The world time complication is just one of many innovations that Patek Philippe has developed in the course of its entire history. Since the first Ref. 515 HU, the brand has come a long way in adding technical as well as artistic elements to its world time watches. In 1953, the watchmaker created its first worldtimer with an enamel dial.
The Ref. 2523 HU had 12 models with a cloisonné enamel dial – 6 depicting the North American continent, 3 showing South America and the remainder for Eurasia. The hour markers for the watch were displayed over the enamel dial, around a 24-hour ring and 41-city display.
The design of this watch has become a permanent Patek Philippe icon within its collection. The Ref. 2523 HU has evolved into the Ref. 5231G-001 today, with a simplified city ring and a slightly larger case size at 38.5mm. The new city display, in accordance with UTC standards, means there’s more space on the dial for an enlarged enamel display. The design of the enamel dials have been revised slightly to feature the Northern Hemisphere, the Southern Hemisphere, and most recently, the Asia-Pacific region.
The Art Of Enamelling
Cloisonné enamel is a classic artistic technique that is used on a variety of objects, including watches. Starting with a precious metal base, an enamel artist first uses gold wire to outline the image that he’s painting. Then he mixes the enamel powder to create the exact colour that he wants to produce, before painting it on the dial using brushes that are between one and three hairs in thickness.
Every step is done by hand, including the blending of the colours on the dial to create shades in the elements of each painting. In the case of the Ref. 5231G-001, this includes the colours of the ocean and the land masses depicted. Each dial is fired in a kiln repeatedly, to melt the enamel powder and transform it into the glossy dial on the watch.
Two Powerful Complications In One Watch
Another important world time reference by Patek Philippe is the Ref. 5930P-001 World Time with Flyback Chronograph, a watch that combines two of the brand’s favoured complications. First introduced in 2017, Patek Philippe presented a new version of this timepiece last year in a platinum case and vivid green dial.
Presenting two big complications in a 39.5mm case requires careful thought. The watchmaker opted to have the chronograph seconds hand double as the running seconds display. This unique design was possible only due to the robust in-house, self-winding CH 28-520 HU chronograph movement, combined with a world time complication. When the chronograph is activated, the seconds hand runs and can be returned to zero mid-operation with the reset pusher. A single chronograph counter shows the elapsed minutes around the centre of the dial.
When the chronograph is not being actively used, the seconds hand can continue to run perpetually as the seconds hand without damaging the clutch or affecting the power reserve. The dial features a circular guilloched pattern, created with a rose engine. The world time function surrounds this, with a white city ring and silver-and-black 24-hour display.
The combination of the two complications is a rarity at Patek Philippe, expressed in the past only in unique timepieces. But at the end of last year, a steel version of the watch was introduced in the Ref. 5935A, with another dial colour typically reserved for Patek Philippe’s precious gold models – the rose gold dial.
The brand has combined this with a carbon motif that was first seen on the Ref. 6007A, the limited edition Calatrava watch that was designed for the opening of the PP6 manufacture. The warm hue of this dial is a striking contrast against the coolness of the stainless steel case.
Another motif that’s used on one of Patek Philippe’s world timers is the basketweave pattern, found on the Ref. 7130. Available in a white or rose gold case with a blue or green dial, respectively, it’s a favoured model among ladies with a single row of solitaire diamonds set on the bezel.
The basketweave motif develops from the centre of the dial, in the same way as a sunray brushed surface, towards the world time function. The design of the Ref. 7130 is elegant, balancing the beauty of the Caliber 240 HU movement and its performance with the pleasing aesthetics of the watch.
The world timers of Patek Philippe combine the best of the manufacture’s finest crafts and skills.