This is the Patek Philippe Ref 5396 Annual Calendar with Moon Phases. A stunning watch that somehow manages to look classic and contemporary at the same time. It’s complicated, yet easy to read. And has some serious wrist appeal without being too showy. Well, with the possible exception of the blue dial version. Hard to keep a low-profile with diamond baguette markers. The reality is though, hype models in steel cases dominate the market at present. Which means great pieces like the Ref 5396 can get overlooked by buyers in this price bracket. That’s no bad thing per se. If anything, it helps keeps prices on the secondary market more reasonable. But it also means you could be missing out on a top Annual Calendar watch. And from the very brand who invented the complication. So, let’s get into the detail on the Ref 5396.
A (Very) Brief History Of The Ref 5396
One of the big drawcards of the Ref 5396 is its ageless appeal. The model looks right at home in the current collection. So much so that you could mistake it for a recent addition. In reality, it made its debut 15 years ago, in 2006. Although back then it looked quite different. You might not know this, but Patek actually chose a two-tone sector dial for the inaugural model. The dial configuration was the same but as you can see below, the look was very different. You almost wouldn’t think this is the same watch as the current versions.
The Ref 5396 is an evolution of sorts the original Ref 5035 from 1996. That was the first annual calendar watch to house Patek’s new patented complication. One that could self-adjust for the days of the month. Needing correction only once a year on the 1st of March.
If you know your watchmaking history, then you know Patek began work on its new complication in 1992. The brand was already held in great esteem for its perpetual calendar timepieces. But these were out of reach for all but the most affluent collectors. Not to mention incredibly complex to manufacture and service. And, if we’re being honest, not the most practical for daily wear.
It took four years of research and development to master this new complication. But it was well worth the wait. Considered the first annual calendar wristwatch, the Ref 5035 was a big deal at the time. A year after its release it was voted Watch of the Year.
The Patek Philippe Ref 5035
The design of the Ref 5035 was very traditional, albeit with a few quirks. A small-ish (even by the standards of the time) 37mm round case. Central time display with lume-filled hands. Roman numerals for the hour markings – also lume-filled. (Unusual to say the least for a dress watch!) Calendar indicators on sub-dials. Except for the date, which appears via an aperture at 6 o’clock. And a 24-hour indicator at 6 o’clock.
It’s fair to say this was not one of Patek’s better designs. The thicker bezel and the large indexes and hands make the case appear even smaller. And the chapter ring and the Roman numerals have not aged well. Still, there’s no denying the Ref 5035 is an important milestone in the brand’s modern history. If you’re looking to add a one to your collection, WatchBox has a nice example available now.
Patek Philippe followed the Ref 5035 with the Ref 5036, which introduced a moonphase at 6 o’clock. And a power reserve indicator at 12 o’clock. Then in 2005, Ref 5035 retired altogether, replaced by the more contemporary Ref 5146. Although it too was still very traditionally styled. The following year, Patek debuted the Ref 5396. Celebrating the 10th anniversary of its annual calendar complication.
The Patek Philippe Ref 5396
The first thing you notice about the Ref 5396 is that it’s not styled at all like its predecessors. Nor does it look like Patek’s more contemporary Annual Calendar models. Meaning a three- window display across the top of the dial. Such as on the Ref 5960. Instead, it sits somewhere between, borrowing elements from both. Let’s talk about the case first, though.
AT WATCHBOX: check out this pre-owned Patek Philippe Ref 5396R available now.
Measuring 38.5mm, the Calatrava style case offers ideal proportions for a dress watch. The thin(ish) polished bezel has a slight downward slope, making the watch appear bigger than it is. At 11.2mm high, it’s not ultra-slim by any means. But it sits nice and flat against the wrist, making it easy to slide under a shirt cuff. The Ref 5396 has only ever been available in precious metals. More specifically, rose gold and white gold. There’s never been a yellow gold version. (Or platinum, for that matter.) That’s no bad thing mind you, but worth keeping in mind.
As I alluded to before, the dial layout of the Ref 5396 is unlike most Annual Calendars from Patek. And this is what makes it such an attractive watch. Everything is laid out in an orderly fashion down the middle of the dial. The days and months appear in twin apertures below 12 o’clock. Next you have the central time display, complete with running seconds. Below that there is a single sub-dial integrating a moon-phase and 24-hour indicator. And finally, to finish things off, the date appears through aperture at 6 o’clock.
This is by no means a new design for Patek. The iconic Ref 3448 from the 1960’s features an almost identical dial layout. Although that watch is a perpetual calendar. And the date appears on the periphery of the sub-dial at 6 o’clock, instead of through an aperture. Regardless, the lineage is clear.
Not only is this design intuitive and easy to read, it’s also very attractive and elegant. Masking the complexity of the movement underneath. Around the periphery, facetted appliques, with a triangular tip mark the hours. Although you can also find earlier examples with Breguet numerals instead. Completing the dial is series of golden dots marking the minutes.
