PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE COLLECTOR
Accompanied by the original Patek Philippe fitted wood box with a plaque engraved, ‘Calibre 89’. Together with a Patek Philippe Portfolio with Extract from the Archives confirming the date of manufacture in 1989, with outer presentation slip case, gold corrector and gold key.
The Matsuda Collection, Tokyo
Antiquorum, Geneva, November 2009, Celebrating 35 Years of Making History in Time, lot 364
Property of a Private Collector
Alan Downing and René Bittel, Voyage to the End of Time, Geneva, 1989
Nicholas Foulkes, Patek Philippe: The Authorized Biography, London, 2016, pp. 321–355
Philippe Stern: A Declaration of Independence
Throughout its 178 years as a master watchmaking firm, Patek Philippe has created an abundance of extraordinary watches, challenging the way consumers think about timepieces. Among the most complicated and significant watches ever created, the Calibre 89 not only represents Patek Philippe’s unrivaled position at the apex of horology, but it also illustrates the firm’s unwavering belief in the superiority of the mechanical watch. Made at a time when the impact of the quartz crisis was still reverberating through the Swiss watch industry, the Calibre 89 is an affirmation of the unsurpassable genius of the watchmaker’s art. With 33 complications, the Calibre 89 remains Patek Philippe’s most complicated watch.
While the Swiss watch industry underwent profound advances and changes, Honorary President, (then Vice President and Managing Director) Philippe Stern, boldly faced the challenges of the modern world with a new manifesto. Under Stern, the company published a brochure titled A Declaration of Independence in 1974. Patek Philippe reaffirmed its integrity as a family-owned business and reassured its retail partners of its commitment to excellence in the face of the mass-produced and easily accessible quartz watch.
Stern’s challenge was to push Patek Philippe into the modern world while retaining the venerable culture on which its success and reputation originated. The company’s new approach to marketing and innovation redefined Patek Philippe in the final two decades of the twentieth century. Changes in socioeconomic status and consumer culture paved the way for a new type of consumer with very high spending power but little knowledge of traditional and bespoke brands such as Patek Philippe. Stern wisely targeted this deficit through an aggressive and cohesive marketing strategy.
“Our marketing objective is to make Patek Philippe known as the best watch. We have to look after this new clientele and point out to them that Patek Philippe stands for original watchmaking that is above fashion and trends, and also something that is not an industrial product.” (Philippe Stern in Nicholas Foulkes, Patek Philippe: The Authorized Biography, 2016, p. 338)
The Calibre 89 was devised during a discussion between Philippe Stern and Patek Philippe’s Technical Director, Max Studer. Under the new and dynamic marketing model of Stern, the team sought to find an appropriate and momentous way to celebrate their 150th Jubilee anniversary. Conceived ten years ahead of the anniversary, the initial idea of the watch was to reproduce the Henry Graves Jr. Supercomplication, which had then represented the absolute limit in horological possibility. Instead, Max Studer proposed the creation of an even more complex and complicated timepiece. Stern thus commissioned the making of the world’s most complicated watch to represent Patek Philippe’s unique and unmatched horological prowess. The Calibre 89 maintained the atelier’s traditions and history, while the research and development required to complete it in turn helped keep Patek Philippe at the forefront of watchmaking.
This open-faced astronomical and astrological watch with two dials comprises 1,728 components in total. Preliminary calculations and designs began in 1980, followed by five years of research and four years of production with the collaboration of a small group of Patek Philippe experts. The team included engineers Jean-Pierre Musy and François Devaud, watchmaker Paul Buclin and designer Frédérique Zesiger. With a working prototype ready in July 1988, the yellow gold Calibre 89 (movement No. 844000) was completed in April 1989. The company then manufactured three additional pieces, one each in pink gold, white gold, and platinum, for which a further nine years were required to complete production. The prototype currently resides in the permanent collection of the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva, Switzerland.
Innovations in Technology
The discreet and acutely sensitive task of watchmaking had never before been mechanized by computer assisted technology. In fact, master watchmakers operated without the use of reference images or blueprints, relying solely from memory; an astounding feat. The development of the Calibre 89 was assisted firstly by Patek Philippe’s director, Alan Banbery, who was able to obtain photographic details of the Henry Graves Jr. Supercomplication for research, development, and inspiration. Secondly, the making of this watch introduced the unprecedented use of computer-aided design (CAD). Introduced and mechanized by automotive and architectural industries, CAD programs enhanced manual drafting with a swift automated process. The technology became integral in producing a higher level of precision components for the enormous movement. CAD-produced calculations guided tool-making mechanisms to create highly specialized parts to be cut without error at smaller scales than ever before.
