Up Close with the Patek Philippe “Breguet Numeral” Annual Calendar Ref. 5396
Introduced in 1996, the Patek Philippe annual calendar has had a stellar run, becoming of the brand’s bestsellers. Thanks to its modular construction, the annual calendar mechanism has been fitted to a variety of base movements, but its most classic form is arguably the window-type display found on the various versions of the ref. 5396.
Last year the ref. 5396 got a facelift with Breguet numerals and dauphine hands, design elements found in many much loved vintage Patek Philippe watches, but rarely paired together. In fact, the new Annual Calendar ref. 5396 might be the first time Patek Philippe has combined the two. Traditionally Breguet numerals, essentially Arabic numbers in a calligraphic font, are paired with Breguet, leaf or spade hands, even on pocket watches.
Angular and rather large, the dauphine hands aren’t a natural fit for the Breguet numeral dial, though the result is still handsome, albeit modern looking rather than strictly classical. Being wide at their base, the hour and minute hands cover the top of the 24-hour sub-dial at six o’clock over several hours over a day; though the 24-hour indicator has limited utility.
Up close, however, both dials are beautifully detailed. The new Annual Calendar is available in two guises, white gold as the ref. 5396G-014 and the rose gold ref. 5396G-012.
The dial on the white gold model is a medium grey with a metallic, sun-ray brushed finish, giving it a restrained appearance. While the dial disc is brass, the applied numerals and spherical minute markers (which appeared pressed in from the back) are 18k white gold, as are the hands. The 24-hour indicator at six o’clock sits on a crisply recessed track that gives the entire dial a bit of depth.
On the rose gold version the dial is similarly constructed, though the surface is finished in grained silver instead. Notably, the recessed track for the 24-hour display is finished with fine concentric lines known as azurage.
Dials aside, both are identical to earlier versions of the ref. 5396. Typical of a Patek Philippe, the case is streamlined and elegant, being 38.5mm wide and a slim 11.2mm high.
Inside is the calibre 324 S QA LU 24H that is built on Patek Philippe’s workhorse automatic movement. It’s carefully and concisely decorated, with all the details attended to, giving it visual appealing. But as with nearly all watches made by an established brand, the decoration is done in a workmanlike manner, combining both mechanical and manual techniques.
Take for instance the perlage, or circular graining, around the central axis of the rotor. It’s correctly applied with the outer edge of each circle just touching the centre of the next. But because the size of the circles are relatively large, the final circle does not overlap the first one.
Price and availability
Both the Annual Calendar ref. 5396G-012 and ref. 5396G-014 are priced at SFr42,300 each, the same as previous versions of the reference. It’s available from Patek Philippe boutiques and retailers.