Patek Philippe’s most secretive division has announced its latest innovation at the 2017 edition of Baselworld
By: Jonathan Bues
Patek Philippe may have a reputation for conservative formality, but it’s not an altogether fair one. We owe several of the most important innovations in watchmaking to the Geneva manufacture. The first keyless winding system, the worldtimer, and the annual calendar are just the first ones that come to mind.
And let’s not forget that Patek Philippe was instrumental in pushing forth acceptance for new materials such as silicon in high-end watchmaking. Having the imprimatur of the industry’s most prestigious brand effectively gave everyone else license to move forward with a material lauded for its antimagnetic and tribological benefits.
When it was first introduced at Baselworld 2011, the Aquanaut Travel Time was an immediate hit. Watches that easily enable travelers to track the time in multiple locales are favorites of collectors in our increasingly global society, where hopping on a plane or joining a long distance call to do business is the new normal.
This year, one of the most interesting technical innovations at Baselworld came from Patek Philippe’s Advanced Research department, which is responsible for providing innovations in the years to come. It’s an update to the setting mechanism used in Patek’s Travel Time series of watches.
In the past, this mechanism has been composed of several parts, whose intricate mechanical interaction necessitated lubrication and painstaking assembly. The new system, made from stainless steel, is like a flexible lattice work that can transfer mechanical energy—and change the time—without any unnecessary mechanical play. Dubbed a “compliant system,” the new GMT mechanism replaces a pivoted, 37-part one with a 12-part spring system that offers improved performance and precision while reducing overall complexity.
The new setting mechanism is crafted entirely from stainless steel and is, according to Patek Philippe, finished in such a way as to comply with the standards set forth by the Patek Philippe Seal. One can only wonder what other mechanisms in a wristwatch might benefit from this kind of invention, but chiming watches and chronographs are two that immediately come to mind.
The watch that debuts this compliant mechanism is a 500-piece limited edition crafted from 18-karat white gold that comes with a hefty price tag of $58,970. The mechanism itself is viewable through a cutaway in the dial. In the years to come, we can expect this mechanism to replace the existing one in unlimited Aquanaut Travel Time models as well as in other lines, such as the Calatrava, which offer the option of the Travel Time complication.