched in 1993. Like other updated watches it sports a larger case, this one at 39.5 mm, larger than the 36.8 mm span of its predecessor, the Ref. 5016. The case is made of Rose Gold, hence the R designation.

Grand Complication

There is a difference of opinion among horologists as to what constitutes a Grand Complication. Some define a grand complication as one having at least one complication from the three different groups: Timing, astronomical and striking complications. Other horologists claim that there are three grand complications, the Tourbillon, the Minute Repeater and the Perpetual Calendar. The Ref. 5216R easily qualifies under any of the divergent opinions. This new Grand Complication follows in the footsteps of the famous Ref. 5016 that was launched in 1993.

The Minute Repeater

It takes many skills to craft a repeater mechanism so as to assure that its sequence of strikes corresponds to the time displayed by the watch. The eloquence of the sound is an important aspect as well. The rule is: "volume sounds." The case diameter of the new Ref. 5216 is 39.5 mm, larger than the 36.8mm span of the Ref. 5016. A gain of 2.7 mm represents a totally new dimension and that's exactly how the new Grand Complication sounds.

As soon as the slide in the left-hand flank of the case is actuated, the minute repeater starts playing a melody. First, it strikes the hours on the low-pitched gong, then the quarter-hours with double high-low notes, and finally the minutes that have elapsed since the last quarter-hour on the high-pitched gong. The highlight is at 12:59 when 32 consecutive strikes tell the time.

To verify the perfection of its acoustic spectrum, each Ref. 5216 is tested in a soundproofed chamber equipped with modern instrumentation and digital sound analysers. Finally, every watch is brought before president Thierry Stern and honorary president Philippe Stern who personally decide whether or not they live up to the strict criteria of the human ear. Patek Philippe minute repeaters owe their inimitable acoustic signature to this very personal appraisal.

Certified accuracy

The accuracy of this timepiece represents another dimension. This is due to the tourbillon, whose cage is an ensemble of 69 steel parts that together weigh just 0.3 grams.

Because the sole purpose of the tourbillon is to safeguard the rate accuracy of the watch and for this reason must remain amply lubricated at all times, Patek Philippe respects horological traditions and does not expose it through an aperture in the dial. There is a separate rate accuracy certificate delivered with each Ref. 5216.

Calendar and moon phases accurate till 2100

The new Ref. 5216 comes with a perpetual calendar that automatically indicates the correct date, day, month, and leap-year cycle until 2100, provided the watch always remains wound. The day, month, and leap-year cycle are displayed in small apertures, while the retrograde date is indicated with a hand that advances along a 250° arc from the first to the last day of the month, and then jumps back to the first day of the next month. Only when 122 years and 45 days have elapsed will this moon-phase mechanism deviate from the true lunar cycle by one day, which is equivalent to one full lunation every 3420 years.

At a glance reading

Thanks to the intelligently organised dial, the eight time and calendar indications are easily legible. The hours and minutes are shown with faceted Dauphine hands and applied markers, the seconds with a slender baton hand at 6 o'clock. The calendar features aperture displays for the day of the week (9 o'clock), the month (3 o'clock) and the leap-year cycle (12 o'clock) as well as a retrograde hand from the centre that points at the date with its red arrow tip. The moon-phase display at 6 o'clock also contributes to the perfect balance of the dial.

Distinctively understated in its appearance; its decidedly classic style is underscored by the hand-stitched alligator strap.


  1. Nice write up on a phenomenal piece, really the pinnacle of complications from the company that went a long way to defining the benchmarks.



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