Hubert Burda Media

Ladies First

Patek Philippe extends its heritage of creating complications for women’s watches into the modern era with its stellar Basel 2015 novelties

Since it sold its first grand complication ladies’ wristwatch — a platinum timepiece with a five-minute repeater — to D O Wickham in New York in 1916, Patek Philippe has proven that an appreciation of exquisite watch mechanisations is not limited only to gentlemen. Although traditionally the reserve of men, Patek Philippe has produced horological complications for women for almost a century. These include timepieces fitted with perpetual calendars, tourbillons, chronographs, time-zone displays, astronomical indications and repeater mechanisms.
In the years following the debut of its first feminine timepiece, the manufacture went on to produce many other pieces for females. Most notably, it launched the now iconic Nautilus watch in a ladies version (Nautilus Ref 4700/1) in 1980, just four years after the debut of its original men’s piece. Conceived as a masculine sports watch, the feminisation of the Nautilus made a strong statement that Patek Philippe’s interest in catering to female tastes was not a perfunctory endeavour, but a serious pursuit. When the casual and sporty Aquanaut was launched for men in 1997, the ladies received its equivalent (Aquanaut Ref 4960) a mere year later in 1998.
A milestone was set in 2009 when Patek Philippe introduced its first in-house manually wound chronograph movement, the CH 29-535 PS calibre within a ladies timepiece. Known as the Ladies First Chronograph Ref 7071, it featured a traditional column wheel and horizontal clutch. The movement served as a replacement for the previously outsourced Nouvelle Lémania manually wound CH 27-70 chronograph calibre used in Patek Philippe’s ladies models. Thus began the opening chapter of Patek Philippe’s Ladies First collection, a series of mechanically wound watches featuring treasured complications long loved by watch collectors.
Two years later in 2011, Patek Philippe continued to lure female watch collectors with more complicated feminine timepieces: The Ladies First Minute Repeater Ref 7000 and the Ladies First Split-Seconds Chronograph Ref 7059, a svelte watch powered by the world’s thinnest, split-second column wheel chronograph movement. It also launched its first world-time complication for ladies, the World Time Ref 7130: Previously only offered in a men’s version, the watch came with a 24-hour as well as day and night indication for 24 time zones. Never one to rest on its laurels, the Swiss manufacture added two more complicated pieces to its stable of female watches the next year: The Ladies Perpetual Calendar Ref 7140 and the Diamond Ribbon Ref 4968, a moon phase piece with small-seconds indicator. In 2013, Patek Philippe extended its Calatrava line for women with a reinterpretation of the ladies Travel Time Ref 7134 and the unveiling of the moon phase piece, Ref 7121J.
Last year, the manufacture celebrated its 175th anniversary and revealed a series of timepieces to mark the occasion. Among them were exceptional timepieces for the ladies, including the Multi-Scale Chronograph Ref 4675, which is equipped with a pulsimeter, tachymeter and telemeter, as well as the World Time Moon Ref 7175 that comes with both world time and moon phase indicators.
This year, Patek Philippe further displays its savoir faire in creating complicated timepieces for ladies through its Baselworld novelties. Headlining its new offerings is the redesigned Ladies Annual Calendar. Available in rose gold and white gold, the new Ref 4948 presents a slightly different case shape and will gradually replace the existing Ladies’ Annual Calendar Ref 4937. Fitted with the mechanical self-winding calibre 324 S QA LU, the timepiece boasts an annual calendar that only requires one correction per year, as well as a moon phase indicator. It is also equipped with the watchmaker’s patented Gyromax balance wheel and Spiromax balance spring for better timekeeping performance. The watch offers a power reserve of at least 35 hours and a water resistance of up to 30m.
The real difference between the rose and white gold versions lie in its aesthetics. While both editions present gold frames enhancing the date and moon phase apertures, the rose gold one showcases a white Balinese mother-of-pearl dial, while the white gold one, a black Tahitian mother-of-pearl dial. The 38-mm timepiece is set with 347 diamonds of graduated size (approximately 2.65ct) on the case, while an additional 14 diamonds (0.06ct) adorn its crown. Gold applied numerals display prominently on the dial, while five-minute markers of gold cabochon and thin leaf-shaped hour and minute hands, all filled with superluminova, provide excellent readability. For the rose gold version, a matt pearl-white alligator strap, with a prong buckle set with 27 diamonds adding up to 0.21ct, completes the aesthetic. The white gold version bears a shiny mink alligator strap instead.
A variant of the Ladies’ Annual Calendar, Ref 4947, was also presented this year as a replacement for the existing Ref 4936. This model exhibits a sunburst dial instead of mother-of-pearl, and comes in either white gold paired with a blue dial or rose gold with a silvery dial. The watch case is set with 141 diamonds of graduated size totalling 1.28ct, while the crown sports 14 diamonds weighing about 0.06ct.
The watchmaker also built on one of its flagship collections, the Calatrava — which was inspired by the Bauhaus principle and launched in 1932 — and introduced two ladies’ styles to the range. With the original Calatrava’s clean, sleek appeal in mind, the Ladies’ Calatrava Ref 7200/1 sports a similar aesthetic and features a silvery-white grained dial bearing gold applied Breguet numerals and gold-pearl minute markers housed in the ultra-thin officer’s style case with straight lugs complemented by a rose gold seven-link bracelet with a fold over clasp. The 34.6-mm timepiece contains a mechanical self-winding calibre 240 and boasts a minimum power reserve of 48 hours.
Also introduced was the Ladies’ Calatrava Ref 4897 in glacial white gold, which sports a new sunburst guilloché and lacquered dial with matching strap colour. This 33-mm piece features gold-powder hour markers and a silvery grey brushed satin strap, along with white gold Dauphine hands and a bezel set with 72 diamonds totalling 0.47ct. Powered by the calibre 215, the watch offers a reserve time of 44 hours.
The last in Patek Philippe’s Basel 2015 novelties round-up is a new addition to its Nautilus collection, the Ladies’ Automatic Nautilus Ref 7118/1200 in rose gold with opaline-silver or golden-brown dials. Framing the Nautilus collection’s iconic porthole-shaped dial is a bezel set with 56 diamonds that weigh approximately 0.67ct. The watch’s hour markers and rose gold baton-shaped hour and minute hands are treated with luminescent coating for enhanced legibility. Water resistant to 60m, this horologe runs on a mechanical self-winding calibre 324 S C, offering a maximum power reserve of 45 hours.