Headed by master draftsman and designer, Frédérique Zesiger, thousands of technical drawings and schematics were transferred to CAD. The program calculated various components such as the precise distance between indentations in the steel notched snail-cam in the repeating mechanism. The team made several changes to the design of the Calibre 89 throughout the years, including the later addition of the tourbillon escapement and multi-functioning crown. As they made these adjustments, CAD simplified the process by generating new blueprints and components. CAD has advanced the field of horology and allowed makers to continually innovate and expand on masterpieces from the past.
Surpassing the Supercomplication
The Calibre 89 surpasses the Henry Graves Jr. Supercomplication with nine additional complications.
Tourbillon: It was not until two and a half years into production that the makers decided to include a tourbillon escapement in the Calibre 89. Alterations for the mechanism of the split-seconds chronograph were made in order to include the tourbillon in the final design. The tourbillon patented by Abraham Louis Breguet in 1801 compensates for the effects of gravity on the balance wheel. By mounting the balance-wheel and escapement mechanism in a revolving cage, positional errors due to gravity are averaged out. While the tourbillon regulator traditionally is part of the fourth–wheel of the main drive train, due to the complexity of the Calibre 89, the fourth-wheel engages the toothed rim of the tourbillon’s cage. The tourbillon also revolves once every two minutes, rather than the usual one revolution per minute.
Sun Hand: The gold hand capped by the sun on the Sidereal dial makes one rotation around the dial annually, and indicates the zodiac, seasons, the solstice and the equinox, located in the outer, middle and innermost ring respectively. The mechanism for the sun hand also corresponds to the Equation of Time, the hours of sunrise and sunset and the Date of Easter.
Date of Easter: All of the possible dates of Easter, which range from March 22nd to April 25th, appear in an arc on the sidereal dial. Easter is the only Christian lunar holiday, thus it has a different date every year. The cam in the Calibre 89 can accurately give the date of Easter for 29 years, starting in 1989. After 2017, the cam needs to be replaced for the next 29 years. When the watch records change of the year, a blue-steel hand shifts to point to the date of Easter for the indicated year. A mechanism to indicate the date of Easter had never been done before, and Patek patented the design under patent number 649673 on December 13, 1985.
Second Time Zone: A gold hand on the mean solar time dial indicates the hours of a second time zone. By pressing the push-piece at 11 o’clock, the user can advance this independent hours hand in increments of one hour. This allows the user to adjust this watch in different time-zones without advancing the minutes hand.
Secular Calendar and Leap Year: The Perpetual Calendar shows the correct day of the week, date of the month and month of the year regardless of the length of the month, it also adjusts for the leap year. Since the duration of a Solar year is 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds, an extra day is added every four years (leap year). According to the Gregorian Calendar reforms of 1582, only century years that are divisible by 400 without remainder are considered leap years. Unlike the Graves, the Calibre 89 compensates for this, thus it will not count the years 2100, 2200 and 2300 as leap years.
The aperture immediately to the right of the year indication displays the leap year cycle from 1-4..
Year Indication: The year indication appears in an aperture right under the winding-crown-position indicator. A metal disk has the numerals for centuries up to the 27th century.
Mechanism to halt chime: Two mainspring barrels in the first tier of the movement power the chime and the alarm. The chime consists of four gongs, and is regulated by a centrifugal governor. When the repeater is in use, it can run down the mainspring in the barrel that powers the chime. If the watch is set to chime in passing, a blocking mechanism stops the Grand Strike or Small Strike before the mainspring of the chimes completely runs down.
Winding-Crown position indicator: The Winding Crown position indicator is also unique to the Calibre 89. Placed towards the top of the mean solar time dial, it indicates the different positions at which the winding crown must be at in order to set specific functions of the watch. Position R to wind the movement and the chime, Position A to set astronomical calendar and the alarm, Position B to set sidereal time and mean solar time.
