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Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time: A Purist or a Rebel?

Yes, it’s a Pilot watch; and yes, it’s from Patek Philippe. You have heard it right, we are not making this up in any way. When it comes to the world of Swiss watch-making, Patek Philippe is the holy-grail, having long established itself as one of the best, most exclusive, and priciest manufacturer in the world. The question that arises then is simply this- Why does a pre-eminent manufacturer moves away from what it does best (creating the most iconic dress watches, complications and iconic designs),trying to trespass into a genre dominated by the IWCs, the Breitlings and the Omegas of the world. Let’s find out.We can keep saying that the dial of a Patek is coloured by a trained chemist (yes! Colouring the dial is an actual science!), or that the manufacture of a single watch comprises of more than 1500 processes (that’s a Calatrava, we are not even getting into grand complications), or that a single watch involves the expertise of over 1035 employees (like seriously!). What we want to concern ourselves is the fact that whether or not this move from the legend has gone down too well with the purists? Or is the Calatrava Pilot the Renegade that is going to shake the foundations of tradition.
Let’s dive deep into the Calatrava Pilot Travel Time (no pun intended). It would be fitting to look at this watch without the Patek baggage and evaluate it in terms of what it is, a clean Pilot watch. The watch has been made in 18k white gold and measures a reasonable 42mm. Powering the 5524 is Patek's Caliber 324 SC FUS, an automatic movement that has a fully adjustable GMT hand for tracking a second time zone, as well as a date function. The GMT hand can be easily adjusted by using the pushers on the left side of the case, meaning no fiddling with the crown, and the pushers lock with a quarter turn to make the case waterproof. In making the 5524, Patek has fallen back on its history (1930s to be precise) to recreate the new Calatrava Pilot Travel Time.

The good points: With a classic and rough design, handy jumping-hour dual time complication and a trick pusher design, this stranger in the Calatrava family stands out in Patek's current line-up. It isn’t too big and uncomfortable, and looks particularly well suited when placed on the wrist. The dial is stunning to look at as it is applied on a grained matte (very dark and close to black) navy blue plate which acts as a perfect foil to the large, white, luminous Arabic numerals. The white gold numerals are filled with white superluminova that are actually both noteworthy for a Patek and conventional for a Pilot watch.
The bad points: The movement is the excellent caliber 324 SC FUS workhorse; however, with its small 31 mm size (it had been originally developed for the much smaller Aquanaut), it has a rather weak power reserve of 45 hours. The diminutive movement size is exactly the opposite of what pilot watches were famous for. Pilot watches were large and bulky for good reason; they were originally fitted with large pocket-watch movements with generous power reserves. The textured blue dial is absolutely lovely, but the lume on the numbers and hands is a pale green colour indicative of the paint that has traditionally been used to poorly restore vintage pilot watches. While the quality and colouring of the lume is something that only watch nerds would pick up, it's not a great choice.
So, is the Calatrava Pilot Travel Time 5524 worthy of the Patek Philippe tag? I am biased, so I am going to say yes! It is a bold move from a manufacturer that is trying to woo a newer and younger audience (the Aquanaut was a step in the same direction). The watch itself is frustratingly imperfect, yet, there is a sense of nostalgia to it, as the idea behind it is a good one. While it's far from an original design, the execution is strong, the proportions are brilliant and, if you carve fora sport watch in white gold, we woulddefinitely recommend seeing the Patek Philippe Calatrava Pilot Travel Time Ref. 5524 in person.

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