Last fall, I wrote a Brief History of Patek Phillipe, primarily through the lens of its legendary perpetual calendar chronographs. From classic rockers like Eric Clapton to modern hip-hop/rockstars like Lil Uzi Vert, Patek Phillipe has a timeless appeal that draws in the rich and famous, no matter the generation. Here’s the introduction I wrote:
Patek Phillipe traces its roots to 1839, when Antoni Patek and Franciszek Czapek started making watches together in Geneva. They separated in 1844 and in 1845 Adrien Philippe joined Mr. Patek to form Patek Philippe & Co. Fast-forward to today, Patek Phillipe is the last truly independent, family-owned watch maker in Geneva. It has been owned by the Stern family since 1932, and Thierry Stern currently serves as the firm's president. According to recent interviews with Stern, Patek Phillipe now produces between 40,000 and 50,000 timepieces per year; the company brought in 1.3 billion CHF in revenue in 2016. It's said that less than 1 million Patek Phillipe watches have been created since the beginning of the company. To this day, every individual part of a Patek's movement is hand finished, making these watches even more beautiful to look at from the inside than from the outside.
Later on, I zeroed in on the Rererence 5970:
Finally, Patek produced the 5970 from 2004–2011. It's perhaps the most sought-after modern collectible watch, with a large 40mm dial.
Well GQ has done a little more justice to the 5970 than I did in that one sentence. It focuses on what is said to be the rarest of those 5970s, the yellow-gold version:
Patek Philippe has a long and storied history of making Perpetual Calendar chronograph watches. Since the early 1940s, the Swiss house has produced six versions, and I think this one, the reference 5970 in yellow gold, is the best in Patek's vault of “grand complications.”
The 5970 was first released in 2004, and of all of Patek's grand complications, it had the shortest production run—a mere six years. And out of the 2,800 or so 5970s said to be out there, the yellow-gold ones, surprisingly, are the rarest. Generally, if a watch is made in a series of metals, yellow gold will be the most common, and platinum (or sometimes stainless steel) the hardest to get. It's speculated that just 300 were made in 2008, the only year Patek is said to have produced them. (Patek, being an extremely private company, won't publicly reveal how many of any watches they produce.) But that's not why it's the best iteration of this series. To me, there's something about the yellow-gold case and creamy white dial that sets it apart from all the others. Yellow gold watches are the shit.
No doubt, the 5970 is a bad ass watch. And if you roll in anywhere with a yellow-gold Patek, people are going to notice (for better or worse). It’s a look for the bold and successful.
For everything GQ has to say about the Ref. 5970, read here.