The Mean Time Dial
Cream dial, applied yellow gold Breguet numerals, outer track for minutes with red five minute divisions, double-sunk subsidiary dials for 30-minute and 12-hour registers combined with power reserve indications for going and striking trains respectively, further double-sunk subsidiary dial for constant seconds and temperature combined with moon-phases, retrograde date, apertures for day, month, year, and leap year indication, crown position indicator, yellow gold Breguet hour and minute hands, blued steel Breguet hand for second time zone, blued steel split second hands, blued steel triangular alarm indicator, hands for temperature and power reserve indications, blued steel hands for subsidiary seconds and chronograph minute/hour registers
1. Winding-Crown-Position Indicator
2. Century Decade and Year
3. Leap Year Indication
4. Split Seconds
5. Seconds in Meantime
6. Power Reserve for Movement
7. 30-Minute Register
9. Second Time Zone
10. Constant Seconds
12. Temperature °C
14. Power Reserve for Chime
16. Hours in Meantime
17. 12-Hour Register
The Sidereal Dial
White dial, painted gold Arabic numerals calibrated for 24 hours, inner minute track, subsidiary dials for sunrise, sunset and sidereal seconds combined with the equation of time, outermost ring for seasons, solstice and equinox indications, zodiac, and months, blued steel feuille hands for hours and minutes, blued steel hand for indicating date of Easter, yellow gold sun-tipped hand indicating to outer rings, blued steel hands for sunrise/sunset and subsidiary seconds, gold hand for equation of time, large aperture revealing the celestial chart surrounded with the cardinal points, the celestial disc composed of corundum sapphire crystal marked with 2,800 distinct gilt stars in five sizes according to their orders of magnitude, on the reverse side of the transparent disc with applied fine gold dust representing the Milky Way, the whole night sky for the horizon at the latitude of Geneva, Switzerland, 46 ° 11’ 59” North
2. Signs of the Zodiac
4. Minutes in Sidereal time
5. Celestial Chart over Geneva, Switzerland
6. Time of Sunset
7. Constant Seconds in Sidereal Time
9. Sun Hand
10. Equation of Time
11. Time of Sunrise
13. Hours in Sidereal Time
14. Date of Easter
The movement of the Calibre 89 is composed of four separate tiers on three plates. The plates are made of the alloy maillechort, more commonly referred to as German silver. Within the movement are three mainspring barrels, powering the main functions of the watch and calendar, the alarm, and the repeat function respectively. The multi-tiered construction not only allows the watch to convey all the information of its 33 complications to the dial, but also allows the configuration of the dials to retain symmetry and attractive proportions.
Containing the chime, alarm, power reserve for the movement and repeater, and 12-hour register.
Containing the mean-time, tourbillon, chronograph function and 30-minute register.
Containing the functions of the sidereal dial including the sidereal time, star chart, seasons, solstices and equinoxes, Zodiac calendar, equation of time, sunrise and sunset.
Containing the functions of the perpetual calendar including the month, day and date, moon phases, second time zone, and the one non-horological function, the thermometer.
The classic bassine case of the Calibre 89 was made in house by Patek Philippe. It is cut from three pieces of 18 carat yellow gold, and consists of a central case band that supports the plates of the movement, the band fitted with a slide at the crown, engraved CL (Cadran Légal) and CS (Cadran sidéral), slide for strike/ silent engraved S/O, for slide for petite sonnerie and grande sonnerie engraved GS/PS, repeat slide at 6 o’clock, one large slide for winding of the alarm, with two bezels on which the crystals are installed to protect the dials. Two corundum sapphire crystals are fitted atop each dial which is scratch resistant against virtually every common material, except diamond. The case boasts a massive diameter of 88.2 mm, 41.07 mm total thickness including the crystals, and, including the movement, weighs a total of 1,100 grams (2 lb, 43 oz). The case itself weighs an impressive 500 grams, twice the weight of the Henry Graves Supercomplication.
With such an enormous number of complications co-existing within one finely tuned case, even the simplest of functions and configurations were put to the test and met with challenges. The winding-crown-position indicator is a simple function where a needle points to one of the three positions to which the winding-crown is set to perform certain tasks. However, as the complication was developed and ordered after the entire watch had been designed, fitting this otherwise simple function was nearly impossible without the perfecting eye of Patek Philippe’s, Jean-Pierre Musy and Paul Buclin.
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