This is the Patek Philippe Ref 5070 Chronograph. A polarising Patek if there ever was one. For a start, the dial is very busy for a pure chronograph. And at 42mm, the case is huge – by Patek standards at least. Yet, for many collectors, the Ref 5070 is the chronograph to own from the brand. Both its movement and case construction are complex and interesting. It has historical significance. And, at the risk of sounding crass, it’s not that expensive relative to comparable models from the era. So, is the Patek Philippe Ref 5070 Worth Collecting? Keep reading and let’s find out.
A (Very) Brief History Of The Patek Philippe Ref 5070
Launched in 1998, the Ref 5070 was the first manual-wind, pure chronograph from Patek in over 30 years. Its nearest relative is the iconic Ref 1463. Better known to collectors as the “Tasti Tondi”. A reference to the model’s round pushers with distinctive “grippy” finishing.
Introduced in 1940, the “Tasti Tondi” was Patek’s first water-resistant chronograph. A considerable milestone for the time and the brand. Offered in a 35mm case, total estimated production was around 750 pieces. Which is not much given it’s near 30-year production life. The bulk of these were in yellow gold, while less than 200 were in pink gold. And a very rare few in steel.
Patek manufactured several different configurations of the Ref 1463. With different dial colors and layouts and so on. These days “Tasti Tondis” tend to fetch record prices at auction. And most – if all – are not bought for daily wear. Instead, they go straight into safes (or museum cases). You can wear the modern Ref 5070 on the daily though, if you so choose. So, let’s turn our attention to that.
The Patek Philippe Ref 5070 Chronograph
While it is in some ways the successor to the Ref 1463, the Ref 5070 doesn’t look that much like its predecessor. That’s because the design inspiration comes in part from another model. The Ref 2512. A split-seconds chronograph from 1950 which Christie’s sold for $1.5m back in 2000. (Hat tip to the team at Hodinkee for that info.)
Granted, the Ref 5070 isn’t a split-seconds chrono, but you can see the similarity in the dial layout. At 42mm, it was also huge for the time (much like the Ref 2512, which was even bigger at 45mm!). To balance this, the case height is a svelte 11.6mm. Making the watch more wearable than it might first appear.
Part of the enduring appeal of the Ref 5070 is its symmetrical dial layout. Although to some – myself included – it always felt a little crowded. The central time display uses thin, leaf-shaped hands. Next are two large sub-dials. So large that they each overlap the respective Arabic numerals both above and below. One is at 3 o’clock for the 30-minute counter. The other is at 9 o’clock for the small seconds. Note how they both line up with the centre of the dial. Collectors pay real attention to that type of detail.
Around the periphery is a seconds track for the chronograph with 1/5th of a second graduations. This chapter ring also serves as the minutes track. Next is the tachymeter scale, which unusually appears inside of the minute track. It’s a famous design quirk of the Ref 5070, making it that extra bit special. Completing the look are square chronograph pushers and a well-proportioned winding crown.
Patek x Lemania
The other thing that makes the Ref 5070 a bit special is the movement inside. Visible through the sapphire case back, the manual wind CH 27-70 is gorgeous. It’s also based on an outsourced Lemania calibre 2310. Unthinkable now but common practice for Patek up until the last decade or so.
A column wheel chronograph, it oscillates at a slower 18,000 vph and delivers around a 60-hour power reserve. Which is pretty impressive for the period. The Ref 5070 was the last time we would see a Lemania calibre in a Patek. And this is the only reference to use this movement. Which is yet another reason why it is the darling of collectors. Its successor – the Ref 5170 – debuted the Calibre CH 29-535 PS in 2010. Patek’s first in-house, manual wind chronograph movement. And kind of a big deal.
The Ref 5070 Variations
Over its production life, Patek made four distinct variations of the Ref 5070. From a technical standpoint they’re all identical. What changes is the case metal and the dial colour. And this can make all the difference to collectors.
