There is something intrinsically ornate about annual calendars like the Patek Philippe 5396. While a QP (quantième perpetuel, French for perpetual calendar) is arguably the ultimate date complication, the annual calendar can be executed in a more aesthetically pure fashion, unencumbered by the need to display that pesky year indicator. There is an undeniable appeal to an annual calendar, an X factor that seems well-suited to a dressy watch with an old-school charm. Maybe the annual calendar has less to prove than a QP, having enough chill to just let February be itself… And speaking of chill, after yesterday’s Nautilus 40th Anniversary releases, which have caused quite a stir, let us now indulge in the tranquil beauty of this quintessentially Patek dress watch, the reference 5396.
Annual calendars come in many shapes and sizes, from the stealthy and modern MIH Watch (reviewed here) to more old-world examples from IWC, A. Lange & Söhne, and of course, Patek Philippe. Even within Patek, they offer something of a spread, from the more youthful 5960 (hands-on) to the downright sporty Nautilus 5726 as well as this decidedly classic Patek Philippe 5396, which is new for 2016 in both white (5396G-014) and rose gold (5396R-012).
These “wrong-only-once-a-year” annual calendars are a great example of just how well this complication suits a watch of minimal modernity. The Patek Philippe 5396 measures 38.5mm wide on a matte black alligator strap for the white gold or a brown alligator for the rose gold version. Water resistant to 30m and fitted with sapphire crystals front and back, the Patek Philippe 5396 feels really special. Like a Patek should, I suppose.
Powered by Patek’s 324 S QA LU 24H/303 movement, the Patek Philippe 5396 offers hours, minutes, seconds, a numeric date, moon phase, day, month, and a 24-hour display encircling the moon phase. This automatic calibre employs 34 jewels, ticks at 4Hz and offers a max autonomy of 45 hours.
With a beautiful charcoal gray sunburst dial for the white gold and a shining silver opaline dial for the rose gold, the Patek Philippe 5396 is tightly packed but offers a welcome dial symmetry, its many displays arranged along the vertical center of the dial. Surrounded by a subtle minute track and a truly beautiful use of applied Breguet numerals, the Patek Philippe 5396 draws a line through Patek’s unmatched lineage, nodding to past models like the 565 and 5370 Split-Seconds.
With Calatrava-esque dauphine hands, the Patek Philippe 5396 is legible, detailed, and both the hands and Breguet markers are wonderfully finished, sparkling as they interact with any available light. The detailed sunburst finish of the grey dial is difficult to capture in photos but it makes for a very eye-catching effect on wrist. The annual calendar couldn’t be mush easier to read, thanks in part to a standard date display at 6. In person, I didn’t mind the date display at all, but I did find myself wondering why they opted for a 24 hour display rather than putting the date on the sub dial around the moon phase.
On wrist, the Patek Philippe 5396 sits low and, thanks to its reserved case sizing, I found it to be quite comfortable. To my eyes, in the white gold, this is a really beautiful dress watch with a classic appeal and just enough complication to catch the eye and entice the enthusiast.
The 2016 Patek Philippe 5396 celebrates the 20th anniversary of Patek’s annual calendar complication, which was the world’s first and was originally seen on their reference 5035 in 1996. Since then, the annual calendar has become one of Patek’s best-selling complications. If you want one, get in line and be prepared for the price of the Patek Philippe 5396R in rose gold or 5396G in white gold coming in at $47,970. Two lovely references sporting an interesting and historic complication in a classic and nicely sized format: are you not entertained? patek.com