Two high-complication steel "sport" watches from Patek Philippe were the major hits for the brand at the 2014 edition of Baselworld. People get a bit more excited about steel Patek timepieces because they have historically been keen to increase in value due to their rarity. Today, you don't frequently find complicated steel Patek Philippe timepieces, so the availability of two new ones gets collectors a bit excited. Today, we take a hands-on look at the new Annual Calendar Chronograph 5960/1A.
During the Baselworld 2014 show, we spent some time debuting and discussing the this new steel version of the 5960 here. In that piece you can read a bit more about the history of the 5960 series, as well as why this family is important to Patek Philippe. In short, when the 5960 collection debuted in 2006, it marked the first ever in-house made automatic chronograph movement–in addition to being offered in platinum. Interestingly enough, this new 5960/1A seems to mark the end of all gold or platinum 5960 watches that will be produced, "replacing" them as Patek Philippe describes it.
So the end of the precious metal era of the 5960 picks up with the era of the high-end steel models. And what a way to introduce steel than with such a marvelous new dial. I am not always Patek Philippe's biggest fan but I offer praise where praise is due. Here we find a silvery opaline face with red accents and those marvelous black oxidized white gold hour markers and hands. I always take an opportunity to mention my appreciation of white-dialed sport watches. Patek gets it very right emphasizing both legibility and attractiveness.
White dials are all about high contrast when one wants to get it right. Black or dark colored hands and hour markers are necessary–and they are hard to get right much of the time. However, Patek Philippe's special technique in oxidizing white gold to make it black is highly effective in creating crisp, matte black elements that are both nice to look at and offer excellent dial legibility. The black and white dial mixed with the two added red chronograph hands makes for a highly contemporary dial that is unlike most Patek Philippe timepieces out there.
Patek Philippe originally debuted these types of black oxidized gold hands and hour markers in 2011 on the reference 5270 Perpetual Calendar Chronograph (hands-on here). They have proved so popular that since then there seems to have been at least one new Patek watch to feature these each year. For 2014, we get them on the 5960, which really alters the look of this watch–which itself has always proved to be a controversial design. In my opinion this is easily the most interesting and eye-catching 5960 watch yet.
Upon inquiring with the brand as to the intention behind the novel dial design we are simply reminded that Patek Philippe President Thierry Stern's goal is to produce more watches that will appeal to younger people. Apparently the message that too few modern Patek's appeal to the new (in age or status) rich is resonating with Patek's management. It is true, aside from models like the Nautilus, there are very few Patek Philippe models suitable for what you might consider an active lifestyle.
The almost race-style dial of the 5960/1A makes it the type of watch you don't need to wear with a suit or formal attire. At 40.5mm wide the watch isn't huge, but it is totally within the range of what most under 50 people are wearing. Even the numerals and fonts used on the dial are more modern that one might expect from a Patek. To that we offer a big thumbs up.