Insider: Patek Philippe Grand Complication ref. 5216R. Hands-on with the Fifth Most Complicated Wristwatch from Patek.

Originally launched in March 2011, the Patek Philippe Grand Complication ref. 5216 is the result of 18 successful years of research and development to produce a legendary Grand Complication timepiece with minute repeater, tourbillon, perpetual calendar, retrograde date, and moon phases. With reference 5216, Patek Philippe rises to a further level of sophistication in minute repeaters, launching the legendary caliber R TO 27 PS QR LU movement with the five most popular complications in a perceptibly larger case that encloses a more voluminous resonant cavity to enhance the sonority of the chimes. A successor to the Patek Philippe ref. 5016 that was launched in 1993 and the Sky Moon Tourbillon introduced in 2001, reference 5216R occupies rank 5 in the category of Patek's most complicated watches right behind the Grandmaster Chime ref. 5175 Sky Moon Tourbillon ref. 5002, the Triple Complication ref. 5208 and the Ref. 5207, first presented in 2008.


The Case

Fitted with an 18K rose gold case measuring 39.5 mm in diameter and 12.23 mm in thickness, Patek Philippe decided to go with a larger case size to amplify the volume of the sound from this minute repeater. The rose gold case is sleek and round, and only the slide that triggers the minute repeater deviates slightly from the classic Calatrava style. Considerably larger than the 36.8 mm span of its predecessor the reference 5016, the ref. 5216 represents a totally new dimension. As soon as the slide in the left side case band is activated, the minute repeater starts striking the time with exceptionally rich sonority and fullness.

Rounding out the elegant and classic look of reference 5216R, there is a large, comfortably fluted crown that simplifies winding, while four small correctors are recessed in the case middle for adjusting the calendar indications. These correctors are very discreet and not intrusive at all in order to maintain the sleek lines of this watch untouched. To prevent scratching the case while using these correctors, a stylus made of ebony and rose gold is delivered with the watch. The correctors are located as follows: Date between 11 and 12 o'clock, Month and leap year between 3 and 4 o’clock, Moon phase between 5 and 6 o’clock and Day of the week between 6 and 7 o'clock.

The minute repeater first strikes the hours on the low-pitched gong, then the quarter-hours with double high-low notes, and finally the minutes that have elapsed since the last quarter-hour on the high-pitched gong. The highlight is at 12:59 when 32 consecutive strikes tell the time. To verify the perfection of its acoustic spectrum, each Ref. 5216 is tested in a soundproofed chamber equipped with modern instrumentation and digital sound analyzers. Finally, every watch is brought to the manufacture's president Thierry Stern so he can decide whether the watch is ready to be sold or whether it is still necessary to tune it up. The Patek Philippe Grand Complication ref. 5216R is also available in 950 platinum with a black enamel dial.


The Dial

In addition to the minute repeating mechanism, the Patek Philippe ref. 5216 is also equipped with a tourbillon that is only visible on the reverse side of the watch —to protect its lubricants— and a perpetual calendar with retrograde date indicator. The silvered opaline dial features retrograde date indicator on an arch at the center of the dial, day and month apertures at 9 and 3 o'clock respectively, small square aperture for the leap year indicator right below the 12 o'clock double marker and moon phase display with running seconds at 6 o'clock.

With superb legibility and a perfectly balanced dial layout, the eight time and calendar indications are superbly legible as the minutes are perfectly marked on the periphery with cabochon pearls. Dauphine hands and 'Obus' applied markers, along with the retrograde hand that points at the date with its red arrow tip, play a timeless symphony of pure class and clean design. The moon phase display at 6 o'clock is not only endearingly poetic but also contributes to the perfect equilibrium of the entire dial. On the dial, only a small inscription suggests the presence of a tourbillon.

Thus, one of the world's most complicated wristwatches is distinctively understated in its appearance; its decidedly classic style is underscored by the hand stitched glossy brown alligator strap. Thanks to its ingenious design, the 18K gold fold over clasp is both comfortingly secure and amazingly simple to open and close.


The Movement

Powered by the manual wound Patek Philippe in-house calibre R TO 27 PS QR LU, this Grand Complication is a marvel of horology. With an overall diameter of 28 mm and a thickness of 8.6 mm, this movement is composed of 506 parts and 28 jewels. While beating at a frequency of 21,600 vph, when fully wound, the movement provides a power reserve of 48 hours. The Patek Philippe Grand Complication is fitted with a display case back but also supplied with an additional interchangeable solid 18K rose gold case back for those that prefer to maintain the movement occult. Honestly, who in its right mind would want to not look at this stunning piece of art and micro-engineering all day long. While the ref. 5216 is humidity and dust protected it is not water resistant.

To make things even more interesting and more beautiful, calibre R TO 27 PS QR LU features a skeletonized Calatrava-shaped bridge. To the right of it, we can appreciate the highly polished hammers and gong for the minute repeater mechanism.

As far as the tourbillon, this is only visible on the movement side. Rotating it about its own axis once a minute, its cage is conformed of 69 steel parts that together weigh merely 0.3 grams. Because the sole purpose of the tourbillon is to safeguard the rate accuracy of the watch and for this reason must remain amply lubricated at all times, Patek Philippe respects horological traditions and does not expose it through an aperture in the dial as the UV spectrum of daylight would degrade the quality of the oil within just a few days.


On the Wrist & Pricing

On the wrist, there's not much to say other than that this grand complication is simply perfect. The Patek Philippe Grand Complication Minute Repeater ref. 5216R is what watch dreams are made of and a timepiece that sits up high in the ranking of breathtaking horology. The sound of its minute repeater is captivating and one of our top five favorite minute repeaters in the world. Pure perfection here and nothing else. There are special watches and then there's this Patek Philippe Minute Repeater.

Sticker Price Approximately $500,000 USD+. For more info on Patek Philippe click here.