Patek Philippe Grand Complications 5004J-012

Museum Piece
Very few watches inspire a visceral reaction like Patek Philippe’s stunning ref.

Very few watches inspire a visceral reaction like Patek Philippe’s stunning ref. 5004 perpetual calendar split seconds chronograph.

The ref. 5004 descends from a long line of exquisite Patek Philippe grand complications. To be specific, it is the direct offspring of the exquisite ref. 1518, 2499, and 3970 perpetual calendar chronographs. Yet, it managed to trump its forebears by introducing yet another complication: the split second (or rattrapante) chronograph.

The 5004 takes an exceptional spot in Patek’s storied history because it’s the maison’s first watch to combine the perpetual calendar mechanism with a split seconds chronograph. Even though the watch was introduced in 1996, it is the last truly vintage grand complications by Patek Philippe. With a case measuring in at 36 mm, the 5004 hits the sweet spot: not too small, not too large.

Now, what’s so special about a perpetual calendar and split seconds chronograph? For one, it includes a calendar mechanism that, once properly set, correctly displays the calendar for years to come by taking into account both differential month lengths as well as leap years. Pretty impressive for a mechanical watch. Second, it takes the handy chronograph function and supercharges it by allowing the wearer to time two different events, separately from one another. To achieve this, two chronographs hands are superimposed over one another. Once the chronograph function is engaged, pushing the button on the crown stops one of the hands while the other keeps running. With a second push of the button on the crown, the idle hand instantaneously catches up with the running hand again.

The ref. 5004 is one of the most collectible regular production watches ever made by Patek. During its 1996-2012 production run, roughly 200 to 300 examples were produced in various metals. This ref. 5004J dates back to 2000 and features a 36.7 mm case executed in 18K yellow gold. On the right hand-side of the case, the crown with integrated split-seconds button is sandwiched between two pump-style chronograph pushers. As the watch is turned upside down, the display case back gives way to the exquisite hand-finished in-house manual winding split-seconds caliber.

The classic opaline dial features applied 18K yellow gold Arabic indices and small applied gold dots at the 3, 5, 7, and o’clock positions. As a nod to the ref. 1518 and early 2499s perpetual calendar chronographs, the 5004 features 18K gold feuille (leaf) hands. 

The complications are displayed through a set of windows and sub-dials. Two apertures at the 12 o’clock position reveal the day and month mechanism. The recessed sub-dial at the 9 o’clock position displays a running seconds as well as a 24-hour hand while the recessed sub-dial at the 3-hour position incorporates a 30-minute chronograph counter and a leap year indicator. Finally on the lower sub-dial we find a charming moon phase indicator, which is surrounded by a date indication.

The ref. 5004 is one of the crowning glories of Patek Philippe’s storied history and, therefore, an essential part of any serious Patek collection. This watch is accompanied by the original box and papers and comes on a brown alligator leather Patek strap with an 18K yellow gold Patek Philippe deployant clasp.