The Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time ref 5524G is a distinctive looking watch. There’s nothing else like it in the Patek collection. Other than the new ref 5520P-001 of course. But that’s more or less an evolution of the ref 5524G, so it doesn’t count. This model was unexpected to say the least. So much so that its debut back in 2015 was met with a mix of bemusement and disbelief. And in some unfortunate cases, outright derision. Yet, a mere five years later, the ref 5524G has proven itself to be quite popular. So much so that it’s one of the few Calatrava models to trade at close to retail on the secondary market. So, what changed?
A (Very) Brief History Of The Patek Pilot Watch
To say the ref 5524G was an unexpected move by Patek Philippe would be a gross understatement. For a start, it’s a pilot’s watch. That, in and of itself, is not unusual. Plenty of Swiss watch brands have close associations with aviation. The Breitling Navitimer is a great example. So is the IWC Pilot’s watch. Yet, Patek, as a brand, has no real connection with aviation to speak of. At least not in recent times.
Go back far enough though and it’s a different story. In the 1930s, many brands were manufacturing military and pilot-type watches. And Patek Philippe was one of them. At the time aviators relied on precision timekeeping instruments to aide them in navigation.
To this end, Philip van Horn Weems, an officer of the U.S. Marines, came up with the idea for an hour angle watch. Charles Lindbergh himself made some suggestions on how it could be improved. The result was a watch that would enable simpler, faster, and more precise positioning. When used together with a sextant and a radio signal, of course.
Patek Philippe developed a few examples of this hour-angle style of watch. Two are on display at the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva. In 2009, Christie’s sold an aviator prototype wristwatch from Patek dating back to 1936. Thought to be a unique piece, it hammered for an impressive CHF 1,891,000 (GBP 1.5 million / USD 1.9 million). So you see, there is some precedent after all for Patek making an aviation-style watch.
Yet, this historical connection was not enough to convince the naysayers. They still questioned the legitimacy of the ref 5524G. The watch was so un-Patek like. It was difficult to wrap your head around. So, how did the brand change their minds? By doing what Patek does best. Making high quality, beautifully executed timepieces. With an equal balance of complexity. After that, it was only a matter of time.
The Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time Ref 5524G
The first thing to know about the ref 5524G is that it’s only available in white gold. This is unusual for a pilot’s watch, which are more often found in steel. It certainly raised a few eyebrows at the time. But Patek Philippe does not make many steel watches. At least not outside of the Nautilus and Aquanaut ranges.
Also unusual, for Patek Philippe this time, is the size of the case. At 42mm x 10.78mm it is one of the larger round models from the brand. That’s not a bad thing mind you. The watch wears comfortably on the wrist. And the larger case size allows it to appeal to a wider audience. Plus, it’s in keeping with the pilot watch theme. Pilot’s watches need to be bigger to make them easier to read at a glance.
The Calatrava-style case is mirror polished and has thin, curved lugs. These help it sit snug against the wrist. The thin stepped-down bezel is flat and has a slight incline. At three o’clock is a large crown. On the opposite side of the case are two lockable pushers at 8 and 10 o’clock. All three are fluted for a slip-free grip.
The two pushers are used for adjusting the second time-zone. The pusher at 8 o’clock moves the local hour hand forward one hour. While the pusher at 10 o’clock moves it back one hour. Both are equipped with Patek Philippe’s patented safety lock system. A quarter turn unlocks the pusher so it can be used. Another quarter turn in the opposite direction locks it again. This prevents unintended adjustments of the local time setting.
As distinctive as the case is though, it pales in comparison to the dark navy blue dial. There’s no mistaking the ref 5524G. Even from a distance. The lacquer grained finish, rich with colour, pops on the wrist. This was also cause for controversy though. For a start more pilot watches have black dials. To promote contrast and legibility. People also criticised the design being too loud for a Patek. And for looking too much like a Zenith pilot’s watch.
Over time though people have come to accept, and even love the bold personality of the ref 5524G. The applied Arabic numerals in white gold are lume filled and easy to read. Even in low-light conditions. So too are the blued cathedral-style hands for the local hour and minutes. The white home time hour hand is skeletonized and is not luminous. If it were you would struggle to tell the difference between local and home time in the dark.
The analog date at 6 o’clock is also new. It displays the date in 3-day increments. It’s linked to the local time display. At 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock respectively are the day/night indicators for the local and home time. All in all, it’s a very clean and easy-to-read dial layout. Perfect for a pilot’s watch.
Travel Time Movement
Inside is the calibre CH 324 S C FUS. It’s equipped with the same Travel Time complication found in the Ref 5990/1A. It allows the local-time hour hand to move forward or backwards in one-hour increments. When one of the pushers is actuated, an isolator uncouples the time-zone mechanism from the going train. This ensures there’s no impact on the amplitude of the balance. Instead it continues to oscillate at a regular rate. Thus, maintaining accuracy.
The movement features many of Patek Philippe’s innovations. These include its patented Spiromax® spring and Gyromax® balance made of Silinvar®, a derivative of silicon. Working together, these ensure a rate accuracy tolerance of -3/+2 seconds per day. As specified by the Patek Philippe Seal.
Visible through a sapphire caseback the movement is nicely finished. Details included chamfered bridges with Geneva striping. The circular-grained gold rotor with perlage in the center. Snailed flanks. And a Calatrava cross. It’s a nice sight to behold.
Price and Availability
The price of the Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time ref 5524G is GBP 37,940 / USD 47,300. The waiting lists for this model aren’t anything like a steel Nautilus. But they’re still in demand. Availability on the secondary market is pretty good. And prices are still at or close to retail.
Why Is The Ref 5524G Popular?
There’s no two ways about it. The design off the ref 5524G is polarising. You either hate it or you love it. Initially a lot of people hated it. Over time though they’ve come around to its unexpected charm. And why shouldn’t they? It looks great on the wrist. Features a practical complication for pilots and travellers alike. And it’s beautifully executed.
The ref 5524G is now a popular model for Patek Philippe. So much so that a second version – the Calatrava Pilot Travel Time Ref. 7234R Lady – made its debut last year to rave reviews. And last year, a unique version in titanium sold for CHF 2.3 million. That was at an auction to benefit the charity Children Action. But still, it goes to show that collectors might already view the ref 5524G as a modern classic.
Technical Specifications: Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time Ref 5524G
- Case: White gold– 42 mm x 10.78mm – screw-down crown – sapphire-crystal caseback – waterproof to 60 metres.
- Dial: Blue lacquered brass – applied Arabic numerals, 18K white gold with Superluminova coating – hours and minutes local time, baton-style hands in blued steel with Superluminova coating – hours home time, skeletonized baton-style hand, steel, white lacquered – seconds hand in steel with Superluminova coating – date: leaf-shaped hand, white lacquered.
- Movement: Caliber CH 324 S C FUS – self-winding mechanical movement – two time zones (local time and home time) – separate day/night indicators for local and home time – analog date – power reserve: Min. 35 hours – max. 45 hours – Patek Philippe Seal.
- Price: GBP 37,940 / USD 47,300.