November 11, 2017
by David Bredan
Why, I mean oh why do high-end luxury watches have reflective crystals? That is a question we might never know the definitive answer to, and the Patek Philippe 5170P-001 certainly doesn’t help fix the issue; but otherwise it’s quite the watch, so let us give it a closer look.
As I was reviewing my images of this otherwise quite splendid looking fella, I could feel anger and frustration sneaking up on me. It was like seeing the Mona Lisa re-sketched with an extensive cleavage, or Munch’s The Scream turned into an emoji. What I could see was something painstakingly thought out and executed to the finest detail, and then ruined just to impress the constantly distracted modern onlooker.
My only theory for the existence of reflective crystals, like the one on the Patek Philippe 5170P-001, is that it’s chosen because it looks more impressive and expensive to the untrained eye – and the expansive boom the watch industry experienced over the last two decades sure brought along masses of untrained customers who, by nature, flocked to the well-known prestige brands. I mean, picture the following scenario.
A client, as the industry inexplicably likes to call him, walks into a boutique, asking for “something flashy – but not tasteless… I learned from last time.” Seating and a glass of bubbly is offered and moments later he has the boutique’s staff hand one of these beauties over with their white gloved hands – for their lowly human skin is not allowed to touch such precious materials like almost-pure platinum, or sapphire. As the spot lamps shine down upon this setting like stars in the sky, the watch reflects light back at the to-be customer, blinding his eyes, keeping them from focusing on the ever-so-small price tag tucked away neatly on the inside of the strap.
His eyes, tired from witnessing the plebs go about their lives as he rolls past them in his tinted Maybach, do their absolute best to glance behind the curved and proudly non-AR-coated crystal, desperately hunting for the feast they could sense is awaiting. Their efforts yield great rewards: nine massive, baguette-cut diamonds sparkle back at them – “in the vicinity of a fifth of a carat,” his trained nouveau riche vision makes him whisper and the staff almost claps in appreciation. They are approximately 0.23ct.
As a viewing angle is found where the entire ceiling and the rest of the store is not reflected back at the client, a dial in a vibrant, yet noble shade of blue starts to show itself, set alight by a subtle sunburst finish. No deep grooves or any of that rubbish, just the lightest touch on the surface. Moments later, it becomes apparent, the 5170P is not about the dial color, but about those splendid baguette diamonds – which, to be fair, put up an honorable fight against the reflections as they too scatter light in a million ways.
Diamond markers function as a divisive power among watch enthusiasts. Those with a more faint confidence in their taste (or something else, maybe?) actively seek the chance to overreact and, as such, consider even the suggestion of diamond markers to be a personal attack. They wish to voice their uber-conservative taste whenever possible for it is their trusty safe-place where, cosied up against the soft walls of watch taste conservatism, they are free from making a wrong call.
Many more even refrain from diamonds on an otherwise conservative-friendly Patek Philippe chronograph like the 5170 – a far lass offensive design move, I’d say, than the manufacture’s recent foray into pilot watches. On a positive note, others do like diamond hour markers and (shame on me?) I belong to this bunch of horological outcasts. If we are honest, any watch that costs over, say, $1,000 is in one way or another an excessive, luxurious trait – and with that in mind (and especially when you’re spending well into five figures), diamond hour markers sound more natural than ever.
The 39.4mm-wide platinum case may just be 10.9mm thick – the Patek Philippe 5170P gets proportions right – but it still has considerable heft to it. As the “P” in the reference number and the weight over the wrist indicate, this 5170 is crafted in the heaviest of precious luxury watch materials. This, in a Patek Philippe, further entails a little diamond set in between the lower lugs of the timepiece, nothing more than a reminder that you demand nothing but the best – and/or most expensive – the world has to offer.