Would I buy a Patek Philippe Ref. 5990A?

Should I consider buying a Patek Philippe Reference 5990A? Is this an ideal watch for the busy traveller?

First, lets lay to rest one of the oft-cited criticisms of this watch. Namely that it is too bulky on the wrist. The case diameter on this watch is 40.5mm. The height is 12.5mm. Lets compare that with the Rolex GMT Master II – Ref. 126710. The latter sits with a 40mm oyster case that is 12.5mm in height. So, give or take, the dimensions are basically identical. I have a friend who owns both the above watches and from first-hand experience, I am told that the Ref. 5990 sits on the wrist in a manner almost identical to the Rolex GMT.

The Ref. 5990A dimensions are almost identical to the Rolex GMT

Collectors love to categorise watches. The simplicity of the concept that if one wants a sports watch then buy a Rolex gets wheeled out so readily by many who don’t really think it through. What if I want a travel watch that is sporty but that doesn’t look like a Rolex? What if I think Rolex GMT looks ugly? Indeed, what if I want to explore how Patek Philippe interpret the travel watch? If one goes down such paths, then one might easily end up looking at the Ref. 5990A.

I want a travel watch that doesn’t look like a Rolex!

The Ref. 5990A could readily be described as the most complicated Nautilus yet. Encompassing date, travel time, day/night indicator and chronograph. This is, perhaps, one of the nicest combinations of complications for the busy traveller. Water resistant to 120m and housing the Caliber CH 28-520 C FUS self-winding movement that has a 45 hour power reserve. In many ways this is a direct challenge to the Rolex GMT as a travel watch. It is Patek Philippe’s approach to creating a GMT….with a twist.

Does such a complicated travel watch cost more than a Rolex GMT? It certainly should.

To create this watch, Patek Philippe needed to re-design the case. The left-hand hinge has been re-modelled so that it camouflages two pushers that allow the second hour hand to be adjusted. The aesthetic of the original Nautilus case, however, remains firmly intact.

The result is a watch that is highly functional. A complicated yet highly functional Patek Philippe. In steel. Can you think of other examples of Patek Philippe with such traits?


The Ref. 5990A is Patek Philippe’s interpretation of the GMT. Is it better “value for money” than the Rolex GMT? A small digression is needed here. I like chocolate. In fact, I like it a lot. If I bought a bar of Lindt chocolate, I might expect to pay $3 for the bar. If, instead, I bought my favourite chocolate, Pralus, 75% Madagascar, then I might expect to pay $10 for the bar. Which is the best “value for money” chocolate between these two? For me, it is the Pralus as it hits heights way beyond the marginal $7 extra. For me, and my tastes, that marginal extra $7 delivers “value for money”.

And herein lies the rub. I think the same is true with the Ref. 5990A. I think as a travel watch, it beats the Rolex GMT on every level. Just like the chocolate, it sells for multiples of the price of the Rolex GMT. Does it deliver value for money? That depends entirely on whether you are a Lindt-guy or a Pralus-guy. One just cannot make generalisations about sports watches. Everyone looks for and needs slightly different things from a travel watch. That will determine “value for money.”

So, would I buy the Ref. 5990A as my travel watch?

A highly functional, complicated Patek Philippe. In steel. A great interpretation of the travel watch.

No. I already have my travel watch in the Ref. 5650G Travel Time. But if I didn’t have that, I would most definitely consider the Ref. 5990A as a more desirable alternative to the Rolex GMT.