As was pretty common for Patek (and most brands back then), the first model off the rank was in yellow gold. It’s paired with a black dial and has a rather dramatic look to it. Very dark and intense. The hands, Arabic numerals and all other dial markings are in matching yellow gold. This provides a high-level of contrast against the black dial. Although I wouldn’t go quite as far as saying it’s super legible. Especially not in low-light conditions. This model was in production from roughly 1998 to 2002.
Price Guide: US$70,000 – US$75,000
The yellow gold Ref 5070 gave way to a rose gold version (Ref 5070R) and a white gold version (Ref 5070G – discussed below). Both were in production from 2002 through to 2008. The rose gold version has a silvery dial, with matching hands and applied Arabic numerals. For added legibility, the sub-dials and chapter rings are in contrasting black. This is one of my favourite versions of the Ref 5070. The warmness of the rose gold softens the utilitarian look of the dial, emphasizing the model’s elegance.
Price Guide: US$75,000 – US$80,000+
The white gold version, meanwhile, is a bit more intense. It also has a silvery white dial but unlike all the other versions, the numerals do not match the case metal. Instead, they are black, along with all the other dial markings. The hands themselves are in white gold, but a surface treatment makes them appear darker. This is all in the aid of legibility and results in the most subdued version of the Ref 5070. Which is not a bad thing by any means, it’s just a little more understated on the wrist is all.
Price Guide: US$75,000 – US$80,000
In 2008, Patek came with the fire, unveiling the final version of the Ref 5070 in platinum. This version marks the 10th anniversary of the reference and would also be the last. Production lasted around a year – 2008 – 2009 – so you can imagine volumes were low. As with most platinum pieces from Patek it’s paired with a blue gradient dial. Complete with contrasting white markings and hands and numerals in matching platinum. This is without doubt the most collectible of all the versions, as reflected in the price.
Price Guide: US$210,000 – US$220,000
As you might expect, availability of all versions of the Ref 5070 is scarce. The platinum version especially so. This is in part due to their short production life. And low quantities produced (around 250 pieces per year per metal.) But also because the model is very popular with collectors. As such, good examples with reasonable price tags attached to them don’t tend to sit on the market too long.
If you’re looking for one right now, our retail partner WatchBox has this gorgeous Ref 5070R on offer. It’s not quite a complete set, having only the box and official extract from the Patek archives. But the competitive price of US$67,950 more than makes up for it. Feel free to get in touch if you would like to discuss this watch further. Or indeed if you have your heart set on a different version of the Ref 5070.
Is The Ref 5070 Worth Collecting?
By now I am hoping you will be able to answer this question for yourself. If you’re still in doubt though, allow me to say yes, yes it is. Now granted, it is a lot of money for a pure chronograph. For a similar price you could buy the perpetual calendar-equipped Ref 5320G. Or the Annual Calendar Ref 5960P for that matter. Both excellent choices. And of course let’s not overlook the 1815 Chronograph from Lange. But there’s something special about the Ref 5070. A certain X-factor that ensures it will always have a place in the heart of collectors.
Whether it’s the manual-wound Lemania movement. The oversized case with its stepped bezel. Or the intense yet symmetrical dial. There’s so much about this model that evokes a Patek from a different era. One that was a bit more willing to take risks. A bit bolder if you will. It’s far from unconventional in the traditional sense of the word. But it’s about as close as the brand gets.
Technical Specifications: Patek Philippe Ref 5070 Chronograph
- Case: 42mm x 11.6mm height – gold or platinum, polished and brushed – sapphire crystal on both sides – 30m water resistance.
- Dial: black, silver or gradient blue – polished fixed bezel – Arabic numerals – leaf-shaped hands – hour, minutes and seconds – chronograph display complete with tachymeter scale.
- Movement: Calibre CH 27-70 – Lemania 2310 base – column-wheel chronograph – center chronograph hand, 30-minute counter, small seconds – vibrations/hour: 18 00 (3 Hz) – hand-wound – 60-hour power reserve.
- Bracelet: Leather strap with deployant clasp.
- Price: Discontinued ~ USD 70,000 – USD200,000+ (depending on case metal).
This article by TheWatchLounge has been sponsored by our partner WatchBox.