I am by no means a mega fan of Patek Philippe. While I enjoy some of their watches, I will never be the type to obsess over vintage Patek references or, G-d forbid, obsess over the ridiculously over-popularized Nautilus. It is incredibly rare that I put on a watch and think to myself “this watch is perfect… everything about it is perfect and there is absolutely nothing inferior in quality or aesthetic to detract from the beauty of this watch”. When I tried on the 5170G-010 I thought exactly this. The only other watch that made me feel this way was the Rolex Submariner 116619LB, although A. Lange & Söhne’s Lange 1 Moon Phase in pink gold comes close.
Every aspect of the watch: the dial colour, the case design, the ratio of the size of the dial to the overall watch, the lugs, the font of the indices, the hands, the design of the subdials, it all just comes together to make a watch that anybody can look at and say “this is beautiful”. This is all before looking through the sapphire caseback. Housed inside is Patek’s CH 29-535 PS movement which, while not the most beautiful movement ever, is perfect in its own way. It’s decorated just enough and looks great, but doesn’t go so far in decoration as to change the 5170’s feeling of “everyday wearability” or significantly increase the price of the watch. Additionally, the unexpected 60+ hour power reserve is a nice touch for a dress watch where I would have thought the reserve would have been sub-48 hours. The Patek Philippe 5170 is a watch that you can put on that will not only never look out of place with any type of nicer outfit, but is one that will make you smile every time you look at it. Furthermore, it truly is a watch that watch enthusiasts of all schools of thought can look at and appreciate.
Having said all of that, the 5170 was, in my mind, not going to be out of Patek’s lineup for a long time. Enter the 5172. If you read my article on my Baselworld predictions for Patek (which I was incredibly incorrect about in my guesses) it would be no surprise that I am not a fan of the 5170’s replacement. I thought that my feelings might subside and I would begin to see any sort of positive to the new watch. Contrary to that though I feel that my disdain for the 5172 grows stronger each day since my initial reaction. If the 5170 had never been released, indifference would be the general feeling towards the new model, but seeing that it replaced such an incredible watch is disheartening to say the least.
How can I count the ways that the 5172 falls short? First, they switched beautiful leaf hands for syringe hands. Second, they increased a proportionate, more dressy case size of 39mm to 42mm. Third, the formerly beautiful font of the Arabic numerals on the side has been changed to a boring, lackluster, and mundane font that isn’t even in the same ballpark as the previous model’s. The Patek Philippe 5172 is reminiscent of a Breitling Navitimer 8 chronograph. Need I say more? In the likely attempt to market the 5172 to a younger audience, Patek Philippe has lost all the class and charm that the 5170 had. Larger case size and bolder, more industrial-style font and hands don’t tell a story of whimsy and quality the way the 5170 did, they only say “ridiculously overpriced Navitimer 8”.
I have no idea what Patek’s leadership and design teams were thinking when they decided to discontinue the 5170, and furthermore, replacing it with this new watch is something I can only describe as an insult to potential customers. Looking down at a 5170 on your wrist makes almost any watch collector smile. What kind of emotion is the 5172 designed to evoke? Bland indifference and most importantly a complete lack of passion. Without any sort of passion doesn’t a watch miss the mark?