Beauty and rarity are a common pairing among the watches featured here on the Collective. Today, we’ll explore a watch that undeniably excels in both categories: The Patek Philippe Split-Seconds 5370P Black Enamel Dial.
When it was introduced at Basel World in 2015, several journalists, collectors, enthusiasts, and industry members alike agreed that this was the best modern Patek they’d ever seen, not just because of its gorgeous looks, but for the statement it made about Patek’s devotion to traditional watchmaking.
This timepiece is arguably the first two-button pure split-seconds chronograph produced by the manufacture since 1971. This classic design features a rattrapante push-button activator built right into the crown. Rattrapante movements—from the French word which roughly means to “catch up”—use a pair of synchronized seconds hands linked to its chronograph function. Pressing the pusher at two o’clock starts both hands marching in lockstep around the dial. When the button on the crown is pushed, that additional seconds hand stops as the other continues. Press it again and the stopped second hand immediately “catches up” with the primary one. This is handy for lap or interval split timing, allowing its user to record the split or lap time without halting the overall event timing. It is also something of a feat for brands to manufacture, helping explain the sizeable price tag and relative scarcity of these watches.
The two-pusher design we see here—as opposed to watches with a third button for rattrapante, often found at 10 o’clock—is a classic look from Patek Philippe’s past. It echoes pieces like Patek’s ref. 1436, early examples of which used the crown itself for the rattrapante activation while later, mid-20th century examples used a button built into the crown just like the 5370P does.
The chronograph isn’t the only way that this watch harkens back to classic watchmaking. The black dial—and we’re talking the-void-of-outer-space black—is a traditionally-crafted grand feu enamel dial. Like the movement, this dial is painstakingly crafted in-house by Patek. The 18-carat solid-white gold base of the dial is baked at 850 degrees Celsius before being carefully cooled at a controlled rate. A glossy grand feu enamel goes on top. The resulting deep black color won’t fade over time. Of course, as we have noted in our articles on the Laurent Ferrier Galet Micro-Rotor and the Patek Philippe 5131P World Time here at the Collective, this process is a labor of love; but there’s no denying the high-failure-rate process during the manufacturing is worth it when you see this beautiful black dial in person.
Oh, and by now you might be wondering why the dial is signed “EMAIL” at 6 o’clock. This, it turns out, is French for “enamel,”; although it might remind you to clean out your inbox once in a while, too.
The dial is graced by Breguet numeral indices surrounded by an outer minute track and tachymeter scale. The two chronograph subdials at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock balance each other nicely without crowding the Patek Philippe signature. Some in the watch community can’t quite get over the fact that these subdials do not rest precisely on the center horizontal plane of the dial. It’s a fair point, but ultimately the visual elements are weighted thoughtfully against each other, which is what really matters.
The 5370’s case is also worthy of careful attention. At 41mm, it is substantial on the wrist. We can read into this design decision that Patek wasn’t afraid to incorporate the best of both modern and historical watchmaking practices in the creation of this watch. The platinum case has a striking horizontal satin finish, giving the watch a subtle glow. The lugs curve gracefully to meet the black alligator leather strap. The concave bezel neatly seats the sapphire crystal over the dial, and, on the reverse side, an exhibition case back offers a glimpse into the timepiece’s stunning movement.
Among the greatest achievements of this watch is the in-house calibre CHR 29-535 PS. This handwound movement is thoughtfully designed around the rattrapante feature, allowing the chronograph seconds to operate independently with the utmost precision but also remain perfectly in sync when the rattrapante button rejoins the hands—no small watchmaking feat. Of course, this being Patek, the finishing of the movement is spectacular. Beautiful chamfering, polishing, and Geneva striping adorn the movement, which, along with the white- and yellow-gold-colored components, provide striking visual contrast. The calibre boasts a 65-hour power reserve and is regulated to -3/+2 seconds per day, beating at 4 hz.
Just last year, Patek released the lovely 5370P-011, which features a blue grand feu enamel dial. The watch is paired with a matching blue alligator strap and platinum fold-over clasp. At least something good came out of 2020.
Every watch featured here on the Collective is special. This watch, though, has all the makings of a modern classic. The spectacular melding of form and function, the painstaking artistry paired with important technical innovations in the field of watchmaking—all this and more should make any wearer proud of the timepiece strapped to their wrist.