Patek Philippe Ref. 5131R – World Time

The Patek Philippe world time complication is viewed, even by non-partisans, as one of the most exquisite expositions of the genre. Nobody really makes world time watches as beautifully as Patek Philippe.

Patek Philippe pioneered the innovation in many of today’s most popular complications. From perpetual calendar chronographs, to perpetual calendars and annual calendars. In fact, one could legitimately claim that what Patek Philippe achieved in the 20th century was the domination of complicated watches. They led the vanguard in this domain. However, when one thinks of world time, one does not immediately think of Patek Philippe as pioneering in that area. However, even in this domain, Patek Philippe led the way.

To re-cap on some of the history, it all originally started with a man called Louis Cottier (1894-1966). Louis Cottier was an independent watchmaker. He basically created the world time complication. Cottier worked closely with Patek Philippe and was inspirational in the development of the Ref. 515, the very first Patek Philippe world time watch, released in 1937. Since 1937, the world time complication has become something of a speciality for Patek Philippe.

Since 1937, Patek Philippe have devoted over 20 different references to “time travel” be that world time or travel time. It is clearly a complication that can be extremely useful. However, owners of world time watches tend to love them for many reasons, and functionality is probably not always the top of the list, especially when it comes to the enamel dials. Lets face it, the dial is just fascinating to look at, and for many that captures the imagination, adventure and romance of travel. There are a lot of world time watches to review. This review will focus on the Ref. 5131R.

A lot of people spend a lot of time debating what is THE best of the enamel dials. There is similar discussion over whether the 5131 is a more preferable reference than the 5231. If there is one thing I have learnt in collecting watches it is that the word “best” is moot. One person’s taste will vary dramatically from another. So what appears ‘best’ to one person appears “inferior” to another. Only an arrogant idiot can claim that they know what is an absolute “best.” Having made this caveat, I will state that, for my taste and preference, the Ref. 5131R represents my favourite world time. I have owned most of the 5110 metals as well as a 5130P and also still own the 5131P. But the Ref. 5131R edges them all for me.

Ref. 5110 is certainly a most elegant world time

If I compare the 5131 with the 5231, I find the 5131 more casual and less formal. As beautiful as the Ref. 5231 is, it is a more formal watch with the emphasis more on elegance and refinement. However, what the 5131 has is a more casual and modern feel to it. The protected crown guards add a distinct feature and “feel”to a world time watch. There is a youthfulness to the 5131 that comes across very readily. Many people successfully put colourful and vibrant straps on the 5131. It works because the watch is essentially youthful. It will be interesting to see if similarly vibrant and colourful straps work on the more formal 5231.

On balance, it may be fair to say that the quality of the enamel work on the 5231 is higher on average than on the 5131, though it really does vary from watch to watch (such is the enamelling process). It is also right to highlight the fact that Patek have moved their name onto the dial of the 5231 in contrast to having it engraved into the case of the 5131. From an aesthetic standpoint, I think it is preferable to have “Patek Philippe” on the dial rather than the case.

The Ref. 5231 is certainly an elegant and refined watch. It has a formaility to it…

Having said that, I cannot think of a single production watch from Patek Philippe other than the 5131 that does not have “Patek Philippe” on the dial. This adds a rarity to the 5131. In reality, Patek probably made around 300 of each metal in the Ref. 5131. It is not clear how many will be made in the Ref. 5231, but I suspect the 5131 will prove to be the rarer of the two references. It will also be a rarity for not having “Patek Philippe” on the dial.

Within the different metals of the 5131, I think they are all winners. There is no question that the Ref. 5131P has something very special given its “top of the world” perspective. The integrated platinum bracelet also adds a differentiator as does the sheer heft of the watch.

The Ref. 5131P certainly has a Factor X to it….the “Ice King”

The dial contrast on the 5131J is spectacular to behold. And the coolness of the 5131G is also very special. However, I have tried all four metals and own two of them and the one that stands out to me is the 5131R.

The 5131R has this alternating gold/white feature that starts with the rose gold case, then the white city ring, then the gold inner ring, then the snow on the top of the enamel and then the gold of the inner enamel. There is this repeated contrast that just works really well to my eye. On the wrist, it just sings more than any of the other metals. It is not THE best. But it is MY best world time….when I am allowed to wear it!