In the current collection, the dial is only available in two colours. A silvery opaline, or a blue sunburst with diamond baguette markers. Over the years though, there has been quite a bit of dial variation on the Ref 5396 and so you will find other colors too. I’ve seen blue (without diamond markers), as well as brown. Although the most common is black.
Turning the watch over reveals a sapphire glass caseback and a nice view of the movement. To Patek collectors, it will already be a familiar sight. The Manufacture Calibre 324 features in several notable models from Patek. Including the Nautilus Ref 5726, which has an identical dial layout to the Ref 5396. Albeit in a sportier guise.
Standing a mere 5.78mm high, calibre 324 comprises some 347 components. Including Patek’s patented Gyromax balance and Spiromax balance spring. A 21K gold central rotor is responsible for winding the main spring. Unfortunately, though, its power reserve of 35 – 45 hours is a touch on the low side by today’s standards. Not a deal breaker, but if you don’t plan to wear this piece on a daily basis you might want to consider a winder. Otherwise you’ll be forever using the calendar correctors on the sides of the case.
Price & Availability
The Patek Philippe Ref 5396 is still part of the current Patek Philippe collection. In theory, one can buy one at retail from a Patek boutique or authorised retailer. Recommended retail at the time of writing is US$53,460 in rose or white gold for the standard dial. In 2017, Patek also added the blue dial version with baguette markers, for US$59,140.
AT WATCHBOX: check out this pre-owned Patek Philippe Ref 5396G available now.
That said, as with most Patek dress watches, pricing is more attractive on the secondary market. Depending on condition, dial, case metal, etc. you can expect to pay between US$40,000 – US$50,000. Availability can be a little trickier though. When I started writing this article our retail partner WatchBox had three available. Now there’s only two. Both in white gold. One with a silver opaline dial with baton markers. And the other with a black dial with Breguet numerals. So, if you want either, my advice is don’t wait.
Is The Ref 5396 Collectible?
The short answer is no. At least not yet. While there isn’t a whole heap of them in circulation, the Ref 5396 is not rare. Nor does it have super special significance to the brand. If Patek were to discontinue the model it might see some appreciation in value. But nothing compared to say a Nautilus.
That said it is an elegant and stylish dress watch, with a practical complication. This is a watch you can wear and enjoy on a daily basis. And, best of all, it’s still relatively under-appreciated by the market. Meaning you don’t have to pay top dollar to add one to your collection. Of course, there is one example of the Ref 5396 that is very collectible. Read on below to learn all about it.
The Ref 5396 Tiffany & Co Limited Edition
No article about the Ref 5396 would be complete without mention of the rarest version. The 100-piece Tiffany & Co collaboration from 2012, Ref 5396G-12. Now, this is no ordinary, run-of-the-mill Tiffany-stamped dial Patek. Although you will see those in the wild from time to time too. No, this is a much rarer beast.
It’s well-known that Patek Philippe and Tiffany & Co. have a long-standing connection. And by long-standing, I mean over two centuries. The two iconic brands formalised things back in 1851, with plenty of mutual benefit to go around. Fast forward a few decades to 2008, when Patek Philippe decided to open its first boutique in the US. An incredible, 3,000-square-foot space on the second floor of Tiffany & Co.’s Fifth Avenue flagship store. It’s a must for watch lovers if you have not visited already.
Coming as a surprise to no one, this new venture was a huge success. So, the two brands decided to do something special to mark the boutique’s 5th anniversary. A very, very special edition of the Ref 5396. Presented in a white gold case, it features a black dial, with polished Breguet numerals. This in itself was a big deal, as the current model at the time had a white dial and baton indices. As discussed above, Patek would go on to put this dial combo into regular production.
But there are also a few other subtle changes that make this watch super collectible. The leaf-shaped hands are lume-filled, which is unusual to say the least on a dress watch from Patek. And there are also luminous dots next to each hour. If you look closely at the dial, you’ll notice that the moon phase display is also inverted. This provide ample room for the Tiffany & Co stamp. And also makes this limited-edition Ref 5396 instantly recognisable.
This reference rarely comes up for sale. The most recent example I found was at Phillip’s 2019 Double Signed auction. The watch – still sealed – hammered for CHF 118,750. Although you would have to think in the current market it would sell for a lot more.
To view all Patek Philippe Ref 5396 models available at our retail partner WatchBox right now, click here.
Technical Specifications: Patek Philippe Ref 5396 Annual Calendar
- Case: 38.5mm x 11.2mm height – white or rose gold, polished and brushed – sapphire crystal on both sides – 30m water resistance.
- Dial: opaline silver or sunburst blue (black available pre-owned only) – polished fixed bezel – Baton markers or Breguet numerals – Dauphine-shaped hands – hour, minutes and seconds – Annual Calendar display complete with 24-hour indicator and moonphase.
- Movement: Calibre 324 S QA LU 24H/303, in-house, Patek Philippe Seal – automatic with 21k gold central rotor – 28,800vph – 35h to 45h power reserve – 347 parts.
- Bracelet: Alligator leather strap with fold-over clasp.
- Price: USD53,460/USD59,140 depending on model.
This article by TheWatchLounge has been sponsored by our partner WatchBox.